Cheap Play Ideas For Kids Over The Festive Season
Summer is over, the children have gone back to school, the weather has turned, and now all thoughts turn to the months ahead, if you are in the UK then you have Halloween, Bonfire Night, Christmas, and New Year to look forward to (not to mention Children in Need this year, you have to give to Pudsey). If you across the pond in the states it’s not that much different, just swap Bonfire Night to Thanksgiving.
It does not matter where you are in the world, the autumn/ winter months are quite expensive, and most of that is the build up to Christmas and New Year! The one time of year where we give to everyone and eat and drink loads.
Why is this time of year so expensive?
There is the school/ preschool/ nursery events, the work events, the family events, the friend’s events. This year my son will need a Halloween costume, something Pudsey (I am thinking ears, not sure), some money for participating in the Children In Need event (we are skipping Bonfire Night, he can watch fireworks from the window). Then he will need an outfit for his Christmas play, one or two Christmas outfits. My husband and I will have work Christmas parties so will need money for food/ drinks/outfit if we can’t find anything in doors.
I have not even got started on anything for Christmas itself! There is the presents, the cards, the wrapping paper, tags, Sellotape (why can you never find Sellotape when you need it. Then there is decorations, Balloons (I really wish I hadn’t started this tradition), letter from Santa, enough food and drink to keep you going until Easter (but never lasts until Easter).
Then there is the travel costs, you need to travel to get all the stuff, travel to all the events you have going on, travel to see family/ friends. If everything is local then your travel costs will not increase dramatically, but if you must travel quite a distance then it can get ridiculously expensive, not to mention the cost of accommodation if you are traveling far enough.
By the time you get to New Year you are just done for, and then that is it. It’s finished for another year and normality resumes.
It is just a time of year where it is just one thing after another.
The kids still need entertaining!
As well as all that going on, you still have your children and they still will want things to do. If your children are anything at all like my son then they will get hyper at the best of times, but the build up and excitement of Christmas will probably mean they will be a little bit more hyper than usual (my son is already bouncing off the walls and at the time if writing we have not even had Halloween yet).
My son requires a lot of stimulation, a lot of exercise, and freedom. He does not do well spending large amounts of time in one space. So, how do you keep a little ball of energy calm?
My favourite thing to do with my son is take him to Soft Play, there is one in particular I like because its quite small and it does not matter where you sit you can see the whole of the play area, so it is really easy to keep an eye on your little ones.
The thing is this time of year, I do not have the money to take him to soft play. So, I need to think a little bit more.
Cheap play ideas for children
I think one of the best things about play is that it does not have to cost a lot of money. The majority of children will be just as happy with something that is cheap as they would be something that is expensive. The majority of kids don’t really see toys/ stuff the same way adults do. Children will look at a toy and see everything they can do with it, whereas we will look at the practicalities, the cost, how much mess/ destruction it could cause, how easy will it be to lose bits, does it need batteries, how annoying it will be, etc.
Children are instinctively built to explore, discover, and play. If the materials and resources are not there for them to do this, then they will explore, discover, and play with whatever they can find.
A great alternative for soft play is the park, granted this time of year it is freeing cold and/ or soaking wet, there isn’t really seating that allows you to watch the whole play area, plus if your child did fall it will hurt a lot more at the park than at soft play, so you kind of have to follow them around a bit more. Still, for the opportunity to run around in a safe space and burn off excess energy the park is amazing.
Other outdoor play ideas include taking a walk (anywhere, the woods, the shops, country park, beach, anywhere). If it is raining the kids love splashing in puddles, if there are leaves everywhere then kids love playing in leaves, if it is snowing then kids love playing in snow. The outside may be cold but this time of year is brilliant for children to still go outside and explore because their whole environment changes. So dress appropriately and try and get them outdoors.
There is still plenty to do indoors as well, this time of year is brilliant for craft ideas. If you child loves arts and crafts, then really the possibilities are endless.
From cards to decorations, there is so many things you could make together. You could even get your children to make some handmade gifts to give to their teacher/ friends/ relatives.
You do not even have to stick to seasonal crafts, you can get your children to make themselves a little house out of a big cardboard box, or a spaceship/ car/ castle/ instrument out of smaller boxes.
You can get your children to make lots of little treasures to make a scavenger hunt, it is up to them (you) if they hide the pieces for you to find or if they hide them for you to find. Alternatively, when I was a kid I used to love to make books, board games, or puzzles. This would keep me entertained for ages.
There are so many different things you can do, there really is no limit to this.
If you do not want to make a house out of a cardboard box, how about a den or fort out of pillows and sheets. This is an activity my son absolutely loves to do, and it keeps him quite for ages. You can even bring in a few books and your child has somewhere nice to read and spend some quiet time.
Alternatively, you can all curl up on the sofa under blankets and treat yourself to some yummy food and a movie. If you have a fire then this will really make things even cosier, even better wear your PJs! I love doings this with my son and the bonus to this is it keeps him still long enough for me to get lots of cuddles with him.
There are lots of educational things you can do with your children, you can get them to make a model out of marshmallows and spaghetti/ toothpicks. Allow them to take the lead and see what weird and wonderful construction you can make.
Water play does not have to just be in the summer months, and also does not have to always be outdoors. You can play with water inside, just use a sink, washing up bowl or a bath. Give them lots of containers to pour water in/ out with, lots of things for them to catch using a net/ magnetic fishing line, you can even add washing up liquid or bubble bath to create lots of bubbles.
If you are feeling really brave, then instead of water you can use other things (like beans or slime) to turn water play into messy play.
You can also get into the kitchen and get your kids to help bake some cakes or even make things like playdough.
Whatever you do, the most important thing is that you and your child(ren) have fun. That really is the most important thing to remember.