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Kids have a lot of energy — and that’s as true of preschoolers as it is of preteens. So when your children come home from school, it’s no surprise they want something to do and want you to help them figure out what that is. The only problem is a lot of kids’ activities get expensive fast.
How can you keep up with the constant energy and demands of your kids, especially when you are trying to cut costs and reduce spending as a family? What are some interactive activities you can try with your children that will keep them busy without busting your budget? To help answer these questions, here’s a look at some great yet inexpensive ideas to keep your kids occupied. When you want to avoid the never-ending flow of “I’m bored” and “There’s nothing to do” statements from your children without throwing money down the drain — give these ideas a try!
1. Cook Together. You’re probably going to be prepping dinner for the family anyway, so why not involve your kids? "Cooking is one of the most satisfying, entertaining, and fun ways to spend quality time with the family,” says Barbara Nobles, Director of Brooklyn Community Services’ after-school program at PS 306 Brooklyn. “Children and adults alike can make fun recipes: baking cookies, mini-cakes, mini muffins, dipping candied apples, chocolate covered fruits; making candy recipes…the list go on.” You might make family cooking a weekly event or something you always do together on a certain night. Then, to make the most of the activity, help your kids “make a Recipe Book, Recipe Folder, Recipe Box, webpage [or] whatever is most pleasurable for them,” Nobles suggests. “It is important for students to record information, starting from preparation to completion of the recipes for future use and for sharing with others."
2. Create an Obstacle Course. Here’s an idea that takes a little prep work, but your small kids will probably love — turn the living room or basement into an obstacle course with different stations and tasks. Create a map that explains what to do where and challenge your kids to see who can get the best time. Once they’ve mastered your course, you might let them add their own tweaks or ideas to the course to keep things interesting longer.
3. Make a Craft. Whether it’s something terribly simple like coloring in a coloring book or drawing on the sidewalk with chalk, or it’s something a little more complex like creating homemade ornaments or using watercolor paints on canvas — kids enjoy chances to get creative. Think of some crafts that you can do together and enjoy, and have them prepped and ready when your children come home.
4. Go to the Library. Finding free places to visit as a family is a terrific way to use time as well as expand your kids’ horizons. Your local library not only has books your kids can check out, but it may also offer story times, reading challenges or other activities in which you can participate. Stay alert for free days at local museums or zoos, and take advantage of sunny days by visiting local parks.
5. Play Games. Whether you pull out Monopoly or take a soccer ball outside, playing games is a wonderful way to keep your children busy. Plus, board games stimulate their mind, and physical activity stretches their muscles. Whether you send the kids to play together or join them as you can, games can also be valuable memory-makers and family times, too.
6. Do Something for Someone Else. Teach your kids the value of kindness and empathy early by enlisting their help in doing something for someone else. Whether it’s packaging cookies in a box to send in the mail or taking a meal to someone you know, find ways to involve your kids so that they can experience the joy of helping others.
When you’re stuck for ideas of how to keep your kids engaged after school and before dinner, keep these cheap and fun activities in mind! From walking to a local park to prepping dinner together, family-friendly activities are good for everybody — and, as these suggestions prove, they don’t have to cost a bundle to be enjoyable.
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