Cheap and free things to do with children

Inexpensive and free activity ideas to keep children entertained.

Children cost a lot to entertain sometimes, so why not check out these simple and enjoyable family ideas which won’t cost you a fortune.

Kids jumping on a bouncy castle
Entertaining children can be expensive

As a mum of 3, I am fully aware of how expensive it can be to keep children entertained. A day out at an attraction can sometimes feel like a small fortune, and eats a huge chunk out of the family budget.

Just recently, a visit to a local funfair set me back close to £120 ($166)… ouch. It still gives me shudders just thinking about it!

It sometimes feels like we have to do these things to keep our children busy and active, and I’m certainly not against the odd day trip or visit out to somewhere special. It can be really exciting and interesting to see a new place or try out a new ride at a theme park. I just want to help you to consider that although these have a time and a place, you do not need to spend a fortune to make wonderful family memories!

Children playing outside

Cheap and free ways to keep children entertained

People who know me will know I can be quite frugal at times, and wasting money is one of my biggest bugbears. With this is mind, I’m going to share my top tips of how I keep my costs low, but ensure my children have lots of wonderful memories to take forward into adulthood.

Family outdoors, free day out

Outdoor ideas

Visit the woods. For me, the woods offers endless possibilities for family fun and adventure. From climbing trees, to spotting nature and animals, and den building, there are so many different ways to tire out your little ones. My own children enjoy climbing up steep hills, carving out tracks which have yet to be walked, making (or finding) rope swings, and finding streams to explore.

Explore a new park. In the U.K. where I live, we are lucky to have many children’s play parks dotted all over the place. The parks near your home can quickly become a little tiresome, both for your child and for you! I recommend trying to find one you have never visited before, which will make the whole experience feel fresh and interesting. You could even try Googling new play parks near your home, or ask other parents which ones their children enjoy.

Go wild swimming. There is something so refreshing and free about swimming in nature, and my own boys love everything from paddling in small streams, to jumping into rivers! If you have the cash to invest in a wetsuit, rubber dingy or paddle board your possibilities for fun are even more endless! Of course, remember to keep safe and consider all the risks involved in swimming outdoors, and I highly recommend getting some water shoes to avoid cuts and scratches to delicate feet.

Go to the beach. Even on a cold day, there is still plenty to do on the beach. You could try searching for cool stones or shells, fossil hunting, or writing in the sand. If a trip to the beach usually costs you a small fortune in ice cream, food and arcades, why not try going to a beach which is more quiet and off the tourist track instead. That way, there will not be the temptation to spend money on unnecessary items, as those items simply won’t be there for your children to ask for!

Go for a bike ride. I like to pack a picnic and plenty of drinks in a rucksack, and then hit the road! We normally stop somewhere beautiful to eat, and then continue on our adventure. You could cycle through the woods, down a woodland walk, around town, or to visit a friend. If your child is a confident cyclist, you could try Googling local BMX tracks, which are a great source of free fun for all the family.

Free family day out in the woods

Indoor ideas

Play a board game. I feel like the good old fashioned board game is losing its place within the modern family, however in my experience children still love to play them and they provide a great form of entertainment. You can make the game last as short (Uno or playing cards) or as long (Monopoly) as you like, or could make a tournament out of it. There are even electronic versions of many board games, if you want to bring your board game into the modern day, with games like Uno being downloadable for free.

Cook or bake. If money is tight, stick to very cheap and simple ingredients, like those needed for a simple cake or bread. You can spend a lot of time and energy decorating a cake cheaply, and you could even do your own version of ‘bake off’ if you like to add a competitive element to your activities. Your children will also love to eat the end product of their hard work!

Craft. The possibilities for free and very cheap craft ideas are limitless. You could use old boxes and household items to create recycled models, or decorate and customise old clothing. You could also use old newspaper or junk mail to create collage pictures, or you could collect natural items outdoors to create nature art. Papier-mâché is still one of my all time favourites!

Build a den. When the weather is rubbish outside, then there’s nothing quite like making a cosy den to chill out in. You can use old sheets and blankets, chairs, pegs, bungee cords, pillows, or whatever other items to have in your home. Den building provides hours of free fun!

Play hide and seek. This game is traditionally played outside, however playing it in your home adds a new dimension to the game. You may think there are not that many spaces to hide in your house, but you’d be surprised; my children have pushed sofas to the side, climbed in cupboards, and squeezed under beds to avoid being found!

Craft is a cheap activity for children

I hope you have enjoyed reading some of my thrifty ideas for keeping your children entertained, and I’d love to hear some of your ideas too! You may also enjoy my post on hobbies you can complete with your child for more activity ideas.

Love, Heather x


Author: Heather

I am a parent and teacher, as well as a parenting blogger.

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