Being a parent in these crazy times is hard. Being a single parent is twice as difficult. The onset of Covid has forced many of us to keep our kids indoors for long periods of time. Even worse, it has caused many job losses that are impacting families all over the world.
Trying to keep little ones occupied during lockdowns and ever-tightening financial restraints can sometimes seem downright impossible. Believe me, as a single mom to a three-year-old son, I can relate big time.
One of the things that I tried to implement when Covid hit was to make sure we got outside as much as our lockdowns would allow. Even though most things were closed, we always managed to source cheap, fun activities to do, and I found that with a little imagination, I was still able to entertain my little guy at a fraction of the pre-Covid cost.
So now that everything has opened back up, are we tempted to run straight back out to the most expensive theme parks and blow a fortune on our kids every weekend? Well, of course, we are, but that isn’t necessarily practical or doable.
Solo parenting is hard enough without applying those types of pressures on top. Kids’ imaginations are wonderful things and they cost nothing to use. There are many weird and wonderful activities you can do on a shoestring that are sure to keep you and your little ones busy all weekend long.
I’ve put together a list of 10 cheap activities for kids to help inspire you guys to have fun-filled weekends, that don’t break the bank. Parenting can be stressful, but taking the sting out of the cost of kids’ activities certainly helps to minimize the burden of keeping your little ones entertained.
Let’s get started
10 Low-Cost Activities for Kids
1. Take a nature walk in a nearby forest or state park.
National and state parks offer a wide variety of nature walks and hiking trails to suit every age and ability. Nature walks are a wonderful way to discover the natural world’s sights, sounds, and smells.
The only cost involved in this almost free activity is the cost of your gas and food. A picnic is a great idea if you do not want to pay astronomical on-site food prices. Pack plenty of water, sandwiches and trail mix and you have all the makings of a fun nature-filled day.
2. Start a rock collection
I think every little boy or girl has a rock collection at some point. There is something about a pretty or shiny or jagged rock that the kids just love. Not only do they make a nice little collection for the kids, but they are a great addition to your garden decor. These types of little things last a lifetime and create memories for you and your kids.
When you collect rocks, it’s a great idea to go online with the kids and identify what the rocks are, how old they are and where they come from. Tying in some science and history with a fun day out is an educational bonus, and who knows what it might spark in your little ones?
3. Begin a small gardening project.
This is a super fun activity with kids that won’t break the bank. You don’t even need a large area. In fact, you can even have a mini garden in a window box. Several different plants can be grown in an area as small as one square foot.
Mini garden projects will only cost the price of the container, some seeds, a trowel and compost. They are a great way to introduce your kids to the wonder of how things grow and teach them responsibility at the same time. What a great way to spend an afternoon.
4. Visit the beach
Head out to the beach, and if you don’t live near the sea, you can try a river or lake. Getting out into the water in all weather is exhilarating. A quick freezing cold paddle or a warming soak, it makes no difference. Being immersed in nature tires you and your little ones out and feeds the soul.
Take a picnic and a bucket and spade and have fun building sandcastles. The cost of gas, food, and maybe ice cream is all that’s involved with this activity. It is a full day of fun, no matter the weather.
5. Go to a Museum
Many museums offer free family day passes or family discounts on entry. It’s worth checking with the museums near you. You might be lucky enough to catch a really cool exhibit or a weekend that is free for families.
Museums are a fun-filled, cost-effective day out that the whole family will love. Grab some street food and take a walk afterwards. You’ll have yourself a full day out with the kids for next to nothing.
6. Go camping
Grab a tent, a disposable BBQ and a cool box full of food before heading out into the wilderness. Heck, you can even camp in the backyard if the wilderness seems too far for you. Camping is great fun and a brilliant way to get the kids out of their comfort zone for a little excitement.
This is a cost-efficient activity. If you only plan to go once, you could hire or borrow equipment. If you plan to make it a habit, the initial outlay will pay for itself many times over. Anytime you and the little ones are bored, throw your stuff in the back of the car and head out on an adventure.
7. Seek out community concerts.
A funny thing has happened since Covid hit. People have been so disconnected from one another for so long, that there are many things happening now to bring people together. A community concert is a great way to get together with other families in your community and to enjoy a shared experience for free or the cost of a donation.
In the wake of social distancing, some concerts may be online and virtual, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get involved. A sing-along at home is better than no sing-along at all and it’s sure to keep the kids entertained.
Raise your hand if your kids are into nature and treasure hunting. Mine certainly are. When I decided to give geocaching a try, I expected it to be much more difficult than it was. You can use your own device as a GPS tracker and there are a number of apps readily available for your geocaching mission.
This is another activity that can be free, but why not treat the kids to some snacks and soda while you are out on your hunt? After all, you can’t hunt on an empty stomach. A quick Google search will get you started on your hunt.
9. Outdoor Film Festival
Have you ever thought about taking the kids to a drive-thru movie? Isn’t it a nightmare trying to find somewhere close by that still does drive-thru movies? Then there is the cost involved and is there going to be a screening that the kids will like?
You don’t have to worry about that anymore. You can now set up your very own outdoor movie theatre for the cost of a cheap projector. Hang a white sheet on a fence in the yard, or take one on your next camping trip. With a phone and a cheap projector, you can screen any movie onto a big screen in any environment. I find this one super exciting. Hang fairy lights for extra bling, and make a big bowl of popcorn.
10. Build a bug hotel
Bug hotels are great fun for kids and the best part is they don’t cost anything. They can be made from wood, rocks, sticks, leaves, mud, grass and anything else you can think of. Building a bug hotel is heaps of educational messy fun for your little one. If you don’t know where to start, there are lots of free resources online to get you and the kids started.
Bug hotels don’t just last a day, they can be visited every day by the kids and they can make a note of all the creepy crawlies that come to stay. This helps them to identify nature and the world around them.
Cheap Activities for kids
My son and I had fun trying these activities out, some of them we liked more than others. The likelihood is that everything on this list won’t appeal to you or to your kids, and that’s okay. The idea is to find some activities that you like from it and build from there. All of the activities are cheap or free, so you know you won’t break the bank and, you never know, you might just discover a new family hobby.