We all love those days out with the whole family, making the most of quality time on days off from work. However, more often than not, those activities easily end up costing a lot more money than anticipated, leaving days out to become less frequent and a question of ‘How much is that going to cost? Can we afford it? Should we even bother?‘ Someone once told me we only have 18 summers with our kids! This simple sentence has since stayed on my mind and I just cannot shift the thought that I’ll only have 18 summers till my children become adults. It just does not seem long enough. Family time should not be overshadowed by financial worry and whether or not to do activities together depending on costs and affordability. Time is the one thing guaranteed in life that you will constantly use and cannot get back. We should be embracing the time we have with our families and making the most of every day together. There are so many family fun activities you can do, you just have to take it back to basics, be a little adventurous and creative. Don’t rely on indoor play, the zoo or theme parks. There is so much more you can do that will entertain the kids, be educational whilst having fun AND I guarantee you will even have fun too. So, here it is, in no particular order, I have produced a list of my top 10 free activities to do with the kids which are fun-packed, educational and your kids will be wanting to do again!
1. Scavenger Hunt
This is such a fun activity that you can easily create to last as long or as little as you choose and can be tailored to all ages. You can edit this activity to suit any circumstances and there are even several versions that can be carried out. On a rainy day indoors, this can easily be made into a hide, search and find hunt. Select some familiar objects, particularly for toddlers to be able to recognise about the house. Hide them in places that are within their reach and generally I would particularly suggest at their eye level or lower. Then, as you are searching for each item, talk about what it is you are looking for. This really helps with verbal communication and understanding, as well as developing their turn taking skills of when to speak. For example, if you have hidden a bear, you could describe the bear saying ‘can you help me find your teddy bear? He is soft and brown, you cuddle him at night’. Then you can progress to give clues such as which room they are in, what the item is near etc. If it is sunny for instance, this can easily be carried outside and can be a great game when walking around the woods of beach. Wherever it is you are, you can set a challenge, who can find a pebble, a flower, a shell first. Can you find a pink flower? Can you find a big shell? Again, tailor it to the individual child and what they understand. By adding further descriptive details, you’re helping to develop their associations with a word and expand their vocabulary. For example, if they are familiar with the word big, expand this to huge or large.
2. We’re going on a bear hunt
This is a lovely activity, of course, based upon the fabulous book ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ by Michael Rosen (Did you know there is another version ‘We’re going on a lion hunt’ by David Axtell if you fancied an alternative). This book is amazing with its repetition and sensory elements such as the SPLASH through the river and the SQUELCH in the mud. This works brilliantly if you are out and about walking through the woods but again can easily work in your back garden. This activity is simple, make the book come alive by acting it out with your children. The success of this activity is highly down to your enthusiasm and creativity but you can really bring out the excitement and imagination in your children. I also find that stories like these really help children to enjoy reading stories. The way you bring this story to life is completely up to you. However, I do recommend some use of props, whether pre-made or picked up along your walk. For instance, wading through the long grass is quite simple, but for the water, you could get your wellington boots on and pretend to splash in puddles, or better yet, slightly fill a small paddling pool as part of your garden circuit. If there are two grown-ups, even better. One can pretend to be the bear in the cave (or temporarily hiding in the garden shed!) Whilst the other grown-up goes through the story and actions with the children. Then, once you reach the bear, the bear can add even more excitement chasing everyone back through the story-based obstacle course, ending inside for a well-deserved snack break.
3. Produce your own music – www.incredibox.com
This is SO much fun, even as an adult I quite enjoy playing around with this website. (You do need Adobe Flashplayer for this to work). The site is really simple to use but can sometimes take a little time to load depending on your internet capabilities. It is brilliant for enabling children to express their creativity and feelings through music. The idea is simple, you select from options given and produce your own unique beat. There are six different versions you can choose from and within each version 20 different sounds you can select from to create your own unique beat. They even have the option of recording your mix to be able to share this with others. Simple to use yet due to the range of options you can choose from it can literally entertain for hours.
