I’ll be the first to tell you it can be challenging raising kids and keeping them entertained. Although my 4-year-old twins enjoy playing with each other (you know, when they’re not wrestling each other), there are times when they need to get out of the house.
Of course, buying memberships to museums and the zoo and enrolling them in different activities is great. However, that can be expensive. So, I’ve always tried to find a balance by seeking out budget-friendly activities for them to do whether they’re in school or off during the summer months.
Here are a few examples:
1. Take them to the public library.
The public library is my absolute favorite place to take my kids, and there are so many benefits available at the public library that many people don’t realize. We go to two different public libraries because one has a fish tank and one has a giant train set (priorities, people.) But, both have excellent children’s programs as well. When my twins were just babies, I’d take them to the free story time at the library every week. Now, they participate in free reading programs where they can earn prizes, free books and more.
2. Build a puzzle.
One of my son’s favorite things to do is build puzzles. I’m always looking for puzzles at thrift stores and the dollar store because he enjoys them so much and learns them quickly. Puzzles can keep kids busy no matter what age they are. It’s also a great way to get teenagers off their phones and encourage them to sit down and talk to you for a little while.
3. Make sidewalk art.
During the warmer months, my sidewalk is full of chalk art from my kids. Chalk is incredibly inexpensive, and you can get it at the dollar store. I make sure to include chalk in my kids’ Easter baskets so they never run out when it’s warm outside. Really, most craft projects are inexpensive, and even if you don’t consider yourself creative, there are hundreds of ideas online you can try. Simply search “indoor craft projects” or “craft projects for kids” on Pinterest, and you’ll have more ideas than you could ever complete in a year.
4. Let them help you cook or bake.
Look, I know you can make dinner or cookies a lot faster without the excellent “help” of your children. However, this is a fun way to keep your kids entertained and teach them something in the process. If it’s a regular weeknight full of activities, it might feel too stressful to let your kids crack a bunch of eggs (or maybe that’s just me?) However, weekends and school holidays are a perfect opportunity to bond in the kitchen and make some cookies together. It’ll keep them busy, and they’ll gain valuable skills while they help.
5. Have a picnic.
I love having picnics in the park with my kids. The reason I love picnics is because they don’t cost anything and yet, they feel fun and special. In the summertime, I keep a picnic blanket in the back of my car. That way, I can be more spontaneous. I already try to be budget conscious by packing snacks and sandwiches for my kids whenever we are getting ready to go somewhere. So, having the picnic blanket already in the car means we’re ready to have lunch outside anytime the weather is nice.
6. Go on a nature walk.
Your version of a nature walk might be different from mine. Here’s what I do: Every day I have to walk my dog, and sometimes I’ll bring my kids along. I tell them we’re going on a “super special nature walk,” and they each bring a bucket to collect treasures along the way. They find random sticks, look for worms after it rains, and occasionally find a stray toy or two while we’re exploring. This is a completely free and common activity, but by reframing what I call it, my kids feel like it’s a fun adventure.
Ultimately, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to give your kids an amazing childhood. In fact, I’d argue you don’t have to spend anything at all. What they really want is your love, your time and your attention, and it doesn’t cost anything to give them that.
Catherine Alford is compensated by OneMain.
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