While I don’t mind paying for an experience with the kids the cost of entertainment can easily escalate taking more money out of your wallet and budget than you may actually be able to afford.
How many times have you gone somewhere and after snacks, amusement rides and souvenirs you have spent a lot more money than you anticipated beforehand?
No matter the season or the time of year having fun with your kids doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.
There are many things that you can do free of charge to keep your little kids occupied. These explorations will teach children life lessons or help them to expand their creative imagination while having some fun at the same time.
While you may not always have a souvenir the memories made and the bonding time between parents and kids will last longer than any souvenir you could buy.
While playing soccer, baseball and other sports with your kids is definitely time well spent explore your creative side and see what other ideas you can come up with.
Get Outdoors and Explore
There is so much to learn and explore when it comes to the great outdoors.
Remember we have washing machines for a reason and if our clothes didn’t get dirty what’s the point of having them?
Put on your rubber boots, get outside and enjoy the world!
A plastic margarine container with a lid can be used for catching bugs, just don’t forget to poke a few holes in the lid.
Lifting up big rocks and broken branches will often expose a salamander or two. Remember not to keep them in the container for too long and return them back to their environment.
Take a hike
Go for a walk along nature trails or in a nearby forest or conservation area. You never know what nature has lurking behind the scenes for your children to see and explore. It also makes for good conversations amongst their friends the next day.
My grandpa was an avid bird lover and it is something that he passed on to my dad.
My kids like to go out and help fill the feeders and can now recognize a few different species of birds. They know the common Robins, Crows, Cardinals and Blue Jays but they also are able to point out what a Goldfinch is and can identify a hawk.
While I grew up with my dad and grandfather educating me about birds the internet can give information and identifying characteristics that you can use to explore the many bird species with your kids.
Grab a pair of binoculars, a bird book or some internet print offs and go and see how many birds you can recognize together.
If you have a camera don’t be shy to bring it along because you never know if your little one enjoys capturing moments that will last a life-time.
Play I spy…nature edition
I don’t think this needs much explanation but it’s a great way to get the kids out and to give them a bit of exercise while having fun outdoors.
Plan a Scavenger hunt
Make a list ahead of time of things for the kids to find such as a red leaf, a plant with flat branches (Burning Bush), 2 different kinds of pine/spruce cones and an acorn.
Remember to always respect nature and not remove anything from a conservation area. This is a great time to teach your kids about respecting and taking care of our environment while enjoying some strong family bonding time.
Play in the rain
A rainy day can easily make for a depressing day for both parents and kids. Honestly are there any kids out there that don’t like to jump in puddles?
Dressing warm, rain boots and a rain coat can make for a fun rainy day provided there is no lightning or thunder.
I have always struggled to locate the Big Dipper while everyone else has no problem finding it.
There are various apps available if you own a smart phone that help you identify the different constellations.
If you own a telescope don’t be shy to bring it out at night and show your kids what lurks above in the midnight sky when the darkness falls upon us.
I look forward to doing this with my kids this summer.
Gardening, shovelling snow, cutting the grass (age appropriate, ear protection) is a great way to teach your children about gardening what you can do with seeds, soil and some garden tools.
While pruning may not be age appropriate for young kids they often enjoy the clean up! Jumping into a pile of raked up leaves can create lots of jumping fun while knocking another chore off the to-do list.
Go to the Park
While most cities have parks with playgrounds and plenty of space to run around some also have petting zoos and splash pads that are free to use or visit while the park is open.
Do a science experiment
Pinterest and other websites have endless ideas of home science experiments that you and your kids can do together. Whether it’s seeing how marshmallows react differently in various liquids or how to make an egg-shell disappear you can find just about anything online.
Using old parts or things from around the house that you don’t need to create something new is fun for any kid. If you have just purchased a new dishwasher or washing machine and now money is tight, keep the box.
Anyone with kids knows that cardboard boxes are a favourite of kids. They can turn the box into a castle, doll house or fort and the kids will be overly joyed.
Let the kids help you create easy recipes such as cookies, a cake, anything. We fill plastic condiment dispensers with pancake batter and let kids create shapes in the frying pan (we do the flipping).
Make play dough or modelling clay from scratch, there are several DIY recipes available online and they are simple enough that the kids can help make it and then play or create with it after.
Make popsicles from scratch
Making homemade popsicles is often cheaper than buying a box from the store and can also be a lot healthier for your kids if you make them from fresh 100% juice or yogurt.
