Christmas is coming, and many of us are thinking about shopping, food, and various social arrangements with family and friends. All in the hope of avoiding that last minute panic, which seems to happen every year no matter how carefully you plan!
But one thing that can easily get overlooked is that Christmas itself is only a couple of days in the school holidays. Which means that you also have around two weeks of entertaining the kids to think about. In itself this is no mean feat, but is even more tricky at this time of year as there is likely to be very little money around after all the expense of Christmas.
So in this article we suggest ten ideas for fun things to do as a family during the Christmas school holidays. And the good news is that most of them are free so will help you to save money rather than end up paying a small fortune everywhere you go.
Many Christmas markets run right up to Christmas and some even continue into the New Year. Some of the major venues across the UK include Edinburgh, Manchester, Bath, Chester, Birmingham, York, Winchester, Cardiff, Blenheim Palace and Southampton – but it is always worth checking what is on locally to you.
If you are in easy reach of London there is also the Southbank Winter Festival which is open until 8th January, and also Hyde Park Winter Wonderland to which entry is free during off-peak times (but must be pre-booked). Be aware that charges then apply for activities such as rides, ice skating, and shows. But look out for the Family Fun Day on 1st January which usually has additional free activities for all the family to take part in.
Perhaps visiting a Christmas market will inspire you and your family to get crafty at home. If you enjoy crafty activities, you could have a go at making your own Christmas decorations. Some ideas for simple decorations include:
If you stick to simple ideas, using items that you already have in your home, this could be a fun and productive way to spend an afternoon, particularly if you put on some Christmas music and have a few Christmas nibbles to keep you going.
An early evening walk to see the lights is a lovely way to spend time over the festive season. Many big towns and cities have spectacular lighting displays, and some also have special Christmas trees which are lovely to see. You may be lucky and manage to time it with some carol singing too.
But also check out what is happening in your own area. For example, there may be local displays hoping to raise money for charity. But even if you just decide to wander round your local neighbourhood you are bound to come across some fabulous fun lights.
If the weather is cold, take a flask and some nibbles with you to help you keep warm. Then get out and enjoy the magical atmosphere created by the wonderful Christmas lights.
It’s also a good idea to check out any Christmas events that are happening locally. For example, you may find that your local council is running free Christmas holiday activities or workshops for kids. Also get in touch with local churches to see if they have any children’s carol services or Christmas parties.
On Boxing Day you can often find traditional local events such as organised walks, a Boxing Day dip, Morris dancing or Mummers plays. So whether you want to actively participate in something or just watch as others do so, there is bound to be something happening near you. And if you also have guests staying at that time it’s an easy way to entertain them too.
If you want to spend a bit of time doing something non-Christmassy then why not have a day out at a museum or heritage site? Most museums are free to visit, and many have lots of interactive activities for children. If you are able to get to London easily, there are over 20 free museums and galleries that you can visit, but most areas have their own museums that are definitely worth a try.
If you are looking for an outdoor activity, try visiting a historical site such as the National Trust or English Heritage. Many sites have free admission to the grounds, where there is usually plenty to see and do.
It’s very easy to start experiencing a bit of cabin fever over the Christmas holidays. So it’s good to get out into the fresh air for a winter stroll.
One option is to explore your local countryside, for example a large park, woodland or your nearest beach. But also consider exploring your nearest city on foot. As well as the well-known areas, be adventurous and head off the beaten track. You may well find many interesting places that you never knew were there.
Either way, wrap up warm and get out exploring. You will all feel much better for it, and don’t need to spend any money.
During the school holidays it’s also important just to get some down time. Particularly in the period between Christmas and New Year it can be good to take a day to do absolutely nothing!
So why not plan a family onesie or pyjama day? The most energetic thing you need to do is to get out of bed and head for the sofa.
If possible, enable everyone to choose something to do that day. One obvious activity is to curl up and watch a favourite Christmas movie, and between TV channels and streaming services there are so many options to choose from.
A Onesie Day is also an opportunity to enjoy other family activities together such as board games and other games. But the main idea is to snuggle up and do as little as possible. No-one needs to cook: just plough through the Christmas leftovers with any combination being allowed!
We’ve just mentioned those Christmas leftovers, and if you have a lot, it’s really important not to waste them. So another family activity could be to run your own version of Ready Steady Cook! How about dividing the family into two teams, and each team has to make something original using the leftovers.
The risk is that the results will be pretty dreadful, but you may be pleasantly surprised and discover some enjoyable new food combinations. Either way, it’s much better than letting food go to waste, and will save money on having to do yet more food shopping.
Does your family like reading? If so, why not make time to catch up with it over the Christmas holidays? Whether you read a new book you were given for Christmas, a best seller you’ve been meaning to read for ages, or an old favourite you’d love to read again, it can be a relaxing and enjoyable way to spend the time.
Reading does not have to be expensive. Books can be borrowed for free from your local library, and this often now includes ebooks, audiobooks and digital magazines. Children may also be able to bring books home from the school library.
If your children need encouragement to read, make a special occasion of it. For example, put on the Christmas lights, get out the blankets, and prepare a selection of drinks and snacks. Then all sit down to read together and get lost for a while in another world.
A great way to spend a day over the Christmas holidays is to burn off any extra Christmas pounds with a bit of exercise. You may be hoping to start a brand new exercise regime in 2024, but why wait for the New Year when everyone will be doing the same thing? Get ahead of the game and start now!
Give some thought as to the kind of exercise you want to do and make a start. It doesn’t have to cost a penny. Here are five ideas for getting fit for free:
We hope that this article has provided some helpful ideas for free things to do during the Christmas holidays, and that some of them are also useful as we move into 2024.