By Rachel Maree
Parenting is hard work, let alone having to keep your children entertained too. Keeping your children occupied and having fun can put a huge dent in your bank account if you aren’t paying close attention.
So to keep your bank balance healthy and your children entertained here is a list of 45 frugal ideas for when they turn to you and say “I’m bored”.
1. Family board games
Dust off those board games and puzzles for hours of fun and entertainment. If you don’t have any that are age appropriate you can always have your children create their own.
2. Write or draw stories
Children have fantastic imaginations and love to tell stories. Why not write them down or draw them? If you have felt material in a sewing box you could even use that too.
3. Go for a bike ride or a walk
Jump on your bikes and go for a tour of your neighborhood. Or find some nature trails to hike. The fresh air will do you all some good, and hopefully wear your children out enough for a day nap or a long night sleep!
4. Have a picnic
Throw some sandwiches and snacks into a cooler and take off for a picnic. Find a new local park, lake, river, beach, mountain or even your own backyard! If the weather is a bit dicey then throw a picnic rug down on the living room floor and have a picnic inside. The children will love it.
5. Art and Craft
There are so many fun art and craft activities you can do using household objects or a well-stocked craft cupboard. Really you are only limited by your imagination (and budget)!
- Use your recyclables such as big boxes to make cars or boats, toilet rolls and egg cartons for bridges, binoculars, dragons, dinosaurs, rain sticks. The list goes on.
- Paper mache
- Bubble painting
Kids love to get into the kitchen and help bake. Cook up a batch of cookies and then have fun decorating them with colored icing or different shaped cookie cutters, make gingerbread men or have a pizza making competition. There are so many possibilities if you don’t mind a bit of mess in the kitchen.
7. Indoors Camping
If the weather is keeping you inside then grab your spare linen, couch cushions and pillows and build a fort or tent inside. You can put all your children favorite stuffed teddies inside and they can snuggle up and read books or tell stories in there. You could even have a picnic inside your cozy tent.
8. Play with bubbles
What child doesn’t love chasing bubbles! You can make your own bubble mixture and use your hands to blow them. Your children will love getting wet and seeing who can blow the biggest bubble or funniest shape!
9. Paper airplanes
Use any scraps of paper and teach your children how to make paper airplanes (YouTube and Pinterest are great for this). You can even turn it into a competition to see who can throw theirs the furthest, or who can create the smallest paper airplane.
10. Chalk drawing
Grab your chalk and hit the pavement. Draw hopscotch, snakes and ladders or anything else your child desires. It is a great way to keep your children entertained, without having to store all that artwork after. Your children will also get a hit out of hosing it all off after.
11. Play in a park
Hitting up a local park and getting some fresh air is always a sure way to entertain the children. They can run off their excess energy whilst you sit back with your feet up.
12. Your local library
Local libraries are a great source of entertainment for families at NO cost! You can borrow books, movies or games. Most libraries will also offer FREE fun and interactive storytime sessions, just ask them and they should have a program available.
13. Scavenger hunt
You can create your own scavenger hunt in your backyard or inside. You can make it as easy or as hard as you like, depending on the ages of your children. Simple clues, complex clues or even missions they have to complete for the next clue will keep them occupied and having fun.
14. Dance off
Blast some music and have a dance party! The best part is all that energy they burn off.
Play dough is always a winner. Whether you make your own or have some store-bought, crack it open and let the children at it. Give them different kitchen utensils and they will be occupied for hours, or at least long enough for you to enjoy a hot cup of tea.
Children love getting dirty, so why not turn that into a positive and get them to help out in the garden. Whether it is pulling weeds, planting new flowers or digging over a garden they will get a thrill from getting their hands dirty and helping out.
It is always handy having a box of dress-up clothes on hand! You can scout your local second-hand stores for clothes, shoes, hats, scarves, and jewelry to keep the cost down.
18. Cloud gazing
Throw a picnic rug out on the lawn and go cloud gazing. Make up stories about what you can see in the clouds. Is that a rabbit? And look, there is his best friend the elephant!
19. Play make-believe games
There are so many possibilities when you allow your child room to grow their imagination. Give them a washing basket and they can turn it into a boat sailing through the sea, or a racing car speeding around the track. Some kitchen chairs can be turned into a train, their teddies into a classroom full of children.
20. Make kites and fly them
You can use construction paper or light cardboard from your recycling like cereal boxes to make kites. The children will have fun decorating them with paint and markers before racing outside to fly them.
21. Have a beach day
Pack a picnic lunch and some snacks and head down to the beach for the day.
If you have some fishing rods this is a great way to spend the day, out by a lake or river with your children. Don’t forget to pack some lunch and snacks.
