5 Fun Things To Do With Kids That Won’t Cost A Penny

So after all the excitement, excess, and expense of the summer holidays, back-to-school time has rolled around once again. And aside from the fact that this inevitably means a heat wave is on its way, it also means you may now be facing up to the debts incurred over the extended school holidays, and need some free ideas for entertaining the kids. Here are 5 Fun Things To Do with Kids That Won’t Cost a Penny!

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Does this mean I’m suggesting a strict no-treats-no-fun regime as far as the kids are concerned? Absolutely not! What I am suggesting, however, is that instead of taking the kids to another play centre, coffee shop or wherever else you might normally go, make your own fun instead – simply use your imagination rather than your purse!

To help, here are 5 fun things that I recently concocted in my ever more desperate attempts to avoid activities that cost a small fortune. Oh and I can confirm that the kids enjoyed them every bit as much as if they had cost me the earth!

#1. Your Own Mini Olympics

Okay so Rio is over but hey, who cares? I’ve so little faith in athletes these days anyway that I actually found our own back garden Olympics to be way more enjoyable. As did the kids, I might add.

Things for Teens to Do

So what do you need? We had accumulated various sports-day themed games over the years (but most houses will have versions of these).

Here’s our mini-olympics to give you an idea:

  • Egg and spoon race (plastic egg and spoon, or potatoes are best)
  • Three-legged race (an old school tie will do)
  • Sack race using some plastic sacks (can’t beat a good old sack race)
  • A finishing line to make it exciting and spicy!

But you can do whatever activities you like – obstacle course, long jump, hula-hooping, walking the beam (on a wooden plank laid on the grass) etc.

#2. Bike Races

Most kids have bikes, but you don’t often see them out cycling these days, what with more traffic, busier roads, and the lure of more exciting screen-related activities indoors.


I found that once I introduced the words ‘fast and races’ to my kids, they suddenly became a lot more enthusiastic about getting up and out on their bikes. And for me, just being outside with the kids on their bikes was great fun. There’s nothing nicer than seeing them doing an activity that kids everywhere have enjoyed doing for generations.

#3. Play Pretend Anything!

The thing that’s great about kids is their imagination – their ability to play endless games of “let’s pretend” is remarkable. And what we seem to forget these days, when technology is seen as the only show in town, kids are still kids, and love these types of role play games, particularly if you get stuck in too!

tidy the playroom toy cull

So whether it was playing mums and dads, brother and sister, chef and waitress, teacher and pupil, teddy bear’s picnic, the kids had a blast. And the more they played make-believe, the more ideas they seemed to come up with.

(I must confess at this point that sadly, it wasn’t just the kids who were thinking up these games, I got sucked in too! I swear. It was the kids, they made me do it!)

#4. Kitchen Obstacle Course

We recently discovered that kitchen chairs and tables were obviously never designed solely for practical activities such as eating! No sir. Clearly these everyday household items always had a secret hidden function, which was to create great indoor obstacle courses.

Use your imagination for this one – climb over chairs, crawl under tables, hop across tiles, wriggle under duvets etc. – and time the kids for fun as they complete.

Things to do with kids on a rainy day

The great thing about this game was that the more you played it, the crazier and more convoluted the courses became. I was the course design man, seeing as I was simply too large to actually participate and tackle these very ‘tough courses’!

#5. Indoor Sports Games

If the weather keeps you cooped up indoors, why not try some indoor sports games? Here are a few of our favourites:

Indoor Hurling – Using a hurlóg and sliothar, this is vaguely similar to softball where Dad was the pitcher (and fielder) and Jess and Tom (7 and 4 respectively) the alternating batters. And like any sports game, it got serious. I mean, there were fights and tantrums. (Sorry but I just can’t stand losing).

Indoor Soccer – A timeless classic. But a word of warning: make sure you use a very soft ball and create a clear set of rules about kicking heights etc in order to avoid breakages that will result in the game being abandoned.

Party Games

Virtual Ice Skating – This is one that you may not be familiar with but believe me, it’s a classic. Basically, it involves Dad dragging the kids around the kitchen/hall area in their socks, as though they are, yes you guessed it, “skating on ice”.
Note: Super slippy/polished tiles or wooden floors, a decent floor space, and very good quality slippery socks are all critical to the success of this game.

So there you have it folks. 5 simple and fun ways to entertain the kids (and adults), work up a sweat, and get in your daily exercise, all at a total cost of….precisely nothing!

Over to you! What are your favourite free activities to do with the kids at home? Let us know in the comments below.


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Alan Shanley runs a copywriting agency called The Right Words. Aside from writing though, he is also a keen landscape photographer (well, used to be when he had free time!) a lover of music (in particular singer songwriters), and Haribo jellies, and of course an extremely dedicated Dad and competent chauffeur to his 3 young kids aged 7, 4 and 5 months!