9 Free (or Nearly Free) Activities Nannies Can Do With Their Kids

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artwork1For a nanny, entertaining kids can take a lot of time, energy and ingenuity. How often have you heard the complaint “I’m bored” come from someone who’s surrounded by things to do? The good news, though, is that you’re never far from free, reliable entertainment, especially if you do a little homework first.

If you’ve been stuck searching for affordable activity ideas, these might come in handy:

Go to the Park

A classic, and with good reason. Going to the park is a chance to get some exercise, enjoy a change of scenery, interact with other kids and engage in the kind of healthy social play that’s a cornerstone of childhood. You can pack a picnic and make a bigger day of it, or you can go for shorter bursts in the morning or afternoon. (It’s probably best to avoid midday, especially during the summer, since you don’t want to deal with any fallout from the heat.)

Break Out the Board Games

Every family’s got that stack of board games in the closet: Mouse Trap, Boggle, Clue, a well-worn Monopoly. These can be great standbys if you and the kids are feeling in a rut with your other activities, but they do more than just offer a change of pace. Board games are great opportunities to observe and impart social skills like sharing, rule-following and organization, and they can help foster a spirit of competition that’s honest without being unfriendly. Plus you can play them as many times as you want without worrying about cost.

Head to the Library

The public library is an endless of supply of free entertainment, and it’s such a good deal that it’s amazing how many people overlook it. You can help the kids in your care check out stacks of books and movies, and you can teach them things like basic responsibility for public property so they treat those checked-out items with respect. Trips to the library are a great thing to build into your schedule, and since most children’s books can run short, it makes sense to visit often to restock. Chances are also good that your local library has special events for kids, including author visits, reading groups, story times and more.

Take a Nature Walk

Endless benefits here: exercise, fresh air and learning about nature are just a few! Before you head out, download info about local plants or wildlife so you have something to keep an eye out for. You can print checklists, turn it into a game or set up a scavenger hunt. Apps like LeafSnap can help you learn more about what you see while you’re hiking around, and there are also tools like EveryTrail to keep you from losing your way.

Build a Fort

Make sure you give your employer a heads-up before doing this one. If possible, get your hands on some old sheets (or those that are about to be tossed out or donated) and turn the backyard or living room into a castle for games.

Visit the Museum

A museum makes a great day trip, since many of them have so many exhibits that it can take a while to go through them. On top of that, there are usually tours you can join to learn more about certain exhibits, as well as activities and classes geared toward children that provide context and easy-to-grasp lessons about things like fossils, mummies and ancient buildings. Many museums offer free or discounted admission for children, and you can also talk to your employer about expenses necessary for things like museum tickets.

Create Some Art

This can be as simple as sketching on construction paper or as elaborate as using paints and easels. It depends on your budget, your kids’ level of interest and what you’d like to do. Most kids like to draw, and art has been shown to have positive benefits on other aspects of learning, so it’s never a bad time to encourage your charges to doodle, paint or color new worlds. A stack of paper and a good box of crayons will do wonders.

Bake Something Together

There are thousands of recipes out there online, especially if you’re looking for healthy treats for kids. With minimal cost for ingredients, you can teach the kids the benefits of cooking and the pleasure of enjoying a snack they helped to create.

Use Your Imagination

This isn’t a cop out (seriously). You’re only limited by your imagination when it comes to coming up with fun, cheap ideas for entertaining the children in your care. Play dates, story times, charades, games, sports, hikes, etc., etc. You name it, and there’s a way to turn it into a great activity for kids. Talk to your employer about what their kids like; chat with other childcare providers to get more ideas; hit up Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and other social outlets. Believe it or not, you’ll never run out of ideas.

Thanks to Allena Miller

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