We all know summer can get expensive whether your kids are school age or not… There’s so much on to tempt us and only so many days out the family budget can stretch to. Fear not, here are some ideas for very cheap or free but truly cheerful outings…
The great outdoors
University Parks, South Park, Shotover, Wytham Woods… we’re spoilt for choice for lovely places to go walking here in Oxford. Our family favourites are Port Meadow and along the Thames near Sandford, especially when it’s hot, for the paddling.
Walking can be quite a hard sell though, so here’s some ideas for enticing little ones outside:
- Take a bike / balance bike / scooter – this was recommended to me when I asked around for ideas for outings with my toddler and newborn. We got my toddler a scooter and he LOVES it – it’s made it sooo much easier to get out and about.
- Geo-caching – the world’s largest treasure hunt! Very fun for all ages – more info here.
- Play hide and seek – or take turns to hide and find an object for younger ones.
Head to Oxford Mumbler’s Gardens & Natural Beauty Spots page for ideas of where to go.
Elder Stubbs Festival, 18th August 2018 12.00-6.00pm
Elder Stubbs Festival was one of the highlights of my summer last year. It’s a brilliant day out, the best thing being the setting which is the absolutely stunning Elder Stubbs allotments on Rymers Lane, opposite Florence Park.
There’s live music, food, stalls and lots for kids to see and do too. Not free but almost (entry is £3, concessions £2, under-12s free), with all profits gong to Oxfordshire-based mental health charity, Restore, who put on the festival.
They don’t all stop over the summer holidays and make for a very cheap and cheerful outing! I’ve been compiling a list on Oxford Mumbler of the playgroups and gatherings that are carrying on over the summer holidays here.
In addition to their usual playgroups, Botley Bridges (was Elms Road Children’s Centre) are also running sessions with arts, crafts and fun for 0-10 year olds in local parks across Oxford throughout the summer. For details go here. These will be £2.50 per family.
The Oxfordshire Museum, Woodstock
The small but perfectly formed Oxfordshire Museum is one of my favourites. It’s completely free and has loads to entertain kiddies – including a room dedicated to dinosaurs and a lovely big garden which is perfect for picnics (and also has a full-size dinosaur in it).
This summer they have an absolutely delightful Peter Rabbit exhibition (also free!) which my son and his pal both loved – there’s colouring, games, puzzles and a room of Beatrix Potter-themed play, including a rabbit’s burrow, wooden shop, dressing up and (my son’s favourite) carrot planting.
Oxfordshire Museum are also running playgroups over the summer. See here for more details.
There’s loads going on at your local library this summer and it’s all free too! Most of Oxford’s libraries are continuing their fun singing and storytelling sessions, Rhymetime, over the holiday. Go here for usual times, but do check with your local library before turning up!
They are also running the Summer Reading Challenge and this year’s theme is the kids classic the Beano. Children aged 4-11 are challenged to read at least six books over the holiday and there’s stickers, a treasure hunt, games, puzzles and more.
And Science Oxford are doing a Science is Magic library tour from 13th to 15th August which looks brilliant. Free science experiment-type sessions for 6-11 year olds.
Sun, sand and splash parks
For me Oxford’s one major shortcoming (apart from the house prices!) is the lack of coast… How lovely a little seaside would be when it’s roasting, BUT we still have lots of opportunities to feel the sand between your toes and the spray (of a splash park) on your face.
Cutteslowe park has it all – a huge sandpit and a brilliant splash park, as well as a huge playground. There’s also Millets Beach which is a big sandpit and always a good free outing. I melt in the sun so my favourite thing about Millets Beach is that the sand is shaded by a lovely big cover – making it in some ways better than an actual beach!
Oxford Mumbler has all the splash parks (and pools) listed here.
City centre museums
And this blog wouldn’t be complete without a shout out to Oxford’s amazing museums, which are totally free to go in. All of them have year-round entertainment for kids, including trails and activity back packs – see here for more details. We spent a happy afternoon in the cool of the Pitt Rivers recently doing their mouse hunt trail which I can definitely recommend.
And the museums are all putting on special events over the summer, many of which are free. The Ashmolean are running free drop-in Ancient Egyptian Explorers sessions on Wednesdays and Thursdays 2.00-4.00pm, which look great. We’ve enjoyed their term-time group Little Ashmoles sessions so much this year, we’ll definitely be heading along for crafts, story-telling and hieroglyphics writing.
Oxford Mumbler has a huge list of all the fun summer holiday activities happening all over Oxford (free & not free!) here and in the events calendar.
Happy summer from Mumbler!
Oxford Mumbler is your local parenting community – a website packed with information for families in and around Oxford. Visit oxford.mumbler.co.uk for everything from what’s on over the holidays, days out, weekly clubs and classes in Oxford, to support groups and services for pregnancy, babies, parents and more. Follow us on Facebook here.