Kids are expensive. There’s no getting around the clothes, school fees and birthday parties and food.

So, come weekends, how do you get the family out and about without applying for a second bond?

Artificially erected lifesavers such as kid-friendly venues exist, but often coming at a cost. There’s the meal, the drinks (wine, if you’re me), tips for the childminders and the additional activities for kids to take part in (the first time I saw how much it was for my friend’s son to paint a ceramic statue in the shape of a deformed robot, I nearly wept).

So, restaurants aside, I’ve come up with a list of budget-friendly activities to do with your family.

  1. Pack a picnic and hit the park – the kids can run around and work off some energy and later you can pretend to help them look for the chocolate you ate while they were playing.
  2. Go on a hike – most venues charge a minimal fee and offer various levels of difficulty for the hike itself.
  3. Create an at-home spa. You can buy or make really cost-effective products, and if you set up an area with a towel or blankets, lemon water and snacks. Your little girls – or boys! – will spend hours filing and painting nails and applying face masks.
  4. Set up a treasure hunt – many venues have large gardens which make the perfect place for your kids to run around collecting items you’ve written done on pieces of paper. Simple things such as ‘find a red leaf’ or ‘look for something blue’ can provide hours of exciting activity.
  5. Take a Tour around Jozi – The Red Bus City Tour offers a hop-on-hop-off tour of Joburg. Even though it’s a paid-for experience, kids under five get to go for free
  6. Set up a cooking class at home and mimic MasterChef, junior style! Each kid gets a box of age-appropriate food and half an hour to create, bake and decorate! Think cupcakes that need toppings, gourmet burgers and DIY pizzas.
  7. Volunteer at a local charity. The benefit of this is two-fold – your child will become more aware of others and will feel good about their efforts afterward. Animal shelters are often looking for dog walkers and washers and orphanages need all the love they can get. Look out for opportunities to get involved with like painting murals or decorating hospitals.
  8. Even if you have a pool at home, take the kids to a local pool. It’s huge, fun and the novelty will probably be the best part!

I’d love to hear your ideas for budget-friendly family activities in the comments below.

By Kate Kearney