WHEN my sons ripped open the envelopes containing their Blue Peter badges, it was only the start of the excitement to come.
We live right on the doorstep of a visitor attraction that lets young badge-holders visit free and they couldn't wait to race over the road to show off their new bit of bling to the ladies in the ticket office.
Since then, we've been to loads of places where the boys can get free entry by presenting their Blue Peter badge and card, but with 200 attractions to choose from, there's still plenty for us to visit.
The iconic badge from the children's TV show has just celebrated its 60th birthday, with more than 750,000 presented to youngsters aged five to 15 in the last ten years.
Young viewers can write in to the show and they'll receive a personalised reply, alongside a badge and card with their details on it.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Adventure Island in Southend-on-Sea and the Grand Pier at Weston-super-Mare are just three seaside theme parks where Blue Peter badges are welcome.
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There's also zoos, castles, museums and railways aplenty.
The Eden Project in Cornwall and the Tower of London are two of the big-name attractions that also participate.
As a parent, it's important to check out the conditions around entry for each place, as most sites will ask for an adult to buy a ticket to get free child entry.
Sometimes one adult can accompany two Blue Peter badge-holders, but at other attractions, each child will need a paying adult to gain free entry.
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We've got loads of trips planned this summer using our Blue Peter badges and we've just been to the British Motor Museum near Warwick with them too.
It was a really lovely day out, even if you're not a car enthusiast, and my youngest was quite happy to be wheeled all the way around in a little model car with his two older brothers steering.
There were hands-on interactive exhibits throughout the museum for them to enjoy, explaining how cars work. And they even got to sit in some of the vehicles on show, including a Shaun the Sheep van.
We will definitely be back for some of the activities over the summer holidays to mark the museum's 30th anniversary.
What was also lovely is how proud the boys are to have earned the badge and wear it out and about, with the kindly gentleman at the ticket office congratulating them warmly on their achievement.
The brilliant thing about Blue Peter badges is that there are now eight to collect, so there's something to suit everyone, whether your kids are into sport, music or the environment.
The original blue badge is still given out for sending in interesting letters, stories, makes, pictures, poems, ideas for the programme and for having appeared on Blue Peter.
But now there's also a purple badge for fan club members, an orange badge for competition winners, a silver badge for acts of kindness and a gold badge for outstanding achievements.
It can take a while for the badges to come in the post and they aren't valid without the accompanying card, which is posted separately and needs a photo of the holder to be attached.
It's unlikely you'd receive one in time for the summer holidays this year now, but doing something to earn one could be a fun project to fill a bit of time while the kids are off school.
Mine took part in a litter pick to earn their green badge and wrote letters about what they had been up to for the blue one. We'll probably pick another one to aim for this summer.
So if you're bracing for bored kids this summer and youngsters are feeling blue with nothing to do, why not set your sights on a Blue Peter badge for free family fun.
It's a British institution that's stood the test of time and you don't even need to crack out the sticky back plastic to earn one.
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