Half term activities on a budget

Picture of a boot splashing in a muddy puddle for my post about half term activities on a budget

Just add wellies

Week 5 of a new Monday Money series of blog posts  I’m hosting with Emma at EmmaDrew.info and Lynn from Mrs Mummypenny. It’s a great way to share content about money, so do check the links at the end for other brilliant money posts! Plus, find out how to join in if you’re a blogger. We’d love you to add your posts.

Half term activities on a budget

Keeping the kids occupied during school holidays can cost an arm and a leg. Tickets, travel, snacks, meals and drinks, topped up with pester power in every shop, can blow the budget.

If you need inspiration for activities that won’t break the bank, I’ve written a couple of posts in the past:

Five frugal things for the school holidays

Top 10 frugal things we did on our holiday

With half term looming, here’s 9 extra ideas for half term activities on a budget, based on how we survived the Easter holidays. My children are 8 and 10, but some of these ideas will suit toddlers up to teenagers.


Photo of my two children holding big cardboard boxes in a shop


1. Bagged some boxes

Turns out boxes can be great way past toddler age, when offspring are often more interested in playing with the box toys came in than the toy itself.

My two love building elaborate box forts, and when we asked in our local branch of QD, the staff really kindly gave them some flattened boxes to take home. Total cost: 75p for parcel tape and resignation to  cardboard city in the middle of the carpet.


Photo of my children in a tent indoors

Tricky for tent pegs

2. Put up a tent

Camping can strike fear in the heart of any parent. I even like camping, just not quite as much or as often as my children, given half a chance.

However, camping doesn’t have to involve trekking to the other side of the country with a car bursting with more equipment than you ever thought possible. I recommend acquiring a small tent for the younger generation to use closer to home, aka the back garden. Space permitting, you can even bung it up indoors when the weather is rubbish. Hours of fun but parents still get to sleep in their own bed. Winner.

Cheap and cheerful small tents for festivals cost around £30, but you can find play tents for less. My camping-crazy daughter had been campaigning for her own two-man tent, so we bought this basic Vango model* for her birthday, so the poles and fixings would fit together properly. It’s so easy to use she can put it up by herself.


3. Transformed a trampoline

While we’re on the den theme, this is a great idea from Sadie of Small & Ordinary Life – the trampoline tent.

When we moved house, the people moving out left their fabulous trampoline behind, and it’s still going great guns nearly four years on.

As an alternative to endless bouncing, try transforming a trampoline into a tent. We used big bull dog clips to attach a couple of cotton throws over the top, then piled up duvets, pillows, blankets and cushions underneath. It’s also a great place to curl up with a book, if you can ever evict the children.


4. Frolicked in foam

I’m not actually suggesting turning your entire garden into a foam pit (although I believe Fairy liquid and a hose do go  a long way). But when my husband announced his work needed children for publicity photos for a charity bubble rush, my two were keen to volunteer. We headed over to a local park where the foam cannons created bubbles galore. The kids dived in and had a great time, and even co-operated with the photographer. We finished up the afternoon with a picnic near the playground.

Sadly, I can’t promise them a bubble fest every holiday, but if you’d like to support St Elizabeth Hospice later this summer, sign up for the Bubble Rush 2018 on Sunday 26 August in Christchurch Park, Ipswich.


5. Splashed in muddy puddles

Turns out splashing in muddy puddles never gets old, even when you’re eight. I took my son out for a walk through the local nature reserve, sold as an opportunity for crashing through the undergrowth and clambering up trees. Jumping in some of the biggest, muddiest puddles still turned out to be a highlight. Peppa Pig, eat your heart out.


Picture of a Quaffle, Bludger, Snitch and book about Quidditch

Quidditch. Just add broomstick.

6. Hung out with Harry Potter

My two remain obsessed with Harry Potter. Books, films, fancy dress, the lot. I’ve even helped drag everything out of a cupboard under the eaves, to be transformed into an occasional Harry Potter understairs bedroom.

Last holidays, we borrowed the book about Quidditch from the library, and the kids decided to transform a couple of balls into a bludger and quaffle, thanks to half a ton of parcel tape. Meanwhile a googly eyeball from Hallowe’en became a snitch, thanks to gold Easter egg foil and rather a lot of sellotape. They also spent most of an afternoon planning the curriculum for an intensive Quidditch course. The lack of flying broomsticks didn’t seem to put them off at all.

I did fail on the frugal front when it came to Quidditch robes. Rather than running up natty robes, Blue Peter stylee, from a handy black sheet and a ton of inspiration, I caved in and bought costumes from ASDA. Fingers crossed the Harry Potter obsession will last long enough for next year’s World Book Day…

7. Made a movie

At one point, the children stopping watch films long enough to make their own movie trailer. They came up with a plot involving a bow and arrows and an unfortunate cuddly toy, dragged together costumes and props, and then did extensive (if wobbly) filming on a smartphone. My husband helped with editing on iMovie, bunging on titles and adding music, and they were all very proud of the action-packed result.


Picture of a book and three cartons of apple juice from a paper clip challenge

Spoils from the paperclip challenge

8. Took a paper clip challenge

My daughter spotted the paper clip challenge on YouTube, and decided to have a go herself. The idea is that you start with a paperclip, and see if anyone will swap it for something bigger, like a pen. Then you take the pen, swap it for something else, and see how far the swaps take you. The guy who blogged about the idea originally started with a paperclip and ended up with a house!