4. Borrowmydoggy – https://www.borrowmydoggy.com/
If your children are anything like my daughter and absolutely LOVE dogs then this one is for you. This site is just genius and such a lovely idea. The premise behind it is to help dog owners with some companionship, playmate or someone to walk their beloved dog, especially when at work. We previously used this facility as dog owners ourself when we were working long hours and needed someone to care for our dog for the day. We met some lovely individuals who either had our dog a whole working day or just popped in the give her a walk and some fuss. Our dog absolutely loved it! In order to use this site as a potential borrower, you have to set up a profile for free, then you are able to scroll through potential doggies to borrow locally to you and message their owners directly. Then, if the owner is a premium member, they can email you back and away you go with setting up a doggy to borrow. I really wanted to include this in here as it’s a great way for children who do not have a pet of their own, to be introduced to animals in a lovely setting, caring for them, learning to be kind, as well as learning how to be safe around animals. Plus who doesn’t love a free doggy cuddle!
5. Pebble painting
This is all the craze at the moment and I completely understand why as it is such fun, especially if kids are bored of painting the usual way. You do need a few materials for this activity: pebbles or stones, acrylic or poster paint, paint brushes, dish to mix paint and clear varnish. Brilliant activity and can either be completely creative or have themes. You could do seasonal painting using specific colours such as oranges, reds, yellows and browns for autumn. You could focus on colours, painting shapes, painting numbers or even painting different feelings. The choices are endless where painting is concerned. Go a step further and check out your local area for a rock hiding group, primarily found on Facebook. There are plenty across the country, where locals have painted pebbles and hidden them around where they live for others to find and hide again.
6. Den making
Fantastic activity for a rainy day and the kids LOVE it. Den making can use anything you have handy, whether it be a blanket or throw thrown over the kitchen table and chairs, or pegged from a clothes airer, or even placed across a sofa and a toy. Once you have the bones of the den made, then your children and yourself can make it as cosy as you like. We always fill ours with cushions and the children’s blankets. We also have our own tea party with teddies and a play tea set or bring books inside and read stories together. A great idea would be to make it into a sensory den adding some glow in the dark toys.
7. Shadow puppets
This is so easy to make and yet such a great activity for the imagination. All you need: Thick paper/card pencils scissors Straws/lollipop sticks sellotape torch First draw your own shape to make a shadow puppet, e.g. you could draw different animals, dinosaurs, people. Cut the shapes out and attach a straw or lollipop stick to the bottom with sellotape. Then, using a plain wall, hold your puppets in front of you and shine the torch onto them. (Be careful to teach your children not to shine the light directly into theirs or others eyes). You can create stories with your puppets, teach your children about shadows, how they are made and what happens when you move the torch closer or further away from the shadow puppet. With older children, they could even practise and put on a shadow puppet show for family members.
8. Land art
I really love this idea as it really can bring your children close to nature and look at the natural beauty that is around them. But it also helps them to experience different textures, colours and learn about the world around them. Land art can be created in so many different ways and no two art creations will ever be the same. Wherever you are, children can collect different elements of nature and create a picture. For example, you could focus on colours and collect different coloured leaves to make a flower, fish or insects. You could collect pebbles to make swirls, Mandela style designs or faces. Again, this is another fabulous activity that allows children to be completely free and creative. You can tailor their learning through child led and focus on whatever materials they choose to use and learn about what they create e.g. different insects habitats or features, seasons with different leaf colours and different types of trees when using acorns or conkers.
9. Story maker
This activity can be carried out in several ways but my two favourites are, either set a timer to find 10 items around the house to create a story with or have 10 items already set out on a tray and see who can come up with the best story. You really don’t need anything else but the objects already within your home and your imagination. Even young children can get involved in choosing different items or which object should come next in the story. Whereas older children can make their own stories or take it in turns to say what comes next.
10. Teddy Bear Picnic
Simple, yet wonderful activity from start to finish. The whole family can get involved in choosing what to eat at the picnic, making the picnic food and setting out the food and bringing their favourite teddies along. Children really enjoy being involved in choosing what they can eat as well so being able to join in preparing lunch. You can incorporate different songs whilst at the picnic or fun games such as hide and seek. It’s a great time to unwind and be in the moment together.