Sunday, July 31, 2016

Free and Inexpensive Activities in the First Week of the Summer Holiday

Pool, Summer, Child, Dip

I can't believe the first week of the children's summer holiday (in the UK) is over! We've had lots of fun this week and most of our activities have been either free or very cheap. Here's a round-up of what we've done this week.

Summer Reading Challenge at the Library

My 8-year old son signed up for the summer reading challenge at the library. This year, the summer reading challenge is Roald Dahl-themed to celebrate the fact that it's 100 years since he was born in 1916. It's called the Big Friendly Read which has the same initials as Roald Dahl's famous book, The BFG.

My son was keen to sign up for the Reading Challenge because he loves Roald Dahl books, especially Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He's also taken part in the Summer Reading Challenge each year since he was four.

The aim of the Summer Reading Challenge is to read 6 books in 6 weeks. You borrow each book from the library and, once you've read it, you let the library staff know and it's recorded on your progress card.

It's totally free to sign up and there are also other free activities in libraries associated with the challenge. When we visited the library this week, my son signed up for the challenge and then took part in a treasure hunt in the library, during which he made friends with another boy of his age. He also guessed the weight of a jar of sweets, which I hope he doesn't win because it was huge!!

I would highly recommend the Summer Reading Challenge. It helps children to improve their reading skills during the summer and helps keep them away from screens.

Painting Canvases and Colouring at Home

My daughter and I started painting 2 blank canvases that I bought some time ago. We also painted some wooden letters that spell LOVE and a heart shape which we plan to use to make an original wall decoration.

My son's not really into arts and crafts but he did do some colouring today! I'd been colouring butterflies in an adult colouring book and he picked it up and coloured one in. I was pleasantly surprised!

I've decided that I won't buy any new art or craft materials over the summer. We'll use materials we already have so that we don't spend anything on our creative endeavours.

Swimming at the Local Leisure Centre

I took my son and his friend swimming at the local leisure centre. We all had a fun time and it only cost £2.50 per child.

Tennis at the Local Outdoor Tennis Court

I bought a tennis set (2 racquets and 2 balls) in Poundstretchers for £5 and we went to the local council-owned tennis court and played for an hour for £3. It was good fun and great exercise in the fresh air. I'm sure we'll go again during the summer.

Activity Day at a Youth Centre

I took my son to an activity day at a local Youth Centre. He had great fun, going on the buckaroo, boxing with giant gloves, and playing football, table tennis and pool. The activity day was free. All we bought was 2 cakes from the cake stall for a grand total of 40p!

A Day Out in the City

Each week, I budget for one activity that costs more than free or inexpensive! This week, I took my daughter for a day out in the nearest city to us. Even though we spent more than we spent on the other days, we still saved money by:

  • using a Friends and Family railcard to reduce our train fare to about £5 return for both of us
  • having lunch in Greggs bakery - sandwiches and a drink for about £6 total
  • spending gift cards that we'd both received for our birthdays
We've all had a fantastic week on a low budget. How did you spend the first week of the summer holidays? 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Five Free or Inexpensive Things to Do With Your Children in the Spring

The weather's getting warmer, the days are longer and lighter, cute little animals scamper in the fields and beautiful flowers come into bloom - spring is the ideal time to go out and explore the world with your children. There are also many free or inexpensive spring-themed activities you can do together at home. Here is a selection.

Make a Spring Collage

Gather together magazines, advertising brochures, packaging and old Easter and birthday cards. Cut out spring-related pictures, including:
  • flowers
  • lambs, bunnies and other young animals
  • eggs
  • cakes
Ask your child to choose the images he or she likes best and arrange them together on a large piece of card. The pictures can either be placed side-by-side or they can overlap. When your child is happy with the design, glue each picture to the card. 

If you wish, you can add finishing touches to the collage, such as strips of Washi tape, spring-themed stickers or ribbon.

Once the collage is finished, pop it in a frame and proudly display it on the wall.

Go for a Waters-Edge Walk or Bike Ride

Going for a a walk or bike ride along the bank of a river or around the edge of a lake is the ideal way for both children and adults to slow down, relax and enjoy the beauty of nature in the spring. Look for bluebells and other wild flowers growing in the grass, and listen to the birds singing.

