While a day out with your offspring may seem like a second mortgage could be called for, kids remember and value spending time together as a family rather than extravagant days out. Here are some of our favourite ways to have fun as a family without breaking the bank…

Children are competitive, so capitalise by running a series of activities and offering a small prize at the end, like choosing a DVD to watch, or deciding what’s for dinner. Try making and flying kites, creating a family portrait, going for a bike ride along the old railway track to Cults, building outdoor forts from sheets and playing with water bombs. Check out www.netmums.com or www.dayoutwiththekids.co.uk for tons of ideas. Baking cakes or making popcorn is inexpensive fun and older kids may enjoy the challenge of making dinner.

If the weather’s poor, it’s worth checking out your local library. As well as books and DVDs, most have free activities going on throughout the week. Bookbug sessions are for under-fives and there are craft activities, storytelling sessions, treasure hunts and lots more. Community centres also offer free or low-cost activities; check the council website for what’s coming up in your area. Other rainy day activities include cutting up old fabrics or buying some cheap lining fabric and making superhero capes, making sock puppets, playing board games or making your own playdough or gloop. Junior fashionistas will enjoy making outfits from newspaper, paint and sellotape – anything from princess dresses to haute couture is possible! Alternatively, as Calvin and Hobbes fans will know, large cardboard boxes and a little imagination can result in a racing car, rocket ship or even a pair of wings, while a bed can become a raft or magic carpet, with everything you need for a journey all piled on top.

f_34aImage: Yuganov Konstantin/stock.adobe.com
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Image: Monkey Business /stock.adobe.com

If the weather’s good, nature activities, such as pond dipping and bug hunts are fun. The local ranger service offers free sessions throughout the year for the clueless naturalist parent. Set up a tent – or use sheets – and camp outside for the day, cooking on a campfire. Make a wigwam using garden canes and an old sheet, then paint designs on it.  If you’re more urban, try www.treasuretrails.co.uk, who offer several downloadable spy mission treasure trails for £6.99 each, which can keep a bunch of kids amused for an afternoon.

For outdoor play, pack a picnic, try rolling down hills in the park or paddling at the beach, or head further afield to the excellent free play facilities at Charleston Fruit Farm, where you can also pick your own berries, or Brechin Castle Garden Centre, which has great bouncy cushions and an adventure park filled with climbing frames, swings and a zip wire, as well
as a huge pond full of ducks.

Having fun is as much about creating memories as spending money – at least till the teenage years start!

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