Anyway my daughter enlisted a friend, ducked into a few local shops and businesses, and emerged triumphant with three cartons of apple juice and The Boys Book of Survival. (Turns out this is much more acceptable to a 10-year-old than a house).

I’m still conflicted about whether it’s appropriate for kids to just ask for stuff and being impressed that she took the initiative. But many thanks to Sweet Memories, East of England Co-op, Harry’s Dad’s office and The Idler.


Photo of a rock found on Felixstowe beach, painted with a crescent moon and stars

A rock, transformed

9. Stumbled on stones

We’re lucky to be within shouting distance of the coast, here in Suffok, whether it’s nipping over to the sand at Felixstowe and Frinton, stumbling over pebbles at Aldeburgh or exploring Southwold pier. A trip to the beach can be very budget friendly, if you pack a picnic along with the swimming kit, and manage to avoid the arcades.

Anyway, during a trip to Felixstowe, my daughter found this beautifully painted rock. On the reverse, it says “Photo me then keep or rehide”, with a reference to the Love on the Rocks UK Facebook group.

My daughter was delighted by the idea, and campaigned to go back and find more. She also painted some stones of her own, carted them along when we went to London for the day, and debated the perfect places to leave them.

If you want to create your own, for longer-lasting designs the Facebook group recommends using materials like emulsion, acrylic paint, poster paint, permanent marker pens or nail varnish, and then sealing with spray varnish or yacht varnish from a pound shop afterwards.


Now – over to you. What are your favourite half term activities on a budget? Any suggestions for cheap and cheerful ways to keep the kids quiet in the holidays? Do share in the comments, I’m really looking for ideas!

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  1. 21st May 2018 / 10:55 am

    I LOVE the trampoline tent idea! My girls will love this – going to surprise them with it 🙂

    • Faith
      21st May 2018 / 12:10 pm

      Brilliant! Hope they enjoy it. Make sure you get a go yourself – too good not to share.

  2. 21st May 2018 / 12:41 pm

    Our tent is proving really popular at the moment too, the kids make up some fantastic games with it. I’ve never heard of the paperclip challenge, that sounds like something they’d love too! #MondayMoney

    • Faith
      21st May 2018 / 1:41 pm

      There’s something about tents that seems to work at all ages. Good luck with the paperclip challenge!

  3. 21st May 2018 / 2:58 pm

    I absolutely love the film idea! Years and years ago, my friend and I used to record our own ‘radio show’ on a cassette player every Wednesday night – it was the highlight of our week!

    • 25th May 2018 / 9:14 am

      Oh wow now I’m getting flashbacks to my own attempts at recording a radio show on tape, complete with my mother’s Frank Sinatra and Cilla Black singles because I didn’t have any records of my own!

  4. Adrienne
    21st May 2018 / 3:18 pm

    Tents are great! We’ve done our own ‘Indoor Festival Camping’ with the tent bedecked with fairy lights, Glasto/Reading&Leeds etc on the TV and everyone dressed in shorts, wellies and glittery face paint. …..

    Another good one for kids under 10ish is The Garden Gymkhana (works fine with 2 kids who then have to double up the pony names and compete against themselves.) Easy to set up ( create your jumps from buckets/ broom handles) use something as a start bell and just make sure you time them properly! Score each pony ehh sorry child and just like a real gymkhana hand out the home-made rosettes or certificates as prizes for the fastest/clear round. My kids who are now older teens still love talking about this and always moan that we didn’t do it more often.

    • 25th May 2018 / 9:15 am

      Entertaining about the garden gymkhana. Hmmmm maybe I can borrow hobby horses from the grandparents.

  5. 21st May 2018 / 4:18 pm

    These ideas are all great, active and don’t involve sitting at a game console – hurrah! My kids are older now but I babysit some younger ones occasionally. I think I shall take our pop up tent next time, they’ll love it!

    • 25th May 2018 / 9:15 am

      Bet they will love the pop up tent, hope it goes well!

  6. 21st May 2018 / 6:03 pm

    Such great ideas! My girls are all grown up now but we would all go for the foam… looks excellent fun

    • 25th May 2018 / 9:16 am

      I think we all have a sneaky liking for masses and masses of bubbles.

  7. 22nd May 2018 / 8:43 pm

    Loving all these ideas Faith! The rock painting one is one that my girls would love, even now

    • 25th May 2018 / 9:17 am

      I joined the Facebook group Love on the Rocks, and there are so many beautiful designs posted. Well worth a look.

  8. 23rd May 2018 / 6:01 am

    I love this post Faith, so many great ideas that I hadn’t heard of and the boys would love to try out. Half term next week….that snuck up!

    • 25th May 2018 / 9:17 am

      Can’t believe it’s half term already. Looking nervously at how I’m going to balance work and holiday.

  9. 24th May 2018 / 3:58 pm

    Thanks for all the ideas! Only one of mine is in school but already half term with 3 little ones to entertain makes me worry about finding things to do!

    • 25th May 2018 / 9:19 am

      Tricky with 3, good luck! Remember the days of getting through multiple drawing / playdough / book / lego / jigsaw type activities and it still only being 8am in the morning… We aimed to get out of the house every day, even if it was only to the local park, to keep everyone sane.

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