The kids then get to enjoy a special treat that they had a hand in making. Milkshakes and smoothies are also a hit in our house.
Let the kids choose from fruits/vegetables on hand so they can customize their own drink. You may have better luck having them finish it when they create it and less food waste.
Spend a few hours at the fire station
Every summer our local fire department has an open house at the main fire station in town. The kids get to climb up in the fire trucks as well as explore an ambulance and a police cruiser. Last year the kids even got to use a fire hose.
The kids had a great time learning about fire safety and exploring all the vehicles and left with a pile of stickers and colouring books and to top it off it was free.
While snacks and hotdogs were offered for sale there was no pressure to spend any money and the kids and myself had a great day.
My kids loved visiting the fire station where fire fighters would let them sit in their big fire engines and load them up with stickers, colouring books and other toys.
Go to the library
Check with your local public libraries to see what free reading programs they offer.
There are different programs for different age groups that include reading groups, story-time for all ages, puppet shows and more.
You could also check out how-to books so you and your kids can learn something new together. You may spark some sort of interest with your kids which might become a life-long hobby or expertise for your child. Let them explore their inner creativity.
Make a trip to the home renovation store
Home Depot and Lowe’s often offer free kids workshops on the weekends. Not only do they get to learn how to use basic tools but they also get to bring home a project that they have made.
Check out their websites for upcoming workshops in your local stores.
During Christmas, Thanksgiving, Canada Day or Victoria Day if there is a parade my kids want to go.
The marching bands are their favourite and they love to see all of the instruments. My uncle plays in one of the bands as well plus they love to dance.
They usually head home with some candy and a few colouring books which keeps them occupied for hours of fun.
For Family Day this year the kids and I visited the local winter festival. Although it was cold outside we had a great time together as a family and it was free entertainment.
The kids got to go down an ice slide yet I have to admit it was also pretty cool to see some exceptional ice sculptures on site. It was also exciting for the kids to work on crafts and get their faces painted for free.
Many festivals whether they are seasonal or cultural in nature are held in many cities throughout the year often with free admission, a minimal fee or a food bank donation.
While fun, many of these festivals can be very educational for the entire family.
Around the house
While cleaning may not sound like a lot of fun it certainly can be. I love spring cleaning.
I’ll be honest that I don’t overly enjoy the actual cleaning aspect of it but I love to see some of the unnecessary items go out the front door.
That’s the best part, downsizing what you no longer use to free up space in the house limiting clutter and dust.
I often hear my kids say ‘mom I don’t need this toy anymore can we give it someone else who can play with it?
We donate our stuff to charity but I like to get the kids involved having them help pick out the items they no longer need or use. There are many organizations such as a thrift store or church that would appreciate the donations.
Young kids also like to help out around the house because to them it is more fun than it is work. While we all hope our kids will grow up to continue helping with chores regardless teaching kids responsibility around the house at a young age is never a negative.
While our job as parents is to protect and provide for our children we are also their teachers. If you can make each day a fun learning experience that’s even better!
Make a Home Movie Theatre
Going to the movies is far from budget friendly these days but it’s not that expensive to create that experience right at home for less.
Putting on a movie, making popcorn and turning off the lights makes an at-home movie theatre very easy.
Not long ago I purchased popcorn cups from the dollar store so we could make our own theatre popcorn and the kids love it.
You can get movies from the thrift store, online, garage sales, borrow them, library or trade with your friends for free or very cheap.
You can’t compare the costs to going to a movie theatre even though it’s an experience for the child if the budget doesn’t allow for it, think outside the box.
Read a book
Reading a new book together or finding different ways to explore a familiar book, for example look for a different object or letter on each page/
You can go to the library and find books for free that your child likes and bring them home for free entertainment.
Do a puzzle
One of my favourite childhood memories is sitting around our living-room table with my sisters and my dad doing a puzzle for hours on end.
Our dad was known to stay up for a few hours after we would all go to bed to keep working on that puzzle.
Playing cards and board games with my family was always a great source of family entertainment at home. Skip Bo and Mad Gab were some of our family favourites.
My dad often plays dominoes with my kids and my 5 year old son usually wins. He loves to play with Grandpa and even more so that he can beat him every time.
While turning on the television is an easy way to occupy the kids watching too much of it is not a good thing. I limit the time my children watch television because I don’t want them to miss out what our world has to offer.
Something as simple as building a paper airplane and seeing who can fly theirs the farthest can really make a kid’s day. The list of other things you can do with a little creativity is endless.
What other activities can you add to this list of free things to do with your kids?
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