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Activities For Kids When You're On a Budget-Fun For Them And For You

Updated on January 22, 2010

Spending the time to teach your children-sets them up for success in life.

Show them something new...
Show them something new...
A trip to the Fire Station...
A trip to the Fire Station...
does not cost a cent.
does not cost a cent.
Children love interaction.
Children love interaction.
Dress up play is fun for all.
Dress up play is fun for all.
Playing with your children, gives them the courage to accomplish all their dreams (and to climb scary steps)
Playing with your children, gives them the courage to accomplish all their dreams (and to climb scary steps)
Encourage imagination, motivation and play.
Encourage imagination, motivation and play.

This is my “Fun on a Budget” list

With the economy trying to recover and unemployment rates still rising, it affects everything that we do in our lives. Including what we do for fun with our children. When I was let go from my position as Marketing Director of Internet Sales, our lives changed. I would like to say that we have always budgeted closely, careful not to waste money, but we didn’t. We would write a check and not worry about if there was enough in the bank to cover the funds, because we just knew there was... My husband and I got creative with trying to find some new ways to still have fun with the kids, but without dropping a few hundred bucks for a family outing. Here are some of the activities we have all enjoyed doing with one another… This is my “Fun on a Budget” list

  • I have a friend of 10 years who is a fire man. He works at an airport fire station which is a little different than the others that you can find in your community. My son loves ‘Big Trucks’, and had taken a special liking to Fire Trucks, making me replay the ‘Elmo visits the Fire House’ movie 5 times a day. I called my fireman friend, to see if there was a time which he would be able to show the kids the trucks. He did not hesitate to say, of course and to stop by that weekend. The kids were able to not only see the trucks, but ride in them, shoot water from the hoses, honk the horn, look inside the station, and meet other firemen and women. They had a blast! Because it was n airport grounds-they were also able to get front row seats to see the planes take off and land (another entirely new experience for them). Cost of this outing, $0.00…(besides the gas to get there) Fire Stations and Police Stations don’t charge to show kids around-and are typically very enthusiastic about doing the kids being their.
  • If you have children a black light and some non toxic hi-lighters- Set up the black light take the kids down to minimal clothes (bathing suit if they have one), you should also put on a tank top and shorts, get the Hi Lighters and you are ready. My husband and I were entertained while we allowed our children to draw on one another and on us. They had not ever played under a black light and were absolutely amazed by the effects. Because we were using yellow hi lighters-they were equally amazed that when the lights were back on/ they couldn’t see the markings on their skin. Of course after about an hour or so-we were all completely covered, had some paper drawing creations that they made with the hi lighters and I am sure some toys were marked on that should have not been, they were ready for a bath… We still do this one weekly with them…Just make sure your kids understand that when they head off to school, it is not appropriate to draw on their school mates-we learned that one after our son attempted to give another boy some additional color…Cost of this play, $3.95 (+tax)-for the markers… We had the black light already.
  • This is another drawing/ coloring play activity. I recently discovered ‘Window Markers’. The kids love them. What kid doesn’t like having the freedom to scribble all over something they are typically not permitted to touch? We have a large 6’x6’ window in both our front bedroom and living room-the kids spent two hours covering each inch of the area that they could reach with colorful scribbles and shapes. To remove-spray with Windex/ wipe off (repeat or you will have a film left over)-and start again. Again-these were non toxic Crayola Window Markets-8 colors per box. Hours of fun for the kids. Cost of Activity $2.95 (+Tax for the markers)
  • Taking your kids to the park or playground is great. It wears them out and has them sleep soundly at night. If your neighborhood does not have a playground-go to the Elementary School. More than likely they do, and you will probably need to check-but our elementary school allows for parents to bring their children to play on the play gym and swings during off school hours. Its free-It gets everyone out of the house and it is fun for the kids. Cost per outing $0.00
  • A neighbor of ours has grandchildren who love to pick vegetables from his garden. When we went by their home on Halloween while Trick or Treating, he offered to let my children and I come over on a nice day, so they too, could experience picking fresh produce from a garden. Not only did they enjoy the experience, we discussed different fruits and vegetables before going over, so while they were picking items-they were able to say the names of a few that we had talked about before hand. Free Food-Free Fun and Learning for Two…Perfect way to spend an afternoon, even if we were not on a budget. Cost of Outing $0.00
  • This is what I call my make my monster for mommy activity. I have a box that I throw stuff into that can later be used for a craft (example-when my daughters tiara broke I removed all the gems-when an outfit has been ruined, before I throw it away I salvage the buttons and bows off of it). The box includes paperclips, stickers, rhinestones, buttons, bottle caps, ribbons, and change- such as a few pennies, wrapping paper scraps, goggle eyes, non toxic washable paints, puffy glue, glitter glue, markers…and whatever else. I sit down with them and we all decorate a box for someone (this we discuss before we start the whole thing-if the kids don’t want to make something for anyone-they make a monster for themselves). This is a learning activity when you do it together and talk about it, it does not cost have any real out of pocket cost, unless you want it to-and kids enjoy it.
  • Another great craft for children is, the oh so popular sock puppet. Same items as used with the ‘Box’ craft-I usually prepare the socks before hand for them. Meaning they are of course clean-but I sew on buttons for eyes. The rest is up to them.
  • Pasta Art- The activity is what the name suggests. Uncooked Pasta-Glue-Glitter-Markers and a piece of Construction Paper. Kids will do crazy things when given the chance with these things. You need to stick close to them or you will have Pasta-Glitter and Glue, every where besides the paper. In my house instead of the paper we use paper plates. For some reason the act of sticking things on a plate rather than paper-makes it more exciting for the little ones.
  • Most parents have Flash Cards of some sort for their kids. If you don’t get a cheap pack from the dollar store-you can find them for less than $3.00. We started off with flash cards, by holding them up and asking, what’s this. That was fun for the kids. But I wanted to make it a little different for them. I pulled out the card that had pictures of things that we had around the house. BALL-HAT-TRUCK-CAR-SPOON ECT… I then went and collected all the items that we have and threw them into a box so I could take them outside (if we had two of any item I grabbed 2, because I have two children playing this game). Go outside with the kids (grab a lawn chair for yourself), dump the items out of the box and spread them out so everything is visible for your kids to see. You (the parent) sit in the chair with the empty box beside you. Pull out the flash cards-ask, what’s this? After they tell you the name of the item, have them go find it and bring it back to you-if they get it right, say “good job” and have them put it in the box. If they are incorrect say “almost” or “good try-but that’s a _____” (whatever they brought back), tell them to put it back where they found it and try again. My kids enjoy this-plus you are giving them positive feed back and encouraging them to keep going, even if they get it wrong at first. Cost of this game is as much as the cards cost, that’s it because everything else is stuff you have laying around the house.
  • Song games… I do song games more than I ever thought possible. Ring Around the Rosy or Itsy Bitsy Spider. Learn the moves-Teach the moves-Live the Moves to your child’s favorite son games. Not only is it fun for them, it promotes memory function and interaction. It also calms them if when they are in the middle of a tantrum-and you begin to sing to them. It grabs their attention instantly. At least for the experiences I’ve had with it. Cost of these games $0.00-except your sanity-you will be alone singing these songs to yourself in no time.

