18 Free Family Activities for Children of All Ages

Friday 17 August 2018

School holidays can be challenging for families. With children spending the majority of their time at home, finding things to keep them occupied while balancing everyday life can become a bit of a juggling act. Add to that, the extra expense of having the children at home for the holidays, and some carers may be worried about how to fill their child’s time – and how they’re going to afford it.

With the six-week summer break now in full swing, we’re here to help foster families with our list of the best free family activities you can do with the children. To make our list easier to navigate, we’ve separated the activities into age categories – so you can jump to the right section using the links below.

Age 3-6

1. Get them Gardening

child gardening with yellow watering can

If you want to encourage your foster children to spend more time outside, gardening is a great way to distract them from screens during the summer break. There are lots of ways young children can get involved in the garden, and August is a great time to introduce them, when many flowers are in bloom and wildlife is plentiful.

The RHS has a great resource for carers hoping to inspire a love of gardening in children, so we’d recommend this as a good place to start. Gardening is a year-round activity that costs little but can offer huge rewards for you and your family, so it’s never too late to inspire their green fingers.

2. Find Your Nearest Blue Flag Beach

We’re blessed with an incredible coastline here in the UK, and it’s amazing to think that we can access it 365 days a year for absolutely nothing. A day at the seaside is popular with many young children, but if you’re worried about the safety of your nearest stretch of coast, we’d recommend finding your nearest Blue Flag beach.

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Blue Flag beaches are rated highly for their water cleanliness and safety, making them a great match for a family day out. If there are no Blue Flag beaches near you, use the Government’s handy beach quality checker to find the next best beach in your area.

3. Join a Child-Friendly Walking Trail

Sometimes, children need an incentive to walk, which is why we’d suggest taking them on a walking trail. Available in both town and country, these designated trails add a ‘treasure trail’ element to a good old walk, meaning they’re sure to be a hit with youngsters.

A good example of a child-friendly walk is the Fish Trail in Hull. This walk encourages children to find the fish as they walk across the city, with plenty of opportunities for refreshments along the way. Many places across the UK have similar walks, and they’re a great way to get children stretching their legs.

There are loads of these events around the country, in cities and the countryside – such as Bee in the City in Manchester or the Box Hill Stepping Stones walk in Surrey.

brother and sister running along woodland path

4. Visit the Grounds of Country Estates and Manor Houses

While entry to manor houses and country estates can be expensive, it’s often just access to the building you’re paying for and not the grounds. That means you and the children can make like the cast of Downton Abbey without forking out a fortune, and enjoy a day of wandering through some of the UK’s finest country estates.

The great thing about visiting country estates is that there are often some great child-friendly attractions in the grounds themselves, from hedge mazes to nature trails, so you really can enjoy a fun family day out. Your local tourist board should be able to tell you which country estates offer free grounds access.

5. Go Wildlife Watching at the Coast

Beaches aren’t the only thing that draws families to the coast. Summer is a great time to go wildlife watching, with our cliffs, beaches and coves teeming with life at this time of year. Sightings of migratory marine animals and exotic birdlife are common on the British coastline during August, and many children will love strapping on their binoculars and heading out in search of wildlife.

For the chance of an extra special wildlife encounter, check out UK Safari’s guide to the UK’s best dolphin watching hotspots. Dolphins swim really close to the coast in some parts of the UK during summer, and this guide can tell you where to go for the best chance of seeing these enchanting animals.

6. Host a Family Bake Off

Children tend to be fond of baking, especially when there’s the prospect of indulging in a sweet treat at the end of it, so if you’re wondering what to do with them on a rainy day, here’s your answer. No matter your skill level, it can be fun making simple bakes – just remember to let them lick the spoon before you start the washing up.

Keen to take your foster children’s baking to the next level? With the Great British Bake Off 2018 due to start on Channel 4 in late August, why not take inspiration from the show and add a competitive element to your family baking exploits?

Age 7-11

family cycling through woodland

7. Trace the Steps of Their Favourite Authors

Does your foster child love nothing more than burying their head in a good book? You can help inspire an even greater love for reading by helping them trace the steps of their favourite authors, in and around some of the regions connected to some of the UK’s most beloved children’s authors.

From the Potter Trail in Edinburgh to the Tolkien Trail in Birmingham, why not spend the day exploring locations which inspired your foster child’s favourite books, or where these authors sat and penned their most famous works. The Potter Trail is particularly popular, and you’ll see the place where JK Rowling sat and wrote her famous wizarding series.

8. Look Out for Free Theatre Shows and Cultural Events

In a bid to get holidaying youngsters through their doors during the summer, some theatres and venues are offering free child places in August – so you can enjoy an affordable evening soaking up some culture.

London Theatre is just one of several organisations across the UK offering free children’s tickets to selected performances in August, so do some research and find out if your local theatre or concert venue is offering a similar deal.

9. Find Free Museums and Attractions in Your Area

Days out at museums and galleries might sound expensive, but thanks to a new cultural funding system, many of the UK’s biggest and best galleries, museums and attractions offer free admission to all – with the option to give a donation on exit.

