Fun Doesn’t Have To Cost The Earth

Fun doesn’t have to cost the earth – 10 activities to do with toddler sand pre-schoolers

Kids are expensive, there’s no getting away from it and you’ll get into a lot of trouble if you don’t feed them or put clothes on their back. However, fun really does cost nothing; you just have to be prepared with a bit of planning and enthusiasm. Some of my best memories of childhood come from my ‘garden’ by my dad’s greenhouse where I could spend hours making mud pies.

1. Go to the park

Never underestimate the power of your local park. Toddlers and older children can find hours of fun from a couple of swings, a slide and a roundabout. When I was little there never seemed to be many parks to go to but our local area now has loads. Don’t just go to the nearest, make it an adventure to find some more in your area.

2. Take a walk through the woods

Admittedly our nearest woodland walk is a 20 minute drive but it’s well worth doing. Woods and forests change all the time and it’s a great opportunity to teach your child about nature. The Woodland Trust www.woodlandtrust.org.uk has a list of 1000 areas of woodland in the UK that can be visited and lists of activities that they run throughout the year.

3. Visit the seaside

Nothing beats a day out with a bucket and spade, building sandcastles or exploring rock pools with a fishing net. I’m lucky to live less than a 10 minute walk from the beach but nowhere in the British Isles is more than 75 miles from the sea so, although it may take a bit of planning, we can all get there. Keep costs down by taking your own picnic and use a plastic flower pot as a mould for a sandcastle. Make the beach the star of the show and hunt for shells or creatures, paddle or swim in the sea. The RNLI www.rnli.org has a list of those beaches manned by lifeguard during the summer months if you want to bathe safely.

4. Build a tent indoors

We’ve all got blankets, duvet covers and sheets that we don’t use anymore stored in a cupboard and many of us have clothes airers. Why not put the two together and make a tent, a fort, a castle, a cave or whatever your child wants it to be. Sofa cushions also come in quite handy for this (just be careful your kids don’t start hitting each other with them – it can all end in tears). Imagination is a key part of learning and play and can provide fun for all ages especially if you all sit and have a picnic in it for lunch.

5. Make something from your recycling

This will probably cost you the price of some glue but have a rummage in your recycling and use your old egg boxes, toilet rolls and washed out milk cartons to make something. It could be a monster or a rocket the choice is yours. If you’re not too confident on your craft abilities, watch a few episodes of Mr Maker on BBC iPlayer to get your creativity going.

6. Make your own papier mache

I tried this last year with Bebe and we made a dinosaur egg from a balloon covered in papier mache. All you need is a balloon, lots of torn up strips of paper, flour and water.  You make a glue using the flour and water, dip the strips of paper in the glue and then place on the blown up balloon. You need to build up the layers and it will take a good 24-48hrs to dry and then you can paint it. You could also try making other shapes if you have some wire to lay the paper strips on.

7. Get messy in the garden

OK so you do need a garden for this one but it needn’t be a big one. There are lots of things to do in the garden from making mud pies, to building an insect hotel to just looking for creatures. Don’t be afraid to let your kids get out there and get messy.

8. Washing up

This probably sounds a bit strange but go with me. Lots of young children love doing the washing up. It might be the bubbles, or the water or a combination of both but Bebe can quite happily stand at the kitchen sink for half an hour “washing up”. Make sure everything is non-breakable and safe for little people to handle. It does help if you have a little step for them to stand on to reach the sink (these are also invaluable for toilet training and for short mums trying to reach tall cupboards!).

9. Sensory Play

If you don’t mind your dining room/kitchen table getting a bit messy try putting a range of things out onto individual plates and let your toddler just play. Bebe’s pre-school do this, they have a plate of flour, a plate of rice, a plate of pasta, a plate of lentils and a plate of cornflakes. The kids are able to play with small toys with them and generally have fun. You can talk to each other about the textures, which one you like the most and why.

10. Make something with newspapers

Just find some sticky tape and off you go. You can make clothes, hats, boats anything out of newspaper (the broadsheets work better but use what you’ve got). The best bit is you can recycle it all once you’ve finished and your child no longer wants to play.


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