It’s now the third UK lock-down during the Coronavirus epidemic. Life is dramatically different and children are being considerably affected. Schools are sporadically open then closed, parents still have to work whilst trying to help their children with schooling and isolation is real. During this time, all parents could really do with tips for entertaining children on a budget.
As children’s education temporarily consists of far too much screen time, I have drawn up a list of cheap activities. Tips for how you can stretch your budget and entertain your children. If you have any other ideas, please share with us all.
Games – entertaining within budget
Children these days are all about Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo, tablets and phones. But these can be super expensive to buy and can cause eye strain from too much screen time. In order to increase the amount of time you spend together as a family and your child’s mental capacity, dust out the retro games and start having fun together.
1. Building games
A good example of this is Lego. For my 11 year old son, its Lego Technic which is far more entertaining than ordinary Lego. Facebook groups often have boxes of Lego for sale on them. Lego is one of the most expensive toys in the market to buy. Once they build them, many children loose interest. As it’s very easy to loose some of the small pieces, they are often sold second hand without all of the bits there. Therefore, its a good idea to buy a big box of random second hand Lego. There will be pieces from every range of Lego, different characters and a vast array of imaginative things you can build together. And soooooo much cheaper than buying a set. Ebay is also a good site to check out. They have new sets and second hand and the new ones are often cheaper than you will find in shops. This is a great tip for entertaining your children on a budget!
2. Board games
These are not that expensive in themselves but can add up over the years. If you are anything like us, you will have a whole array of games to choose from in your home. But of course, this is expensive and you never know if you will like them. So it is definitely worthwhile buying second hand. We are now getting into chess – I’ve recently gone over the rules of this myself and know I need a new game to play with my son. When they get to a certain age, they are old enough to learn about strategies and think for themselves. These sites are also good for retro games, ones that are no longer in the shops but that we grew up with. Remember when Monopoly pieces were metal? They just felt so much better to play with.
3. ‘Gaming’ games
If you are fascinated by Xbox, PlayStation etc, there is a massive market for second hand games. Firstly, consider the cost of new ones. Fifa brings out a new edition every year and for the privilege of owning it you have to pay approximately £60. And then if you want the Champions or Ultimate edition, these will set you back £80!!! However, if you go for a second hand version, you pay a tiny fraction of that. What’s the difference? Well, the main difference is that Fifa update the players every year but if you are buying one that is just a year or two old, that does not mean much. Is it really worth it?
You can also buy second hand Xboxes, PlayStation and Nintendo at the same online store. These come with a 12 month warranty and lets you know what condition they are in. So you save on the console and you save on the games you choose to buy for it. Fantastic.
Now my son is 11, it’s time to learn to cook more than just deserts. First step will be breakfast as he has expressed an interest in cooking breakfast for me to eat in bed! Well, if he insists…..
The way to do this cheaply is to factor the ingredients into your weekly food budget and planner. If you are buying bacon, then use the rest in another meal. Chicken wrapped in bacon? Spaghetti carbonara? Or, if you don’t fancy any of these, make sure you freeze what is left over. It is so easy to let ingredients languish in the fridge until they are too old to be used. Waste not, want not.
Don’t forget this when you are planning your weekly meals. Its a useful skill for your child to learn, its entertaining and, if planned can be cheap.
Not only should you be budgeting with your weekly food menu, we should also be looking at where we buy our food. We all know the big supermarkets – Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Morrisons and the Co-op but lately two new ones have sprung up and taken their place in the list – Aldi and Lidl. Aldi especially regularly features in magazines like Good Housekeeping, in their food comparison articles.
However, if you are truly intent on saving money we should also be looking online. Companies such as ‘Approved Food’ work with supermarkets. They sell their produce which can no longer be sold in stores due to the laws on sell by dates. However, the produce is still good to consume so is sold at a heavily discounted price in sites like this. It’s a good idea to check it out and see what you think. Experts say that we can safely eat food after the best before date but should not eat food after the use by date.