Admire the beauty of the sun glinting on the water and see if you can spot fish swimming in the water or frogs, toads, ducks and swans. Your children will enjoy looking at the boats passing by.

If you have time, bring a picnic with you and find a bench or patch of grass to sit on and eat a simple meal while enjoying the beauty and stillness of the spring day.

Bake a Spring-themed Cake

If you normally just bake cookies or cupcakes with your children, have a go at making a more spectacular cake inspired by the season. Some ideas include:

Set aside a whole morning or afternoon to make the cake so that you can enjoy the process of baking with your child without rushing. You could then organize a little tea party with the cake displayed on a cake plate as the centerpiece. Invite family members and friends to admire and enjoy the cake.

Turn the Back Yard Into an Adventure Playground

Tempt your children away from their screens by turning your back yard into an exciting adventure playground. Set up a trampoline, slide and swings. Add other things that will be fun to play with, such as old tires, a basketball net or soccer nets. For younger children, sand pits, play houses and play kitchens can all be set up in the back yard.

If you already have some of this equipment, bring it out of winter storage and set it up outside. To buy inexpensive used equipment or perhaps even to get it for free, look on Freecycle, Craiglist, Gumtree or eBay.

Play Board Games Together

On a spring day when the weather isn't so good, spend a family afternoon playing traditional board games. Fun board games that have stood the test of time include Operation, Buckaroo, Guess Who? and Scrabble. 

If your children need to work off energy, physical games such as Twister or The Kid's Yoga Deck will get them moving. Charades is also a popular game that involves some movement.

For older children, Cluedo is an excellent choice because it stimulates the development of logical thinking skills in a fun way. 

Choose games that are suitable for the ages of all the children in your family so that everyone can join in and have fun. 

Whether you choose to go outside and enjoy the warm weather or stay indoors and take refuge from spring rain showers,  there are many things to do with your children without spending a lot of money. Choose a few different activities and have fun together as a family this spring! 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Five Free or Inexpensive Things to Do With Your Children in the Run-Up to Christmas

There's less than a month before Christmas! My children are excited already! The build-up to Christmas is probably more exciting than the real thing but it can be expensive, especially if you do lots of things. Here are five free or inexpensive things you can do with your children to get you all in the Christmas mood!

Bake Christmas Treats

Look for some quick and easy recipes for Christmas treats, such as:

  • Christmas cookies flavoured with spices and/or cranberries.
  • Christmas cupcakes topped with thick white icing that looks like snow!
  • Mince pies (if your children like them, mine don't!).
  • Peppermint creams.
Set aside some time at the weekend to make one or more of these treats. You could then either save them for Christmas or serve them when you have visitors in the run-up to Christmas.

Another idea is to give them as gifts for teachers. A batch of Christmas cookies wrapped in cellophane and finished off with a red ribbon tied into a bow would make a lovely Christmas gift for a teacher.

Watch a Christmas Movie

In the run-up to Christmas, many Christmas movies are shown on TV. Cinemas, theatres and other organizations such as churches also sometimes show Christmas movies at reduced prices. Look in your local newspaper to find out about these special screenings.

Alternatively, you could just snuggle up under a blanket on the sofa and watch a Christmas movie on DVD while munching popcorn.

Attend Free or Inexpensive Local Events

Many towns have a free event at which the Christmas lights are switched on. In my town, this takes place this Sunday. There will also be a funfair, Christmas market and performances from choirs, musicians and dancers throughout the day. I'll take along an amount in cash, so that we're not tempted to spend too much.

Many schools hold Christmas fairs at this time of year. These fairs are fun for the children and can also be good for the adults because you can often find unusual and inexpensive Christmas gifts. As before, I take along a certain amount in cash so that I don't overspend.

Make Christmas Decorations

It's nice to have some new Christmas decorations every year but they can be expensive to buy. Look online and in magazines for instructions on how to make some decorations with your children. Alternatively, just take out all your craft materials and see what your children come up with.

If your children are young or if you want something very easy to make, paper chains are a tried and tested favourite! You could also make snowmen from cotton wool or snowflakes from pipe cleaners.

