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11 Free or Low Cost Ways to have fun with children

June 27, 2016
Low cost ways to have fun with children

Okay so it is the school holidays, the weekend or the grandchildren are visiting and the question that always comes up is “What can we do to entertain the children – that doesn’t cost the earth?”

When I was growing up we were just an average family with average income, yet my Mum always made our holiday time fun – even though we never went on a vacation.  I fondly remember the days of my youth.

Each school holiday we would be able to invite a friend for the day and we would play on the swing set in our yard, sharing secrets, singing, dancing and putting on shows we made up and having a great time – FOR FREE! Mum would then make a picnic (in our backyard) of sandwiches, cake and drinks and that would top off the day.

These days we feel the need to entertain our children every minute of every day.  My friend Terri Webster Schrandt, from Second Wind Leisure Perspectives, recently wrote a guest post for me about how children and adults are losing the ability to have unstructured play.  Click here if you would like to read it.

We need to remember that the most important thing we can give our children and grandchildren is our TIME – NOT HOW MUCH WE SPEND ON THEM TO HAVE A GOOD TIME.

I love spending time with my grandson who is two years old.  He loves playing in the garden, making creations with play dough, painting,blowing bubbles and just following ant trails.  Of course when they are little their expectations are not as high and society hasn’t influenced them – yet!

play dough

As children get older their expectations are higher but it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy time with them and you definitely don’t have to spend a lot of money.

Enjoy time with children is all about encouraging them to be involved and use their imaginations.Click To Tweet

11 things to do that are free or low cost

1. Make a picnic and go to the park

Encourage the children to help you prepare the picnic, pack the picnic basket, blanket and a ball and take off to the park.  Most of the parks in our city of Brisbane have play areas for children to explore.  They can run free in the fresh air and sunshine and just be children.

2. Explore your city

Catch public transport into the City and explore your home town.  Pick up brochures and pretend your are tourists for the day.  Not only will you discover things about your home town you didn’t know but it will be an educational experience for the children as well.  Take plenty of photos and then make a photo album. I know a little old fashioned but something you can all look at together in the future and relive the moment.

3. Have a painting/drawing morning

child painting

I always have colouring books, pencils, paper and paint so that when my grandchildren visit they can spend hours using their ‘creative juices’.  Of course at the end you need to have an art show to display their work.

4. Read their favourite books

Ask each child to select their favourite book and take the time to read together.  I love hearing someone read a book, especially when they use different voices for the different characters.  Make it interactive with you reading parts and then letting the children read aloud also.  This will help to develop their confidence.

5. Have a cooking class at home

If the children are old enough have a baking session.  Make some cupcakes and let the children decorate the cupcakes themselves.  Then have an afternoon tea party.

6. Watch a movie

Let the children select a movie, make some popcorn, draw the curtains so the room is like a cinema and enjoy some relaxing time watching a movie.

7. Have a dress up day

Gather together old clothes, costume jewellery you never wear and old makeup and put them in a box.  Add to the box occasionally and then let the children have a ‘dress up day’ and a fashion parade.

8. Encourage them to write and perform their own play

If you have more than one child why not encourage them to write a play and then perform it for you?  It will encourage them to use their imaginations and again develop their self-confidence.

9. Build a rainy day tent inside

I remember on rainy days I would give the children some dining chairs and an old sheet or blanket.  They would make a tent and take their toys in to play for hours.

10.  Make a garden or vegetable patch

Buy some inexpensive flowers or seeds and planter boxes and let the children plant them in their own garden. Encourage them to look after their plants as they grow,which gives them responsibility.  They will also be able to harvest their own vegetables and see nature at work.

11.  Visit the museum

Usually during school holiday time, museums have free activities and exhibitions for children.

This list could be endless it is just a matter of you taking time to plan the activities and then enjoy!  What would you add to the list?

Spend time not money on your children and grandchildren and enjoy the experience.Click To Tweet

Having a budget makes life easier and also can allow for special treats during holiday time. Personal Capital has personal finance software and analytic tools so you can keep track of your finances.

I am not affliated with Personal Capital in any way so receive no commission.





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  • Reply Pamela Shank June 27, 2016 at 11:38

    I LOVE every one of these ideas! I do several of them already with my grandchildren but plan on adding some more to my list. These are really the things the kids will remember anyway instead of what we spent money on. Good job.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric July 1, 2016 at 10:50

      Hi Pamela thank you for visiting and I’m so pleased you enjoyed my ideas. Memories are far more important for children and I enjoy every moment with my 2year old grandson. I’m learning to see the world through his eyes. xx

  • Reply Jodie filogomo June 27, 2016 at 23:40

    It’s true….kids don’t care about the expense of things—they just want to have fun!! Just like it’s way more fun to play in the boxes from new appliances than the “real” toys!!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric July 1, 2016 at 10:51

      Exactly Jodie and I totally agree about the boxes. I think when they are little it is more about the wrapping paper and ripping it off it doesn’t matter what is inside. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely weekend. xxx

  • Reply Rosemond June 28, 2016 at 10:32

    Love these ideas. It’s amazing how easy it can be to spend a lot of money going out to movies, malls, excursions, museums. I just took my daughter to a cat convention for cat lovers and it was over $100 with parking, admission and lunch. I love the idea of a movie night, that’s something that my teen and I really enjoy!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric July 1, 2016 at 10:53

      Hi Rosemond hope your week going well! I’m sure you and your daughter would enjoy the in-home movie night and you could also maybe make a spa at home and do each others nails or give each other a facial. So much to do with teens when you think about it!

