14 free (or very cheap) ways to entertain kids in Chester this summer
Admission charges, drinks, the endless pestering for ice lollies – costs over the summer holidays can easily soar. However, there are plenty of free or very cheap activities on in the Chester area – find our round up here.
1. Summer Reading Challenge – FREE
A favourite of ours here at KiC, the Summer Reading Challenge is designed to keep kids reading over the long summer break. You need to visit the library at least six times over the holidays, and to that end there are loads of completely free fun events taking place in libraries across the West Cheshire area, from a chance to meet and greet exotic animals to interactive science sessions and more. Plus kids can also pick up rewards including stickers (some scratch and sniff!) and a medal when they complete the challenge. Click here to read more about the Summer Reading Challenge, and here for a complete list of what’s on in the local area.
2. Craft activities at the Grosvenor Museum
The brilliant Grosvenor Museum runs craft activities related to its exhibits every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1st August onwards. There’s a huge variety of events, from making beautiful knotted Celtic jewellery to watercolours with sponges and straws to getting dressed up in their portrait studio, plus lots more; sessions are drop in and are free, although there’s a suggested donation of £1.50 for materials. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the museum while you’re there! Find a full list here or keep an eye on our What’s On page.
3. Other local museum activities
Okay, so it isn’t strictly speaking in Chester, but if you love indoor free fun and are happy to travel then plenty of other museums have free activities on over the summer break.
- Part of the West Cheshire Museums group along with the Grosvenor Museum, Weaver Hall Museum and the Lion Salt Works, both near Northwich, have lots of activities for free, with a suggested donation of £1.50 per session
- There’s always lots on at the wonderful Liverpool Museums, which include KiC favourite World Museum, the fab Walker Art Gallery, and the Lady Lever Gallery in Port Sunlight.
- Free crafts at Warrington Museum every Tuesday and Thursday from 10 am to 3 pm
4. Movies at the Grosvenor Museum – FREE
Free films return to the Grosvenor Museum this summer courtesy of CH1ChesterBID. Screenings include Beauty and the Best, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Fantastic Beats & Where to Find Them, and tickets must be booked in advance – click here for details of what’s on when.
5. Forest school in Ellesmere Port – FREE
The Cheshire Wildlife Trust are running free forest school sessions every Thursday from 10.30 am to 12.30 pm and from 1 to 3 pm at Whitby Park, CH65 9AF. Sessions are aimed at families with children and activities may include minibeast hunting, pond dipping, arts and crafts, story telling, den building and more. Click here for more information.
6. Swimming at Brio leisure centres
Swimmming is fun, healthy and weather proof, and under 16s can swim for free every summer holiday at Brio leisure centres (free Brio card required, accompanying adult swimmers £5). Sessions take place at Christleton, Northgate, Neston, Winsford, Northwich and Ellesmere Port – click here for more information.
- Northgate Arena – Mondays and Fridays, 10 to 11 am
- Christleton – Mondays and Fridays, 11 am to 12 noon
- Ellesmere Port Sports Village – Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1 to 2 pm
7. Library story- and rhyme-time sessions – FREE
Several local libraries continue their story- and rhyme-time sessions through the holidays – details below, and find the full list here.
- Blacon – Rhymetime for under fives, Tuesdays, 10.30 to 11 am
- Chester – Under 5s Storytime, Mondays, 10.15 and 11.15 am and Under 1s Rhymetime, Fridays, 10.15 to 10.45 am and 11.15 to 11.45 am; the Storyhouse website also has listings for Under 5s Rhymetime every Wednesday at 10.15 am
- Ellesmere Port – Storytime for under fives, Thursdays, 2 to 2.30 pm
- Helsby – Rhymetime for under fives, Mondays, 11 to 11.30 am, weekly and Storytime for under fives, Fridays, 11 to 11.30 am
8. Workshops, arts and crafts and more at Storyhouse – FREE
Storyhouse has a fantastic range of free and cheap summer activities for all ages – find full details here.
