Written by Caroline Meyer

Stimulate creativity, save cash and keep your kids entertained. Homemade games and activities that can be done on a budget help stimulate learning and creativity without costing much. There are things around your own home that can be used to create activities. Small children can play drums on pots or spend time simply taking lids off containers to see what is inside. Older children can play inventive games with some old strips of cloth or old clothes. 

Play post box by putting little notes or cards into envelopes (you can make these from scrap paper as well). Decorate the envelope with crayons, stickers, glitter or help cut pictures or designs out of magazines to stick on the envelopes. Get an empty ice-cream container or decorate a box and make a slit in the top so the kids can “post” their letters. 

Make homemade playdough and allow little ones to squish it, flatten it, roll it in to balls or shape it into something fun. Give them things to use to cut out shapes in the playdough and make up stories with the playdough creatures. Even little ones can roll a playdough worm in their hands to add to the story. 

Play dress up using clothes, hats, shoes that you no longer wear (adult clothing is fun). Help little ones make fun hats or helmets to wear and let them decorate as they please.  You can even fold newspaper into a pirate or magicians’ hat. It is also quite easy to make fake flowers, pom-poms and fans to use during dress-up. Let their imaginations run wild and allow them to be creative in their role-playing.  

Use old, clean socks to make sock puppets. Buttons can be used to make eyes. You can also use odd scraps of material to turn the socks into dragons, snakes, turtles, butterflies or any other creature. You can also turn old stockings into caterpillars, snakes and other creatures by stuffing them with paper (newspaper is fine too). 

Turn cardboard boxes into a stove, a shop counter, a car, a spaceship or if it’s big enough, a mini playhouse. Tape or staple scrap paper together and let your child write/draw a book. They can draw/colour or stick in pictures to make up their story. 

Make your own cubbyhouse by draping sheets over the edges of a table or between couches to make a large comfy space for kids to play in. Use old blankets in the backyard and drape over a slide or in a tree to create a tent to play in. 

Spend time together in the outdoors whether it is in the local park, at the beach or even in your own backyard. Take a walk around the neighbourhood and let kids be observant about what they see. Look for museums, historical sites and other places that don’t have a cover charge that you can take children to see (this may be better with older children though). Sometimes a visit to a friend or having someone over for a playdate or sleepover can be a lot of fun for your child and doesn’t cost anything. 

Depending on age you can start to cook with your little one. From around the age of 3 they can help cut out cookies and decorate them. When they get older, they can help with more complex meals such as making a cake or a lasagne. Make sure they are always supervised near boiling water, hot stoves and sharp implements. 

Besides cooking, little ones are generally eager to help with other household tasks (this wears off fast as they get older). Let them do chores they can manage such as watering the garden, dusting, bringing in the mail, unpacking groceries and so forth. Talk to them as they do the chores, so they learn while doing. Listen to what they have to say as well to improve communication skills. 

Play word games, make up songs and rhymes or simply silly stories to improve imagination. Let your child create and praise them once done. You can show interest while they are busy but unless they ask for help or are in danger, let them do it on their own. This helps build up confidence as well. 

Encourage games that include movement such as dancing or putting on a play at home. Let them add in music made from any “instrument”. Not all children will enjoy this type of creativity but encourage it and allow them to experiment and have fun with it.  

When it comes to being creative, there are many ideas you can come up with at home without the need to spend extra money.  Outdoor time and indoor play should be balanced as much as possible. Outings can also be great fun but will probably need a little planning ahead of time.  There are many activities that you can do with your little ones that don’t require a big expenditure or even any at all.