Toys and games for kids can get expensive, but you don't need to spend a bundle to keep your kids engaged and entertained. If you've ever gone on vacation and forgotten to pack toys, you probably realized that your kids are pretty darn happy to make do with whatever's around. Give a toddler a clean shoe, and within moments, he'll turn it into a phone, a baby or a truck.
Here are four great free ideas that your kids may even enjoy more than a shoe, or a colander or a toilet paper tube!
You know that stack of board games in the closet? Pull them out, dust them off and find any missing pieces. Then get ready for a free family game day. One secret to success is tailoring these free activities and games to your kids' ages. Games like Candyland and Chutes and Ladders are great for younger kids, for example. Have an older elementary-age child? Pull out Trouble, Checkers or Battleship. Get your whole family in on a game of Monopoly, where the only money you'll spend will be, well, free Monopoly money.
Refresh an old puzzle
Put a 100 or more piece puzzle together then flip it upside down (hint: slide it onto a cutting board and then flip). Glue a magazine picture or your favorite family picture to the back and re-cut the puzzle, and you'll have an all-new puzzle to assemble!
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If board games aren't your thing, hit your local dollar store for some jigsaw puzzles. A 500- or 1000-piece puzzle is something the whole family can work on for hours while talking and having fun. You can keep a puzzle going on a card table in your family room and encourage family members to gather there whenever they'd like to spend time together.
As far as free activities go, this one is really fun! Wake your kids up wearing your clothes backwards, and tell them you're having a backwards day. Start by having dessert, then a light dinner.
As much as possible, go through your day backwards: Baths in the morning, breakfast at night, and anything else that you can feasibly reverse. Have fun with it! Try walking backwards to the mailbox (carefully!), or eat lunch sitting under the table. It doesn't cost you a thing, but it's something your kids will remember forever.
Check it out
Most libraries have free children's programs, and if you live in a city, you probably have several branches nearby. You can drive from one to the next and hit the free kids' activities at each location.
No free kids' activities going on? Make a day of it anyway. Find a comfy spot and read out loud to your kids. Talk about the story, make up an alternate ending, and even act it out at home. If the idea of hitting multiple branches doesn't work for you or your kids, try visiting a branch other than the one you normally frequent, just for a change of pace.
Learn something new
Plenty of craft and hobby stores, as well as home improvement stores like Lowe's and Home Depot, offer free or super-cheap projects and lessons in their stores. Of course, the hope is that you'll buy something before or after the class, but there's no obligation to do so, and there's nothing wrong with visiting a store just to learn something new and have a look around. Check out what's going on near you, and head out to save some money.
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