- Floga with Flossie, Monday 31st July at 11 am – a one-off special in place of the usual Monday Storytime sees children’s author Jude Lennon leading an interactive storytelling session suitable for ages 10 and under. Free drop in event.
- Free drop in arts and crafts every day of the holidays, with a different theme every week, from pirates and parrots to silly animals
- As mentioned above, there are a number of free activities related to the Summer Reading Challenge, including a chance to meet author Tom Palmer, a mini beasts workshop, animal soundscapes music workshops and sessions from the Chester Zoo Safari Rangers – details here
Low cost activities include family films every Saturday morning at 11 am, £4 per ticket – see what’s on here – plus drumming workshops for 3-5 year olds (£3.50), ukelele club for ages 5-9 (£3.50), and songwriting workshops for 10 years+ (£3.50).
9. £1 sporting activities at Frodsham Leisure Centre
At Brio Frodsham, kids can try football, badminton, table tennis and more for just £1 per activity before 5 pm (free Brio card required).
There are also activities at Brio Frodsham every Wednesday which KiC believes to be free:
- 2nd August, 10 am to 12 noon – Family Safety Event: Take part in the family safety day with the local police team, fire services, road safety and community safety wardens with crafts and much more.
- 9th August, 10 am to 12 noon – Topsy Tumble & Crafts: Stay and play for all the family at Frodsham Leisure Centre, with Summer Reading Challenge crafts from Frodsham Library.
- 16th August, 10 am to 12 noon – Brio Sports Day: Take part in a fun sports day for children aged 0-11, then head to the library to do some fun sporty Summer Reading Challenge crafts.
- 23rd August, 10 am to 12 noon – Animal Disco: Fun for all the family with an animal themed disco. Dress up as your favourite animal, then head to the library for Summer Reading Challenge crafts.
10. Animal workshops at Pets at Home – FREE
Another fun option for rainy days, Pets at Home run some great workshops which give kids the chance to learn more abut the animals they have in store while enjoying puzzles, games and more. Click here for details of upcoming workshops at the Greyhound Retail Park store, and herehere for details of workshops at Caldy Valley.
11. Get on your bike
Halfords usually run free kids’ bike workshops for 7-11 year olds over the holidays, including a certificate and goody bag alongside useful skills for junior cyclists. The dates for the 2017 summer break haven’t yet been released, but you can find out more information here.
Whatever level your kids are at, from complete beginner to confident biker looking to improve their skills, KiC thoroughly recommend the Chester Road Club Go-Ride Section, who run sessions for kids every Saturday throughout the summer months at New Scene (11 am for beginners, 12 noon for improves, £3 per session/£5 for two siblings, or £1 per session for members). And once you’ve got them on their bikes, check out our incomplete guide to local family friendly cycling here, for plenty of free healthy summer fun.
12. Coding and more at Apple stores – FREE
If you have older techy kids and don’t mind a bit of travelling, Apple stores run free three day tech summer camps where children aged 8-12 can create movies, learn to code, write music and more. Camps at the Liverpool store are already full, but there is very limited availability at Manchester Arndale or join the waiting list at Manchester Trafford Centre.
13. Summer fun at Ikea – FREE
Another store offering free activities for families, Ikea has plenty going on, including textile workshops, a treasure hunt with free ice cream on Mondays, and free face painting on Fridays. It’s going to cost you a fortune in meatballs and tealights though. Details here.
14. Cheap cinema showings
As well as the family films at Storyhouse listed above, other local cinemas also show reduced price kids’ films every morning during the school holidays. At Vue Cheshire Oaks, the Mini Morning film showing every day at 10 am from Friday 28th July to Thursday 3rd August is A Dog’s Purpose, while at Cineworld Broughton, choose from A Dog’s Purpose at 10.10 am or Monster Island at 10.20 am (films will change over the course of the holidays, see the cinemas’ websites for details).
Have a great summer, and don’t forget to keep an eye on our What’s On page for lots more ideas!