children in a fort

7 free rainy-day activities for the whole family

author: Adele Kitchen

By Adele Kitchen

During the summer it’s easy to think of free activities to do, including spending time outdoors and going for a walk in a local park.

As soon as autumn hits though, it can start to feel like your options become more limited and more expensive. But you really don’t need to spend lots of money to have a good time. Whether you’re looking for a cosy rainy-day activity or for some inspiration to get the whole family outdoors, we’re here to help.

Where to go on a rainy day 

1.      Discover a free museum

Museums are a great place to spend a rainy afternoon as there’s usually plenty to see and do. Plus, many curate exhibits specifically aimed at children, and organize kids’ activities too.

Here are some top museums from around the country that you can visit for free (just to name a few):

  • Horniman Museum and Gardens (London) – celebrates different cultures as well as the natural world. There’s an aquarium, butterfly house and an animal walk.
  • National Railway Museum (York) – go back in time and see real-life steam engines - and climb aboard a Japanese bullet train.
  • People’s History Museum (Manchester) – explores ideas of democracy in a family-friendly way, with hands-on activities.
  • Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery (Carlisle) – provides lots of interactive activities for kids to get stuck into, including climbing up a replica section of Hadrian’s Wall.
  • Great North Museum: Hanock (Newcastle upon Tyne) – was awarded the Best Medium Museum of 2019 award by Kids in Museums, and houses collections of Ancient Greek and Egyptian artifacts, a full T-rex skeleton, and more.

2.      Explore your local nature reserve 

There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. So, throw your wellies on and head out to experience the wonders of nature. Take hot flasks of coffee or hot chocolate, feed the ducks, and enjoy getting wet and muddy before going home to a nice cosy house.

There are 225 National Nature Reserves in England. Simply visit the government’s website to find one near you.

3.      Make a trip to your local library

It’s completely free to borrow books, DVDs and CDs from your public library. There’s always a kids’ section with toys and books to keep the little ones occupied. You can sit and read for as long as you like during opening hours, so it’s a good way to get out of the house and keep the kids occupied, without having to spend a penny.

You can find out where your nearest library is by entering your postcode on the government’s website.  

What to do on a rainy day at home 

4.      Get baking

Baking is a fun activity for everyone. You could bake a batch of cakes and decorate them together as a family. Or make your own pizzas and let everyone design their own tasty toppings. You could even hold a mini ‘Bake Off’ competition between yourselves as a bit of fun.

Head over to the BBC’s good food page for some cheap baking recipes, including a recipe for these iced fairy cakes (suitable for 8-14-year-olds to make), and these 3-ingredient peanut butter cookies.

5.      Have a movie marathon

Movie marathons are great because you get to spend the day snuggled under a blanket on the sofa, eating snacks, whilst being thoroughly entertained. Plus, each family member can take it in turns to watch their favourite film.

You could even turn it into an event with homemade cinema tickets, movie posters, and snacks. For example, Pinterest has a host of printable DIY tickets available.

6.      Make a fort

Picnics in the park are fun. But do you know what is equally fun? Picnics in a homemade fort.

Drag out all your blankets and duvets, grab all your cushions and pillows, push the tables and chairs together and build a giant fort for the day. Then put a blanket down in the middle of the fort and set out your favourite picnic food. Take some pens and paper inside and get a bit arty or take it in turns to tell each other stories. 

Check out YouTube to find out how to make ‘the cosiest fort ever’.

7.      Set up a treasure hunt

Gather some ‘treasure’ (such as sweets or chocolate) and hide it around the house. For each piece of treasure, there should be an accompanying clue to help find the next piece.

This game can be as long or as short as you like. It can even end with a ‘giant treasure’ that leads on to a brand-new activity, such as your kids' favourite movie to watch or board game to play. 

Visit twinkl for free resources to get you started.

Want to know how to teach your kids about money? Read on for some helpful tips.

Disclaimer: All information and links are correct at the time of publishing.

author: Adele Kitchen

By Adele Kitchen

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