Budget busting activities for children

Coming up with imaginative ways to keep the children entertained can seem an uphill struggle.

You’d think it would be easy. Access any local listings site and you’ll be bombarded with loads of interesting activities that your children will just love.

But everything comes at a cost. Exciting days out to theme parks, adventure breaks at outward bound centres, and even a family excursion to the cinema all come with a hefty price tag.

You don’t have to be the Chancellor of the Exchequer to understand the importance of a budget and, let’s be honest, most of us can’t make it stretch beyond the occasional family treat.

But that’s no reason for the kids to be bored. There’s plenty to do right on your own doorstep and it’s absolutely (or nearly) free.

The fact is that you will have heard this all before – take the kids to the park/on a walk/to the library. Chances are you’ve been doing this parenting thing for a while and you’re familiar with all the tricks of the trade.

But sometimes we get a bit jaded. A bit stuck in a rut. Looking at our favourite freebie haunts through different eyes might just give them a new lease of life.

The first thing to remember is to keep your outings short. Planning a whole day at a museum is probably unrealistic if you have a toddler with a limited attention span. Anything lasting over an hour is a bonus.

Freshen up a walk in the woods by devising a treasure hunt. Before you go, get the children to make up a checklist of things they have to find like red berries or a squirrel and things they have to do like jump in a puddle or balance on a log.

Depending on the ages of your children, you can attach points to each challenge based on its difficulty.

Take a kite to the beach. Running along the shore, dragging a kite behind them, is one of the most joyful things a child can do. But the novelty wears off in about 15 glorious minutes.

That’s the time to make sand sculptures. No boring old castles for you. Help them build a car they can sit in. Or, even better, build several and pretend to have a race. Make a dinosaur, a giant crab or a life-size mermaid.

Catch a bus around town. Jumping aboard and holding tight is often a novelty for young children who are used to being strapped into car seats with a limited view. Paying the driver, choosing a window seat and watching the world go by can while away a merry afternoon.

If your children are young, introduce games like counting how many lorries or yellow cars they can spot. Try and guess where the other passengers are going or concoct your own fantastical destination.

Finally, be kind to yourself. Spending time with your children is wonderful, but it can be a drain to keep up with their eager minds and boundless energy.

You’re allowed five minutes of alone time to drink a cup of coffee – even if that means locking yourself in the loo!