Days out with the kids can be expensive. But there’s also a heap of things you can do at home or away, for free.  Here are some ideas.

Build a den

There are so many ways you can build a den, from draping a sheet over the top of a couple of dining chairs to making them with sticks in the forest or creating an elaborate tent-like structure from tying lots of sheets to the ceiling.  It doesn’t matter how you make it, how complicated or fancy it is, eating your lunch in a den to a child is a thousand times more fun that sitting at the table.

Yes, you can buy play tents and houses, but there’s something special about pulling the chairs from under the dining table and throwing sheets over the top.  String a few fairy lights or electric tea lights around, add some comfy pillows and a few snacks and books and you have your perfect play area.

Search for insects

Either in the garden or in your local park or green space.  The library will have a whole heap of insect identification books, or simply search for them on your tablet.

Create a bug library by taking photos of each bug and catalogue them with key facts next to each one.

Here is how to make your own magnifying glass.

Mud, glorious mud

Dig out your old saucepans, cups, mugs, spoons, measuring jugs and any other bits you won’t use again and take them into the garden.  Find an area with a nice amount of dirt, add a couple of spades and a couple of bottles of water and turn the garden into a mud restaurant!

From lovely, liquid mud milkshakes (make sure they don’t actually try them, though) to making mud castles out of sandcastle buckets. Add in a few flower heads, shells or stones for decoration and you’ll have a glorious muddy mess.

Old clothes are a must and if it’s a warm day all the better as you can hose off the kids before they come back inside.

Pick your own fruit and veg

This is a great free day out and a chance for children to see just how the fruit or veg they see in the fruit bowl or fridge actually grow.  There is the cost of the fruit, but you’d probably be buying that as part of your weekly shop anyway, so we’ve discounted that.

There’s also something rather special about being able to pick the exact strawberries you want.

Continue the day with a picnic at the park on the way home or use the fruit to make jam or add it to jelly for a tasty treat.

Garden centre fun

A lot of garden centres run free activities for children through the holidays, from hunts looking for clues to free arts and crafts.

Local shopping centres also often have free activities on, so it’s well worth taking a look to see what you can find.

And, with all the money you’d saved from the other activities, you can afford to splash out on a coffee!