Get ahead of the crowd with Premium
Register Forgot password

Frugal Fun for the Summer Holidays

Isobel Lawrance 24th Jul 2023 One Comment

Reading Time: 7 minutes

The school summer holidays are upon us, bringing six weeks of fun and quality time with our little ones. Let’s be honest, though, the school holidays are not all fun and games.

With household spending on essentials rising by 4.4% in June, as the result of increased fuel costs, rising energy bills and inflated food prices, it can be worrying to think what six weeks of having the kids at home could bring.

Increased energy usage of electronics like the television, computers and gaming consoles, as well as more meals being cooked at home, is likely to add a small amount to the already staggering expenditure. Many families lose access to free school meals, too, meaning they are suddenly faced with higher food shopping costs.

These additional costs paired with the worry of keeping little ones occupied without spending an arm and a leg can seem overwhelming. But fear not, fun days out with the kids don’t have to put a strain on your wallet. Plus, there are lots of things to do at home which make a difference from the usual go-to activities.

Free festivals 

You would be surprised at the huge range of free festivals, fetes and carnivals that take place during the summer months. 

School summer fetes are an obvious one, but you don’t just have to go to the fete of the school your child attends. They are most often free to get into it and enjoy, and plenty of fun is to be had on bouncy castles, the coconut shy or hook-a-duck stall. Although some of the games may cost money to play, they will be pennies in comparison to the price of attractions at commercial fayres.

A coconut shy, for example, may charge £1 for three tries. Plus, the money goes directly back into the school or local community. 

Check your local council website for free events they may be hosting, too. In fact, a simple internet search of ‘Free festivals near me’ bought up hundreds of articles not only detailing the free events happening in my area, but plenty of lists detailing free festivals and carnivals across the UK, such as this article from MoneyMagpie.

Local village fetes, regattas and country shows are also happening weekly across the UK during the school holidays. Searching ‘What’s on’ followed by the place you live is a great way to search the best events near you. ‘What’s on Essex’, for example, produced the Visit Essex website, with a great page detailing some of the events taking place soon.

Free days out

In the UK, we are lucky enough to have plenty of beautiful scenery surrounding us.

Why not head to the beach for a free day in the sun? Build some sandcastles, collect stones and driftwood, find pretty shells and paddle in the sea. You could even go crabbing – watch the children’s faces light up as they see a crab in front of their eyes!

If there is a pier on the beach you decided to go to, why not head to the penny slots? This is a cheaper alternative to playing in the arcades, which can cost a bomb. A pound or two is all you need to play for a little while!

Woodland walks are another great free day out. We have loads of areas of rich woodland scattered across the United Kingdom. Nature walks are not only great to get some much-needed fresh air after a long term in the classroom, they’re also a fun way to teach children about wildlife. There are plenty of smartphone apps wthat can help you identify different types of tree, leaves, flowers and birds. 

You could collect leaves and sticks and create a woodland artwork scene when back home. You could even collect some flowers and do flower pressing. Why not see which insects you can spot and take photos of them? When you get home, the kids can have a go at drawing or painting what they saw on their walk.

Nature reserves are wonderful places to find out about wildlife. The Wildlife Trusts‘ website can help you find your local nature reserves and places of national beauty. Some reservoirs allow you to go ‘pond dipping’, searching for pond life with nets. Others have hides for bird watching, and free learning opportunities for children.

Green spaces are also dotted across Britain. Take a picnic to your local park and have a kickabout or a game of catch afterwards. Or enjoy some old school fun and teach your children the fun of flying a kite! Frisbee is a good laugh too, and if there are enough of you, a game of rounders will get you feeling competitive.

Cartwheels, handstands and even just running around in the fresh air are great for the mind and soul – for you and your kiddos.

Not able to run around? You could read your kids a story in the park instead, or bring some colouring-in for them or even just enjoy the space.

