50 cheap or free things to do with a toddler

If love was measured in pound coins then we would all be millionaires.

But sadly it isn’t and we aren’t. Unless you reading this right now are, in which case why on earth are you reading anything to do with being on a budget?

Anyway, the fact of the matter is most of us cannot afford to take our kids to Legoland every day. But if you’re anything like me, sitting around and doing nothing isn’t an appealing option.

So what to do with kids under four who need a little light entertainment when you’re light on cash?

Here’s a list of ideas featuring both free and very inexpensive suggestions to keep you and the little monkeys busy.

1. Go to the playground

2. Visit your local garden centre to look at the Christmas lights

3. Go for a walk in the woods

4. Build a den

A duvet and a couple of chairs is all you need!

5. Collect pine cones and then paint them

6. Make a Gruffalo trail in your back garden

Use toys to symbolise the snake, mouse, fox, owl and Gruffalo. Get your kids to use their imaginations. Hide the toys around your garden and recreate the mouse’s walk through the woods.

7. Get National Trust membership

This one does require a bit of an upfront investment of around £100 for a couple with two kids under five. However it opens the door to loads of gorgeous places to visit. Put membership on your Christmas list.

8. Bake cupcakes

Check out my recipe for easy cupcakes here.

9. Paint your child’s initial

Places such as Hobbycraft sell cardboard letters in varying sizes. Pick your child’s initial and then let them paint it or cover it in stickers. This could then be hung on their door or in their room.

10. Read a stack of books

11. Have a cinema experience

Close the curtains, curl up under a blanket together, get some snacks and watch Frozen, Despicable Me or any other family favourite.

12. Blow bubbles

Buy a cheap pot of bubble mixture and spend some time in the garden. Alternatively try my homemade giant bubble mixture here if you’re up for a challenge.

13. Have a treasure hunt

You hide the treasure (some coins in a little pot or bag) somewhere in the house or garden. Draw a simple map and then let your toddler search for it.

14. Go on a nature trail

Make a simple list of items, such as leaf, acorn, twig, daisy, snail, ant, etc. Then challenge your toddler to find them at your local woods, park or anywhere in the countryside near your home.

15. Play hide and seek

16. Sing some nursery rhymes

17. Put on your favourite tunes and have a dance party

18. Cuddle up with your kids and make up a story featuring them as the stars

It could be a trip to the moon, a pirate adventure or their very own version of Little Red Riding Hood. Whatever you pick, just let your own imagination lead you and get them to help out with prompts here and there. You’ll be amazed at what you can come up with.

19. Make a nature collage

Gather some leaves, twigs and seeds from the garden or elsewhere, then give your child some play safe glue and let them stick the items down onto a piece of card.

20. Make it up as you go along

Get out your child’s favourite stuffed animals and encourage them to enact a story with them. You could make up anything, let your child decide what direction they want to take it in.

21. Visit your nearest shopping centre or high street

Enjoy some window shopping. They’ll still have the patience for it while they’re young!

22. Saucepan band

Get out your saucepans, put them on the floor upside down, give your kids some wooden spoons and let them play the drums. This isn’t a good idea if you’re sleep deprived or hungover.

23. Take a look through photo albums

Pick out a couple of your favourite photo albums and flick through them with your kids, this is one of my toddler’s favourite things to do.

24. Local library

Many libraries run free sessions for young children. Find out what your local library’s timetable is and sign up for a session. Alternatively sign up for membership and take your child to pick out some books the old fashioned way.

25. Check out my 40 easy activities for toddlers, there’s lots of cheap ideas there

26. Visit your local museum or art gallery

Many are either free or very cheap to enter. Not only can they have fun, but they may also learn something.

27. Do some gardening

Even a small project can be really rewarding for young kids. Research what plants will thrive at whatever particular time of year is relevant (I wouldn’t have a clue!). Then get a small pot, soil and help your toddler either create a tub or plants you pick out at the garden centre or plant some seeds.

28. Make a cardboard box house

Get a very large box, cut a door and a window, then let your kids play house. This will keep them entertained for hours.

29. Go on a picnic

If the weather is dry, just go for it. Even if it’s chilly you can make sure everyone is wrapped up warm. Just pack some sandwiches and go to your favourite walking spot.

30. Let your toddler host a tea party

Get out their tea set, arrange the dolls so that they are sitting in a circle and then have a party.

31. Look at the stars

In the winter the darker evenings will mean you can spend a bit of time before bed looking at the night sky.

32. Have a pillow fight

33. Make pizzas

You can either make the dough, buy it readymade or use pitta bread as the base.

34. Go to the beach

35. Play football or catch

36. Chalk drawing

Get some chalk from your local craft shop. Use it to draw pictures on the driveway outside your home (make sure it’s your own driveway) or in the back garden.

37. Pitch a tent in the back garden

38. Play superheroes

Create makeshift capes with towels or bedding. If you’ve got some old clothes you can cut up, make some simple eye masks with a pair of scissors. Then go outside and save the world.

39. Face painting

Get a face painting kit then either paint your child’s face or draw a butterfly, Peppa Pig or whatever else they request on their arm where they can see it.

40. Play I spy

41. Play “it” or tag

42. Macaroni necklaces

Get some string and some macaroni pasta. Help your child thread the pasta on the string to make jewellery.

43. Make a card

Let your child get creative with pens and pencils, then help them think of a message for the card and send it to a relative. This is a great one for you as it gets you brownie points with whoever receives the card.

44. Feed the ducks at your local pond

45. Take it in turns to draw portraits of each other

46. Have a race in the back garden

47. Go on a bear hunt

Read the book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt then head outside to find a bear. Plan ahead and have a little teddy in your bag to give to your toddler after you’ve been hunting for a while. You can always hide it somewhere and let them find it.

48. Visit your local pick your own farm

49. Play with torches

Close the curtains and turn all lights off. Use some torches to flash and move in time to music and nursery rhymes, you can use them for Twinkle Twinkle and all sorts of other tunes.

50. Play with cookie dough or play dough

Get some dough, homemade or shop bought, and then use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. If it’s cookie dough you can then bake them and eat them! With play dough just keep challenging them to make more and start over again.

So that’s it! 50 cheap or free things to do with a toddler. Have you got any to add? I would love to hear your suggestions.

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50 free or cheap things to do with a toddler

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  1. November 16, 2017 / 7:13 pm

    Fab post! Often it’s the simple things that bring the most pleasure:)

  2. November 16, 2017 / 8:24 pm

    This is an amazing list and one I’ll definitely be referring back to! We are just to embark on a new chapter – pre school every morning, leaving two hours for lunch and pay until school pick up. It’s not long enough to go too far or pay for groups, so I’ll need to think outside the box!
    Thanks so much for linking to #coolmumclub

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