6 Fun, Frugal Ways to Keep Kids Occupied

In the fight against boredom, parents can always use a new weapon or two in their arsenal of distractions. If your children have exhausted their DVD and video game libraries, try these fun, cheap activities for kids. Family members of any age, from toddlers to teens and beyond, can participate. With any luck, you'll find a way to keep them entertained and focused (and quiet!) for hours.

2. Create a collage or "inspiration board."

Take a cue from Pinterest and help your children record ideas and develop visual tastes. Collect magazines, newspapers, and catalogs from friends and neighbors, and kids can spend hours sorting through images, clipping them carefully, and gluing them onto boards or notebooks. Suggest themes and topics such as potential vacation spots, favorite books and movies, or activities they want to try one day.

3. Cook dinner.

Couldn't you use an extra set of hands at mealtimes? Potential activities for kids include stirring a sauce, helping peel and wash produce, and (with supervision, of course) even chopping vegetables with Amazon. Kids might enjoy participating and even take an interest in food. If you involve your children when you cook dinner, you might find that they take pride in the meal and eat it without complaint.

4. Bake dessert.

Teach your kids precision and patience by baking cake, cookies, cupcakes, or bread together. Young children can practice fine motor skills by carefully scooping dry and wet ingredients, while older children can read recipes and use math skills to measure out ingredients. Mixing batter and licking bowls can be a fun and delicious way to spend an hour or two for just the price of eggs, butter, sugar, and flour.

5. Plan a party.

Combine all of the above cheap activities for kids into a party or get-together with family, friends, and neighbors. Plan a small event weeks in advance, and weekends can be spent preparing food, entertainment, invitations, and decorations for the big day. Children can learn organization, responsibility, and time management and feel the satisfaction of having hosted a successful party.

6. Sign up to volunteer.

Pass an afternoon by volunteering with your children at a local charity. Kids get to explore a new environment and learn about social issues and worthy causes. Younger children may enjoy helping out at an animal shelter, while a soup kitchen or similar organization can be eye-opening for older kids.

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