Don’t worry, there are a ton of ideas you can take advantage of to keep everyone entertained that take little or no money. All you need to do is rely on a resource that children have in large amounts: Imagination. Not only is imagination your friend in saving money, but by exercising your child’s imagination you help build creativity and thinking skills that will come in handy as they grow up.
Here are ten ideas that will help you out when you hear “I’m BORED!” that won’t hurt your wallet:
1. Art Box – Children tend to be enthusiastic artists who want to record their dreams and surroundings using whatever they have at hand. Art supplies are cheap and available everywhere and you can even reuse things that would go in the trash. Buy or create a special box that will inspire your children when they get it out: a treasure chest, a box covered in your children’s art, or a blank box that you have your children decorate are all good starting points. Fill this box with the supplies your children will need: glue, scissors, glitter, crayons, markers, construction paper, drawing paper, paper towel rolls, and oatmeal canisters are a good start.
2. Story Time – A good story will not only hold a child’s attention while they are hearing it, but it will take seed in their imagination providing hours of adventure as they recreate the story with their toys or create their own stories based on what they heard. Story time is also a good way to reinforce and encourage new readers by having them read a story they want to everyone else.
3. The Boredom Jar – Find a jar big enough that your children can fit their hand inside and have them decorate it however they want. After this is done, get everyone together with slips of paper and fill the jar with ideas on what to do when everyone is bored. You can even make this a competition with a small prize for whoever comes up with the best idea. Now whenever they’re bored, your children can just reach inside the jar for an activity to entertain them.
4. Cook a Treat – Pull out a favorite cookbook or a special family recipe and get everyone involved. Cooking is an important life skill that will serve them well when they are on their own; and the sooner they get interested in cooking the better prepared they’ll be for that day. Cooking also helps reinforce lessons that your children have learned already: using math to make sure the measurements are correct, reading the recipes, and the importance of following the directions.
5. Pull Over – There are plenty of sights to see along the commutes we take everyday if we just stop to look. Take the time to pull over and share the views that you enjoy with your children.
6. How They do it – There are many stores and restaurants where you can see how they make the items they sell. The photo labs at stores are usually out on the floor where you can watch the prints being made, so if you have pictures you want printed take your children along to watch them being made. Stores that make items like tortillas and bagels may make them in a place you can watch, find out when they do that and stop by while doing your shopping for a educational mini field-trip.
7. Scavenger Hunt – Come up with lists of items you can find around your house and have your children hunt for them. Make it fun, come up with some items that they don’t know where they’re kept, and if you really want to make it a challenge hide items that they know where they are usually kept. This is a great activity to do when friends are visiting as well.
8. Explore the Neighborhood – There are lots of things to do right outside your door. Go take a walk in the local park and see how many different plants and animals you can count. There are plenty of things to do around the year as well, go see the changing leaves in fall, check out the lights that are put up for Christmas, search for the first robin of spring, and go around to visit friends during the summer break.
9. Picnic – A simple lunch is transformed into something more just by changing locations. Pack a lunch and go visit a local park, a petting zoo, or down to a nearby lake or river to change lunch into a family outing everyone can enjoy.
10. Satellite Search – With tools such as Google Earth you can pull up satellite images of your own neighborhood. Come up with a list of landmarks and see who can find them first. Start with your house and move on to finding where your neighbors are, where the school is, and other places you visit as a family.
These ideas are just a start of the many things you can find to do as a family without spending a lot of money. With a little thought you and your family can use this list to come up with more activities that interest them.