It does not matter what activity you do with your kids, as long as you do something. The time you spend with them is developing their minds and preparing them for the future. Children have no concept of money. They have the same amount of fun/if not more, banging on pots and pan or playing with a doctor set bought at the Dollar Store as they do with that $100.00 doll or remote control car they got last Christmas. Don’t let the economy effect the amount of things that they experience. We have begun to raise our children with video games and the Cartoon Network, and barely know them. Some parents have no idea what their child’s interests are; all I can say to that is, what a shame-you are missing out on so much. If money is an issue-get creative, I did, and we have fun-and they are better kids for it.


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    • H.C Porter profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Lone Star State


      i think that just spending time with our children can have a positive effect of their lives as well as our lives... thanks for commenting and for taking the time to read my hub :) I truly appreciate the feedback!

    • kerlynb profile image


      7 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

      Well-written hub. I like what you said, "Taking your kids to the park or playground is great." Just reminds us that our time, effort, and presence can be enough to help make kids happy.

    • Ann Nonymous profile image

      Ann Nonymous 

      8 years ago from Virginia

      Some really good ideas here H.C! I used to babysit a lot and sure could have used these ideas as the children were ready to hit the roof sometimes! Actually some of this sounds fun enough for me to try out by myself!!! Nice presentation!

    • H.C Porter profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Lone Star State

      Thanks Nan, I agree. I've been around some parents that are always attempting to rush the kids to bed, to watch a movie, always telling them to be quiet and ignore the million questions that every child asks. I understand frustration and being tired-but I also understand that if we don't take the time to teach our children and answer the inquiries that they make-no one else will, and what ashamed to let that curiosity fade from their eyes. What is the point of doing anything to save the planet if we can’t even raise our youth?

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Wonderful article. Your planned field trips and teaching them the fun things to do. In pre-school thay plan the same kind of field trips. It's good to know that some parent is already preparing their children to be well rounded and educated without any cost. More parents should plan to do this kind of adventure. I taught early childhood and did field trips with them. I'm really a secondary school teacher. But I love small children as well. They are so eager to learn! I taught early childhood in Atlanta, GA.


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