  • Reply Wendy June 29, 2016 at 07:03

    We can have so much FUN just playing with children. I think it has become much harder to entertain us as adults than to entertain the kids, hence the “keep them busy” all the time phenomenon. If someone/something else was entertaining my child, I could steal away and do something on my to-do list. I know when I would just allow myself to forget about all the stuff that I need to DO and just enjoy playing, I had as much fun as my child! Today the dishes and laundry keep reappearing, but sadly, the little girl isn’t asking me to play with the dollhouse anymore. That said, I sure do wish I had a nickel for every time I read myself hoarse with her curled up next to me listening intently! 🙂

    • Reply Sue Loncaric July 1, 2016 at 10:55

      Unfortunately our children grow up Wendy but you may have the excitement of grandchildren in the future. I love learning about life again through the eyes of my two year old grandson. Children just need your time and I think curling up with them and reading is just so perfect. Take care my friend xx

  • Reply Lady Lilith July 1, 2016 at 14:43

    I like the idea of having a cooking class at home, and the enjoying the food during a picnic.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric July 2, 2016 at 06:11

      Yes it is a little messy at times but so worth the fun. They love watching the food cook and then if it is cupcakes decorating them. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Reply Melinda Mitchell July 1, 2016 at 15:15

    These are all perfect!
    Just today, my almost 3 yo grand came over, and we “Cooked”. She cracks open the eggs, and then stirs them.
    I do the frying!
    Then, after we eat, she “does the dishes”. I have to rewash to make sure they’re clean! But she has a ball!
    Third, she strung rigatoni on a shoelace, to make Mommy a necklace.
    Last year, we had a Children’s Museum year membership. I need to do that again!!
    Bloggers Pit Stop

    • Reply Sue Loncaric July 2, 2016 at 06:12

      Oh that is so sweet! although it is play we are actually teaching them some basics of life at the same time. I like the idea of the Children’s Museum.

  • Reply Michelle July 1, 2016 at 20:12

    Sometimes we often overlook the simple things that bring joy. These are great ideas. Love the picnic in the park idea.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric July 2, 2016 at 06:14

      Yes simple can be fun Michelle and I see that with what you do with your grandchildren xx

  • Reply Melissa Ruddy July 4, 2016 at 10:14

    I had tried many of these ideas out on my own kids and you are totally right. We have had more fun building a tent in the living room them spending a bundle on a high priced amusement park. I love the idea of unstructured play that is why we have made it a priority this summer.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric July 5, 2016 at 07:15

      Hi Melissa, I recently had a guest post written by Terri from Second Wind Leisure Perspectives and it was all about how children have lost the ability to have unstructured play. Your children are very lucky to have a mum like you who has thought about what is best for her children. Some wonderful things come from unstructured play.

  • Reply Molly Stevens September 13, 2016 at 21:16

    We have two grandsons, almost 5 and 2 1/2 coming to visit this weekend so this is a timely post for me to read. They love to stay home and if the weather cooperates I’m sure they will spend a lot of time in the pile of sand we had delivered for their enjoyment. However, there will be a lot of time to fill, so all of your ideas are great, Sue.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric September 14, 2016 at 10:49

      Oh yes a pile of sand – great fun! I hope the weather holds out for you. They are both at an age where you will definitely be getting your exercise. Such a lovely time of life being able to spend time with our grandchildren and all they really want is our love and our time. Enjoy my friend!

  • Reply Cathy Lawdanski September 13, 2016 at 21:46

    All great ideas, Sue! It doesn’t take much – they mostly just want to do something with you!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric September 14, 2016 at 10:50

      That is right Cathy! Hanging out with you and spending time with lots of hugs is the best of all and it is free!

  • Reply Leanne September 13, 2016 at 23:34

    These are all great ideas Sue – Sophia is a bit young for them yet, but it’ll be time for Play Dough and painting and baking before I know it – I can’t wait!

  • Reply Jennifer September 14, 2016 at 21:26

    Many of these things we did as children and I did with my son. Alas, no grandchildren to spoil, get dirty with paints, hopped up on food and movies and then send home. Maybe someday.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric September 16, 2016 at 15:54

      Well at least you did these things with your children Jennifer and yes maybe someday with your grandchildren.

  • Reply Silly Mummy September 15, 2016 at 08:21

    Great suggestions! I do a lot of these with my toddlers – always looking for low cost activities. But it really is pretty easy to entertain them without spending money actually – they’re easily entertained! Entertaining them without wrecking the house or going crazy is another matter, of course!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric September 16, 2016 at 15:55

      Yes well I didn’t mention about the wrecking the house or going crazy did I? LOL:) It is easy to have fun without spending money we just have to be creative sometimes or go back to basics before i-pads and computers.

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