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Family Honesty

Five realistic ways to entertain your children, for free!

Entertaining children is no walk in the park – especially if you’ve already had your exercise for the day and can’t walk in the park. There’s also the added pressure of unhelpful suggestions that somehow we should all be getting our kids to unleash their inner Galileo or Hawkins when all we want is Five. Minutes. Of. Peace!

So, to help other parents who are hanging by a thread after many, many weeks of being at home, and who don’t want to give any more money to Amazon, I thought I’d rack my brains for those times when my children have enjoyed themselves, it hasn’t cost me a penny and it hasn’t felt forced.  Here’s my top five:

1. Let them make a ‘potion’

Give the kids a bowl or jar and (almost) free reign to put what they like into it. When it’s complete, decant the potion into a used water bottle and ‘voila’ your very own ‘marvellous medicine’.  It will be disgusting but you will get at least 30 minutes peace.


Warning: Before you attempt this – make sure you’ve put the good stuff away or your favourite hand cream is going to go missing.

2. Funny face drawing game

Get a sheet of paper, fold it in three and take it in turns to draw parts of a face.  Warning can be addictive – you may need a ream of paper.

Double warning this can get very silly, very quickly – watch out for the addition of “wee and poo” to the character that you’ve worked so very hard to render accurately.

3. Tickets Please!

This was a much loved game in our family when the children were small. Here’s how it works:

  • You are the ticket inspector – it is your job to inspect your child’s ‘ticket’ (real or imaginary, either will do) and decide whether they are allowed to pass.
  • You never, ever allow your child to pass on the first go.  You must inspect the ticket, then explain in outraged voice why you cannot let them pass because their ticket is out of date / for a different mode of transport / poo-stained.
  • Once you decide to let them pass, you must let them think they’ve got away with it before exclaiming “Hey!  That ticket says Mickey Mouse / is a used chip wrapper / is poo-stained!”
  • You then chase them around the house / garden until they are back at the start.

4. Shout at your children in a foreign accent

This game started in our family when we found ourselves stuck in a caravan with no TV on a very wet day.  Having become frustrated at the children’s failure to listen to me shouting at them not to play with the pull-out bed, I thought I’d give it a go whilst using a German accent (and the handful of German words that I know).  It resulted in unexpected hilarity and gave us a welcome respite from playing Uno for the 130th time.

Note: You don’t need to speak a second language to succeed in this game, but you do need to shout like you believe it.  

5. If all else fails…..give them an Argos catalogue

I reckon Argos could compete with serious publishing houses for the amount of print that they produce…and the popularity of their free doorstop-sized shopping bibles.  This popularity seems not to have waned with the advent of the digital generation – my children used love them more than the internet (they’re 11 and 13 now so, of course, TikTok rules).

Far from turning them into mad consumers it made them aware of how much things cost, encouraged conversations about saving, and there was the extra bonus of there being absolutely no risk of them clicking a link and adding twelve Lego Death Star kits to my basket.

Warning: You need one per child or a war will start.  No-one wants to be given the furniture section while the other one gets the toys….

So those are my top five – perhaps not quite enough to get us all the way through lockdown but it’s a start – if you’ve got anymore let me know!

Like this?  You’ll find more parenting ‘top tips’ and tales of family life as if really is in Reasons to be Cheerful Part II – available for download for just £1.99 during lock down and £5.99 in print.

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