by Margaret Doherty
Been to your local library
recently? As well as a wealth of childrens’ books, they now also rent kids’ DVDs at a fraction of the price they cost to buy, have computers with free hourly sessions of internet access as well as lots of information on local events, attractions, walks and activities that you might not know about.
have become fashionable again. Not only are they great for vintage and quirky clothing but they’re also a great source of kids’ books, DVDs, board games and jigsaws – or bits and bobs for a dressing-up box. You can also drop off any unwanted items that are clean and in good condition.
Plenty of museums and galleries have free entry for all
The Junior Painter of the Year Awards Exhibition is on show at the Café Gallery of the Royal Academy of Arts until 16 February. Forty paintings on the theme ‘the sight I would most like to see’ have been chosen from over 9,000 submitted by 4–11-year-olds throughout the UK for the competition run by charity Sightsavers International.
For older kids, War+Medicine at the Wellcome Collection on until 15 February examines the constantly evolving relationship between warfare and medicine, from the improvements in hygiene and nutrition during the Crimean War through to medical advances in reconstructive surgery born out of Second World War casualties. www.thewellcomecollection.org
The National Gallery has some fun art-based activities lined up for half-term (17–21 Feburary), from drop-in Magic Carpet storytelling in front of a different painting every day for the under fives, through family workshops for ages 5–11 through to two-day practical art workshops for ages 12–17 (the latter must be booked in advance). The National Gallery also has free family activities every Sunday.
The Museum of London has loads of free activities during half term based around the lives of the Tudors, from clothes to food to medicine.
The Museum in Docklands celebrates Chinese New Year – the Year of the Ox – on Sunday 8 February with a day packed with free, fun activities for families. Half term offers a variety of activities based around life in Victorian times.
Days out are notoriously expensive but planning ahead can ensure that there’s plenty to interest your family and save you money.
Top tips for keeping a check on the expenses
- Always do a quick tally of overall costso you don’t get a nasty surprise at the end of the day. Include travel/fuel, ticket prices, any additional activities and food costs to get a full picture of what the day out is costing
- Always ask what types of tickets are available. If family tickets are available this can save money if separate adult and child rates are applicable
- Plan ahead and check the websites. Most attractions have extensive websites that detail costs, age restrictions and suitability, any possible closures or changes that might affect your visit
- Regional tourist websites can also be a great source of money-off offers. The West Midlands, for example, has plenty of attractions from Cadbury World and Alton Towers to Warwick Castle. See www.visittheheart.co.uk for a range of offers. Or, if you’re getting the train to London and the South East www.daysoutguide.co.uk has details of off-peak fares and special offers and 2 for 1 deals when you travel by train
- Find out where kids go free. For example, at Kew Gardens up to two children under 17 get in free when accompanied by a paying adult (adult ticket £12). There’s the new Rhizotron and Xstrata Treetop walkway to see as well as kids trails and a special parents’ visitor guide on the website to help you make the most of your visit
- Don’t assume that the popular attractions will cost a fortune. Even the latest blockbuster exhibition Babylon (until 15 March) at the British Museum has free entry for under 16s when accompanied by a paying adult (£12) or a family ticket (2 adults and 3 children under 18, £17)
- In some instances, membership of an organisation might be a useful option. For example, an adult membership of English Heritage is £41.50 a year which includes free entry for up to 6 accompanying children (under 19) within your family group. With over 400 properties throughout England, whether it’s castles, stately homes or rambling over romantic ruins that your family enjoys, it could save you money in the long run
- Even places that usually charge may have free or reduced charges on certain days or times. For instance, the Courtauld Gallery has free entry on Mondays from 10am until 2pm (excluding Bank Holidays) – usual adult charge £5 – and has free admission for under 18s
- Go prepared. It might be a faff and stating the obvious but bringing your own drinks and snacks can save a small fortune.