75 free things to do in the summer holidays

75 free things to do in the summer holidays

We love the summer holidays but they can be a serious drain on the family finances.  This year, we are having a frugal family summer and finding as many free things to do as we can.

Here are a few ideas.

Have a board game tournament

We all have board games somewhere in the house, have a vote to see which ones are the favourites and then organise a tournament, awarding points for the person who comes first and second in each game and maybe award a small prize for the overall winner.

board games

Photo by Moritz Schmidt on Unsplash

Have an indoor movie afternoon

Stick on a film, snuggle up on the sofa with popcorn and soft drinks and enjoy a film together.

Create your own game

Give everyone a large sheet of paper or a few pieces and get them to come up with their own game.  Once created, you can all have a go at playing them.

Build a den in the garden or a pillow fort in the house

A perfect activity indoors or outside, whatever the weather.  Just add blankets, cushions and anything else that might be useful.

Have a summer party with old school games

Musical statues, musical bumps, pin the tail on the donkey or best dancer competition.  All of these sorts of games make kids smile and you can play them really easily. What about a tin can alley made out of tins, bottles or even empty toilet rolls or a ring toss using empty bottles or towers made out of LEGO? Perfect family fun.

Have a camp out in the garden

If you have a tent, why not put it up in the garden and have a big sleepover outside for the night.

camp out

Photo by Rob Bye on Unsplash

Make daisy chains

Maybe one for the girls but try making headbands, bracelets and necklaces.

Discover the secrets of the best homemade bubble mixture

Search the internet for a foolproof bubble mixture ‘recipe’ and make your own, it is usually much better than shop bought and can provide hours of fun in the garden. No wands?  No problem, have a go at making your own with string and sticks.

Hold a sports day in the garden

Organise your very own sports day with events such as silly races on space hoppers, egg and spoon, bean bag throwing, welly wanging, who can bounce highest on the trampoline and anything that you have the equipment to create.  The options are endless and it is great fun.

Make a fortune teller

A few pieces of paper can be magically transformed into fortune tellers or ‘cootie catchers’.  There are lots of ideas online or you can make up your own for hours of fun.

Visit a local museum

Most museums are free and often have special activities in the school holidays which can provide a few hours of entertainment.

Go on a scavenger hunt

A scavenger hunt can take many forms and can be great fun for everyone involved.  Give the kids a list of things to find and send them off with a list and a pencil to tick them off as they find them.  The winner is the first one to find everything on the list. This can be used in so many different ways, our favourite is the A-Z scavenger hunt where we have to find something beginning with every letter of the alphabet.  Nature scavenger hunts are the perfect excuse to get out and about.

There are endless scavenger hunt printables available online but they are really easy to make yourself.  If you have access to a laminator, they can also be reused which is good if you have little ones.

Create a boredom jar

Pinterest is the place for this if you need ideas.  The basic principle is that you have a jar or container and fill it with slips of paper containing things to do if you are bored.  It can be anything from reading a book, make a cake to something more creative.  There are lots of printable ideas that you simply print, cut up and put in the jar ready.  Perfect for those days when they need some inspiration.

Play hide and seek

This has always been a favourite of ours and you can play it anywhere anytime.

Visit the library

Have you been to see what your local library has to offer during the school holidays? If not, you should.  Not only is there an endless supply of free books, there are often extra activities put on during the holidays from talks to story sessions and many often run reading challenges too which can be a fun way to encourage your children to read more books over the holidays.

Learn a language

Why not try and learn a few words or phrases from a different language?  There are lots of websites that will teach you basic phrases with videos, sound files and games to help you learn.  Try setting challenges such as ‘find out how to say hello in 10 different languages’ or ‘ find out the words for as many colours as you can in Spanish’.

Make something with Papier Maché

Get some old newspaper or paper and tear up, make a paste out of flour and water and make something wonderful building up your design piece by piece.  Once it’s dry, you can paint it however you want and you can make masks, animals, bowls and the end results can be really impressive.

Do a jigsaw puzzle

Get out some jigsaw puzzles and challenge your children to do them as quickly as they can. Time them and see if they can beat each other’s scores.

Climb a tree

Take a trip to the park and find a tree to climb.  Spending time amongst trees apparently has a good effect on our emotional well-being, so this is a summer holiday must.

tree climbing

Photo by reza shayestehpour on Unsplash

Take the Marshmallow challenge

This isn’t free as you will have to buy marshmallows and spaghetti but you can buy them really cheaply from a supermarket or discount shop.  But spaghetti and marshmallows are the perfect ingredients for building with.  Have a competition to see who can build the tallest tower or strongest bridge.  It is great fun and very therapeutic and can also teach children about construction and balance too.

DIY bowling

Use empty bottles and any suitable ball to create your own bowling alley.  You could even get the kids to paint or decorate the bottles beforehand to make it a more fun activity.

