Raising a family can be very expensive, but there are many places in Bristol and the surrounding areas that can help. With affordable clothes and toys, ways of cutting your childcare costs and access to free advice, this page is aimed at parents (or parents-to-be) who are keen to stick to a budget.
Finding Toys, Clothes, Activities and More
Children grow quickly and it can be a struggle to keep up with finding them new toys and clothes. Here are a few places that offer free or affordable alternatives to buying new.
Baby Bank Network
Baby Bank Network works with agencies that help families in need, providing a wide range of basic items for babies to ensure their basic needs are covered. They also receive donations, collecting items including baby baths, changing mats and cloth nappies, and offer volunteering opportunities.
Baby Facebook Group
This Facebook group advertises free or affordable second-hand items for babies, which can be collected from Bristol and the surrounding areas. They also encourage swapping your used items with others.
South Bristol Toy Library
South Bristol Toy Library provides a large range of recycled and second hand toys, saved from landfill sites or donated to charity. Their goal is to give parents the chance to swap in their child’s old toys for different ones and avoid them being thrown away. They also allow parents to borrow large toys, instead of having to buy them.
The Bristol Mum Facebook page provides useful information on places to go and fun activities for children, as well as workshops and childcare centres for parents – and much more.
Gumtree offers a range of affordable second-hand baby items, including clothes, toys, books and more. There are also many ‘free to collector’ items listed.
Schools, Childcare and Children’s Centres
There are several Children’s Centres and childcare options in Bristol, many of which are free, depending on your child’s age and if you’re receiving certain benefits.
Free Early Education
If you’re receiving certain benefits and caring for a child over two years of age, you might be eligible for free early education, which you can apply for through the Bristol City Council. Your child will then receiving 570 hours of free education which can be split over 38 or 48 weeks.
Childcare vouchers can help save you money on childcare by allowing you to pay for the vouchers out of your pretax and national insurance income. You have to get them through your employer, but you could save up to £1,000 a year on childcare costs.
Sometimes it can be a struggle to pay for school meals. All children in Year 2 and below at state-funded schools should be getting free school meals automatically, but once they move into Year 3, you’ll need to apply online for an immediate decision. You can also complete a Pupil Premium Checker form to assess whether your child’s school might be eligible for extra funding.
The Money Advice Service
The Money Advice Service website provides a range of information on average childcare costs, as well as useful tips about what benefits you can apply for to help you financially.
Children’s Centres Finder allows you to search for your nearest children’s centre by either postcode or place name. Children’s centres can provide a wide range of activities for young children, as well as childcare services all year round. Many of the services in these centres are free.
We’ve also included a map, so you can easily find your nearest centre quickly and easily.
Click the top right-hand corner for the full-sized map.
Advice and Support Groups
If you’re looking for free advice and support with your pregnancy or raising your child, you can find several places in Bristol to help.
NTC New Parent Support
NTC New Parent Support is a local support network for parents that provides courses on pregnancy, parenting and birth which are led by specialists. You can also contact them via Facebook and Twitter to find out what events are happening.
Check out the Bristol Breastfeeding group on Facebook to get information about breastfeeding techniques, health and medical information about babies, as well as workshops and almost everything related to raising a child.
Young Mothers Group Trust Ltd.
The Young Mothers Group Trust Ltd. supports young mothers, aged between 16 and 25, with their pregnancy and childcare, providing courses, giving advice, or helping them to claim benefits. They work in Bristol and the surrounding areas.
Best Beginnings is a registered charity that provides a variety of information on childcare for new parents caring for babies up to two years old. They also feature the free app, Baby Buddy, and a range of support and advice from experts.
The Willow Tree Centre
The Willow Tree Centre provides assistance for people struggling with pregnancy by providing support, advice and equipment, such as buggies, baby clothes, highchairs and so on. They can also offer practical advice on which institutions you can get in contact with about money or housing issues.
Sometimes it can be a struggle to keep up with the costs of keeping yourself and your child healthy, so here are a couple of ways to make it easier.
If you’re pregnant, you can apply for a maternity card which will allow you to swim for free at Council pools. You can use this card until the end of your pregnancy.
For more details, click here.
The Minor Ailment Scheme
This is a scheme where you can visit a pharmacist and receive treatment for free, without needing to book an appointment with your GP. As pharmacies are generally open for longer than GP surgeries, you should be seen sooner than if you had to book an appointment, which is important if you or your child is poorly. The service isn’t offered everywhere, so it’s best to check with your local pharmacy first.
For more information on the scheme, click here.