Some days it’s hard to think of something fun for the kids to do; and if you are on a budget it can be even harder. Here is a list of ten cheap and easy games and activities you can do with your kids.
Chalk is a cheap versatile product; you can normally pick up some nice chunky chalk, or plain white chalk for just a couple of dollars. A few pieces of chalk and the concrete outside…activity done! If you have a few kids, get them to lay down and draw their outline; now they have their very own drawing space.
I made up a game with my son where I used two different coloured chalks on the tiles outside. Red was for lava; which had to be jumped over and avoided and blue was for water; which we could jump on and be safe. This is great for gross motor skills and a fun way to learn colours too.
Chalk is great for renters too, because it cleans off easily the next time it rains, or you can just hose it.
2. Cooked Pasta
Ok, work with me here; cooked pasta that is dyed with food dye. It’s not as crazy as it sounds, though it does feel really weird! This is a great sensory activity, that you can use with bowls and spoons, or just in a big pile on the floor. I would highly recommend this be an outside activity, unless you have a big piece of plastic you can put down beforehand.
Paint is another versatile product, and you can normally pick up tubes for just a few dollars each. If they are a bit expensive, you could just pick up red, yellow and blue and have fun discovering how to mix different colours! You can buy kid scrapbooks for a few dollars, or recycle newspapers or any papers that were printed by mistake. My husband had to print off a lot of assignments and worksheets for uni, that normally would end up getting thrown out. We have kept them, and now have a huge pile of scrap paper for painting, drawing and craft activities.
Try experimenting with different ways to paint; add a lot of water to create water colours, or grab some ear buds and make spotty paintings. Old toothbrushes, matchbox cars, plastic animals, empty paper towel rolls…see what you can find around the house that can make unique patterns in the paint.
4. Water Play
This is another great activity for sensory play. I bought a water and sand table for about $25 at KMART; we only fill it with water, but the kids love to splash around in it. If you want something even cheaper, grab some plastic bowls, spoons and cups, add some water and voila; water play for free! Add some food dye to change the water colour, or simply squirt in a little dish soap for some bubbly fun. This is probably the easiest activity on the list, just be sure to always supervise around water.
Seriously, do yourself a favour and get some bubbles! We have a $10 bubble machine that blows out heaps of bubbles per minute. But we also bought some super bubble wands for only $1.00 each, that work just as well to occupy the kids. This one can get pretty messy if you have younger kids who want to blow the bubbles themselves…but they have so much fun running around popping bubbles, so it’s worth it.
Sing some songs or throw on a youtube video of kid songs…you might be surprised at how many you have forgotten from your childhood. Or better yet, make your own musical instruments. Empty paper towel rolls become trumpets, an upside bowl and spoon becomes a drum and dry rice in an empty container becomes a very nice shaker. Kids love to bang things, shake things and generally make a whole lot of noise; if you don’t have a headache, this is a great and cheap way for them to do that.
7. Alphabet Magnets
Pick up some alphabet magnets (I got a pack from KMART for about $5), print off the alphabet and stick it to a metal cookie tray and there you have alphabet matching. This one is great for older kids to practice learning their letters and works pretty much just like a puzzle.
8. Go For A Walk
This one is great for when you need to get out of the house and have some fresh air. Go to a park and let your kid have a play, or just walk around your neighbourhood. Play “I spy”, or count how many different sounds you can hear. Write up a list of different nature items and go on a nature scavenger hunt. Find birds, spider webs and different coloured leaves or flowers; if you live near water or the beach, add shells and fish to the list. Bring some leaves, shells and bark home, grab out the glue and make some pretty nature pictures. Suddenly a simple walk has turned into a fun learning experience, one that your kids will love!
Caution, this one is messy, but so much fun. Add small amounts of water to cornflour (cornstarch) until you have a slime-like consistency. It will appear hard like a solid, but pick it up and it will run through your fingers like a liquid. Kids love this kind of messy play and I even found playing with it to be quite soothing. Add some colour and some essential oil for a colourful, fragrant and gooey activity.
10. Boxes/ recycling
Last but not least, boxes and recycling items. Before you through away those egg cartons and empty cereal boxes, let your kids play with them. They can be painted, or drawn on, or let you kid use their imagination! We saved the empty box to my sons new car seat, and both my kids loved sitting in their “castle” playing with toys. My son also loved it when I gave him some crayons and let him draw all over the box. Use them with painting and for making music, grab out some glue and turn them into works of art, or stack them into buildings to create a neighbourhood for cars and toys. There are so many different and fun uses and you can feel good about recycling too.
There is nothing wrong with letting your kids be bored sometimes. Just like there is nothing wrong with throwing on a movie or the T.V. If you need some down time or just don’t have the energy, don’t worry about it. It’s difficult to be constantly doing things with your kids that help with their learning, or encourage one of their motor skills. I definitely don’t do these activities every day and sometimes I do feel guilty. I’m slowly learning that I can’t be wonder-mummy every single day of the week and that’s ok.