Growing up my family didn’t have a lot of money, but I didn’t know it at the time. My parents always found a way to provide me with lots of love and fun activities without breaking the bank. We often made up our own games, or did activities in public areas that didn’t require us to pay for entrance.
I asked some of our readers what they did growing up, or what they are doing currently to have some frugal fun with kids and save money. Here are some suggestions.
Visit Local Museums
by Jennifer (Clarksville TN)
We are a family of 5 and soon to be 6. We love having a big family, but finding things to do weekly on a budget can be hard at times.
Check your local museums. We live in a very small town in Tennessee, and even they have a museum that the kids really LOVE. I wait till I am on that side of town and after church we go.
On Sundays those places have great specials, ours is even free admission from 1 to 4. They have games, trains and all kinds of activities for all ages.
Your town during the spring and summer will more than likely host things at the city park, the one here does outdoor theater and plays for the kids once a month.
The more you’re involved in your community the more you learn about these things and all the things that are FREE! My kids love going and we have a lot of good times together as a family.
In the UK most of the national museums are free and are now very children centric with loads of things to keep them occupied while learning.
Even the small museums usually allow children in for free and are far more fun than they used to be.
Bird Watching/Nature Watching
by Elizabeth Flores (Indiana)
I took a bird watching class and I share my learnings with my grandchildren.
Birding can be done in your yard, neighborhood, or a local park. Have the children find a bird or something in nature and draw it later, write about it. Make a homemade journal or find a frugal notebook and keep a record of your findings.
There is a website All about birds where you can study birds and their songs. It is a wonderful experience.
We study the clouds, stars anything about nature along with bird watching. The birds change with the seasons and well as the rest of nature.
I think this is a great idea as a frugal activity for children. It is not only entertaining but educational. It also gives children an appreciation of nature and the environment.
With the summer holidays about to hit us many parents are worrying about how to keep their children happy on a budget. I think this is a perfect summer project. Its free, everyone can do it no matter where they live and the parents will enjoy it too.
Fun Secret Messages Kids Activity
My kids love to play spy and one of the best things they enjoy is writing secret messages to each other.
All they need is some small white birthday candles, paper, watercolor paint (kid’s paints are fine).
All they have to do is to write on the paper with the candles and then when they want to read the messages they brush over the message with the paint.
There is another way they can do this but may be better for older kids. instead of writing with the candles they write with cotton buds dipped in lemon juice and then to read the message they need to drip water over the message.
Great idea. I remember doing this as a child as well. I used to spend hours hiding notes for my sister to find and drawing invisible maps.
Make Plaster Casts of Leaves – Children Activity
One of my favorite activities with the kids is to go leaf collecting in the park during Autumn.
It always seems a shame that the leaves don’t last for very long, so I came up with this idea for the children to make plaster casts of the leaves. They can then decorate them later and use them as paperweights or to hang on the wall.
You will need some plasticine and plaster of Paris.
Collect some leaves and press them down into some plasticine so that the veins of the leaves can be seen in the mold. Form a wall around the mold and pour some plaster into it. Leave to set for a few days and then carefully remove the plasticine from around the plaster.
I recently saw some of these leaf plaster casks on the wall of my local school. they had decorated a rather boring concrete wall.
It looked so lovely and I bet the children were very proud with their work.
This is a great frugal activity for the kids.
Chalk Target Game
by Mary (London)
Small kids need practice with their throwing and coordination skills so any game which helps this is a bonus.
Find a external wall and draw with chalk a target with different scoring areas.
You can make little bags of sand or earth tied up for them to throw. make sure the bags are tough though and wont split. if this is a game the kids really like you could make up some proper bean bags.
Place a marker on the floor a little distance away from which the kids stand behind and the game can begin. With someone keeping score as the which areas they hit.
As there aim gets better you can move the place where they throw from further back.
This is a really simple and cheap game for the kids which is both competitive and skillful.
My school play ground used to have a target symbol on the wall and I used to play this game. great fun and I never got bored of it because you could keep making it more difficult to hit the center of the target.
Papier Mache Gift Bowls For Christmas
When I was a kid I loved making things from papier Mache. Now my kids too love to play with it. I thought since they did not have any money for gifts to gift to family or friends I would help them make some papier mache bowls for them to decorate and give as gifts.
All you need is:
- some wall paper paste
- plastic picnic bowl
Cover the bowl in some Vaseline so that the paper doesn’t stick and can’t be removed.
Cut the newspaper into strips and dip into the wall paper paste, then smooth over the bowl in random layers. When the bowl is thick enough, leave to dry for about a week.
Then gently remove the inner plastic bowl and let the children pain the paper bowl.
They could even put some sweets inside and wrap them up to give as gifts.
Love this idea and I love Papier Mache, always have. One of my strongest memories as a child was making papier Mache pots and painting them.
Although it can be a little messy (which the kids will love), it is really a cheap activity for children.
Kid’s Night – Frugal Family Idea
We home school so the group I belong to works really hard to keep kids connected to their friends.
We have Friday night fun.
