Looking for ideas of FREE things to do with young children AND you don’t want to travel outside of Milton Keynes? Look no further. I’ve put together a list of ten places to take the kids. Understandably there’s so much you do have to pay for… and there’s a lot more you can do travelling slightly further afield. But… if you want to stay locally and are on a budget then hopefully you’ll find it useful. Parking charges apply at a couple of them… and you may wish to spend money whilst you’re there. Where applicable, click on the blue links for all the details.
- Willen Lake – There’s a good amount of play equipment for younger children including climbing frames, seesaws, rockers, a whirly bird, swings, slides and spinning poles. There are several duck feeding areas, both of which are normally enough to keep my toddler happy for a couple of hours. We usually take a picnic. You can of course spend a bit of money there and go on the miniature train which costs £2 each and runs at the weekend and during the school holidays between 11am and 6pm weather permitting. And if you’ve got older children you can spend even more money to enjoy the high ropes course and various watersports. FREE but pay to park. Charges apply for additional activities.
2. Emberton Country Park has an excellent play area which includes a big pirate ship, big slide and a floor trampoline. There’s also a sandpit with diggers and nice walks. You can easily spend a good few hours there. The park is free to enjoy – you can park a bit further away on a residential street or otherwise charges apply in the actual park itself.
3. Want to get the children out for an enjoyable walk but don’t want to walk for miles? Go and do see the sculptures hidden in Linford Wood. It’s easy to find and free to park. It’s located just off the V7 between the H3 and H4. The art trail only takes about 20 minutes to walk around but my toddler loved looking for E.T, Rupert the Bear and a snake so much so that we did it twice and spotted some different ones second time around. Bear in mind though that if we’ve had lots of rain it can get quite boggy so think twice before taking a buggy and there are no facilities if you need the loo.
4. Talking of walking, I wasn’t sure about Howe Park Wood for a while. I get a bit carried away with finding good play equipment and at the moment there isn’t an actual park there. But… having visited when the bluebells were in season I thought it was lovely. I forget how much my toddler loves finding sticks, both for himself and for me and of course there’s plenty there. There a great den building area perfect for playing and a very easy straightforward walk for toddlers. It’s free to park and is easy to find off the H7 opposite Westcroft District Centre. Bit peckish? You will of course spend more money but Howe Park Wood Cafe is one of my favourite cafes in Milton Keynes. They do the most excellent cake.
5. Go to the park. I know, I know. You’re thinking that’s not very original. I don’t mean your local park. Another really good park in Milton Keynes. Brooklands in Broughton has an excellent sandpit and lots of modern equipment. There’s a park in Loughton that has a good pirate ship. Downs Barn has a good jeep and rhino. You get the idea. You can find them all on the parks section of my blog.
6. Prefer not to pay to park, but still want to play, feed the ducks and have the option of a miniature train? We’re always driving down the A4146 and so my toddler can spot Caldecotte Lake a mile off. Ok, well not quite a mile off, but he calls the Caldecotte Arms the ‘Thomas windmill’ and loves to spot it on our travels. The play area is much smaller than the one at Willen, but still good for small children. The miniature railway runs every Sunday during the summer but is subject to good weather so if you’re going there specifically for that then do check their facebook page to make sure it’s running. That does cost £1, but is good fun. Again we’d take a picnic but the Caldecotte Arms does reasonably priced food.
7. The Little Bookshop in Great Linford – Ok I’m sneaky putting this one in .You can go and look around the bookshop and then feed the ducks for free. But… it would be lovely it you could take a couple of quid with you. All pre-loved kids books are only 50p. Whatever age your children are they’re bound to find something they like. They have a nice little sit down area for small children in amongst the books. You could have a hot drink whilst you’re there. Then afterwards go and feed the ducks. The pond is very picturesque and the shop sells duck food. Got any books in good condition you or the kids no longer read? Take them with you, the shop always needs donations. Still want more to do? Pop in to the Barnados charity shop there – they often have some good toys for sale. So it is free but if you don’t mind spending a little bit of money then you could really help support the bookshop. Buy at least one book (50p) Duck Food (40p) and a cup of tea for you (80p). Do make sure you check their facebook page before travelling to check the latest opening days and times. During May half term 2016 they’re open Thurs and Fri 10am-4pm.
8. Magic Garden – If you have small children who love searching for wooden fairy doors then they’ll love the Magic Garden in Two Mile Ash. It’s easy to find and there’s some lovely wooden sculptures there as well as doors set back in the bushes. Want somewhere else to take them? Then just go behind the garden to find a good park.
9. Garden centres. I know garden centres are shops and generally shops are not the most fun places for you to take the kids…. But they’re definitely more exciting than normal shops. My toddler loves going around smelling all of the fruit and vegetable plants as well as going in and out of the sheds. But they often have children’s play areas. Dobbies in Bletchley has a small outdoor play area. Wyevale in Wavendon has lots of fish to look at. They also have a lovely little indoor soft play area (small charge applies though). Frosts in Woburn Sands has a small play area in café. Kids can also enjoy the beach in the summer and other activities during the school holidays but charges apply.
10. Ok so admittedly it’s going to be rammed on a wet bank holiday Monday, but we’ve had plenty a good trip to Ikea on quieter days. In recent months they’ve revamped their small outdoor play area. If your children are aged 3-10 and over then they can spend an hour in the ‘smaland’ indoor play area for free whilst you shop. Mine are too young to go in there but it looks like good fun. I guess it depends whether you want to leave them on their own. My toddler loves wondering around all the various displays in the shop – he does have a bit of a thing for home role play so it’s very much his thing. Oh and by the way if you forget your nappies to change your baby staff will give you one for free.
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.