Pack a picnic

Take a picnic to somewhere local, ideally within walking distance or a short drive away.  Relax, eat and enjoy.  Add a few fun games to make it really special. Who says you have to go out to have a picnic?  Why not have a picnic in the garden or even on the floor in the living room if it’s raining?

Go geocaching

This is a fun activity for kids big and small.  Geocaching is like a giant treasure hunt.  There are millions of geocache locations worldwide and in each location, there will be small hidden treasures left by other geocachers. Using coordinates that you can find online or via a number of free apps, you can use your mobile phone GPS to follow the coordinates and locate the treasure.  The etiquette is that if you take the treasure, you should leave something in its place of equal or greater value for the next seekers to find.

Have a game of ‘who can find …’?

This can involve specific things or categories (colours, size, etc) and it can be a race to see who can find the things first.

Make some bunting

Cut up some paper into triangles and get the kids to colour, draw, paint or print designs onto each triangle and then attach them to some string to decorate one of the rooms in the house to give it a real holiday feel. Maybe make mini paper lanterns instead, make flowers out of toilet rolls or simply cut out shapes from old wrapping paper, all of these would make effective garlands or bunting to brighten up any room.

Get creative with LEGO

A box of LEGO holds endless possibilities guess or make a LEGO marble run.  Have a model building competition, play ‘Pictionary’ where players have to build a model for other people to guess what it is.  Build a LEGO marble run or make your name out of bricks.  Use LEGO to make different shapes or do some LEGO printing.  Create a LEGO scavenger hunt or make a LEGO fidget spinner. Create a mosaic picture using LEGO or build a LEGO garden. Play Kim’s game with bricks or Minifigures where you take one or more away each time and the kids have to work out which one is missing.

Do something with LEGO

Why not make a set of LEGO challenge cards each with a different activity to do (there are lots of ready made cards on Pinterest) or just put a pile of LEGO on the middle of the table and let imaginations run wild.

Make something with pebbles

If you have some smooth reasonably sized pebbles, there are lots of things you can create.  Using paints or permanent pens, create pictures or write letters, symbols or words which can be used to make games, story stones or even used to practise literacy and numeracy.

Painted pebbles

Copyright: coramueller / 123RF Stock Photo

Our favourite is using them to create a game of noughts and crosses, use 9 or more pebbles and divide them into two, paint crosses on half of them and noughts on the other and you can play endless games.  Use sticks or straws to make the board and you will have hours of fun.

Have a water fight

You don’t need to buy anything to have a good old water fight.  A sunny day is the best otherwise it might be a bit chilly but you can use cups, balloons and a hose pipe to cool everyone down.  Use empty drinks bottles or plastic milk cartons with holes in the lids or sides to create your own water blasters.

Start a band

Look around the house and find some everyday items that can be turned into musical instruments.  Tissue box guitars, toilet roll castanets, saucepan drums, bottle shakers, straw harmonicas and more can be easily created and then you can all make music together.

Living room karaoke

Stick on some music or a music channel on TV, grab a hairbrush and sing along at the tops of your voices.

Play cards

Playing traditional cards is a bit of a lost art.  We always played cards when I was growing up and games often ended with raucous laughter.  There are lots of sites online with ideas for games and many are so quick and simple.

playing cards

Bubble painting

Mix up some bubble solution in different shallow containers and add different colour (paint or food colouring) or colours to each one.  Get the kids to grab straws and blow until the bubbles are higher than the sides of the container.  Pop a piece of paper over the top and you will get amazing bubble prints.  Use the prints to cut out shapes, create collages or more.

Play would you rather…?

Would you rather is another simple game that can be played with children (and adults) of all ages.  Giving them two alternatives and asking them which one they would rather do, helps children to reason and it is a great game for getting children talking which is so important in the digital age.

Rock Paper Scissors

Another favourite of ours that has saved our sanity in many theme park queues.  Great because it needs no skill and can provide an instant distraction.

Go bird watching

Go out and spot as many different birds as you can.  If possible take photos and then go home and find out what types of bird you have seen.

Search out local free workshops

As well as the local library, it is worth looking out for other free workshops that might be run in shops, shopping centres, sports centres and parks.  Some parks have extra free activities on over the summer holidays and Pets at Home run some amazing pet based workshops for children during the school holidays and this year. Hobbycraft are also running craft workshops every Wednesday in their stores all over the UK throughout the summer holidays between 12 and 2 pm.

Create an obstacle course

Indoors, outdoors or both, set up an obstacle course to get children thinking, climbing, jumping and moving.  If you haven’t got the space, visit a local park and create an obstacle course using the facilities there.

Find a new park

Make a family tree

Encourage your children to get to know their family more and create their family tree.  If it really interests them, speak to older relatives and research online to see if you can find out more information.

