I'll admit, I have been daunted by the prospect of having no cash to put aside for activities. It means that even reasonably priced ones like Toddler World at Wycombe Rye Lido are not viable right now. More pricey soft play centres, especially if they include a bus trip there, are definitely out. As is the cinema, bowling and swimming.
But then, the other day I was having a really good catch up with my best friend at the park and she turned to me and said that she liked how my children can find pleasure in simple things and not have to be entertained constantly. At the time, Ollie was sat with us rooting in the grass (probably for bugs, probably for eating) and Lily was dancing under a tree with falling blossom (I wish I'd got a better photo). I hadn't thought about it before but I realised she was right. My children are happy with a trip to the park, or the library and we have a lot on our doorstep to take advantage of.
So, with that in mind, this is my list of the top things to do out and about in the local area, or at home, for free.
1. The Library
We have a couple of these to choose from, but the one that is truly free for us is our local Micklefield library. The other is in town which would include a bus ride - but if you have to be in town anyway, then it certainly makes sense as it has a great children's section. The smaller library is only a short walk from home and still has a lovely selection of children's books. My only issue is their slightly strange opening times, which makes sense when you realise that it is mainly run by volunteers.
2. The Park
Possibly the best free activity for all children. What sort of toddler wouldn't want to go to the park? Lily will never turn down the opportunity. Even if it's a short walk to the 'little' play park consisting of two swings and a slide. For going slightly further afield, Wycombe has some beautiful parks including The Rye and Hughenden Park which are particularly beautiful and have great play areas as well as tons of green space for running off steam.
3. The Woods
Our closest woods back on to our home and are always good for a short walk. I'm not sure what it is, but a walk in the woods always seems so exciting to the kids, and you can mix it up a bit by adding nature trails, bird watching or a mini-beast hunt.
Whether at an open day or for a quiet autumnal walk, the Pann Mill on the Rye is a lovely activity and perfect for combining with one of the play areas, or even a walk in the woods!
5. Scavenger Hunt
The other week we had an impromptu scavenger hunt just by walking a loop round the block. I didn't try anything too fancy, but am tempted to do it again after raiding Pinterest for inspiration. There are some great free printables available on the internet which I think would make it even more fun for Lily as she'll be able to recognise the pictures for herself, rather than having me read to her.
Not sure if this counts as free, ingredients cost money afterall, but when they're just sitting in the cupboard then it makes sense to use them! Just make sure everyone get's a turn at stirring (then licking) the bowl...
7. Arts and Crafts
Like baking, if you have the tools and supplies in place then any sort of crafty activity goes down well. Both Lily and Ollie like it if I even sit down with them to do some colouring or drawing. It doesn't take much and simple is often so much better. Depending on what you have around the house, you can always try something different or just grab some old boxes, scrap paper and sellotape and let their imaginations run wild with junk modelling. When all else fails, there is always play-doh (whilst wearing a snazzy flower hat).
8. The Shopping Centre (but not for shopping!)
I can't handle window shopping, it's far too depressing when you don't have any cash, but our local shopping centre is great (not just for style advice) at providing free activities for children during half-term and school holidays. They have mask making lined up for this half term and judging by their previous events, it will definitely be worth the visit.
9. Wycombe Museum
I haven't yet had the chance to visit the newly refurbished Wycombe Museum but always enjoyed going there before it's renovation. I'm expecting that it'll be better when the children are older and can enjoy the displays properly. For now, it's something nice to do - it's free, why wouldn't you try it out?
10. Children's Centres
I used to frequent the closest Children's Centre to my old house but haven't yet tried out the new one. I loved that they offered free activities as well as a helping hand and advice. It was a good place for meeting new friends and other new mums and I learnt a lot about heuristic play from attending their 'Treasure Baskets' session when Lily was only a baby. I was also able to attend free baby massage classes with Lily which was lovely. By the time Ollie arrived the centre had changed (thanks Tory government) and less things were available free of charge but they still offer some lovely stay and play sessions and have a nice outside space.
What do you have locally? Any good activities or tips for free family fun?