Kids Play: 5 Activities to Break Up the Weekend On a Budget


Keeping kids entertained doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

Imagine it. Saturday morning, you are sleep and at 6:57am you hear from your toddler, “Mommy [Daddy], get up!” You sigh. The weekend has begun. My Treasured One’s (TO) attention  span is short, so I must have activities in mind to keep the day moving (for both of us).


Child Coloring

Activities are Critical for Breaking Up the Weekend


Here are five of my favorite things to do:

1.  Play music: I give TO limited TV time, so that means large chunks of the day (except for the Michelle Harris-Perry Show) are quiet sans TV. I use music to fill our space. TO will stop whatever she’s doing to dance at random. It’s super cute.

  • I stream Pandora. My go-to stations are Choo Choo Soul, Toddler Radio and Kidz Bop Kids.
  • I’ve used Spotify, too.  You can create custom playlists, which means you can add variety to your music selections.

Budget: Free, but require internet access and speakers. However, you can use a smartphone, too (given Wi-fi is accessible or you have a generous data plan).

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2. Sensory activities:  I almost often include sensory activities in our weekend activities. Below are three of my favorite sets of activities.

  • Sensory Bin: Fill a bin with items like beans, cotton balls or oatmeal. In short, items that can be scooped into buckets and bowls.
    Budget:  $4.00-$10.00;  The picture below is a sensory bin that I made. It’s a 28 quart storage bin on top of a storage tub. I used Velcro to attach it.

Low-Cost Sensory Activity Using Beans


Sensory Activity Using Beans

  • Play dough: My favorite recipe comes from Modern Parents Messy Kids. You can make this play dough yourself, and it is non-toxic. The little ones can eat it. It just doesn’t taste very good. (I tried it.)
    Budget:  Minimal one-time investment.

Most of the ingredients are pantry items with the exception of cream of tartar (which can be pricey) and food color. Check Target for the cream of tartar. Craft stores like Michaels and Joann’s Fabric and others, carry food color in their cake decorating sections. Ideally, buy a variety pack, but if your budget is tight, pick up a color or two. Download coupons to your phone. No need to pay full price.

  • Water play: Fill a bowl or other large plastic container of water and use measuring spoons, cups, and bowls right from the kitchen. My TO loves water play. She’ll play for 30-40 minutes.  I firmly believe in using what I have on hand to enhance play.
    Budget: Free
  • Painting (coloring, drawing): Can be with paint brushes, paint, Q-Tips, or sponges.  My TO loves to paint!  You can use plain paper, construction paper, newspaper or whatever you have on hand. Anything can become art!
    Budget:  Minimal one-time investment.

Construction paper or cardstock and paints, I usually get from a craft store, only using coupons or catching sales.  Other paper, I buy from Office Depot or Staples always on sale. Items requiring a one-time investment are things that can be used over and over. It’s not necessary to buy a lot if your budget is tight. For example, with paints, buy white and black and use your food color to make other colors.

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3. Bath time: Bath time can be at any time during the day. I dump all the bath toys in the tub and let TO go to it. Bath time as play time can stretch up to 30 minutes.
Budget: Free, if you already have bath toys. If not, check out your local dollar store for measuring cups and bowls that can go in the tub.

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Clara the Cookie Fairy

4.  Story time: Story time is a daily activity, but on the weekends, story time can move to the public library. It’s a change in scenery with lots to explore.
Budget: Free

5.  Outside play:  Outside play can be at home just blowing bubbles outside on your front porch or walkway, a park, playground or open space (whichever is most conducive to your neighborhood). These are the best times with TO, who loves bubbles and to pick up sticks.
Budget: Bubbles, usually about $1 a bottle.

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It’s helped me to think about our weekend in terms of activities, then I am more likely to avoid the little one getting bored and acting out, which can be so frustrating for everyone.  Engaging your kids doesn’t have to break the budget. Start with items you already have around your house.



About Author

I am Dr. Joanna Scott, creator of Mocha Parents, Awesome Kids. I am also a mother, researcher and racial equity consultant. I have worked with numerous organizations across the country who aspire to be more intentional about race in their organizational policies and practices. In this space, I borrow from my work and my parenting experiences living at the intersection of race and gender. I have an extensive background in public policy analysis, family counseling and years of experience as a child advocate. I hope my work mirrors my heart’s song – a deep belief in the brilliance of every Black child.

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