Go for a Winter Walk

If your children are restless after being cooped up indoors, go for a winter walk whatever the weather. Wrap up warm and wear wellies, hats and gloves. If it's raining, your children will love splashing in puddles. If there's snow on the ground, they will be busy throwing snowballs, and making snow angels and snowmen. Even if it's just cold, the exercise will do them good. Serve warm hot chocolate when you return home.

The run-up to Christmas is a fun time for children. It's also a busy time for adults so don't forget to schedule some quality time with your children. You'll be creating special childhood memories that will last a lifetime.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Half-Term School Holiday Fun on a Budget!

Here's a round-up of what we did at half-term and how much we spent:


The weather was awful, so we stayed in and made mini blueberry cupcakes. I chose this recipe because I had already had all of the ingredients at home. I bought the blueberries the day before, so when looking through the recipe book, we chose this recipe because I had some fresh blueberries (and no fresh strawberries or lemons, etc, which were needed for other recipes!)

Amount spent: £0


A relaxing day spent at home, doing crafts, watching movies and enjoying roast Sunday lunch of gammon, roast potatoes, roasted carrots and gravy.

Amount spent: £0


My son (aged 7) wanted to go swimming, so we went to family fun session at the leisure centre.

My daughter (aged 12) went into town with her friends to buy things to make Halloween outfits. She had lunch in town.

Amount spent: £16.40 (£6.40 for one adult and one child to go swimming and £10 spending money for my daughter which included lunch).


I took my son to the local museum. It didn't cost us anything to get in as I bought an annual ticket last time we went. I treated us to a drink and cake in Morrison's supermarket cafe afterwards.

My daughter stayed at home, tidied her room, and started making her Halloween costume.

Amount spent: £5 for 2 drinks and cake.


My son enjoyed indoor soft play, including a bouncy castle, at the local leisure centre (which was a special activity for half-term).

I made an apple pie at home with my daughter. It tasted delicious served warm with custard and ice cream!

Amount spent: £2.50 for the soft play session (I also spent about £4 on extra ingredients for the apple pie but this came out of our weekly food budget).


I went to a Halloween craft class with my son. He painted a Halloween canvas, designed his own jigsaw and sewed a hand puppet. We both enjoyed being creative.

We treated ourselves to a milkshake (him), slice of chocolate cake (him but I had a few bites!) and cup of tea (me) afterwards.

My daughter went to an auction with her uncle and came back with a new headboard!

Amount spent: £13.50 (£7.50 for the 2-hour craft class and £6 for the drinks and cakes in a nice independent cafe).


We went grocery shopping and picked up a canvas wardrobe I had bought for my son's bedroom. I was pleased to see that the wardrobe was reduced in price. I also had a £10 voucher so I only paid £7.99 for the wardrobe.

When we got home, we re-arranged some things in his room to make way for the wardrobe. We also sorted out some books that he has grown out of and no longer reads and put them aside, ready to donate to the charity shop. We then assembled the wardrobe and hung up his clothes in it.

My daughter did her homework and finished her Halloween costume.

Amount spent: £7.99 on the wardrobe.


My daughter's friends came round in the afternoon and they all prepared for trick-or-treating. After a quick tea of pizza and garlic bread, they went out trick-or-treating. They came back with a huge haul!

I went out trick-or-treating with my son for about half-an-hour and we stayed in and handed out sweets for the rest of the evening until he went to bed.

Amount spent: 0 (although I did spend £2 on sweets which came out of my grocery budget)


We went out for a nice autumn walk after Sunday lunch. We crunched through leaves, my son jumped in puddles (good job he was wearing wellies!) and we enjoyed looking at the changing colours of nature. We picked up some small branches with lovely red leaves and I displayed them in jam jars of water when we got home.

Amount spent: 0

So, the total cost of half-term fun was £45.40 which I'm really pleased about as I wanted to keep our spending under £50 for the week.

What fun things did you do at half-term?

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Baking With Children - Store Cupboard Ingredients That You'll Need

If you enjoy baking with your children, it's a good idea to have these store cupboard ingredients at home. Then, if your children want to bake something, you'll just need to run out for one or two extra ingredients at the most (or you might already have those ingredients at home).

