Many parents struggle with keeping their kids busy. One of the things parents hate hearing the most is “I’m bored”. Parents are very busy nowadays and feel they need money to give their kids what they want.
Weekends and holidays are the main stressful times for parents and many of us need a holiday after the holidays to recover, because keeping the kids busy can be hard work.
But in fact, there are many fun and exciting activities you can do with your kids with little or no money at all. You just need to look around a bit.
When my kids come and tell me they’re bored, I hate it too. On top of being the cleaner, the accountant, the teacher, the gardener and many other titles that I carry, I also have the wonderful title of Entertainer.
But when I get rid of the fear of having to entertain them, it can actually be quite fun.
To avoid this stress, try to think about activities you can do ahead of time. Getting up on Saturday morning and asking, “So, what are we doing today?” will definitely start you off on the wrong track.
It is also better to think about school holidays and family vacations in advance. If you leave this to the last minute, I can assure you that most places will be fully booked and very expensive.
So, I’m going to share with you some of my ideas for keeping your kids active and happy. These ideas will also contribute to family bonding and even teach your kids some great lessons about life.
Just keep this list handy and use it when your kids are bored. Remember: kids are fun. You don’t really need to spend a lot of money to make them happy. They need your presence more than your presents.
What to do with your kids when they’re bored
- Kids love books and most libraries in the world are free. Go to the library with your kids on a regular basis. Libraries make for 2 good hours of fun and excitement.
- Check your local paper or the city library web site for holiday programs. Most of them are free and if you need to pay something, the cost is usually minimal.
- Most families have bikes at home. Take your kids for a bike ride. If you have babies and/or toddlers, buy a chair for them and take them too. The exercise is good for the whole family and you can use the opportunity to teach them about safety on the road.
- Read books. You can have reading time for the whole family. Make it easy for your kids to read books. Have books at your kids’ reading levels and show them you read too, if you want them to be readers. When you are on holidays, make sure everyone takes a book for a bit of quiet time while you are away.
- Take your kids to the local zoo. Kids love animals and most zoos are reasonably priced. If it is expensive, aim to go once every year or two. Kids like different animals at different stages of their life and will always find something exciting.
- Stay tuned for local festivals and go with the kids. Most festivals are free or charge a small entrance free. Festivals can teach kids about other cultures, about music, about art or about any other topic. Set a budget for the day and teach your kids how to handle a budget.
- Use the Internet to learn something together. If you all learn something together, you can keep an eye on what your kids do on the Internet and share a common experience with them.
- Take your kids to a fireworks display. It is exciting and some local events have a free fireworks display at the end. Kids are always excited and can watch them again and again (I am a still a kid when it comes to fireworks).
- Swimming is a wonderful activity that kids can do for a whole day. I remember as young kids, we used to stay in freezing water for hours, never wanting to come out. Find a local beach, a lake or, if you are far from any water source, a local pool. Water can keep kids busy for hours.
- And while we are on the topic of water, take balloons, get your kids to fill them with water, and throw the water balloons to each other. 10 balloons and some tap water can keep a group of kids busy for quite a while. If you are afraid that they will all pop after only 2 minutes, make it a team competition – “Who can keep the balloon whole the longest while passing them”. I prefer the tiny water balloons, because they are good for throwing, although they are a bit harder to fill (well, actually filling them is not hard part, the hard bit is tying them). Teach the kids to pick up the popped balloons at the end of the game.
- If you go to the beach, build sand castles. You can use small containers, covers and sticks to do any sculpture you want (wet sand is the cheapest sculpting material available).
- If your kids have roller blades, take them to a skating park with ramps and small slides and a smooth concrete surface. Make sure they have a helmet and knee and elbow pads.
- Scooters can also be used in such places.
- And skateboards.
- And (BMX) bikes. If you’re really adventurous, even try electric dirt bike.
- Make a puzzle together. Rainy days are wonderful puzzle days. If your kids love puzzles, get a big wooden board and make big puzzles over a week or two. Puzzles can teach kids a lot about persistence, teamwork, strategy and can help develop their visual perception.
- Play basketball at a local park. You just need to start playing and you will find that many kids around will see you and come to play with you.
- Learn a new language to have a secret language for the family. We once brought a Spanish teacher home to learn Spanish together. It was a great bonding experience for us (we do not know much Spanish now, but we already have 3 secret languages).
