As a family we spend most of our time together outdoors, be it to a local park, country park, lake or cycling, taking advantage of what we can do for free or for the cost of petrol and a picnic. We’ve also done our fair share of adventures in muddy puddles when it rains. But sometimes the weather is so bad, my youngest son in particular would much prefer to be indoors and have fun. And who can blame him. We’re fortunate living in Milton Keynes there are lots of places to go IF you have the money including two cinemas, trampoline parks, climbing walls, bowling, soft plays and theatres. But the cost can add up. So what can you do for free or really cheaply? Well the good news is, there are a number of places and here’s a list of our favourites. Do bear in mind that I’ve had to be creative putting this list together. Given that many indoor places have overheads – then it’s either a business or the council that has to pay for them – so there is only so much that’s available at a low cost. You will of course be tempted to spend money when you’re at many of them. Don’t forget to check opening days and times before travelling – I don’t keep a close eye on them.
Homebase, MK6 1AP
There are two DIY centres in Milton Keynes that both have free indoor play areas. The first is Homebase on the Winterhill retail park. The best postcode is MK6 1AP. It’s free and easy to park. Go into the store and turn left. It’s an indoor climbing unit that has two slides. I’ve taken both my sons who were approaching six and four at the time of writing and they both enjoy it and are capable of climbing it. My youngest is a bit reluctant to go on the slides though as he finds them too dark. It’s aimed at children aged 4-12 and I’d say children any younger than three may struggle unless they’re good climbers. You can sit and watch children sitting on benches opposite. Or there is a cafe immediately to the right of it. There are toilets. The play area is secure and gated. But older children will be able to let themselves out.
B and Q, MK13 8PU
The second DIY store in Milton Keynes that has a free play area is B and Q is in Rooksley. The best postcode is MK13 8PU. This is a small soft play – more suitable for younger children than the one at Homebase. Both of my sons were young enough to enjoy it. It isn’t gated though so you will have to keep a close eye on them as they could wander off into the store. There is a cafe next to it.
Intu MK, MK9 3GB
There are two large shopping centres in Milton Keynes which are next to each other. They each have a free play area. The better of the two is at Intu MK. No-one ever really knows the name of this shopping centre. It used to be called Midsummer Place. Some people still refer to it as ‘the new bit’ but it’s the shopping centre that houses Debenhams. The play area is in the outdoor part near Gap. It’s pretty good for young children with lots of soft play bits to play with. It IS undercover but in the winter it can be cold. Children can wander in and out of it as they please. It can get busy on weekends and at Christmas. We found the quietest time was on a weekday in term-time. You do pay to park around much of the shopping centres. The purple spaces are 50p an hour. The red ones are £2 so avoid those like the plague. At the time of writing you could park for free at the food hall car park but watch your time as you can only stay for two hours and you’ll then have to walk to Intu. The postcode for that car park is MK9 3QA.
Centre MK, MK9 3BE
There is a small soft play in Centre MK in Milton Keynes. Its only really suitable for toddlers. It has a couple of slides. Not really worth a visit on its own but you can combine it with the one above. It’s located near Costa near John Lewis. Centre MK occasionally put on good free events in the year in Middleton Hall although I never think they publicise them very well. They include the big beach, model car racing and a car show so it’s worth keeping an eye on what they do – I’ll generally share the best ones on the Milton Keynes Kids Facebook page. At Christmas there’s a display of sorts but you do pay for all the activities. The beach this year will be there from 20th July 2019. Other places that are fun are the Disney Store where they often have films playing at the back of the shop together with a table and some toys. See the Intu description above for parking info.
LIBRARIES (various locations in Milton Keynes)
There are lots of libraries in Milton Keynes and many run free activities throughout the week – too many to list but they including story time, craft sessions and lego and duplo club – have a look at their website for all of the latest information. Our favourite libraries are Bletchley which has a fabulous brightly coloured children’s area – the best postcode is MK2 2RA. Westcroft isn’t dissimilar in look but is smaller. The best postcode is MK4 4DE. My sons also enjoy Kingston which has a soft seating area and white board to write on. The postcode is MK10 0BA and it’s within the Kingston retail park. The bonus for this one is the Starship robots are parked outside the library. We also like Woburn Sands – nothing distinctive like the others but we all receive a warm welcome and the staff are lovely. The best postcode is MK17 8SD.