Play battle ships

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, there are lots of printables available for battle ship grids but it is easy enough to make your own.  I usually create two identical grids of 10 by 10 squares and you can number one axis (1 – 10) and add letters to the other axis (a – j) you can create boats by colouring in a set number of squares, we usually do 1 x 2 squares, 1 x 3, 1 x 4 and 1 x 5, not letting your opponent see your boats.  Take it in turns to read out different coordinates (it is a good idea to put a dot on the square you say each time so that you don’t forget) and your opponent will say hit or miss depending if the square is part of one of their boats.  The winner is the first person to ‘sink’ their opponent’s boats.

Make up a word search

Again, make a grid on the computer or draw one from scratch, 10 by 10 squares would be okay or more if you want a bigger word search.  Pick a category and get your children to write a set number of words in all different directions around the grid and then randomly fill in the rest of the grid with letters.

Make wooden spoon puppets

We all have old wooden spoons lying around in the drawer and they make great puppets.  Add wool, scraps of material, use felt tip pens and whatever else you have lying around and you can create all sorts of interesting characters.  Fairytale characters, characters from favourite books, superheroes, fairies, animals anything goes. Take it one step further by turning an old box into a puppet theatre so that you can all act out a mini play with your new puppets.

Play charades

Get the children to act out the titles of their favourite songs, books or films for everyone else to guess.

Play balloon tennis

Make some bats out of paper plates with a piece of cardboard attached as the handle and then use a balloon as a ball.  So simple and yet such good fun.

Make a time capsule

Find an old box or tin and fill it with memories of your family life.  Photos, pictures, stories, newspapers, toys anything you would like to put in to give you a flavour of your family right now. Bury it in the garden and then set a date in the future when you would like to dig it up.  This is a fun thing to do and it is amazing to dig them up years later and look back.

Create a holiday journal

Use an old notebook or scrapbook and create a journal filled with memories of things you all do over the summer.  Tickets, postcards and photos can be stuck in as well as pictures and writing about the things you did.  This can also be an amazing memory book to look back on in years to come.

holiday journal

Learn the alphabet in sign language

Find instructions online or a YouTube video to learn how to sign the alphabet.

Hold a family Bake Off

Dust off the recipe books and get everyone to make something delicious and then judge each other’s Mary Berry style to see whose culinary creation is the best.

bake off

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Have a pillow fight

Simple, harmless fun which will bring out the competitive side in everyone.

Do some leaf rubbing

Go on a nature walk and collect as many leaves of different types.  Leaf rubbing requires paper and wax crayons, place the paper on top of the leaves and rub quite firmly over the top of the leaves with the crayons and the imprint of the leaf should appear.  Use different leaves and different colours to create an amazing collage or cut them out and make a mobile or leaf bunting.


Play the alphabet game

Choose a category such as names, countries, capitals or animals and see if you can think of one for each letter of the alphabet.

Make your own play dough

If you have flour, salt and oil make your own play dough with some food colouring and you can even add glitter and essential oils to make it scented.  It is so easy to make and you can get the kids involved with the making process and then they can spend hours playing with it too.

Go Pokemon hunting

Pokemon Go is still going strong and after the success of last summer, the app has been updated with new Pokemon and features to keep people interested.  Kids big and small love it and will walk miles in pursuit of new and exciting Pokemon and gyms.  The app is free and is perfect to get kids moving to catch them all but make sure that you keep an eye on data usage and switch off access to in-app purchases.

Pokemon go

Photo by David Grandmougin on Unsplash

Play Who What, How, Where, When and Why?

This is a brilliant little game that we play.  First, choose a person (who?) write it at the top of the piece of paper and then you fold it over so that the next person can’t see it and pass it on.  Next is the what?  What was the person doing, the funnier and sillier the better and then you fold over and pass over again.  This process continues with how? where you choose an adjective, where? when? and then you end with why?

Keep folding over and pass it on right until the end and then the last person unfolds and reads out the silly story.  The sillier the better, these mini stories will make children hoot with laughter.

Go on a Junior Parkrun

You may have already heard about Park Runs, 5k runs which happen all over the country every weekend and you get a time each week and it is completely free to register and take part.  Did you know that there are also a number of Junior Park Runs?  These runs are 2k and are free for children aged 4 – 14 and take place on a Sunday morning. Find out more here.

Anyone for tennis?

There are tennis courts in many towns and villages that are completely free to use and I know that there are some near us that are often empty.  Find a tennis court near you (there are some listed here on the Tennis For Free website)

Be in the audience

If you fancy being in the audience of a TV show, research the internet for the sites to register.  The most popular shows have long waiting lists and some programs have a minimum age limit, but you can get to see some amazing shows and give the kids a fascinating look at the behind the scenes of making a TV program and tickets are free.