That means, there’s a near limitless amount of day-trip options for families struggling to fill their days through the long summer break. Whether you choose to head to local museums or have them swot-up on their art history at a national gallery, finding free days out in your area is easy; just search free attractions and you’ll find what you’re looking for.

family looking at exhibit in museum

10.  Take Them on a Road Trip of Your Favourite Sights

Taking your foster child on a road trip of your favourite sights can be a great way to bond. Whether you’re visiting your favourite parks, countryside views or the places where you grew up, a road trip can provide a great shared experience.

Exploring places which have a personal connection to you can make them feel closer to your family, while you can also return the favour by asking them to suggest places they’d like to see.

11. Look Out for Free Open Days at Cathedrals and Minsters

The UK is home to hundreds of inspiring historic sites, including monumental cathedrals and minsters located at the heart of some of our favourite towns and cities. From York Minster to Lincoln Cathedral, these impressive buildings are well worth a visit, and during the summer, they often open their doors – letting you and your family explore them for free.

Whether your foster child is a fan of history or you fancy seeing your hometown from the vantage point of a church spire, look out for free open days that let you glimpse inside renowned historic sites this summer.

12. Download Local Cycling Maps and Get Pedalling

A family bike ride can provide plenty of excitement for all ages, and is a great way to make sure children stay fit and active throughout the summer. Provided your foster child is confident riding a bike, there are lots of designated bike routes across the UK that offer safe, leisurely cycling for all ages – and provide the chance to see a different side to your local area.

Finding designated bike routes in your area is easy. Just head online and search for free cycling maps, and you’ll find a selection of official and unofficial trails that vary in terms of their length and difficulty. We’d recommend light easy trails of no more than 10 miles at first, rising to more challenging routes as your family gets in the swing of things.

Age 12-18

13. Join a Free City Tour

If you’re visiting a new town or city and looking for cheap things to do, be on the lookout for free tours. These expert-led tours are normally run by the local tourist board, and will give you and your family great insight into the history of the place, for a fun and educational day out.

Tours like these are especially good in historic towns and cities such as York, Stratford-upon-Avon and Canterbury, while they’re also available in bigger cities including London and Manchester, and will help you get around while seeing some of the more famous sights on offer.

14. Visit a Historic British Battlefield

If you’ve done all your local museums or the children just aren’t interested in looking at another exhibition behind glass, why not visit one of the UK’s famous battlefields? Largely free to visit, these important sites will capture the imagination of older children and offer a more tactile and hands-on day out than your average museum or gallery.

From Sussex to Yorkshire, Scotland to Cornwall, there are loads of great battlefield sites to discover across the UK. Some of the finest are found in Yorkshire, including Towton and Bosworth, while there’s also many in the border region of Scotland.

15. Try Open-Water Swimming

If you’re an active family who enjoys being outdoors, and you’re fostering slightly older children, open-water or ‘wild’ swimming is a great adventure during the summer months. This involves ditching your local swimming pool in favour of a nearby lake, and taking a dip in refreshing and clean fresh water.

Open-water swimming is becoming more and more popular in the UK, and there are lots of great and safe places where you can have a go. Of course, you should take every precaution when planning a wild swimming trip, and only swim at recommended spots. Wetsuits are also a necessity to combat the cold water.

16. Volunteer at a Local Animal Sanctuary

two donkeys

For foster carers keen not to let the children simply sit in front of the TV all summer, volunteering their time at a local animal sanctuary is a fantastic way to get them out and about whilst learning about nature and taking their first step into the world of work.

There are hundreds of sanctuaries across the UK which rely on the help of volunteers to look after vulnerable animals, and they’ll be glad of a helping hand from enthusiastic youngsters. Most sanctuaries accept volunteers of 16 years and above, so if the children are complaining they’re bored, this is a great activity the whole family can get involved in.

17. Spend the Day at The National Football Museum

If the children are known to turn their nose up at the idea of going to a museum, a day at The National Football Museum in Manchester might change their mind. Documenting all things football, this beloved museum is paradise-found for all young fans of the beautiful game.

There are great exhibits and collections on offer throughout the summer, as well as several interactive features keep children happy. And best of all? Entry is completely free, even for adults, so you can look forward to an inspiring day out the whole family will enjoy.

For children who aren’t interested in traditional museums or football, there are still plenty of options; whether they’d like to visit the Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden or the National Space Centre in Leicester.

18. Find Free Music Events Near You

Summer is a great time to enjoy music outdoors, and there are loads of events happening up and down the country that you and your family will enjoy. From small local festivals to major organised fairs, it’s easy to find free music events in the summer, and many older children love the opportunity to watch local bands on your doorstep.

It’s easy to find free music festivals, carnivals and events in your area, and we’d recommend Skiddle as the best place to find out what’s happening nearby.

At NFA, we’re here to help foster families make the most of their time together – bonding and having fun whatever the time of year. To find out how to become a foster carer, visit our homepage or call us now on 0330 022 9135.