FUN, FREE AND CREATIVE | projects to enjoy with your kids this summer
Get into the August groove with our pick of free activities and holiday ideas that kids off school will love
With the arrival of the summer holidays comes the promise of long, hazy days in the sunshine and adventures yet to come. But for parents, there’s a particular challenge that lies in keeping the little ones entertained come rain or shine – and in a way that’s fun for all.
For quieter days, it can really help to have a handful of activities on standby that are easy and free to arrange; and also diverting enough to tempt children away from the iPad (or those inevitable summer holiday rows).
So, throw that diary to the wind and embrace the joy of spontaneity, with these 12 carefree and creative ways to keep the good times flowing – zero costs required.
Launch a sports tournament
Egg and spoons. Float a boat contest. Three-legged races round the park. A freestyle Olympics-style championship is an invitation to dust off all your favourite childhood games, and it can be endlessly tailored to extend the fun, too. DIY your own team t-shirts (repurpose whatever you have in the wardrobe), arrange an awards ceremony, invent a watersports round or get the neighbours over to boost your numbers. A back garden showdown is the gift that keeps giving.
Make a bob sled down the stairs
Naturally it’s a good idea to approach this one with caution. But handled properly, a homemade bobsled is possibly the best way to tackle your stairs; you’ll never want to simply walk down them again. Single mattresses tend to work well as bob sleds; or you could go for a simple plastic bum sled that you’d normally use in the snow. Create a big pile of pillows at the bottom, test ride with a few adults first – and off you go.
Create your own Capcut video edits
Nowadays, every child wants to be their own video editor and Capcut is a simple app with a series of awesome effects – slo-mo, filters, title sequences and more – that lets them do exactly that. Ideal for slightly older children (aged 7+) the basic version of Capcut is free to download and is perfect for capturing family moments such as the staircase bobsled ride, per above.
Build a bug hotel for creepy crawlies
Anyone can build a bug hotel for resident creepy crawlies to bed down in for the summer. All you need is an empty cereal box, or a toilet roll tube, to fill with natural materials such as sticks, stones, loose bits of bark, a bed of dry leaves or more.
Remind your youngster that creatures such as worms or ladybirds like lots of nooks and crannies to hide away in. And they might also like to think strategically about where to base their hotel, e.g. beneath a fence, within the crag of a wall, or even in a tree. To find out more, get started with the National Trust’s handy guide.
Try garden camping on a trampoline or hammock
You don’t need to travel far to tap the magic of camping – your own back garden, or a neighbour’s, will do the job nicely. A little extra joy comes from the ability to make your own den, whether that’s layers of cushions and blankets in a hammock, or a makeshift nest on a trampoline. Encourage your little ones to look around and be creative with whatever they can find.
Explore summer events at your local library
Local libraries are a haven for kids with time on their hands; most will run a series of regular, free events and services to suit a range of ages. Think free Bookstart baby packs, rhyme time for toddlers and various reading challenges. Some venues may even have a family history centre, for any would-be young researchers curious to find out more about their local area.
Host a family clothes swap fashion show
Easy to arrange, and ridiculously entertaining, children will relish the chance to dress as Mum or Dad for the day. You can enter into the spirit of things by trying out their wardrobe, too (the fact that things won’t fit is all part of the fun). After you’re done picking your outfit – the wilder and wackier, the better – show it off with a kitchen fashion show. For full vibes, create live tunes, “cocktails” and commentary to go with.
Organise a game of Poohsticks
It may be an oldie but it’s also a goldie: a game of Poohsticks delivers on all fronts. Grab a few friends, find your nearest river or stream and take up position on a bridge. Then it’s all about dropping a stick or leaf in to see which one emerges the soonest. So. Much. Fun.
Make a pirate-themed scavenger hunt
Ahoy, me hearties. A pirate’s scavenger hunt promises oodles of swashbuckling joy for all would-be pirates and rogues of the sea. Compile a list of pirate-y items (swords, eye patches, gold coin treasures) for children to hunt down all over the house, complete with obligatory clues. You could even go the whole hog and compile these on pirate-y parchment paper.
Paint a chalk trail on the road for scooters
A colourful pack of chalk pastels is the only prop required for an outdoor scooter trail on your road/ local parking lot/ nearby sports court. Circles, wiggly lines, U-turns: you can map out a veritable race track of routes, perhaps with different colours to indicate levels of difficulty. You can even time your scooter drivers, to see who gets round the quickest.
Become a forest superhero with Forestry England
Superworm trails are free to explore and unfold at locations around the UK. Young ones can discover a series of amazing facts about the small but mighty creatures, as they explore the Great Outdoors and follow the much-loved Superworm story. More info, including your nearest trail, is available on Forestry England (where you’ll find loads more inspiration for forest-based family fun, too).
Dine out with your little ones for free
Preto, The Real Greek, Bar Burrito. A string of venues are offering free lunches or snacks for kids this summer, making family meals out that bit easier to do. Kids will love the chance to dress up and dine, with a decadent sense of occasion normally reserved for adults alone. Find out more with Delicious Magazine’s helpful rundown of kids eat free deals this summer.