- Some city councils have free concerts in the park. Many local bands and ensembles look for opportunities to perform and you can take a picnic basket, sit on the grass and watch the performances. It will teach your kids to appreciate music.
- Some city councils have movie screenings on school holidays. Stay tuned and find out where and when the next screening is. Even if your kids have seen a movie, they will not mind watching it again, while having a picnic.
- Have a barbecue at home or with friends. You can have it outside or on your balcony. Ask the kids to chop or slice vegetables and if they are old enough, ask them to keep an eye on the sausages. Any barbecue is easily 3-4 hours of fun.
- While we are talking about hot days, you can encourage the kids to fill water pistols and have fun. Join in the fun too if you want it to last longer. Our 19-year-old daughter was so afraid of having a birthday party she considered canceling it. She thought that because she did not drink and was not planning to get drinks, no one would come. Well, all her friends came and throughout the party, they used water pistols to have fun – it was the best liquid to use for fun…
- Have a scavenger hunt in the house. Rainy days are wonderful for scavenger hunts. We love scavenger hunts on birthdays. It involves presents that the whole family can enjoy and join in and everyone is happy.
- Pack a bag and some sandwiches, take something to sit on and go for a picnic. Picnics are the most exciting meals for kids and they are as cheap as eating at home. In fact, get your kids involved in the preparations for some extra quality time.
- If you want things to be really exciting, take the kids camping. The price for putting up a tent at a campsite is so small it is well worth the hours of giggling and jokes at night. Camping also reminds your kids of all the things they take for granted back home, while keeping them a safe distance away from TV and computers.
- When you go camping, have a campfire. Alternatively, if you can, have a campfire in your backyard. Unfortunately, where I live it is not allowed, but friends of mine built a metal fireplace that looks like a barbecue in their backyard and it feels like a campfire.
- Whenever there is fire around, buy marshmallows and roast them on skewers. Try buying the marshmallows before the kids ask you to. It is wonderful to hear their cheers when you take the bag of marshmallows out and the kids get right into the roasting business.
- When camping, tell your kids stories about ghosts, fairies and witches and even about your childhood. Ask them to tell stories too, and you will be surprised with what comes out.
- On hot days, you can use the hose to sprinkle the kids with water. If you have a sprinkler system, you can play games running away from or through the water spray.
- If you have the equipment, go fishing with your kids – it will sure teach them patience and (if you catch anything) can make them very proud of themselves.
- Go canoeing or kayaking. You do not really need to own a canoe or a kayak. There are many places where you can rent them for a couple of hours.
- Go to the playground with your young kids.
- Go to the local bowling club. Many bowling places have special prices on school holidays. Many bowling alleys allow you to bring your own snacks and so for not much money you can have a few 3 hours of fun. Most places even offer special equipment for little kids.
- Baking is a great activity to do with kids. It teaches them to enjoy making cakes, cookies and other pastries. They get messy and excited. We say, “It tastes better when you make it yourself”.
- In the same way that baking can be a wonderful time with kids, cooking is a great activity for parents and kids. You can get your kids involved in making dinner, lunch and special dishes. On top of the help, they will learn to feed themselves and be a bit more independent with their lunch boxes.
- If you have a hammock, swing on it with your kids. We have a hammock that can hold 4 people.
- Visit a museum. There are many free museums around. Register yourself to their distribution list and be notified whenever they have a new exhibition. Any museum can keep a family busy for 4 hours. During the school holidays, there are many activities for kids in the local museums. Just stay tuned and write them down in your diary.
- Have a garage sale. Instead of spending money, you can make money and get rid of some of the old things in your house. It clears up mental space and teaches your kids to let go.
- Go for a hike with your kids to a local forest or mountain. If you take your lunch with you (plus water, hat and sunscreen), you can have a full day of free fun and great exercise for you and your kids.
- Go for a walk on the beach barefoot. This is one of my personal favorites.
- Collect seashells on the beach.
- Write messages for one another on the beach and let the waves to wash them away.
- Go to the local flea market. If you do not want to spend too much money there, give your kids a budget and allow them to buy whatever they want. It is funny but cheap as flea markets are, it always seems that people do not buy very much there.