Woburn Sands Emporium, MK17 8UF
This garden centre was called Wyevale for a long time, so I’m still getting used to the name. There’s a small indoor soft play there. At the time of writing it was £1.75 for a child. It’s fun for children up to about the age of five and includes a small ball pool. Staff won’t let them in without socks. It’s next to the cafe. You can’t take your drinks in there so you have to leave them on a table outside and have to keep popping in and out whilst you keep an eye on the kids. You do run the risk in going that there could be a party on there. Within the garden centre itself there a big fish to see although the feed at £1 a pot does seem like quite a lot so we just go and watch them. If the weather isn’t too bad there is a nine hole crazy golf course outside in the plants section to the left. You just donate £1 which goes towards Marie Curie. It isn’t staffed. It’s easy to park there and the best postcode is MK17 8UF. You can read all about our previous visit here.
Going to the cinema with the family in Milton Keynes is expensive. There are two cinemas in MK – Cineworld which is at Xscape MK in the centre of Milton Keynes and the Odeon which is at MK1 opposite Stadium MK. It’s worth knowing though that both of them have cheaper showings at 10am at the weekend where they’ll put on a kids film at a special price. At the time of writing they were around £3.20 / £3.25 per person. If you book online you’ll also pay a 75p booking fee. You can avoid the booking fee by just turning up, but the screenings can be popular, particularly when there’s a really good film, on so it’s best to book ahead if you’re in any doubt – I personally wouldn’t chance just turning up. This cheap price DOES NOT apply to all films at that time. It’s usually just one or two films that the cinema has selected. On the Odeon website the time is in green and marked as kids screen. On the Cineworld website they’re called ‘movies for juniors’. They’re usually films that have been out for a while and not the brand new ones. Any other film that’s not labelled as I’ve mentioned you will pay full price for.
IKEA, Bletchley, MK1 1QB
Every time we go to Ikea we end up spending money on things we didn’t know we needed, or an unlimited coffee and a plate of meatballs. So this one comes with a big warning. The Ikea in Bletchley has a free creche in which you can drop your children off for 45 mins to 1 hr depending on how busy they are. I’ve never used it so don’t know what it’s like… and you can’t see in it so I don’t have any photos. Or like us you could just go for a wander around. My 3 year old quite likes playing in the children’s section. It’s worth signing up to their family card too as they also run free activities from time to time and you get sent emails about them. We’ve done a plant one before which was quite good fun.
CHILDREN’S CENTRES (various locations in Milton Keynes)
When my two sons were babies we did use our local children’s centre. They’re places which offer free baby and children’s groups as well as advice to parents. There are 17 of them around Milton Keynes and you can only use the one which your area falls under. The Milton Keynes Council website is terribly outdated and not user-friendly at all and there seems to be so little information on social media about what each centre offers. However, if you do have young children in particular it’s worth looking up which is your nearest as some of them do have extra facilities and giving them a ring to find out. We came under the Saplings Children Centre in Bletchley which has it’s own sensory room which was free and bookable. Have a look on this website – there’s currently a downloadable programme of activities on there too.
I'm Laura, mum of two boys - aged six and four. I started this website at the end of Sept 2015 whilst on maternity leave. I now work four days a week and do this blog late at night once the little boys are sleeping. It's won several awards over the last four years and I continue to run it for free and mostly focus on free, cheap, and good value days out. Do drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to contact me. Don't forget to follow all of our latest adventures on facebook, instagram and twitter and have a look at all of the videos of the places we visit on the Milton Keynes Kids YouTube Channel - subscribe to it for notifications every time I add a new place. And remember... you may been reading this post months after we visited, do check with the destination you're visiting for up to date opening times and prices. If you find this blog useful then please do comment on my posts and leave me a Facebook review - it makes doing this all the more worthwhile.