A father lies on the couch, with his son balancing on his knees. The son's arms are out like an airplane and he laughs.

Cheap or free at-home activities for kids

Being active and following a healthy lifestyle is beneficial for all ages. But, in the 26 years of being a mother, I’ve found that some activity choices can become a financial drain on a family. It can also be hard to encourage kids to follow an active lifestyle when registration fees for group programs are costly.

While there are dozens of clubs, sports teams and activities for kids to participate in, regardless of location, several of these options are too expensive for families following a budget. But we know that there are many benefits of physical activity for young people, including improved self-esteem.

So how can parents encourage their children to live a healthy, active life while sticking to a budget?

Try these simple tasks and activities at home

Explore these day-to-day indoor tasks, as well as some fun games at home, and see how simple it can be to get your kids enjoying active play and moving daily!

Putting groceries away

Everyday tasks like putting groceries away can provide a physical challenge for children. Parents may find that with their kids’ help, this task will finish sooner and keep them moving and active for a short time.

Canned goods can give your child a way to move weighted items around. Your kids may need to use a step stool to reach shelves in your pantry. Parents can encourage their children to perform movements when they put groceries away. Squats and jumping jacks are simple moves kids of any age can do.

A young girl sits in a chair at the kitchen table and takes vegetables out of a brown paper grocery bag.

Helping with meal prep

Involving your children with daily tasks, like meal prep, can keep them learning while staying active. Choose a meal your child wants and see how simple it is to get help! Gathering ingredients, measuring, and prepping can be a big job for little hands.

Parents can get their kids to wash vegetables, measure ingredients, and mix food items. To offer an activity challenge while it’s cooking, include simple stretches using a timer until it’s time to eat. You may be surprised at how many toe touches your kid can do while waiting for his dinner.

Indoor bowling

You don’t have to be an avid bowler to love knocking pins down inside the house. Parents can buy a family-friendly plastic bowling game to use or make their own. Bowling pins can be made by using empty plastic water bottles and milk cartons. Then use a small ball or rolled-up sock, and it’s game on.

You can set up the pins in your hallway, kitchen, or other open space. Parents can put various amounts of water into the plastic bottles for an extra challenge. The water helps to make them harder to knock down. However, this element makes indoor bowling more difficult for older children. Remember to seal the caps tightly, or you will have a wet mess indoors!

Have children perform actions from their favourite story

Another simple way to get your child up and moving is by reading. This activity doesn’t cost you enrollment fees or carpool time. Many popular children’s books have engaging stories where the main character goes through a series of actions.

This time, instead of your kid snuggled up on the couch to read, have them pick something from their favourite book and try to act out what the story character is doing. They may get jumping, reaching, bending down, or crawling. Remember that this activity is a better choice during the day and not at bedtime.

Indoor mini-golf

You won’t need expensive equipment or a country club membership to enjoy a fun game of mini-golf. There are age-appropriate plastic golf clubs in the toy section at your local store, but you can also find child-sized clubs at secondhand stores, by browsing buy-and-sell websites, or even at some dollar stores.

You can set up a mini-golf course through your home for a fun way to spend an active afternoon with your child. Use empty plastic cups as targets and try navigating the ball over linoleum, hardwood, carpet, or any odd terrain in the house.

Or try one of these 42 activity ideas

With this list of 42 easy activities, kids can be kept busy and active independently at home. And many of these ideas can be done with things you might already have around the house.

Remember to move

No matter how you encourage your child to be active, it should be a movement that you can enjoy and engage with them. With these and many more activities, parents can help encourage a healthy, active lifestyle without going over budget.

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