Play doesn’t have to cost a lot of money…Here are 5 ideas for some low-cost play activities

It’s definitely a challenging time with rising costs and budgets being stretched so anything we can do with little to no cost has got to be a good thing. Young children generally don’t care how much things cost or that using big spend resources or play equipment means they may have more fun.

We have all seen how much fun children can get from an empty box or the paper that a present was wrapped up in. So, here’s a few great ideas that don’t cost a lot to set up and rely mainly on children’s imagination to create the fun and magic. The developmental benefits of a less prescriptive free flowing play session can be huge and often develop collaborative and social skills too.

Cardboard Boxes – don’t ever throw a large cardboard box away without getting the play value from it first. They are the most exciting thing ever if you are a child, especially if it’s bigger than you. They can hide in them, make a den in them, decorate them, have tea in them, jump out of them…so many ways to have fun. If it’s big enough, there’s room inside for their friends too!

Painting pavements – ever tried a jug of water and a large paint brush? It’s usually a winner, as being allowed to paint on the patio, pavement or drive is quite a novelty, but as it’s just using water there’s no mess to clear away. Children can be as creative and wild as they like, and it will obviously disappear quite quickly. Using large arm movements improves gross motor skills and flexibility too. Jumbo chalks are a more visual and colourful activity but be warned, it takes a lot longer to wash away!

Draw around yourself – use a large roll of paper, or tape pieces of newspaper together placed on the ground and draw around a child with a larger marker or crayon. It’s fascinating for children to see their own silhouette on paper. To see the size and scale of their body can be quite validating. You can ask them to think about words or names to write in their heart, what characteristics describe them in the head, what they like to eat in their stomach – creating their own, unique 2D version of themselves to keep.

Dens – these don’t have to be elaborate constructions using sticks and foliage in the woods. They can be indoor dens made between sofas with blankets, in a wardrobe or under a trampoline, bed or table. A safe, quiet space is great for children to retreat to. Also, if it’s something they have helped create they can use it as a private space that they can own and personalise.

Treasure Hunting – children always love a treasure hunt..! It can be indoor or outdoor, in a large or small space, and can include finding a wide range of objects. It can be a letter or word hunt (to collect and make up a word or sentence), a nature trail hunt, clues to work out where a reward is hidden, ‘right thing wrong place’ (relocating objects to a wrong location…such as a toothbrush in the cutlery drawer!) or simply finding objects beginning with a certain letter timed as a race with other children. Older children can also get a lot out of creating their own hunt for a sibling or friend, taking it in turns to make one up.

These are just a few simple ideas and children will often create more when encouraged. Ultimately their imagination and appetite for playing will make it the most fun ever..!

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