For instance; this Friday about 4 o’clock the 7th and 8th grade girls in our home school group will be at my house for a game of ultimate Frisbee and a movie game night. We have Frisbees and we have movies. Every family that comes sends a drink or snack to share and its a party. Only do this if you know the kids and their families well. Ours will have about 10 girls but just have 2 or 3 if you want.
What a great idea and thanks for sharing it with us.
I grew up in the UK and I’m not sure that home schooling is very big over here but I know it is in the USA.
It must be hard to give the gives everything they need to grow socially and this sort of organized event is perfect for that.
I do find that when I hear from other parents who home school they are very good at being organized.
Personally I think home schooling is a great idea and I think the children really benefit from it. I know that I found school difficult due to all the distractions and sometimes bully kids.
I hope you will drop by this site often and contribute. Don’t forget the more detail the better your post will be.
Thank you again.
Create Your Own Jigsaw Puzzles
Why not keep the kids happy by making with them their own Jigsaw puzzles using nothing more than old magazines and some cardboard?
Find large pictures in magazine with your kids which they would like to make puzzles from.
Cut out and stick to cardboard with glue and let dry.
Cut into puzzle shapes. Fewer pieces for young kids.
Store in a plastic bag.
Thank you for this great frugal activity idea for the kids.
Jigsaw puzzles can be quite expensive to buy so this is great alternative and at a much cheaper price. Plus, the kids get to actually make the pieces too and choose the pictures they like.
I also use the colorful pictures on the front of the kid’s favorite cereals too. this is great as they do not need backing with cardboard to make them stiff.
Frugal Fun With Old Socks
by Katy (Scotland)
Have you ever noticed just how many socks you can get through in a year? Even though I darn the toes when holes appear I still seem to wear them out quite quickly.
One thing my mum taught me was that kids love the simple things in life, I used to prefer to play with the box rather than the toys she used to tell me.
So I thought, rather than throwing all my old socks away, I could turn them into different characters for a hand puppet show. You can make snakes and dragons, dogs and cats in fact any character can be created.
All that’s needed is some buttons, scraps of wool or cloth, paints, any thing that you can find lying around.
I created a dragon by covering an old sock with milk bottle tops to create a shiny scaly skin.
The kids love making up different plays with all the puppets. Much cheaper than paying out for wooden puppets and so much better for the planet.
Easy Coconut Macaroons For Kids To Make
Kids love to bake and with the Christmas holidays coming why not get them to make some coconut macaroons to keep them entertained and provide some treats.
- 2 cups of desiccated coconut
- 1 cup of Castor sugar
- 2 tablespoons of corn flour
- pinch of salt
- 2 eggs
- Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl.
- Get the kids to beat the two eggs in a separate bowl.
- Now mix the two.
- Grease a baking tray
- Cover with aluminum foil to prevent sticking.
- Spoon a small blob of the mix on the tray and allow to spread into a biscuit size.
- Bake in an oven 150c or 300f for about 15 – 20 min.
The kids could even wrap these up as little gifts for friends and relatives.
Love this idea especially wrapping them up as little gifts.
My nieces love it when they can make something as a gift for Christmas. It seems to make them feel so proud of themselves.
the beauty of this idea is that as a gift recipient from a child, at least you can eat and enjoy this one.
Fun Kids Game For Christmas
With Christmas coming and the kids being home from school I find I need things to keep them occupied.
This simple but fun game was something I invented last year and my kids really loved it.
Simply use a muffin baking tray and cut out some circles of paper to fit into each muffin case. Write a number on each circle of paper and place in the tin.
Put the tin on it side propped up against the wall.
The idea is that the kids have to toss coins into the muffin tray and add up their score for each turn.
Great idea and so simple too. I can just imagine kids really enjoying this and probably playing for hours.
I was thinking that you could stick lots of toilet roll insides together and use this for the kids to try and toss rolled up paper balls into.
the kids would probably would to paint the tubes themselves, making it even more fun.
Frugal Tips On How To keep the Kids Amused On a Journey
I don’t know about you but I find long car or plane journeys a bit of a nightmare with my two kids. Their boredom threshold is very low indeed.
I like to prepare little goodie bags for these journeys which help to keep the kids amused for most of the time.
The bag is a just a simple cloth bag and I like to put a range of different things in. Some of the things I put in are:
- A coloring book or sheets
- plain paper
- a little story book
- small cheap plastic car, etc.
- pipe cleaners – great for making bendy models from
- playing cards designed for children
- finger puppets
Great tips. It can be so difficult for parents to keep their kids happy during a long car journey.
i remember as a child I hated long trips but they were always made more bearable when we played games or had things to play with.
Cooking Time Games With the Kids
by Pippa (Canada)
My two kids always seem to want to get under my feet when I’m cooking the evening meal, so when I came across this game I could play with them while I was cooking I was delighted. It keeps them occupied and they find it fun and it lets me get on with preparing the meal.
the aim of the game is for the kids to run around the house and find thing that have the same number of whatever s as you call out. for instance, you shout out the number 4 they would then have to find something which has four somethings, so a chair has four legs.
As the game goes on it gets harder and harder for the kids as they have to find new things (you can call out the same number many times).