September 9th, 2013 by

40+ Cheap and/or Free Activities to Expand your Child’s Mind


I was thinking the other day that as a SAHM, my job is literally my home and family. I then got to thinking how if I were a hired hand or nanny, I might do some things differently. When I have a job, I am constantly thinking about how I can improve my work area, how I can educate myself, and how I can make my company more successful. Since my family now IS my company, I started to think in terms of what I can do to make each ‘employee’ (family member) reach their full potential.

With that, I have decided to make a greater emphasis on exposing my children to as many enriching activities as possible. This is just a beginners list, mostly for kids from 2-8, but it gives you some ideas for mostly cheap/free activities. I’ve already begun doing two or three of these kinds of activities everyday and I feel like my daughter has really been benefiting from them! Have other ideas? Please comment! I’m always looking for ways to improve!

Hobby/Talent Activity
Dancing
Ballet Put a YouTube video of ballet on the
tv/computer screen. Mimic the dancers with your child.
Jazz Put a YouTube video of jazz dancing on the
tv/computer screen. Mimic the dancers with your child.
Tap Use a weak glue to put pennies on the toes of
your child’s shoes. Have them watch a YouTube video of tap  dancing, then turn up the music and dance
in the kitchen floor (or another hard surface).
Freestyle Turn some music on loud and just dance around
like crazy with your youngster.
Musical Instruments
Piano Using a real or toy piano, practice banging
out tunes with your child. Try to get them to play a few notes in sequence to
make a tune.
Flute Show your child a video of someone playing the
flute. Then, get a paper towel roll, cut a ‘mouth’ hole out, and draw some
dark circles (to make ‘notes’ with their fingers) and pretend to play the
flute with them.
Drums Show your child a video different people
drumming, then pull out a few pots and pans with wooden spoons and encourage
them to drum themselves.
Violin Show your child a video of someone playing the
violin. Then, make a ‘violin’ for your child with an empty tissue box and
some elastics as the ‘string’. Give them a ‘box’ made with a stick that has a
shoestring tied from end to end on it and let them make noise!
Recorder Buy a recorder from the dollar store. Show
your child how to blow notes on it, and then try to teach them to play a few
notes in succession to make a tune.
Music
Classical Play classical music on the radio. Watch a
video of an orchestra playing classical music. Now play jazz music on the
radio and watch a video of jazz music. Ask your child what is different
between the two.
Jazz Play classical music on the radio. Watch a
video of an orchestra playing classical music. Now play jazz music on the
radio and watch a video of jazz music. Ask your child what is different
between the two.
Hip Hop Listen to hip hop music on the radio. Watch a
video of hip hop performers. Ask your child to dance to the hip hop. Ask them
what they like/don’t like about the music.
Disney Turn on Disney radio and listen to a few
songs. Ask your child what songs seem like classical, jazz, or hip hop songs.
Ask them why. Ask them if they can identify any other types of music being
played.
Gardening
Fruit/Vegetable Plan a fruit/vegetable garden on paper with
your child. Tell them when plants can grow and how they should be planted.
Quiz them and ask how they would plant a garden of peas, corn, tomato, and
beans (etc) in your yard- where would they grow best? When? Why? Plant their
own  bean/tomato plant in a small pot
and let them care for it in their own room.
Flowers Plan a flower garden on paper with your child.
Have 5 or 6 different pictures of actual flowers. Teach them which are
perennials and which are annuals. Quiz them and ask how they would plant a
garden of the flowers you taught them about. Where would they grow best?
When? Why? Plant their own flower in a small pot and let them care for it in
their own room. Take them to public parks, see if they can find some of the
flowers you discussed.
Landscaping Find 4 or 5 well-landscaped yards/parks in
your area. Show your child pictures of famously landscaped castles, palaces,
parks, etc. Help them identify the types of plants/rocks/walls/fountains used
in landscaping. Show them the well landscaped yards/parks in your area. Ask
them what styles they like and why they like them. Give them a paper and
pencil and let them create their dream landscaped yard. Give them a small
area of the yard/garden to landscape however they please.
Animal Care
Pets Take your child to a pet store. Show them the
different varieties of pets there are and help them classify the animals. (Is
it a fish? A reptile? A mammal?) Have them ask an employee what a certain
animal requires in order to take home. Help them find similarities in foods
and environments. Go home and find pictures online of the natural habitats of
each animal they showed interest in. Ask them to make a list of what they
would need at your home to make that pet feel at home.
Livestock Have your child name off every meat they can
think of. Help them make a complete list. Tell them which meats go to which
animal. Take your child to a county fair, FFA show, local farm, or petting
zoo to find as many of these animals as possible. Have your children ask what
these animals need for food/shelter etc. Ask your child to draw a pretend
home for their favorite livestock animal and list everything that animal
would need in order to raise it.
Bird Watching Find pictures of common birds in your area.
Show them to your child. Help them see identifying characteristics for each
one, then take them to a park, the ocean, or just on a walk and help them
find as many of these local birds as possible.
Collections
Bug Start a bug collection! Find pictures of bugs
common to your area and challenge your child to capture as many of them as
they can. (Please be wary of dangerous bugs.) Provide them with jars, leaves,
bedding, food, and whatever else their bugs might require. Find articles
online that tell all about these bugs. Read them to/with your child.
