Free summer holiday activities for families

Let’s get outside! Fun, free summer holiday activities for kids 

We all know that getting outside is great for our health and wellbeing. Whether in the garden, local park or a trip to the beach - make some outdoor memories as a family this summer.

  • Going on a picnic: Who doesn’t love a picnic? Pack some sandwiches, fruits, and snacks and head to a nearby park for a picnic. You can play games, read books, and hopefully enjoy the sunshine. Fancy changing up the cheese sandwich? Check out our healthy and fun picnic ideas.

  • Make nature art: “If heading out for a woodland walk or trip to the beach, we love to collect stones or shells to take home to paint; or see what nature objects we can find to make collage pictures eg. pine cones, fallen leaves or flowers, feathers etc.” Laura, Head of Customer Experience, Mum to a 10, 7 and 2 year old.

  • Go for a bike ride: Take a family bike ride around your local area or nearby park. It's a great way to get exercise, explore your surroundings and bond with your family.

  • Imaginative forest walks: “Our favourite go-to activity all year around is imaginative forest walks. We come up with a different story each time e.g. hunting for dinosaurs, hiding from the gruffalo and big bad mouse. We love this as it gets us outdoors in the fresh air, an opportunity to get creative with our imaginations and we can have a nice picnic lunch or splurge for a hot drink and cake at the cafe.” Siobhan, Service Delivery Manager, Mum to a 3 year old.

  • Visit a beach: Spend a day at the beach. Swim, make sandcastles, play ball games, go rock-pooling, make statues with beach pebbles. So many possibilities!

  • Local nature reserve: “My son is at the stage where he is starting to pick up more and more words. One of his favourite things to do is go along to the local nature reserve for a walk to see the animals and practise all his animal sounds. He also likes to point at things and learn the words for them. The fresh air helps to tire him out a bit and he's learning at the same time so it's a win-win!” Kirsty, Service Performance Manager, Mum to an 18 month old

  • Scavenger hunt: Add some variety to your walk and create a list of things you want to find. Or take an egg carton and get your kids to paint each of the sections a different colour. Challenge them to find small items in the garden or park e.g. leaves, flowers, feathers that match the colour of each section.

  • Garden maze: “I first did this when we did ‘no mow May’ and now I do it throughout the summer. Let the grass grow a bit and then mow a maze into it. The kids love having adventures just walking around the paths, finding dead ends, planning different routes. It provides hours of entertainment and can provide a structure for so many other games!” Martin, Head of Learning and Development, Dad to a 4 and 7 year old.

  • Tin can alley: Save up empty tins - 6 to 10 is ideal and stack them on top of each other to create a target. Throw a tennis ball at them and see how many you can knock over. You can keep score like you would at a bowling alley.

  • Painting with water: “My daughter loves to paint and join in with activities outside. Painting the fence with water is a new favourite of ours for hours of fun with zero damage. She can create all sorts of pictures and patterns and as they dry and disappear, start all over again.” Jo, Finance Transformation Lead, Mum to a 2 year old.

  • Play pooh sticks: Do you have a stream or river nearby with a river running through it? Find sticks that you can identify as yours, drop them on one side of the bridge then run to the other side to see whose stick is ahead as they race down the river.

  • Build a garden obstacle course: “We get out all the random bits and bobs from the garden shed e.g. balls, tennis rackets, skittles, hula hoops, chairs and benches and make a course that everyone can enjoy. If the weather is good it stays up for days and my daughters change the challenges around every day. It provides many hours of free fun!” Carey Ann, Brand Copywriter, Mum to a 13 & 15 year old.

  • Pavement art: Chalk drawings can be great fun for all the family. Whether it’s practising your handwriting, creating beautiful pictures or making a hopscotch, a box of chunky chalks is a very handy thing to have ready for the holidays.

  • Munzee hunting: “This is a perfect way for us to get out of the house. We love locating these little QR codes using the Munzee app (which is free). It’s like doing a scavenger hunt without bringing things back home. You can scan them to win points but just being constantly on the lookout for them provides great entertainment on every trip out. It's particularly good when we need to cover any distance in an urban area as it gets them hunting for the next one!” Rosie, Insight Lead, Mum to a 7 and 2 year old.

Free indoor activities for kids this summer

Who knows what the British summer will bring! Having a selection of activities for indoor play is helpful. For many kids screen-time can be their go-to on a rainy day so try some of these ideas that offer a break and distraction from the screen. 

  • Cardboard box fort: “When the weather isn’t playing ball then we get out our store of Amazon boxes, of which there seem to be many, and create a fort. We’ve found building it around the sofa particularly successful. Adding blankets and lights creates a cosy play space that can last us days. Then I pack the boxes away ready for next time.” Lia, Lead Curriculum Developer, Mum to a 6 year old.

  • Visit your local library: Be an active reader this summer! Bring home some new books and take part in the The Summer Reading Challenge. It’s happening across the country with lots of free events including some exciting mystery-solving workshops run by our wonderful Explore Learning Tutors. Find out what’s happening in a library near you. 

  • Make oobleck: A brilliant, simple science experiment you can do with your children is making oobleck. Using just cornflour and water discover how something can be both a liquid and a solid at the same time! 

  • Dirty Dinosaurs:  “I take all my daughter’s dinosaurs and cover them in something e.g. leftover pasta sauce or paint from an abandoned craft session. I then put them in a large container and leave it to be discovered. When she was younger I would act all surprised and then we would make up a bowl of warm soapy water and get some sponges and an old toothbrush to “scrub them clean”. My daughter has loved this activity from 18 months old up to present day at 7 years old and now she’s meticulous at cleaning them so she’ll be occupied for a good length of time with it! She loves “looking after them” and will even dry them off herself too now.” Sian, Centre Director, Mum to a 7 year old.

  • Visit your local fire station: Look out for any open days happening at your local fire station. They often have activities during the summer that allow children to discover more about fire engines, fire safety and what’s involved with being a firefighter. 

  • Rainbow rice: Perfect for sensory play and developing fine motor skills for younger children. Colour uncooked rice with a little food colouring and use vinegar to set the colour so it doesn’t transfer. Allow to dry. Then scoop, pour and let your hands run through it. Make pictures or shapes with the different colours. Try filling up small glasses with the different coloured rice to make layered art.

  • Have a games night: Bring out the board games and have a fun family game night. You can even create a tournament with prizes for the winner.

  • Being a shopkeeper: “This is our favourite activity of the moment. One of the children decides what type of shop they will own, and collects relevant toys, books or items from around the house to set up a shop on the sofa. The rest of us visit the shop to buy lots of things. It's been a great way to get my son practising his money which has been a bit of a tricky one for him this term." Amandeep, Head of Product, Mum to a 7 and 3 year old.

We’re always looking for ideas to share with our families at Explore Learning so if you’ve got a new favourite activity that you do as a family please get in touch. Whatever you choose to do this holiday, we hope you have time to connect, unwind and make special family memories together.

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