8 free places to visit with kids

The best things in life are free, right? I have the happiest time with toddlers when simply outdoors and enjoying the natural surroundings where they can explore. If things are local it is even better so try and explore your local area, talk to other parents and grandparents to find the best places. Last week I discovered a great park just by asking a mum “do you know any fenced parks around here?”
So here is my current list of free or almost free activities:

1. The local park - utilize whatever it has to offer. If it is just a small grassy area take a ball and some bubble mix to blow beautiful bubbles. For older children take some large magnifying glasses to see what insects you can find. They may like to start a nature journal and draw some of the mini beasts they find. Don’t forget some children just like to run and if it’s a windy day you can always fly a kite.

2. The farmer’s market - make it a challenge that at every market, the children should try something new, like smell a herb that they do not know or taste a different vegetable that they do not usually eat. Explain where eggs and honey and potatoes come from and support your local growers. Let the children pay for a purchase if you are buying something. 

3. The library - your child may not like to sit still for story time but that does not mean you cannot visit the library at other times. Libraries usually have a children’s section where you can look at books and videos and my local library has a drawing area for children where they supply paper and colouring pencils.

4. The Botanic Gardens are usually free but you do need to check for opening and closing hours. Don’t forget a picnic lunch or special snack to enjoy. Older children may like to learn about plants or trees.

5. The museum - hands on is best. Many museums these days have great interactive areas for young children and often have weekend or holiday shows which are free. Some museums in each city are free so find out which ones first.

6. The beach provides so many activities for our senses: the feeling of sand and water and frothy foam and the sound of the waves and the gulls. Even if it is a cold day, rug up and do a scavenger hunt along the shoreline or explore some tidepools.

7. Your own garden - if you are lucky enough to have a garden or courtyard try and look at it in a different light. Have lunch with the bears or a teddy bear’s picnic. Fill fifteen plastic containers with water and play. Put up your beach umbrella or create a cubby house out of old sheets and blankets. Learn how to do a handstand.

8. The national park provides a more rugged and vast environment than the botanic garden or park and you can often have a barbeque or paddle in a canoe and sometimes camp overnight.  Find a national park near you.

RAINY DAY BONUS ACTIVITY: The local shopping mall usually has a free play area for children and if they don’t you should talk to them about adding one, especially near the coffee area!


Swings are one of the all time favourite pieces of playground equipment. The movement of the swing can be either relaxing or invigorating  depending on the mood of the swinger.

Tyre swings are usually hung vertically from a single rope as in the photo above. They can also be hung from a crossbar using multiple ropes or chains. These are often seen in playgrounds and have the added benefit of allowing 2 children on the tyre at once. (See the photo at right)

Swings develop balance and coordination, muscle strength and hand grip. When we swing we get input from our

  • vestibular system in the inner ear which relates to balance.
  • proprioceptive system which gets information from the muscles and joints and develops balance and body awareness.
  • visual perception which helps us use our vision as we move to interpret what we see.

How to build a single rope tyre swing.

What you need: tyre, strong thick nylon rope, strong tree with plenty of swinging space in all directions, 2 people, drill, piece of plastic hose and a ladder.


Make sure the tyre is clean by scrubbing with warm soapy water.

Drill 2 holes in the base of the tyre to allow rain water to drain out.

Tie the rope around the tyre and knot twice or more.

Thread the plastic hose on the other end of the rope. (It is to go round the part of the rope that hangs over the tree to stop the rope from fraying and protect the tree.)

Choose a strong and healthy tree with a live branch that is more than 8 inches thick. A grassy surface underneath would be ideal.

Use the ladder and position the tyre at least 2 feet from the ground before tying 2 or more knots.

Make sure an adult tests their weight on the swing first.

Check the rope for safety every 6 months.

Knots used to tie up a tire swing: video

 See the variety of swings at CedarWorks