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!