If your children want to get involved in cooking, it’s a good idea to get them their own recipe book. You can buy second hand ones, and factor this into your monthly budget. If this does not work for you, you can always grab some ideas from BBC Good Food about what to cook. With the colorful diagrams, if you don’t want to invest in a book, this is the way to go. It’s online and the only thing you pay for is the ingredients. Win, win. Tip – recipe books can be entertaining and cheap which will fit your budget.
This is something we can do both inside and outside. If the weather is bad, the favorites in my household are YouTube exercise videos. A few years ago, I discovered ‘Pop Sugar’ on YouTube and I love it. The instructors are all professionally trained and most work with celebrities. There are a whole variety of aerobic exercises and you can choose a video based on what type of exercise you want and which area of your body you want to work. For example, would you like a body balance workout which works every part of your body? My son often enjoys doing these with me, although he is constantly saying he is better than me! We also are enjoying Joe Wicks at the moment. I think its important to find a style that you enjoy together and which works for the situation you are in. My son loves his community football league which, although not free is cheap. There is a yearly fee which pays for the administration and upkeep of the goal posts etc. Then there is a small match fee which pays for the umpire.
Other sports are far more expensive. However, at the moment, they are all cancelled due to the epidemic so what we have tried to do is think outside the box.
Someone on FB recently posted that she pays her son to read books that she chooses. I think many people turn their noses up at this, however it is a path that I think will work for me. My son will not willingly read a whole book and is often hard to convince to sit down to quietly read, yet the incentive of money encourages him to finish it and he discovers he enjoys it.
Going to Waterstones, a UK book store chain, is a lovely experience yet is often the expensive way of shopping for a book. What we often do is browse in-store then check out the prices online. Amazon often sells second hand copies as well as new copies and will tell you the condition of the second hand ones. How can you loose? However, I do also believe it is important to support our local high-street and as I like Waterstones so much I like to make sure I buy something from there occasionally. After all, I am using their store to browse so I should also make sure I return the favor. Mainly for my son’s birthday. He gets the enjoyable experience of being in store which I believe encourages a love of books and we get to support a local business.
World of Books is a great online site for second hand books. It is clearly laid out and easy to navigate and is an enjoyable experience for shopping online. It also gives the condition of the book which is important when buying second hand. When buying a series of books, such as the Harry Potter series it really helps financially to buy second hand.
Arts and crafts
Every child grows up having done some semblance of arts and crafts. I believed, before I had children that I was far ‘craftier’ than I was. I really needed help but thankfully the internet is awash with ideas. And the best tip? It is easy to do this on a budget and can entertain children for a long time.
The types of arts and crafts you will purchase for will really depend on a child’s age.
But whatever their age, where is the best place to go for cheap ideas? For me, its got to be Pinterest. Visual ideas and links to lots of great websites to discover. Step by step instructions, pictures and videos. What’s not to like?
Aldi is also a great place to look for cheap crafty supplies. Just remember that their products are there for a couple of weeks then change.
The ultimate free experience for children – the great outdoors. This can be free for all. No need for an expensive National Trust membership, there are plenty of beautiful places to visit that are free or fit your budget. We all love walking and exploring and it can entertain children for hours. You can even find things to take home – different coloured leaves in autumn that can be dried out and used for a picture, conkers to use in a game. Its winter at the moment, snow has just fallen and my son and I have just been to a local nature area for a walk, to see the frozen pond and throw snowballs at each other. Not a penny was spend, but we both feel refreshed and happy. Even if you have to get in the car and drive, the cost of petrol far outweighs the cost of an indoor softplay
Spending time productively with your children is very important as this helps to shape them as they grow. However much money you have or don’t have, it is always worth doing it on a budget. Money mindset can help us realize that our attitude towards saving can be altered and improved and with savings come new possibilities.
I hope you and your children enjoy the tips I have offered above. Let me know which entertained you the most and fits your budget.