Store Cupboard Ingredients

Self-raising flour
Plain flour
Baking powder
Bicarbonate of soda
Brown sugar (either demerara or soft brown - I usually use either one or the other and have found that it doesn't really make much difference which one you use).
Caster sugar
Icing sugar
Vanilla essence
Mixed spice
Cake cases or muffin cases
An assortment of cake decorations - sprinkles, chocolate chips, etc
Writing icing (not really necessary but my daughter likes to use it!)

Fridge Ingredients


I've found that, with these ingredients on hand, I can bake a wide range of cakes, cookies and other treats with my children.

Last weekend, for example, when we made mini blueberry cakes, I only needed to buy blueberries.

If I run out of one of the above ingredients, I just buy more, so that we're always ready to bake something new for tea!

Is there anything else you'd add to the list?

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Free Amazon Kindle eBook on Low-Cost and Free Activities for Children - One Day Only!

My Amazon Kindle eBook, Spend Less, Have More Fun With Your Children! is free for one day only on Sunday, 25th October! You can download it on or

I hope that it'll give you lots of ideas for low-cost and free activities that you and your children can enjoy, wherever you live. You can find more ideas on this blog.

I hope the book and this blog inspire you to have lots of fun with your children without spending a lot of money. 

I would very much appreciate it if you could let me know what you think of the book by writing a review on Amazon and/or leaving a comment on this blog. Thank you!

5 Free Things to During the October Half-Term Holiday

If you're on a tight budget, it's a good idea to look for free things to do with your children during the half-term holiday. Here is a selection.

Visit the Library

You can visit your local library just to browse and borrow books, DVDs, and CDs, etc. If your child would like to read a particular book, half-term is a good time to borrow it from the library. You can also find lots of books with ideas and instructions for activities for children, such as craft projects.

In addition, most libraries organize a variety of activities for children at half-term. The majority of these are free with some having a small cost. At our local library, for example, there are five different activities, ranging from a drawing workshop to a local history day.

Start a Project

Think of a theme for a project that your children could do at home (and/or outdoors) during half-term. For example, the theme would be 'autumn' (fall). Ask your children what they'd like to do within this theme. Taking the autumn theme as an example, they could:

  • Write a list of what they like and don't like about autumn.
  • Collect as many objects as they can find around the home with autumn colours.
  • Cut out autumn pictures from old magazines, advertising brochures, etc, and make a collage.
  • Write a poem about autumn.
  • Find autumn-themed books either at home or in the library and read them together.
  • Collect natural objects, such as autumn leaves, pine cones and acorns, and make an autumn-themed display at home.
When I've done this with my children in the past, I've let them take the lead as much as possible and I've found that they come up with better ideas than I do!

Go for an Autumn Walk

Put on warm clothes and wellies and go for an autumn walk. Rustle through piles of leaves. See how many colours of leaves you can spot. Collect leaves, branches, pine cones and other interesting natural objects that have fallen to the ground. Talk about how the natural environment changes during the autumn.

When you return home, warm up with a hot chocolate and, if you wish, make a wreath or collage with the leaves and other objects you've collected. Alternatively, put small branches with colourful leaves attached in vases of water. Make an autumn display of pine cones and acorns in a wooden or glass bowl.

Bake or Cook

Look for ingredients you already have in your cupboards and fridge and see what you can bake with your children. If you don't have all the ingredients you need, there's no need to rush to the shops. Be creative and substitute other ingredients and see what you come up with! For example, you can use milk instead of eggs when making biscuits.

My children love baking carrot cake, chocolate chip cookies and gingerbread men.

Your children could also help you to cook a simple meal such as pasta carbonara, sausage sandwiches or chicken fajitas.

Tidy and Re-Organize Bedrooms

Half-term is the ideal time for your children to give their bedrooms a good tidy and sort out things they no longer need or want, such as clothes they've grown out of or toys they're no longer interested in. Take these to a charity shop with your children, or if you wish, let your children help you to sell them on eBay or at a car boot sale.

Once the bedrooms have been de-cluttered, re-arrange the furniture to give your children's bedrooms a new look in time for the new school half-term.

Half-term doesn't have to be expensive. You can keep your children busy without spending any money at all!