January may not seem the best time of the year for a day out entertaining the kids (short, cold days and we’re all feeling the pinch after Christmas) but there are hundreds of fun – and best of all, free – family activities taking place up and down the UK this month.
Here’s a selection of some free activities to give you a taster. Make sure you keep an eye out on local forums and noticeboards at your leisure centre and library for nearby events too. Well worth checking out is the parklives website which offers free activities happening in local parks, even in the depths of winter.
Visit a free museum
Many of our galleries offer free entry for all the family, and January is the perfect month for some indoor adventures.
Here’s a taster:
Visit the National Media Museum in Bradford, West Yorkshire, daily 10am – 6pm
Coax your kids away from screens at home, to explore eight floors of free galleries and fascinating interactive exhibitions on films, gaming, TV, photography and the world wide web.
Go down the Big Pit Mining Museum in Torfaen, Wales daily 9.30am – 4.30pm
Give your kids a feel of what life was like underground on a guided tour of the mine, which starts with a 300ft descent by pit cage down the mineshaft, equipped with helmets and cap lamps. Or you can opt to take a new virtual tour of a modern coal mine. The original winding engine house, blacksmith’s forge and fan house are open to visitors. Last admission 3.30pm. Underground tours 10am – 3pm
Take part in the Chinese New Year Family Festival at the National Gallery, London, January 28, 11-4 (pre-book online)
Enjoy a day of family activities to mark Chinese New Year and the new Year of the Rooster. Kids up to the age of 11 can join in interactive theatrical performances from Chickenshed Theatre, while younger children have the chance to create roosters and rooster headdresses in special craft workshops.
Family fitness – and fun
Yes, it can be cold – but a bright, crisp day of activity will warm you all up.
Parkrun offers free Saturday morning run events taking place across the UK. Kids can take part in either the junior 2km events specifically for 4-14 year olds or in the regular 5km runs with an adult. You can enter just for fun but you also have the option of recording your times to create some healthy family competition and a regular date in your diary. Click on the parkrun website and you’ll see hundreds of locations all over the UK.
Get outdoors, have some hearty exercise and learn new skills together – with orienteering. You can choose your pace – a race to the finishing line or a brisk walk navigating the course using a map and compass (a useful skill for everyone, even with mobile phones!) Orienteering can take place anywhere from woods to parks, courses are colour-coded according to length and technical difficulty so you can choose one best suited to your child’s age. You can find your local community orienteering club or event on the British Orienteering website.
That moment when your child pedals off solo on his first bike may be the stuff of ‘proud dad moment’ in ads but for true family bonding, nothing beats a long (and preferably muddy) bike ride. Cycling on roads can be nerve-wracking with children, but cycling trails away from traffic can be a chance to really relax and enjoy family time, especially if kids are getting to grips with Christmas bikes. The British Cycling Federation’s site is packed with suggestions for different family bike rides.
Celebrate Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year is usually in February but this year it’s on January 28, although most UK city celebrations are on Sunday January 29
London, January 29: Welcome in the ‘Year of the Rooster’ at the massive Chinese New Year celebration in London’s West End. It’s a great family day out with a grand parade featuring lion dance teams going through Chinatown. On Charing Cross Road and in Trafalgar Square you’ll find food and craft stall, musical performances, traditional dance and martial arts displays.
Bimingham, January 29: Kicking off at 11.20 at the Arcadian Centre, Hurst Street take the family to see dances, acrobatics, Kung Fu, firecrackers, market stalls and enjoy Chinese street food, children’s rides and firework finale around 5pm – all for free.
Manchester, January 29: Free event In Chinatown and Albert Square from 11am with fireworks at 6pm. The high pole lion dance performance is set to be the most spectacular in the UK.
Celebrate Burns Night
Burns Unbound at National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, 22 January, 11am – 4pm
Celebrate the poetry and legacy of Scotland’s most famous poet, Robert Burns, with creative family fun and live performances. Learn to ceilidh dance, get crafty and discover some Burns poetry. Wee ones can enjoy a session of Traditional Tunes for Tiny People (pre-booking is necessary but it’s still free), enjoy the fast-paced, interactive show Oor Rabbie and there’s foot-stomping live music with performances from some of Scotland’s finest folk ensembles.