- Take the kids to the local fruit and vegetable market. We take the kids every weekend and they love the smells, the shouts, the occasional performance and the tasting of the fruits. We say to them, “If you come, you can influence what we buy” and they all want to come!
- Buy a box of lemons and make lemonade with plenty of (brown) sugar. Add mint if you like. It beats any commercial cordial.
- Go for a tour in a vineyard. It is wonderful for kids to see the process of making wine. Many of the tours are free or very cheap and include wine tasting (but make sure your kids do not operate heavy machinery afterwards…).
- Do some gardening with your kids. Plant a herb garden with them and take care of your plants together. A vegetable patch is especially fun. When kids pick the vegetables and cook them, they are most excited.
- Clean the house together. Cleaning is something most families hate. If you do it together, it can be great fun. Telling the kids to clean their room is also a great way to get them to find hidden toys and books and play with them, as they keep claiming to be “Not done with the cleaning, Mom”.
- Go for a walk at the local botanical gardens.
- One of the most exciting experiences for kids is to see how to make things. Taking them for tours of a dairy or a brewery can be very exciting.
- Take your kids to an ice cream factory.
- Take your kids to a packaging factory.
- Take your kids to see a bakery. Go inside and help them see how they make the breads and cakes.
- Take your kids to the post office.
- Take your kids on a tour of a fire station.
- Take your kids on a tour of a police station.
- Take your kids to see a can factory.
- Take your kids to see a chocolate factory (I want to go too).
- Take the kids to see a honey-making factory.
- Take your kids on a tour of a television station.
- Take your kids on a tour of a radio station.
- Take the kids to visit a dairy farm to see how people milk the cows or how they make cheese.
- Watch birds with your kids. If you do not know much about birds, take a book from the library to guide you.
- Make a kite and go fly the kite. Look for a windy spot and teach you kids about the right shape and size for a kite to be.
- Go to your local DVD store and take out a family video to watch together. After you watch the movie together, you can talk about the ideas and the morals of the movie. Every DVD store has a cheap day, so you can typically do this at almost no cost.
- Print photos from a trip you have taken and create a scrapbook with stickers, scissors, punchers and colorful paper.
- Print your kids’ hands and feet with Plaster of Paris. Use the package instructions to make the plaster, put cream on the hands or feet and dip them into the plaster. Hold the hands or the feet in that position for a few minutes until the plaster starts to get firm. This is a great memory for the kids to have and keep.
- You can do the same activity with paint. Paint your kids’ feet or hands and print them on paper. Put this paper in their albums. Make sure you write their age and date on the print.
- Go with the kids onto the street or driveway and use chalk to draw things on it, (like hopscotch).
- Make a birdhouse from pieces of wood and hang it in your garden.
- Every school has an annual fair. Most fairs have cheap food, craft displays, performances and free activities. Follow the guide in your local newspaper. Most school fairs can keep you and the kids busy for a full day.
- In the right season, go berry picking. In most places, you pick the fruit and buy what you’ve picked at a good price. You can have 2 fun hours of picking for only the price of the fruit that you can then use to make a cake or eat later on. We have had some great picking days that were wonderfully fun and it was great to see how the particular fruits were grown.
- Print copies of the same Sudoku game and see who can solve it first. Let the slower players start first. With very young kids, you can print out a full board (with all the solutions on it) and use whiteout to erase some of the numbers. As they get better, you can erase more and more numbers until they can move on to a regular game. A kid who recognizes the numbers from 1-10 can already participate in the game with you.
- Have a fun time dipping fruits in chocolate fondue. This is a great way to encourage kids to eat fruit.
- With one packet of beads, you can have hours of fun and creativity. You can make necklaces, earrings and bracelets. If the kids do not want to wear them, they can always make birthday gifts for family and friends.
- Invite friends over or go to friends’ place for a Saturday or Sunday afternoon lunch or coffee. Get together are cheap and easy ways to pass the time with people you like. It will probably be hard to convince the kids want to come back home.
- Pick up garden waste from your garden and take the kids to the nearest garbage dump or waste processing facility. Some places do not allow the kids to get out of the car for safety reasons, but even sitting in the car is enough to see how they mulch huge piles of garden waste and what they do with it.
- Play hide-and-seek at night when the lights are off. There is still so much light coming in through the windows that soon your kids will ask to put some things on the windows to make sure it is really dark. If you have very young kids, make sure someone is hiding with them and make a rule not to scare each other.