23. Water fight
Use water balloons, pistols, cups and sponges to throw water around for hours and hours of fun!
24. Stage a play
Use your costume box and let your children write and act out a play.
25. Cardboard box house
If you have a lot of boxes for recycling why not build a box house! Let your children decorate it with markers and paint and put their favorite toys inside and you may just have some time to enjoy to yourself.
26. Decorate windows with washable window markers
If you have washable window makers this is a great activity to keep your children amused. Although it may take some strict supervision to make sure they don’t write anywhere else with the markers.
27. Create an obstacle course
This is great to do inside or outside depending on the weather. You can make jumps, balancing beams, crawling spaces and tunnels to keep your children entertained. You can even give out prizes for the fastest times, or personal bests over the course of the day.
28. Gumboots and raincoats for some rainy day fun
Don’t let wet weather keep you cooped up inside! Throw on your raincoats and gumboots and go splashing in the puddles, build mud pies in your mud kitchen or exploring in the backyard. Continue the fun with a bubble bath after.
29. Hide and seek
Always a favorite with children, hide and seek! Again you can play this inside or outside depending on the weather.
30. Fun in the sand
If you are lucky enough to have a sandpit in your backyard this can provide hours of entertainment for children. They can play with their cars, trucks, dinosaurs and other kitchen utensils like sieves and bowls in the sand.
31. Movie night at home
Tuck up on the couch with a blanket and some snacks and watch a family movie.
32. Shadow puppets
Teach your children how to make shadow puppets and then sit back as their imagination runs wild!
33. Cleaning competition
If your children are old enough hold a cleaning competition. This is great because it will tick off some of your chores and keep the children busy!
34. Use tape to make racetracks
Stick colored duct tape to the carpet or floor to make racetracks for hours of amusement.
35. Water play
Grab a huge mixing bowl, or even throw your children into the bathtub, and fill it with toys for some water play.
Go outside and throw or kick a ball around, play basketball, football, soccer, cricket or tennis. Whatever you have the equipment for. You can even set up different sports drills in your backyard, like soccer dribbling practice.
37. Make a dinosaur garden
Or a fairy garden, jungle animal garden, teddy bear garden! Have your child explore your backyard for rocks, dirt, leaves, grass, and sticks. Put it in a little space of your garden and let them arrange their very own toy animal garden.
38. Backyard camping
Set up your tent in the backyard, complete with sleeping bags, camping chairs and a fire (if allowed). You can have a camp out without spending a dime or leaving the house.
39. Car wash
This is another great way to lighten the load for you whilst entertaining the children. Give them buckets of soap and sponges and point them in the direction of your car.
40. Witches Brew
Put a big pot outside with some water and have your children mix up a witches spell! They can put sticks, leaves, mud, rocks, sand, dirt and grass. They can use big sticks to stir it whilst casting their spells. Bonus points for having them make their own witches hats beforehand!
41. Shaving cream
Buy cheap shaving cream and make a sensory tray with it. They can use their hands, paintbrushes, sticks, food coloring or straws to move it around and make different patterns. It is a fantastic activity to entertain your children if you don’t mind some mess.
42. Ice cubes
For something so simple you can really do so much with ice cubes! You can have your children freeze ice cubes with different colored food dye, glitter and other embellishments. Once they are frozen they can use them to paint with! You can put ice cubes into a bowl with a spoon and let your children try picking them up and playing with them or make ice castles with them. They can have an ice and spoon race. Super versatile and guaranteed entertainment.
Children love making music. If you have instruments at home, perfect! If not you could try making your own:
- Elastic bands over a shoe box as guitars.
- Long tubes for blowing in.
- Different containers for drums.
- Water bottles and rice or pasta for shakers.
44. Boat making competition
Once again turn to your trusty recyclables for containers that are waterproof and grab some supplies from your craft cupboard so your children can fashion some boats. You can have them go to a local river, lake or beach to test them out, or even just the bathtub at home.
45. Doctor and patient
Have your children (or child) pretend to be the doctor whilst you get to lie on the couch and be the patient. They have to look, listen and feel to diagnose you. The best part…sleep is the only medicine that will cure you!
Keep this list handy so that the next time you are scrambling for ideas on how to entertain your children without it costing an arm and a leg you can use one, or more, of these ideas. They are simple, yet effective and generally don’t take too much planning. Hopefully the above activities will help burn off any excess energy, providing for a good night sleep!
Rachel Maree specialises in writing for small businesses in the health, fitness, pregnancy and parenthood industries. She is also a mum to 2 beautiful children and registered nurse. She loves her hectic life. It lends her inspiration and experiences to write intriguing, funny and informative articles and stories.