Entertaining Young Children on a Budget

29 Mar

Remember a few weeks ago, when I outed myself as a stay-at-home mother in a low income family?

Well, it wasn’t really an “outing” because it wasn’t a secret. Anybody who knows me, knows that I stay home with my kids.

It’s also never been a secret that we don’t have a lot of money.

So for fun, I thought I’d throw out a few ideas with which you can entertain your children on a budget.

The best part is, you don’t have to be broke to utilize these ideas; parents often think they need to give their kids everything in order for them to live a full life. While that may be true to an extent, it is also true that young children can be entertained in very simple and very cheap ways. You don’t need to shell out hundreds of dollars for the latest toys and/or lessons because, with a little imagination, there are opportunities for play and discovery wherever you look.

Don't have a baby exercise floor mobile thing?  No worries.  Just prop up a broom handle and hang some toys from it...

Don’t have a baby exercise floor mobile thing? No worries. Just prop up a broom handle and hang some toys from it…

...or you know, a yard stick will do!

…or you know, a yard stick will do!

Pull out a box of your childhood treasures and let your (careful) toddler explore!

Pull out a box of your childhood treasures and let your (careful) toddler explore!

Your childhood toys make great toys for your own kids!  Provided of course that your parents kept them.

Your childhood toys make great toys for your own kids! Provided of course that your parents kept them.

Find some sticks and find some dirt.  Tell your kid to plant the sticks...voila!  Instant pretend garden!

Find some sticks and find some dirt. Tell your kid to plant the sticks…voila! Instant pretend garden!

Playing in the rain is good cheap fun!  Here RJ is sliding sticks down a rivulet of rain water.  He made boats!

Playing in the rain is good cheap fun! Here RJ is sliding sticks down a rivulet of rain water. He made boats!

After the rain, your kids can have some good old fashioned puddle-stomping fun!

After the rain, your kids can have some good old fashioned puddle-stomping fun!

Endless amusement for a child to put pennies (it'll have to be nickles now) into one of these contraptions.  Plus, you're donating to local charities too!

Endless amusement for a child to put pennies (it’ll have to be nickles now) into one of these contraptions. Plus, you’re donating to local charities too!

Check out the local wild life.  In warmer weather, RJ and I used to walk the exact same route every day so he could see the same animals every day.  It was all just cats and dogs, but he loved it.

Check out the local wild life. In warmer weather, RJ and I used to walk the exact same route every day so he could see the same animals every day. It was all just cats and dogs, but he loved it.

Go to (free) playgrounds!  This is an obvious one!

Go to (free) playgrounds! This is an obvious one!

Free water parks or splash pads!

Free water parks or splash pads!

Keep the bubble wrap to reuse for your own packaging needs...or let your kid pop the bubbles!

Keep the bubble wrap to reuse for your own packaging needs…or let your kid pop the bubbles!

Some parcels come packed with great gobs of brown paper.  It's better than all the plastic stuff, plus free colouring paper for your kids!

Some parcels come packed with great gobs of brown paper. It’s better than all the plastic stuff, plus free colouring paper for your kids!

Homemade play-dough, there's another obvious one!

Homemade play-dough, there’s another obvious one!

Let your kid empty cupboards.  It's fun and it's a great way to sort, organize, and see what you don't need anymore.

Let your kid empty cupboards. It’s fun and it’s a great way to sort, organize, and see what you don’t need anymore.

This is salt and pepper poured on a plate.  RJ was making designs and he was loving it.  Salt and pepper aren't very expensive!

This is salt and pepper poured on a plate. RJ was making designs and he was loving it. Salt and pepper aren’t very expensive!

Turn your diaper boxes into castles!

Turn your diaper boxes into castles!

Before our kids had early bedtimes, we used to go for quiet twilight strolls.  It's fun to let your kid see the neighbourhood in a different light (literally).

Before our kids had early bedtimes, we used to go for quiet twilight strolls. It’s fun to let your kid see the neighbourhood in a different light (literally).

If you have a garden, put those kids to work washing vegetables.  Not only will your kids know where their food came from, but they'll have helped get it ready to eat as well!

If you have a garden, put those kids to work washing vegetables. Not only will your kids know where their food came from, but they’ll have helped get it ready to eat as well!

Phew!

Now I want to know what kinds of cheap things your family does to keep the children learning and entertained!

Please note, I am in no way against parents who take their children on vacation or give their children swimming lessons or buy their children toys. We do all that too. Our budget just happens to be on the small side so we do a lot of free stuff in addition to what we provide. I’m just saying that vacations to foreign countries, several different extra-curricular activities, and big ticket toys are not essential to a well-rounded child, they are merely fabulous bonuses.

Up next: the broke-ass stay-at-home-mom’s guide to making ends meet.

2 Responses to “Entertaining Young Children on a Budget”

  1. Annie March 31, 2014 at 10:41 am #

    Great ideas! Even the obvious ones (like you said for the playground) are good reminders.
    Love that treasure box…
    and think I’ll try the salt/pepper idea.

    • L.W. April 1, 2014 at 8:54 pm #

      Thanks Annie! But don’t come blaming me if your test subjects think salt and pepper drawing is boring 😉 Unless you’re the one who’s going to try!

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