- Make paper boats and go to your nearest creek to have a competition to see whose boat lasts the longest or gets to the end first.
- Play card games with the kids. I teach kids many strategies by playing cards with them. I avoid teaching gambling games because I want to emphasize thinking and having fun.
- Grab a box of old makeup or some face paint and paint one another’s faces. Yes, this includes YOU. Everything comes off with soap and water or with some makeup remover, so lighten up and be part of the action.
- Build a cubby house with the kids. Such a project can keep you all busy for the entire school break or for a good number of weekends. Use the opportunity to teach the kids about planning, about safety, about budgeting, about making decisions, about teamwork and about solving problems. They will carry this wonderful memory with them for years to come, not to mention the endless play time they will have in their new cubby house.
- Go for a walk around your neighborhood with the kids.
- Make puppets with your kids. You can use old socks and teach them to use needles to add buttons or to glue body parts to the puppets.
- When you are done, make your own puppet show.
- If you have a sewing machine, teach your kids to use it. You can buy cheap fabric and let them make something for themselves. Do not start with baby or doll clothes, because the smaller they are, the harder they are to sew. Make a pillow, a beanbag, a pencil case or any other simple thing that only requires going in straight lines with the machine. I bought my daughter some fabric to make pajamas when she was 10 years old and she did a great job. Ever since then, she fixes all her pants clothes. The final product does not have to come out perfect. It only needs to give your kids a great sense of achievement.
- Buy a big canvas for the whole family and make artwork together.
- Preparations for a birthday or Christmas can be great fun. You can dedicate many hours to decoration, organizing and making exciting plans. Kids love this. If it is their birthday, they get to enjoy it longer. If it is their sibling’s birthday, they get to help make it a wonderful day. If it is a holiday, they get to celebrate it for two or three weeks and not just on that particular day.
- Many board games can keep a whole family busy for a long time. Monopoly is one of those games that you can play for hours and teach kids strategies. Most homes probably have many different board games.
- Get a magic book from the library and teach kids to do magic tricks with cards.
- Use a skipping rope and compete with your kids who can jump the most without stopping.
- Bring a tent inside the house and have a sleepover in it with a flashlight, popcorn and snacks. Your kids will have wonderful memories for years to come.
- Buy some paint in the hardware store and keep the whole family busy for a while. Use a weekend or some days in the holidays to paint a wall, a bed, a door, the fence or anything that might give everyone a nice new feeling.
- Make a volcano from wire and paper-mâché and make a mix with baking soda and food color to see it erupt.
- Buy air-drying clay and make decorated dishes for a display.
- Use pots and cutlery to make music with your kids. There are famous bands around the world (like “Stomp”) that make music from bottles, lids, pipes, brooms, etc. It may sound noisy at first, but wonderfully creative things can come from it.
- On summer hot days, you can teach your kids to make milkshakes with fruit, milk, ice and a bit of sugar. It is yummy, healthy and exciting for them to make their own shakes while you all prepare breakfast together.
- Give your kids a camera and go for a photography day outdoors. If you explain the value of the camera and demonstrate how to be careful with it, even very young kids can take photos. With today’s digital cameras, it is so easy and cheap to give kids a camera. They can take hundreds of photos and it will cost you nothing. My 7-year-old daughter takes amazing photos of our house. She does it from strange angles and it is hard for us to recognize that we are looking at parts of our house.
- Take old CDs that you cannot use anymore and make artwork from them. You can hang them on the balcony for them to dance in the light. Make a mobile and use beads to write your family name on it, then hang it at the entrance to your home.
- A good, fun, bonding activity I love doing with my kids is to send them emails and love letters. From the age of 6, I teach them to touch-type and we can email our love to each other. My love letters can keep them busy reading and writing and they contribute to the love we have as a family. Who can ever get bored of receiving love letters?
As you can see from this list, there are many things you can do with your kids to keep them busy and happy. Also, many of the activities cost little or nothing and you don’t really need to be a millionaire to have a great time with your kids and bond with them.
If you decide to take a different idea each time and spread them over 52 weekends and 8 weeks of the school holidays, you may not even have to repeat any of them throughout the same year.
Your kids should never be bored again.
Happy and joyous time with your kids,
If you have more ideas of what to do with kids, please share them in the comment box below.