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Free and Cheap Things to Do with Kids

By Guest Blogger Bekah J.

No matter how many things you have planned, at some point you’ll inevitably hear the words “I’m bored.” Most parents don’t want to just pop their kids in front of a screen for mindless entertainment, so it’s always nice to have some extra ideas of things to do with kids. This can be tricky if you have a wide age range, but here are some ideas that you can do for free (or almost free) no matter where you are!

First of all, there’s the sort-of obvious basics that are pretty available everywhere - library story times, special kid-oriented activities at malls, and things like that. The availability of those (and the dates and timing) really depend on where you live, but it’s always worth checking out. Some libraries have partnerships with other area attractions to help you save money on museum admissions.

But what if you’ve already done those kinds of things, or they aren’t available in your area? What then?

Here are things you can do at home that are easy to mix up and add variety in your days.

  1. Scavenger hunts - these work great for kids of all ages. Even if you’ve done them before, you can mix up the theme and try them again. For older kids, you can try one of the scavenger hunt apps that are out there, or have them take pictures of the things you find. You can turn them into alphabet books or themed prints by object or color.
  2. Themed meals - this isn’t exactly free, but since you’re paying for food anyway, it doesn’t cost much more. While there are a lot of cooking subscription boxes out there, you can also easily find ideas online. Consider adding a meal inspired by a different country or an event. Let your kids get creative with mixing flavors (what happens if you make a pizza taco or a hot dog gyro?) - even if the food doesn’t turn out to be a new family favorite, it encourages creativity and problem-solving.
  3. Connecting with others - letter writing is often overlooked, but it can bring a lot of joy to both parties. Connect with a relative or family friend who will be reliable at responding, and start up a habit of writing letters. They don’t have to be huge notes - just a few words or a picture in a card can brighten someone’s day.
  4. Use technology well - screen time isn’t all bad. You can capture your kids’ interests in art, music, and so much more by looking for free online tutorials and software for animation, game design, coding, and more. Google Earth also has Voyages which make great at-home field trips for rainy days.
  5. You-be-the-boss days - let your kids have a turn at making all the decisions. Set aside an afternoon, evening, or day where one kid gets to call the shots. Set guidelines for things that are safe for everyone, but this can be a chance to give one person a chance to play that game that other people maybe don’t love, but will play, knowing that they have a chance to pick the next time around.
  6. Mix it up - change one thing about the day. There’s a reason spirit days and dress-up days are fun at schools. They mix things up just a little bit. Consider things like cereal for dinner, eating dessert first, wearing clothes inside-out, or other ways to be just a little bit goofy. 

With a little bit of creativity, you can avoid the boredom that comes from being in a rut. No matter what age we are, we like a combination of novelty and familiarity, and by having a few new activities, we can avoid the dullness that comes from always having the same routine.

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