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14 Budget-Friendly Ways To Entertain Your Elementary-Aged Grandkids According To A Retired Teacher

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Baking is an easy enough activity for even younger children.Photo credit: Evgeny Atamanenko / Shutterstock.com

Grandkids — what could be better? Spending time with grandkids can be magical. Sometimes, though, we can run out of ideas for spending time with our grandkids. What then? We want to be known as “the fun grandma or grandpa,” but we don’t want to break the bank. What do we do? How can we make special memories with our grandchildren while controlling our spending?

In my 29 years as an educator, I’ve worked with hundreds of children. I know what kids like, and I know what kind of activities are good (and bad) for them. This article will focus on children ages four through ten. You will notice my anti-technology perspective throughout this article. Yes, there is value in phones and iPads, but today’s kids have way too many of them. Although I may include links to resources, these ideas are decidedly analogous!

At Home Entertainment

Creative outlets such as coloring, pottery, and sewing are great for any age, including older individuals! While the products can be very nice, remember that the goal is simply to spend time together. The results don’t need to be perfect.

1. Origami

Origami, whose history goes back about a thousand years, is a fun paper-folding activity that can keep little fingers busy for hours. Special paper which folds easily is required for best results. Older children will be able to produce more intricate designs than younger ones.

2. Painting

Rock Paintingis fun for all ages. You can buy them or add a little more fun and find your own. Using paint or paint markers, artists will enjoy expressing themselves via colorful designs on rocks. You can add them to your garden, plants, or even spread a little joy and leave your happy rock at a local park.

3. Crochet

Crochet and other needlework are portable activities that travel well. These calming and soothing pastimes can produce some impressive projects! Crocheting is similar to knitting but is easier to learn. In terms of learning, if you don’t know how to crochet, you can always turn to Youtube for free, helpful tutorial videos.

  • Supplies: Crochet hooks ($5-$10), yarn ($10-$20)
  • Cost: Around $30 (again, keep in mind that the purchase of a hook is a one-time expense)
  • Ages: 5 and up

Food

Some of my best memories of my grandmother center around food. Whether it was angel food cake, hot dogs cooked over an open fire, or gooey homemade fudge, I remember every tasty morsel. Food is a great way to connect with your grandkids!

4. Baking

Baking is an easy enough activity for even younger children. In our family, kolaches are a big deal. My Czech husband still makes them using the famous recipe from his grandma, Olga. He is the only one who still makes kolaches, and he will pass the recipe on to our kids. Talk about great memories!

Older children might enjoy having a baking challenge similar to The Great British Baking Show or Chopped. Then, you can sample the results. This is also a great way to teach kids about cleaning up the kitchen!

  • Supplies: Flour, sugar, butter, spices, measuring cups, spoons, and bakeware
  • Cost: Most families’ kitchens are stocked with ingredients, but if not, these essentials can be purchased for around $10.
  • Ages: 4 and up

5. Tea Party

Why not utilize some of those baked goods as treats for a tea party? We had a tea party when my kids were growing up, and it was a big hit! Our guest list included two aging aunts and a grandmother, all of whom came in their finery (including fancy hats). It was the perfect indoor event for a hot afternoon in late June.

A tea party is also a natural time to discuss manners. For the older grandkids, this would be a great opportunity to do some research on tea. What is high tea? When and where in the world was tea first enjoyed? What was the Boston Tea Party?

  • Supplies: Depending on your preference, you could use paper plates or fancy dishes (or anything in between). You’ll need tea, lemonade, Kool-Aid, et cetera. 
  • Cost: Again, most people have tea, lemonade, and Kool-Aid at home. Cost is under $10.
  • Ages: 4 and up

6. Lemonade Stand

Few things are more adorable and popular than a neighborhood lemonade stand. A lemonade stand can kill a lot of time and give a child something to be proud of! What to do with the proceeds? This could be a great opportunity to donate money to a good cause and talk about the less fortunate. Otherwise, maybe the grandkids can save up for a special toy or activity!

  • Supplies: Card table, chairs, lemonade, pitcher, ice, paper or plastic cups, and a money box
  • Cost: Under $10
  • Ages: 5 and up

Outdoor Fun

7. Go To The Driving Range

Whether or not you’re any good, golfing is a great way to spend a beautiful day. While golf itself can be pricey, the driving range is a much less expensive way to spend a couple of hours. In terms of etiquette, make sure to share with the child to not chase the ball after hitting it and to stay on the green mat when hitting the ball. Don’t give a lot of instructions — just enjoy the time. Who knows? You might just turn your grandchild on to a new lifetime hobby!

