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10 Educational activities for kids that are low cost or no cost

To “Plus It” means to take what you’re already doing at home (like eating soup with a kid at the kitchen table) and add something to that experience (like asking a question: Why do you think tomatoes are red?). Parents can strengthen a child’s ability to observe, reflect, and share their thoughts by that kind of simple question. And those skills lead to greater school success and enjoyment. In this excerpt from Plus It! How to Easily Turn Everyday Activities into Learning Adventures for Kids by Esther Jantzen (Morgan James Publishing, 2009), find out 10 fun budget-friendly activities that teach kids about money.

Girls playing checkers

There are stellar teaching opportunities to help kids everywhere, if parents and adults see and seize them. The book Plus It! How to Easily Turn Everyday Activities into Learning Adventures for Kids can help them do that. In twelve short chapters, learn how to Plus It! on a walk with a child, use wasted waiting time, stretch the imagination, shift negative moods, do things together that don’t cost money, learn from TV shows, have fun doing housework, make sound decisions, use travel time, converse at the supper table, and easily create your own new Plus It! activities.

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Without Money: When Kids Want to Spend It and You Don’t

Money is a wonderful thing when you have it. It’s also possible to see the opposite: Money is a wonderful thing even when you don’t have it. Here are some ideas for how to teach that point of view to your children—and to have fun doing it!

Find the Free Things

Cities, towns, or villages usually have free things for families to do. Look for them in the local newspaper. Check the grocery store or community bulletin board. Find out about county or city services from the Internet or library. Ask at the local school. Listen to the local radio station. Watch for interesting ideas on TV public service announcements. Check out what the local churches or temples offer. Start a file for these ideas.

Then pick out and do the activities that appeal to you. Who knows? You might meet engaging neighbors, the kids might make new friends, or you might get invited to a new place!

“It is…fun to have things, but more to make them.”
– R. J. Baughan

Play Indoor and Table Games

These are a great alternative to spending money at video arcades, amusement parks, or other places that require coins and cash.

Try card games that help kids develop alertness and quick-response skills. Depending on the children’s ages, play Go Fish, Old Maid, Slap Jack, I Doubt It, War, Authors, Pig, Concentration, Crazy Eights, Snap, Rolling Stone, and so forth. If you need to review how to play these games, look on the Internet or get a games book from the library. Be prepared for noise and fun!

quotation mark open In bringing up children, spend on them half as much money and twice as much time. quotation mark close

Board games are great. There are dozens of them for all ages: Shoots and Ladders, Parcheesi, Sorry, and of course, the huge favorite, Monopoly. There are the strategy games, for example, checkers, chess, Chinese checkers, and backgammon. Word games such as Scrabble and Boggle engage some children and adults. Plenty of educational board games teach geography, history, trivia. There are several varieties of domino games and dice games. The table games list is almost endless, and they’re oh-so-much fun. If you don’t have these games already in your home, search for them at secondhand stores or garage sales.

Then there are thousands of jigsaw puzzles. Completing them requires strategy, focus, and visual skills. Families can be involved with these for days. And there are pencil and paper games: crossword puzzles, acrostics, sudoku. Of course, there are also specialized table games like ping-pong and pool that can take up hours and teach plenty of physical skills.

Start a Small Business

Is there something your family or children could make, do, or sell? Homemade greeting cards? Baked goods? Homemade jellies and jams? Sewn, knitted, or crocheted items? Could they prepare a very small community newspaper?

What about a service business: Raking leaves? Providing yard-cleaning services? Car washes? Snow shoveling? Lawn mowing? Delivering newspapers? Shopping for groceries? Providing computer software-use instruction? Babysitting?

Organize Physical Activities

Invite friends to join in outside games. How about some of these: Tag. A tree-climbing competition. A track and field day. Basketball. Softball. A jump-rope afternoon. Tennis. Marbles. Jacks. Four-square. Hopscotch. Hide and seek. Capture the flag. Or ball games like dodge ball and kick ball.

Remember: the priority in physical activities is safety first, then fun.

Do an Act of Service

How about a community clean-up day? Could you collect recycling materials? Could you and your children be assistants at a community event, a block party, a town event? Is there a Habitat for Humanity or other nonprofit organization that might use your family’s service?
Check into church, temple, YWCA/YMCA, or any religious group’s service projects. Are there projects organized by the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts? Or tell an elderly neighbor you’d like to help them free in some way—and let them decide how to use your offer.

Next page: 5 more budget-friendly educational activities your kids will love

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