Pebbly beach, Brighton Beach, West Pier, Brighton, Hove

Cheap children’s activities that won’t cost the earth

Pebbly beach, Brighton Beach, West Pier, Brighton, Hove, children's activities , beach combing

Christmas is on its way and the school holidays will soon be upon us. The kids will need entertaining! As this is an expensive time of year, you may be on the lookout for some cheap children’s activities. I hope these eco-friendly suggestions help.

Sustainable gift wrap course

This is a guest post from Shoestring Jane who blogs about living a fun and frugal life at She writes about healthy eating on a budget, frugal gardening and growing your own food, making extra money and finding the best bargains. You can also find Jane on Twitter (@shoestringjane), on Instagram (@shoestringcottage) and on Facebook ( I have added relevant affiliate links in places which are marked with an *. It won’t cost you any extra to purchase something through an affiliate link, but will help to support the blog!

Leaf printing

This is a lovely old fashioned autumn activity.  Leaves are easy to find wherever you live. It is really two cheap children’s activities in one as you will need a fun walk in the fresh air to collect the leaves first! Choose plenty of different shapes of leaf and don’t pick up the brittle ones as they will crumble too quickly.

Try to choose an eco-friendly paint* or have a go at making one yourself!  Simply paint the leaves in different colours and press them onto card or paper. Very simple and effective.

Pond dipping

I loved doing this with my kids. Obviously you need to pay attention when you mix kids with water. All you need is a body of water – your own or a neighbour’s pond is a good starting point – a sieve, a jam jar and a large light coloured tray. There are some very good instructions on the Freshwater Habitats Trust website. so take a look and get pond dipping!

Recycled crafts

Save toilet roll tubes, sweet wrappers, bits of wool, wrapping paper, foil, fabric, etc and make a craft box. Invest in some eco-friendly glue*, some edible glitter* and any other craft supplies you find at reasonable prices. On a cold, wet day your craft box will come into its own, allowing your children to be messy and creative.

You can take a more organised approach to what you are making and have a look on Pinterest. It is a fantastic source of inspiration and there are loads of ideas for children’s crafts for every occasion.


The modern day treasure hunt, geocaching is hugely popular and very addictive. You used to have to purchase a GPS device to take part, but now there are apps available for your smart phone very cheaply. Some are even free. There is a great beginner’s guide to geocaching on the Ordnance Survey website.

Beach combing

If you are lucky enough to live near enough to the sea, beach combing is so much fun. Finding little treasures such as shells, sea glass and pretty stones costs nothing and kids love it. They can explore the wildlife in the rock pools whilst you are there. I always like to take a spare carrier bag to pick up any rubbish on the beach as well. I find this maddening!

Charity shopping/boot sales

I love a summer boot sale. You can buy pretty much anything at a fraction of the as new price. Charity shops aren’t as cheap, but you are supporting a charity, of course, and they are still great places to find bargains. Both offer an inexpensive opportunity to teach your children about money and budgeting. Buying second-hand is also good for the environment as you extend the useful life of the items you buy and stop them going to landfill. I used to give my daughters five pounds each and let them spend it as they wished. However, they weren’t allowed to go on the very expensive inflatables you tend to find at the boot sale these days! This was a pleasant way to while away some time and their finds entertained them back at home too.

Visit your local wildlife trust nature reserve

Joining and visiting a wildlife trust is a superb way to encourage an appreciation of nature in your children, as well as supporting the preservation of wild spaces. They offer the chance to run around and let off steam as well as to learn about the wildlife in your area. The Trusts are a campaigning organisation and have huge influence. At the moment they are publicising the impact that Brexit might have on our wildlife protection laws. Find your nearest Wildlife Trust reserve here: Wildlife Trusts.

Delve into a museum

One of the best decisions this government has ever made was to make entry to our national museums free. They are a fabulous way to teach your family about art and history. One of our favourites is the Natural History Museum in London, but there are lots of smaller local museums that may be free too. Have a look on your council website. We have a lovely little toy museum and a natural history museum locally, both of which have free entry.

Have a cookery session

Children love to cook! There are so many reasons why you should teach yours this essential life skill. At its most basic level, it is fun and will while away an afternoon or two. However, it also gives you the opportunity to discuss where food comes from and slip in some information about good nutrition. Cooking from scratch is cheaper and healthier than buying packaged meals and allows you to avoid excess packaging. You could let your kids plan a meal and buy the ingredients as well, so that they get that food costs money. If you want to read about more reasons for teaching your children to cook have a look at this blog post I wrote on the subject five reasons you should teach your children to cook.

Plant something

You don’t have to have a garden to grow things with the children. Cress is so easy to grow on your windowsill, along with various herbs. You can also attempt to sprout avocado seeds or try Zoe’s instructions on how to regrow celery.  If you are fortunate enough to have a vegetable patch, involve your children and give them a bit of earth to grow a few bits in. They will get the same satisfaction as you do from growing their own food.

Having fun with your children doesn’t always have to involve a huge amount of expense, and you may find the most enduring memories you make are those that cost very little.

* where there is an asterisk affiliate links have been used.