Get creative

Children can be occupied for hours by the simplest of activities. You don’t have to spend time figuring out what to do with them, or break the bank buying them games or toys. Think back to when you were a child. We didn’t have the technology we have today and had to use our imaginations to make fun. Why not get your children’s creative juices flowing by doing the following?

  • Make your own ice lollies: You can get ice lolly moulds from most supermarkets, the Poundshop or on Amazon for as little as £1. Get the kids to fill them up with orange juice or yogurt and freeze them. It is guaranteed the kids will enjoy the fruits of their labour much more than shop bought lollies. Plus, it’ll save you some money!
  • Water painting: Get a jar out of the recycling and fill it with water and give this to your child along with some paint brushes. Then get them to ‘paint’ with the water – on fences, walls, the patio. This will keep them occupied and there’s no mess!
  • Chalk: A classic childhood favourite is hopscotch! Why not get some cheap chalks and draw a hopscotch for your children to enjoy? They can also use the chalks to draw pretty pictures and explore their own creativity. Plus, it’s easy clean up.
  • Grow seedlings: We all remember growing cress on the windowsill at school. How exciting it seemed! Buy a cheap bag of cress or other seedling and allow your children to plant them and watch them grow. Not only is this exciting for them, but it can be used to teach them about plants, how they grow and how to look after them.
  • Painting: We have all tried to sit our children down for a day of painting, only for them to get bored after half an hour. So why not jazz it up? Get some paper plates and get them to paint a face. You could glue on string for hair, add glitter or even put on googly eyes. If you visit the beach, collect some stones and paint those.
  • Printing: Along similar lines, you could collect some leaves to do leaf printing. Potato printing is another childhood classic!
  • Scrapbooking: Gather your old magazines and newspapers and let the kids go crazy! Cut out pretty pictures and glue them down, along with some sticks, pom poms, pipe cleaners, glitter, tissue paper and more. Let their creativity run wild!
  • Make an insect house: The RSPB has a great guide on how to create a bug hotel! All you need is sticks and twigs, pinecones, a few logs and some leaves.
  • Make something: Don’t throw out your recycling! Keep any cereal boxes, plastic tubs and toilet rolls and see what you can make from them. You’ll be amazed at the imagination and creativity of children. They could make a car, robot or house.
  • Treasure hunting: Set up a treasure hunt in your garden, local park or woodland area. It could be something simple such as hiding some gold star cut-outs along the trail. Remember to take them home with you afterwards!
  • Go foraging: Not only is this fun for you and the kids but can result in free food! Make sure you know what is safe to eat or not first. We have a beginner’s guide here.
  • Do some science experiments: There are plenty of fun and easy-to-do science experiments you can try at home. There are the simple ones, such as seeing how white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda react, putting mints in cola or leaving an egg in cola for a few days to see what happens.


Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity, which not only gets you out of the house but helps your children explore the world around them. Using mobile devices or other navigational techniques, the participants hide and seek out containers, called ‘geocaches’ or ‘caches’, at specific locations all around the world.

These specific locations are marked by co-ordinates. It is essentially a worldwide treasure hunt! Geocaching.com is probably your best place to start.

Financial help

hardship grants July

Times are extremely hard, and the school holidays can be stressful for many. If you are in need of help, there are plenty of resources available online. 

Citizens Advice and Turn2Us are just two free online advice platforms. They can help you with everything from help with energy bills to pointing you in the right direction to finding solutions to debt. They can also help with housing, employment and other social issues you may be facing. 

Your local council may also be able to help you. Many have grants available for the most vulnerable people in the area. Charities often have financial grants available too, to help those struggling. Other useful websites include Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), MoneyHelper, StepChange and Independent Age.


This post was originally written by Magpie Isobel for ShoestringCottage.com. You can find the original post here. Jane Berry, owner of Shoestring Cottage, is our frugal columnist and author of Extreme Frugality: Save Money Like Your Grandma. She’s also a YouTuber – subscribe to her channel now!

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
11 months ago

There are some easy great ideas here, thank you!

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

Send this to a friend