Play Bingo 

Use numbers, images or words to create bingo cards and get playing.  Award small treats for a full house.

Fly a kite

All you need is wind.  If you haven’t got a kite, have a go at making one. There are lots of simple ideas on Pinterest.

fly a kite

Learn to juggle

Juggling is not easy but there are lots of tutorials on YouTube, so grab some balls, bean bags or fruit and get juggling.


Find somewhere new to go on a bike ride

If you have bikes, there are endless routes that you can take but finding a new route

Write a story

Give the children a prompt and you could join in too.  Once you have finished you could all read out your stores and compare stories.

Write a letter

Who could you write a letter to?  Letter writing is a dying art but it is a lovely thing to teach children how to do.  Tell them how to start and end a letter and then get writing, maybe write to a family member, a grandparent or a friend who lives abroad.  Or alternatively, write a set of letters about your holiday and add them to your holiday journal.

Make some cards

Get out some card, some paint, pens, stickers, glue, sequins, buttons, anything that can be used to make cards. Use Pinterest for inspiration if necessary and make a batch of cards that can be used for birthdays, thank yous and any other occasion where a card is needed.

card making
Copyright: bialasiewicz / 123RF Stock Photo

Create your own newspaper or magazine

Either by hand or on the computer, design your own pages with headlines and photos, it could be all about the holidays or on a subject that interests them.

Get scientific

My kids love doing science experiments and we have made rainbows with skittles, created explosions with cola and Mentos and volcanoes with bicarbonate of soda and vinegar.  There are so many fun things that you can do with everyday household things and it teaches kids that science is fun as well as keeping them occupied.

Have a tickle war

Always guaranteed to put a smile on the grumpiest of faces.

Do a summer reading challenge

Decide how many books you think is realistic to read over the six weeks, maybe one per week and make a chart to record each completed book.  Maybe plan a small reward if the challenge is completed at the end of the holiday?

Write a book review

For one of the books, your child reads over the summer get them to write a review.  For younger children, it could be a few words and a smiley/sad face and for older children, it could be more detailed, explaining what they liked and didn’t like about the book or describing one of the scenes or characters.

Start a blog

With free blog platforms available, you could encourage your child to start their own blog.  Great for literacy and computer skills, they could do daily or weekly posts about life, their holiday, their hobbies, whatever they want to do.

Learn something new

Although I battle with YouTube on a daily basis thanks to my sons’ addiction to it, I have to admit that it does have a lot of positives.  You can find videos on everything and anything,  So whether you want to learn how to do Yoga, crochet, sewing, how to use a pogo stick or cut fruit into pretty flowers, there is something for everyone.  Why not challenge yourselves as a family to learn something new by the end of the holiday.

Watch a sunrise

You might struggle if you have teens in the house, but getting up early to watch the sunrise at least once is definitely worth doing.

Go stargazing

At the other end of the day, take a blanket into the garden and lie on the grass watching the stars.

Have a clear out (and make some money)

Encourage kids to make some money for themselves by sorting out toys, books, DVDs, games that are in a reasonable condition that they no longer want and do a garage or car boot sale.  Although you do have to pay for a pitch at a car boot, hopefully, you will make more than enough to cover the cost and more.

Have a Nerf War

If you are anything like us, you will have Nerf guns and bullets lying around gathering dust.  Add instant fun by creating a battle ground in the garden and adding in some competition.  Great fun to be had all round.

Make something ouut of a cardboard box

Take one box, add imagination and paint and you can create anything from doll houses to rockets, from cars to puppet theatres.  It costs nothing and can be made into something that will be used all summer and beyond.

Cardboard box play

Copyright: choreograph / 123RF Stock Photo


There are a few ideas to be getting on with and I have prepared a handy tick list that you can print off to remind you and if you click on my Pinterest board below, there are loads of ideas, tutorials and posts to help with lots of the things on this list.

Enjoy your summer x

75 free things to do in the summer holidays










75 Free Things To Do In The Summer Holidays
Article Name
75 Free Things To Do In The Summer Holidays
Are you worried about how to keep the kids entertained on a budget during the long summer holidays? In this post, I have found 75 free or very low-cost activities with a handy printable list to help give you some holiday inspiration
Publisher Name
Stressy Mummy


  1. July 28, 2017 / 6:44 am

    Wow! There’s some great ideas here. I might even get my teenagers interested in one or two of them! I like the idea of the scavenger hunt and painting the pebbles and I particularly like the idea of the Parkrun, of course!

  2. July 31, 2017 / 9:44 am

    Love this list!!! I’m so going to come back to it. I’ve been trying to get z to write little stories as he’s terrible with remembering full stops and capital letters. He doesn’t think it’s much fun really :). I think we’re going to try the pebbles soon!

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