Leaf Start a leaf collection! Find pictures of
leaves common to your area and challenge your child to capture as many of
them as they can. Give them a notebook and tape to store each leaf. Find
articles online that tell all about the trees that their leaves come from.
Read them to/with your child.
Rock Start a rock collection! Find pictures of
rocks common to your area and challenge your child to capture as many of them
as they can. Give them a shelf to store their treasures on. Find articles
online that tell all about the rocks and how they were formed. Read them
to/with your child.
Coin Start a coin collection! Help your child to
collect as many different pennies/nickels/dimes from as many different years
as possible. Find articles online that tell when pictures were changed and
why. Read them to/with your child.
Food
Baking Find a simple recipe and allow your child to
help you bake something. Even if you just let them stir in eggs for a boxed
brownie mix, let them help you. Make sure to tell them all the steps in
baking, i.e., preheating the oven, greasing the pan, etc., and tell them why
you do it.
Styling Show your child pictures of food from fancy
restaurants. Ask them why the food looks the way it does. Make a meal
together and plate it two ways, one, just dumped on the plate, and the other
carefully styled. Ask your child which way they prefer. Ask them why. Watch a
professional cooking show together.
Sewing
Knitting Find someone who knits (yourself, perhaps?)
and ask them to give a basic explanation of knitting to your child. Have them
teach a basic stitch to your child, then supply them with a ball of yarn and
needles and see what they create.
Hand-stitch Next time a pair of pants/shirt gets a small
hole in them, pull out a needle and thread and show your child the basics of
darning.
Embroidery Find someone who embroiders (you?) or a simple
video online. Have an explanation (via an embroiderer or via a video) of what
embroidery is. Find an embroidered pillow case/ wall hanging and have your
child identify the different stitches in it. If they are old enough, provide
them with supplies and let me create!
Machine sewing As age appropriate, teach your child to sew
with a sewing machine, beginning with the hows of the sewing machine. Don’t
know how? Find a local craft store, as most host free sewing tutorials.
Buttons/Zippers/Velcro Next time a button comes off, a zipper gets
loose, or velcro gets torn off, show your child how to repair it. If your
child is very young, give them a few zippers or pieces of velcro and just let
them play with  them.
Scrapbooking Give your child a notebook, some photos, a
glue stick, and crayons. Encourage them to create a scrapbook page. Look to
Pinterest if you need scrapbooking page ideas.
Foreign Languages
Reading Ask your child what country/language they are most interested in
and then look up basic phrases in that language. Use an online video or a
movie with extra languages to listen to the language. Have them practice
speaking the words you’ve looked up. Borrow a book in that language from the
library and help your child identify basic words in it (the, and, you, etc.)
Find the languages’ alphabet online and teach them to write their own name.
Writing
Speaking
Listening
Art
Painting Paint a picture with your child. Go to a local
museum and look at paintings. Ask your child how their pictures and the
museum pictures are the same. Ask them what differences there are. Go home
and look at famous paintings online. Ask your child why you think those
paintings became famous.
Pencil Drawing Draw a picture with your child. Go to a local
museum and look at drawings. Ask your child how their pictures and the museum
pictures are the same. Ask them what differences there are. Go home and look
at famous drawings online. Ask your child why you think those drawings became
famous.
Crayon Drawing Ask your child to draw a colorful scene (like
a rainbow or a bunch of colored balloons) with only a black and grey crayon.
Ask them why it’s hard. Ask them why colors are important. Ask them their
favorite colors. Have them draw the picture again with only their favorites.
Ask them to draw with all the colors. Ask them what is different between the
three drawings. Ask them which ones they like best and why.
Origami Show your child a globe and locate Japan. Tell
them that origami is a paper artform that came from Japan. Give them a few
square pieces of paper and make basic shapes with them. (find tutorials all
over online). A paper airplane can be a good start!
Sculpting Give your child clay or play dough and let
them make a few masterpieces. Take them to a large park with statues or to a
museum. Have them compare and contrast their sculptures. Ask them what is
hard and what is easy about sculpting.
Photography Show your child famous photos online. Ask them
why they think the photos are famous. Give them their own disposable camera
and let them take whatever photos they want. Get it developed. Have them pick
their favorite pictures. Ask them why they like those pictures and point out
what they did well. Frame their favorite photo.
Reading Read with your child, to your child, and give
them books. Buy cheap books that your children can color in. Let them add
words or take out words to change the story. Give them a notebook and
encourage them to write their own story.
Singing
Opera Have your child listen to opera, theater, country, and
sing-a-long music. Ask them what is different between each style. Ask them
what is the same. Ask them how each music genre makes them feel. Have them
mimic the singing styles. When possible, take them to an opera, a theater, or
country music concert.
Theater
Sing-a-long
Country

One Response to “40+ Cheap and/or Free Activities to Expand your Child’s Mind”

  1. avatar Shannon says:

    Wonderful activity ideas and I truly appreciate the effort you have put in to compile them. There are so many times when moms find themselves searching for ideas to engage kids in a constructive way and I am certain these would be so helpful. While kids try out different things, their skills and interests are also bound to come to the fore. Thanks for sharing.

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