Young children are full of life and energy and need to be kept entertained. Although you can spend out loads on days out and play centres, it’s not feasible all the time, but there are plenty of other cheaper play ideas you can keep them entertained with instead. Here are some tried and tested cheap and easy play ideas!
Building A Den
For a good dose of imaginative play, most children will enjoy the chance to build a den, then play in it. Dens can successfully be built inside or outdoors. Inside, for example, you can use a couple of chairs spaced out, a table, or a desk as your basic prop and drape a large sheet over them (secured with clothes pegs, or carefully tied).
Dens can be similarly created outside in the garden in good weather, using benches, chairs, a fence or even a sturdy step ladder (good for providing height underneath for older children) to drape your sheet or blanket over. Outside, you could even use a sun umbrella too, if you don’t have a blanket available.
Children will enjoy taking part in the creative side of actually building and constructing the den and of course love being inside it when it’s built. It’s good to encourage their imagination skills by suggesting they have a theme or act out a scenario when they’re in the den. Where practical, dens can be left in situ for a while for continued play.
Going On A Nature Trail
Children will enjoy going on a nature trail around where you live, or even in your own garden. Even if you don’t live in the middle of the countryside or have masses of green spaces on your doorstep, there will still be nature around you and you can still successfully go on a nature trail with your children.
As a quick bit of preparation before you go, you could put together a list of things for your children to look out for – and where feasible and safe, for them to collect. It’s good to include some obvious things, such as a green leaf or a conker (during autumn), as well as some more unusual things that they’ll have to look carefully for, like an acorn or an oak leaf. To help them with easy identification, you can print out pictures from the Internet and add them to your list.
Simple craft activities can easily be carried out at home, with minimal expense. If you’ve collected leaves on a nature trail, for example, they can be taken home and made into a collage or another piece of art work (for example, older children could add writing and name the different types of leaves, describe the walk or where they found them).
Young children enjoy playing with things that are different textures and colours, like pasta. It’s relatively inexpensive to buy and the different types can be mixed together and stuck down, to provide random patterns, or made into smiley faces or other shapes.
Brainstorming More Ideas
When you’re stuck for ideas, think towards the basics and things that you can easily do at home, in the garden or outside. There are often basic items you have in the home that you take for granted, but that children can turn into a plaything – with a bit of imagination! For example, a simple broom can become a horse or pots and pans can become tools for water experiments.