21 Budget-Friendly Activities Your Grandkids Will Adore

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Children are busy creatures who enjoy doing something every hour of the day, which can keep us grandmas on our toes! While we want to give them (and show them) the world, certain things just do not fit into our budgets, which can leave us scrambling for fun new things to do to keep them entertained.

While there is nothing wrong with taking a picnic to the park (trust me – they don’t mind it either!), I racked my brain for other fun and budget-friendly things that are sure to delight your grandkids, which include: 

1. Library storytime and classes

Story time at the library
Flickr/San José Public Library

I LOVE the library (so much so that I dedicated an entire article to things you can do with your library card!) as not only are there more picture books than my grandkids and I can count, but they almost always have something FREE going on for all ages, including storytimes, hands-on classes, concerts, and much more. You can check out your local library to see what is on their calendar. 

2. Cardboard box kingdom

Transform those old cardboard Amazon boxes into a magical kingdom for your grandchild. Watch as their imagination runs wild while they build castles, forts, and secret hideouts. Be sure to include washable markers or crayons so they can add a little pizzazz and personality to their one-of-a-kind structure.

3. Dollar theaters

If you haven’t already, scout out the nearest dollar theater for a fun and inexpensive day at the movies. Most screenings include older movies that may or may not still be in the regular theater, but your grandkids will neither know nor care. 

4. Balloon volleyball

Blow up some balloons, and let the games begin! Play balloon volleyball or soccer, or simply see who can keep their balloon in the air the longest. Just beware of the occasional loud pop!  

Sidewalk chalk art
Flickr/Atomic Winter

Transform your driveway or sidewalk into an open-air art gallery that allows your grandchild’s imagination to soar. When you’re done, enjoy a leisurely stroll through this chalky masterpiece! Speaking of art walks…

A surprising amount of communities sponsor free art walks that highlight local talent. In our area, businesses host a certain visual or musical artist and serve finger foods and drinks, making for a night out with the grandkids that is equally fun, educational, and delicious.

7. Baking bonanza

Don your aprons and whip up a batch of cookies, cupcakes, or brownies. Let your grandchild take the lead and encourage their culinary creativity with fun toppings and decorations. A good rule of thumb when baking with the grands? The messier, the better.

8. Living room obstacle course

Transform your living room into an obstacle course by rearranging furniture and using household items like pillows and laundry baskets. Challenge your grandchild to complete the course and crown them as the ultimate living room adventurer.

9. Scavenger hunt

Scavenger hunt list
Flickr/Virginia State Parks

When I say that you can get several days (or even weeks!) of entertainment out of this concept, I mean it, as you can curate nature walk scavenger hunts, backyard treasure hunts, scavenger hunts around the house, playground hunts, and much more. The sky is truly the limit with this one, so have fun!

10. Geocaching

Like a scavenger hunt, geocaching is a virtual treasure hunt that leads you to cleverly hidden prize boxes via GPS coordinates and clues. This concept is available in over 190 countries, so it is easy to find one near you.

11. Beach day

Pack up the sunscreen, towels, and sand toys for a fun-filled day at the beach. Build sandcastles, splash in the waves, and search for seashells together. Remember to bring a frisbee or beach ball for added entertainment! Do you live in a land-locked area? No problem, as many lakes and reservoirs offer the same amenities and opportunities as the ocean.

12. Bike/scooter/rollerskate-a-thon

Who says that skate parks are just for skating? I like to take the grandkids at off times so they can ride their bikes and scooters and show off their amazing stunts! (Make sure they are wearing helmets and kneepads.)

13. Volunteering

Breakfast volunteer
Flickr/JoLynne Martinez

Introduce your grandchild to the joy of giving back by volunteering together at a local charity, animal shelter, or community garden. You’ll not only be teaching them valuable life lessons, but you’ll also be making a difference in your community.

14. Neighborhood “I-Spy”

What child doesn’t enjoy a good game of “I-Spy”? (I have to admit that I enjoy it, too!) Walk around your neighborhood, local downtown, or a Botanical Garden and have fun searching for clues and answers. 

15. Fishing

We discussed beach days at the lake, and now it’s time to explore another lakeside option: fishing. Head to a local fishing spot with your grandchild for a relaxing day of casting lines and catching memories. Not only is fishing fun, but it also teaches them the art of patience and the beauty of nature.

16. Community events

If you live in a bigger city or suburb, there is almost always something free or affordable around you. Utilize these events! Watch your local community calendar for free or low-cost movie nights, concerts, and festivals.

17. Museums

Dinosaur skeleton at the museum

Many museums offer free or discounted admission days for families. Take advantage of these deals and explore a world of history, art, and science with your grandchild. (As I shared in my glowing post about library cards, you may even be able to get free passes year-round through your local library, so make sure to ask!)

18. Splash pads at the park

When the grands tire of running through the sprinkler at your house, it is time to find the nearest splash pad! I have found that many parks house these in-ground sprinklers, which is a fun and inexpensive way to stay cool during those hot summer months. 

19. Tea time

One of the many joys of having granddaughters (though I also have a few grandsons who enjoy this) is having tea parties. Set out the china and some plates of tiny tea sandwiches and treats and enjoy some idle chit-chat while enjoying each others’ company. 

20. Paper plane races

Gather some paper and host a paper airplane contest. Challenge your child to create the fastest, farthest-flying, or most acrobatic plane. Hold a tournament, and don’t be afraid to get competitive – this is serious aviation business!

21. Farmer’s Market Exploration

Winter Park Farmers Market

Take your child on a sensory adventure at a local farmer’s market. Encourage them to explore different fruits, vegetables, and homemade goodies. You might even find some tasty treats to enjoy together while supporting local vendors.

As I said: You do not need to spend an arm and a leg to keep your grands entertained. Dare I say that the less you spend, the more fun you have? I hope this list gave you lots of new ideas. Let me know what you decide to do!

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