With half term fas approaching entertaining younger children can be difficult and expensive but does not have to be costly. There are many activities in the UK for families that are both accessible and affordable, often subsidized by the local council or charities. Here are my top 5 choices:
1. Library Hopping (Free)
Library cards are free for residents and books can be borrowed from any library in the county that you live in. Libraries are usually very accessible places and larger ones also have dedicated play areas in the children’s book sections as well as free events, like music and story time for little ones. There are also mobile libraries that run from specially adapted vehicles and regularly stop in at local residential homes, day centres and sheltered housing complexes. Some mobile libraries also stop at nurseries and schools, so check with the local council to see if there is any mobile library that visit your area.
Home library services are also readily available throughout the U.K. Talk to the librarian at your local library to access the service for free. You provide general information about what books interests you and a librarian or library volunteer will visit you in your home with a selection to choose from. You can borrow any kind of book, including audio books in MP3 and CD format. The services is available to anyone with a disability, long term illness, recovering from an operation, elderly and frail, unable to carry library books, carers who cannot easily leave home and people experiencing mental health issues.
Even if you do not have or want a library card or a library is in a different county, access to all libraries are free and a library card is only required to check out books. Take the kids along to a library to play or read them a story inside the library. Libraries are friendly, accessible places where everyone is welcomed.
For more information about your local libraries, visit your local council’s web site for details.
2. Visit a Nature Reserve (Free)
There are many nature reserves across the country and most provide free access and place a high priority on accessibility. They are not always easy to find.
The Natural England site has an extensive searchable on-line database that provides information about reserves, including how accessible they are to pushchairs, wheelchairs and anyone with limited mobility.
3. Local Leisure Centre (Reduced Price)
Leisure Card is available in many counties for those on benefits or who have a disability and a Leisure Concession Card is free on specific benefits or to anyone registered as disabled with the local council. The Leisure and Leisure Concession Card provides discounts at all local leisure centres, with the concessionary rate usually applying a further 50% off from the Leisure Card fee. Leisure Centres are usually accessible and more information is provided on local council web sites.
Savings: For example, take one under 5 child to a swim session works out at 75p (for 1 adult and 1 child) with a Leisure Concession Card.
4. Parks, Playgrounds & Footpaths (Free)
Explore the local parks, playground and public footpaths. Parks and playgrounds are usually accessible and wheelchair friendly and some parks, like the Royal Victoria Country Park, even have play adapted playgrounds for children with disabilities with wheelchair accessible equipment and a sensory garden.
5. Local Community Events (Free / Small Fee)
Sure Start Centres
There are many events that are free or very affordable if you know where to find them. For activities for children under 6, check out your local Sure Start Centre for free activities open to anyone who lives locally.
Garden and Pet Centres
Many Garden Centres offer holiday activities with free entry and a small charge, usually £2-5 per child (free for adults) for activities. Even if they don’t have any half-term activities, large garden centres are a great place to take children to learn about plants. There are usually themed displays, garden furniture and buildings, a large selection of plants and some landscaped areas to explore. Many larger garden centres also have aquariums and a pet section.
A site that lists many community events in its database. It is an events diary where anyone can list their event for free. All listings are not free, but it does usually state what cost will be involved. It is a great place to find free local events like car boot sales, open gardens, fairs, festivals, workshops and second hand or craft markets.
Car Boot Sales (Low Cost)
Car Boot Sales are probably one of the few places left where you can still buy things for 5-10p. Some are free entry others charge 60p – £3 depending on the car boot. They take place in the summer months, but there are some that run all year round on Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays.
Car Boot Junction has a national database, some larger ones have their own site, but your best bet is probably to get in the car early on a Sunday morning and drive around your local area looking for signs. Most are wheelchair accessible, although the surface is quite bumpy as it is usually a field being used. They only run in fair weather due to the outdoor nature of the event, so if it rains on Sunday morning, stay in bed.
There are many great places to visit in a wheelchair with a kid or two in tow all across the country. They are usually tucked away in local communities, but with a little exploration uncovering your local gems can be a real find. Make some time this half-term to explore the local area and see what you can uncover.