Being a grandparent is a tough job, but there's no denying it's lots of fun. You get to look after your grandkids, play fun games, visit exciting places, then you can leave all the cleanup to their parents. But Nana and Papa aren't made of money. Your grandkids will love you for taking them to get ice cream and watch a movie every weekend, but your bank account will feel the pinch.
Instead, shake things up with one of these 11 fun and affordable activities.
Most of them cost absolutely nothing, while the most expensive will only set you back $10-15. Plus, we guarantee none of these ideas will hurt your reputation as the "cool" grandparent.
1. Build a fort
We've already written about how cardboard boxes - an absolutely free "toy" you can pick up at the grocery store - fire up children's imaginations like nothing else. Or, pile up all the pillows in your house and let the little ones build their own little mansion.
2. Bake together
There are lots of fun an easy recipes you can make with your grandchildren. It's a great way to build memories that will last forever, plus your grandchildren will make their own snacks. One less job for you to do!
3. Organize a scavenger hunt
You can keep children entertained for hours by leaving a few clues or riddles around your home that lead from one to the next. Or, make a list of objects hidden around the house (Nana's glasses, the TV remote, "something green") and watch them collect everything.
4. Go to the pet store
The petting zoo costs money, and it can be a long drive away, but there's always a pet store nearby that kids will love to browse. They get to look at cats, dogs, fish, and some stores even let them pet the animals. Just don't let them talk you into buying something!
5. Visit the park
Bring an Ultimate Frisbee or a ball, some water bottles and a tube of sunscreen and you could spend the whole day playing outside with the grandkids. If you want to spend the day outdoors, we have another list of great day trips for you to try.
Click the next page for more great ideas, including how you can see a fire truck up close!
6. Have a water fight in the backyard
Odds are you have a couple Super Soakers laying around in the garage. If you fill them up and set up the sprinkler in your yard, you have everything you need for a water fight. Fill up some water balloons from the dollar store if you want to go the extra mile.
If you live near a big city, some public parks will even have a "splash pad" where kids can run underneath water fountains and sprinklers. It's tons of fun, and cheaper than a ticket to the water park.
7. Go to the library
The library isn't just a place where you can take out books - although that should be more than enough to keep the little ones entertained. Most of them offer read-alongs, craft workshops and other special activities for free. Some even have computers with child-friendly games and programs.
8. Break out the board games
When was the last time you sat down with the family to play Monopoly? Board games are fun, plus they're a great chance for kids to learn about odds, money or trivia. If that's not your idea of fun, card games and puzzles are good too.
9. Take a trip to the dollar store
Hand your grandchildren $5 each and let them pick out little toys or games. You'll be surprised by how much fun stuff is hiding in those quarter bins, and the kids will entertain themselves for the rest of the day.
10. Visit a fire station
Kids love big trucks, especially fire trucks. You can see them up close when you visit a local fire station. Call ahead and ask about tours, every city has at least one firehouse that lets the public come and visit.
11. Let them help you in the garden
Like baking, gardening is a fun way to spend time with your grandchildren while they learn a useful skill. Let them help you while you work, or give them their own patch in the garden and watch it grow together.
Share this list if it gave you any ideas!