10 Free - or Nearly Free - Things To Do With Your Little Ones
Have your own musical playgroup at home!
Why not invite some friend's and their babies and toddlers over for an informal music group? Have a music morning with children's nursery rhymes and singalong songs. You could even buy some simple instruments so everyone can play along!
A cake can be whipped up with a few basic ingredients or come in a packet if that is more your style. You can then make icing just using icing sugar and water - add some food colour for even more fun!
Very little ones will love stirring the mixture and feeling the texture with their hands. Older children can help put the mixture in the baking tin or paper cases. They all love decorating - once the cakes have cooled of course!
Savoury things to try include mini pizzas on half a muffin and Aussie pinwheels made from pastry spread with vegemite and cheese, rolled up and cut into small "pin wheel" sections.
Simple Art and Craft
Arts and craft can be made very simply but will keep children amused for ages!
It doesn't have to be too messy either. Why not help them cut out pictures in a magazine and stick them on paper? Or make some playdough together? Or save some toilet rolls and tissue boxes and draw faces on them to make puppets?
Visit to the Library
Your local library is an amazing place and will often have special events on for children in the school holidays. Mostlibraries also run free baby and toddler classes - see your local library for details. Libraries are amazing places for all ages and have much more that books on offer.
But just going to choose some books and seating in the children's area to read them can be so much fun!
Slightly older children will love the fact they can choose books to take home. Explain to them about borrowing and make a reminder to return them to stick on the fridge.
Mobile libraries visit smaller towns and districts so if you live outside a main town find out when your library bus will be coming! There can't be much more exciting than sitting on a special bus to read a book!
Go On a Bus or Train
For the price of a ticket you can take your local bus or train to another town and back. You don't even need to be going anywhere!
Babies and children will love seeing new things out the window and you can have games to spot the animals, trucks and cars.
If the weather is sunny then fill a large bowl with warm water and washing up liquid then find a few small plastic pots, spoons and anything else that can be used to run water through or put water in - et voila an "in bowl" entertainment system!
It's best to have this outside for obvious reasons and do keep an eye the children under 3 don't drink the water!
For a twist on this idea you can fill the bowl with rice, lentils or pasta and children will love running their hands through the grains and tipping them from one pot to the other. Again, best outside unless you want to be vacuuming up rice until Christmas and this is not recommended for young children that will eat the dried grains.
Verandah or Deck Painting
Just a bucket or bowl of water and a paintbrush will mean your child can spend ages making patterns on the patio, path, driveway (away from cars) or wall! This is also excellent for slightly older children to build up their shoulder muscles, crucial for learning to write once they start school! Encourage them to do up, down and anti-clockwise shapes with the paint brush!
Feeding the Birds
If you're lucky enough to have a local pond or lake nearby you can take some left over bread to feed the birds! Watch out though as the ducks can be a bit agressive sometimes and if you can go late in the day they may also be full of bread already! You can occasionally feed the birds in your backyard as well.
Indoor and outdoor gardening
Indoor gardening is as simple as putting some wet kitchen paper in a plastic pot and sprinkling cress seeds on it!
Place in a warm, bright window , keep moist and within days cress will have grown. Older children can help cut this and have it in their egg sandwiches for lunch!
Sunflowers are a great starting plant for young children as they are pretty foolproof! You just need some small plastic flower pots,a small bag of compost and sunflower seeds. Even babies can help with the compost and they will love the texture - just don't let them eat it and clean them well afterwards!
Put the compost in the pots and push down fairly firmly, make a hole with your finger and put in a sunflower seed, fill the hole up and water well. These can be placed on a window sill and will grow in a couple of weeks. Once several leaves have formed they can be moved to a larger pot outside in a sunny position. Encourage your children to water them and measure how tall they are getting! The stem may need to be supported by a stick or cane as it grows. You can then save the sunflower seeds for the birds in the Winter (see above!)
Even babies will enjoy this one and it's a lovely way to introduce social skills! "Mr Bear, would you like a cup of tea?"
Involve the children at all stages in laying out the blanket, filling the teapot and in the tidying up too!