Anja van den Berg
Parenting is hard work. Keeping little ones (with short attention spans) occupied is often half the battle – especially over weekends or if you are a stay-at-home-parent. When you need time to attend to pressing matters or just need a moment to yourself, it usually doesn’t take long before the kids run to you looking for things to do.
“If you aren’t careful, keeping kids busy can put a major dent in the pocket book as well,” says Jason Topp, specialist writer for wisebread.com. “Having a go-to list of pennywise ideas to keep your kids entertained is key. Otherwise, you’ll be unprepared – and out of budget – for those two little words dreaded by all parents — ‘I’m bored’.”
There are stacks of outdoor activities that will keep children entertained for hours and won’t always have you reaching for your wallet to pay for them, Kidspot.com advises. Entertaining your kids can be a tricky business at the best of times and it’s even more difficult during this time of year, when budgets are tight and money available for entertainment is limited. Luckily, it’s possible to keep the young ones busy without costing you an arm and a leg and your last drop of sanity. Here’s how:
Kids love sailing seas, conquering kingdoms and rescuing princesses from the dragon’s lair. Have fun with your kids in an imaginary world, or set them up for amusement and discretely excuse yourself. Provide them with some old make-up and fantasy clothes for dress up – even pirates need a few streaks of eye shadow, judging by Jack Sparrow!
- Camp out in your backyard
Pitch the tent, open the sleeping bags, make a fire and toast some marshmallows. Tell stories and share anecdotes. Enjoy this experience with some hot chocolate while enjoying stargazing and sharing some spiritual time with your family. Alternatively, let your kids invite some friends over and set them up for some backyard-camping fun, while you and your partner enjoy some time catching up on your favourite television shows.
Throw a picnic lunch together, grab a blanket to sit on and head off to the nearest botanical garden or picnic spot. Enjoy the break of routine and appreciate the fresh air. Better yet, take a ball or frisbee along and let the kids burn off some energy.
While growing plants is educational, kids also have fun watching their work get bigger and flower in front of their eyes. “There are lots of plants that even a young child can grow without too much trouble, from small trees to herbs and vegetables”, says Rob Mansfield, specialist writer for goodtoknow.co.uk. “If you don’t have a garden, then a window box or small pots are the answer and it won’t matter what time of year you plant them.”
Use your imaginations and write a story together. “It doesn’t have to be original, the kids could write down their favourite fairy tale and just change the ending if they feel like it,” says Mansfield. “Another great idea is to write chain stories with friends. Each person writes a paragraph and then shows the final line only to the next writer. Once the final person has written their section, read the whole story out loud – it’s usually pretty funny!”
Clay or play-dough is always a favourite among children, says Topp. “What kid doesn’t love getting his hands dirty?” If your children are a bit older, offer them some modeling clay, a plastic knife and some blunt scissors. After the artists have delivered their best work, offer to bake it in the oven (as per instruction from the manufacturer) or buy self-hardening clay.
- Call a karaoke competition
If you have a games console, invest in a game that offers hours of singing fun. Alternatively, karaoke CDs cost very little from music stores. Make sure you sing along to some of the songs as well. There’s nothing like embarrassing yourself to entertain your kids!
How much do your kids know about their family? Do they know anything about your parents’ parents? Not only is drawing family trees fun, it also teaches them a bit about their history. You may unearth some really interesting stories about your own family that you never knew.
Try not to get sucked into places that offer pricey activities. A trip to the amusement park, the zoo or an indoor gaming spot can drain your wallet. Instead, use a little creativity and search your area for fun options that won’t cost a fortune, yet will facilitate some quality time with your children – or some quality time with your book, while the kids are happy and entertained.
Jacqueline Curtis, 2016, “10 Fun & Cheap Things to Do With Your Kids”, Money Crashers, http://www.moneycrashers.com/fun-cheap-things-do-kids/
Jason Topp, 2011, “25 Ways to Entertain Your Child for Free or Cheap”, Wise Bread: Living Large On A Small Budget, http://www.wisebread.com/25-ways-to-entertain-your-child-for-free-or-cheap
Kidspot, 2014, “How to entertain kids on a budget”, http://www.kidspot.com.au/Family-Budget-Money-saving-tips-How-to-entertain-kids-on-a-budget+1793+156+article.htm
Rob Mansfield, 2015, “41 ways to entertain your kids”, Good to Know, http://www.goodtoknow.co.uk/family/178607/Holiday-ideas–40-ways-to-entertain-your-kids