  • Supplies: none, as the driving range gives you balls and will usually rent or loan clubs.
  • Cost: $5-$20
  • Age: 5 and up

8. Bird Watching

Also known as “birding,” bird watching is a wonderful lifelong pastime to which many are passionately dedicated. There are many resources available to help identify birds in different areas of the world. A pair of binoculars is essential for getting the right view, and a birding journal is a great idea for keeping track of which species you’ve spotted! These beautiful creatures are all around. We just need to take a moment to look. Here are some tips, along with a list of the most commonly spotted birds!

  • Supplies: A field guide, binoculars, a journal, pen, and a camera
  • Cost: $30 or more
  • Age: 5 and up

9. Hiking

Hiking doesn’t have to mean you’re climbing a mountain. It just means you’re exploring somewhere new and getting a bit of exercise too. Why not find a couple of large walking sticks to enhance the experience? You could even make some kind of scavenger hunt for your hike, helping your grandchild to see the world around him.

  • Supplies: Hiking or tennis shoes, a journal, pen, a water bottle, and snacks
  • Cost: $5-$20
  • Age: 4 and up

10. Fishing

Spending time together at the lake is relaxing and fun. Even if you don’t catch any fish, simply watching the world around you and being in nature together make for a great day. Most states do require a fishing license, but there are exceptions in some states for children under 16, veterans, and senior citizens. The fishing license is only valid for the state in which it’s issued.

  • Supplies: Fishing license, rod and reel, fishing line, bobbers, bait, et cetera. If you don’t own all of those items, you can pick up a great beginner’s fishing kit on Amazon for under $40.
  • Cost: $15-$80
  • Age: 4 and up

11. Biking

You can cover a lot of ground on a bike! Depending on the time available, you and your grandchild could go a long distance, especially if you’re both competent cyclists. Don’t worry about being as fit as Lance Armstrong, just make sure you can safely handle your bicycle.

  • Supplies: Bicycle with a recent tune-up to ensure everyone’s safety, a well-fitting helmet, bike lock, water bottle, and pads
  • Cost: $30-$40 (assuming you both own a bicycle, the cost is nominal. Purchasing a bike would add hundreds of dollars to the cost.)
  • Age: 4 and up

Rainy Day Fun

12. Family Tree

Genealogy is a fascinating hobby for both young (but not too young) and old. When my children and I began looking into our family’s records, we were fascinated! We were able to find a copy of the actual naval records for my dad’s enlistment! Besides doing research online and in libraries, a field trip to the cemetery would add an interesting dimension to this project.

  • Supplies: Books, websites, and family memorabilia
  • Cost: Most resources are completely free
  • Ages: 8 and up

13. Board Games

Besides being fun, board games teach so many life skills, such as losing and winning gracefully, taking turns, and being patient. Children may also practice math and reading skills while playing. So, what are some good games? Blink is a hidden gem and a fantastic game for all ages! It is especially effective for improving the flexible thinking skills necessary for school, work, and life in general. Since it’s a card game, it also travels very well.

  • Supplies: Playing cards and board games (Monopoly, Connect Four, Battleship, Life, Trouble, Mastermind, Blink, et cetera)
  • Cost: Most games are $15 and up, while playing cards are around $5. Be sure to shop thrift stores and garage sales. Check your local library to see if they loan out games.
  • Age: 4 and up

Older children might enjoy the challenge of developing their own board game, including developing rules and strategies!

14. Magic Tricks

Oh, the power of amazing your audience! Kids love magic. Why not show your grandchild a trick or two and help him practice? If you’re no magician, check out a beginner’s videoto learn what to do. Then, it’s time to practice!

  • Supplies: A scarf, coin, hat, and other props you probably have lying around
  • Cost: Nominal (less than $10) for various props
  • Age: 4 and up

There are lots of options for spending quality time with your grandkids. Try something from our list, or something you’ve been meaning to investigate. The most important word in this whole article is time — it’s going faster than we think. Carpe diem and have fun!

For information on traveling with grandchildren, check out these articles:

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