The long summer holidays are looming, and mums everywhere are starting to stress… how do you keep your little ones occupied all summer? And more importantly, how do I do it without going completely broke?
Don’t worry, there are plenty of activities you can do for FREE that are great for your kids’ development, keep them happy and even buy you some precious free time. Here are my four failsafe ways to keep the kids occupied for free:
Summer is the perfect time to get outdoors and get active! Now, if your kids are anything like mine it’s not enough to say ‘let’s go for a walk’. I have to find a way to make it a fun challenge to entice them out!
One way that has been quite successful in my house is ‘nature bingo’. You can download free bingo sheet templates from lots of places – here are some examples. You can spot bugs, plants, birds, rocks – whatever your little ones are into.
You can use free apps such as the Google Lens app to identify plants and creepy crawlies you spot on your travels.
And here’s another simple and free activity to do on your walks:
If you’re not fortunate enough to live near a wood or park, you can still get outside. Even in city environments, you will find creepy crawlies and even flowers springing up in the most unlikely places!
The library was a staple for me growing up, but somehow it became forgotten about as I got older and busier. But I have rediscovered the simple (and FREE!) joys of the library since having little ones. We are lucky enough to have a small local library with a kids corner within walking distance of our house, and I try to visit at least once a fortnight.
I have found that my son will sit and read with me for far longer in the library than he will at home, simply because there are no other distractions.
And many libraries run extra activities for little ones, such as story times, music sessions, treasure hunts, reading challenges and more. These will usually be advertised on a poster in your local library, or just ask your librarian if there’s anything going on. They are always desperate to get more kids into libraries and will be happy to help!
Here’s an option for a rainy day, or just for when you need a bit of peace and quiet inside!
Computer games can get a bad rap, perhaps because they can be so addictive and some kids spend more time on the computer than doing anything else. But used in moderation, they can be a fantastic tool to keep your children occupied and using their brain! Yes, computer games have lots of advantages too. I look for games that are educational and encourage children to use logic, problem solving and observational skills
Recently my family have been enjoying this free site for simple online games. Although the site is aimed at adults, they have plenty of kid-friendly games, and it’s a totally clean and safe site. I also like the site because they don’t have any adverts and it’s a very simple, distraction free environment.
One of our favourites is the ‘hidden object’ games. In particular, my son likes the pirate game. It’s very simple: you have to look for certain objects in a busy pirate ship scene.
Basically an online version of one of the many treasure hunt type books he has, but the images to find change each time! It’s great for developing observational skills. There’s also a round where you have to spot hidden numbers but I personally find this one quite tricky due to the subtle colours!
The kids also like the ‘dog poo’ game – a visual logic game along the lines of sudoku but using dog and poo emojis! They like it because of the gross and funny poo pictures, I like it because it is excellent for logical thinking and a general brain workout 😉
Offline and back in the real world, crafting is a fantastic way to develop your kids’ creative side. It’s fun and very cheap, or free once you already have some basic supplies (glue, tape, crayons etc).
The trick is to start saving any boxes, toilet roll tubes, random bits of ribbon, bubble wrap etc that come your way. Start stashing them in a box out of the way, then when you’ve got a long summer holiday afternoon to fill, voila! Bring out the box and let them dive in.
You can start crafting from any age. For very young toddlers, just stick them in a giant cardboard box with some crayons! It can keep them contained and content for ages.
For older children, if they don’t naturally have the crafty bug you might need to give them some pointers or challenges to get the creative juices flowing. I like to link our craft projects into whatever film we’ve watched recently or whatever else the kids are into. Just watched Disney’s Cars? Decorate boxes to look like different characters. You get the idea.
Another twist is to combine this with the first idea on this list and hunt down potential craft materials on your nature walk. Rocks to paint, flower petals to stick on to cardboard? You can get hours of wholesome free fun out of this!
Summer fun doesn’t have to be expensive!
As you can see, you don’t need to spend money to keep the kids occupied this summer (or any time!) Trying adding these four free activities into your weekly rotation and keep your cash in your wallet.
Share your other ideas in the comments!