Monday, April 17, 2017

25 Family Activities That Won't Break Your Budget

When you are looking for entertaining family activities that will not drain your bank account, start by picking up local tourist guides.  They often contain valuable coupons for local family fun.  Also, many towns and cities have free community newspapers that list events, many of them free or for a nominal charge.

Here are 25 things you can experience with your family that will not put your bank account in the red. 

Choose the ideas that suit your family and add some of your own. For an extra layer of fun, write the ideas on strips of paper and put them in an empty Kleenex box. Let family members take turns making the draw and what you are doing on that day will be a surprise for everyone!

1.  Construct paper airplanes and have a competition to see who's can fly the farthest.  Here is a great website where you can find some cool designs:

2.  Pack a picnic and head to the park.  Add to the fun by bringing along a Frisbee and some bubbles.  On a day with cumulus clouds, you can all lay on a blanket and tell one another what images you see in the fluffy formations.

3.  Visit the different museums in your town or city.  Check their websites for the various exhibits they offer and look for special showings.  They often offer free admission days too.

4.  Make a kite and fly it!  Check out this website for easy instructions:  Download a free e-book with more clever ideas here:  Note!  When flying your kite, always avoid overhead wires. 

5.  Visit a fire station.  Most will arrange free tours for families with kids.

6.  Go to a local high school sporting event such as baseball, football or hockey.  Call the school to find out game times and admission prices. Usually the cost is between three and seven dollars per person with family rates available and the money goes to support the team.  Some offer canteen services at very reasonable prices.

7.  Reach for the stars!  Purchase a star chart book.  One of the most highly recommended books is NightWatch, A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe by Terence Dickinson.  It is available at Amazon.  Enjoy reading the book as a family.  On a clear night, go to a place as far away from the city lights as possible.  Lay down on your backs staring up at the stars, taking turns finding constellations (use a flash light if you need to refer to the charts in the book).  Note! 

8.  Plan a nature scavenger hunt.  They can be done at any local park and made even more fun if your kids bring a couple of friends.  Give each person a list of items to collect or 'scavenge' for.  Some good examples are an acorn, smooth rock, five star leaf, pop can, paper plate, plastic fork, plastic bottle, bottle cap, plastic bag, flower, piece of wood, piece of bark, pine cones, pine needles and a feather.  For older children, offer bonus prizes if they can identify the type of tree the leaf, wood or bark came from or what kind of bird left a feather behind. Use your imagination to add as many items as you wish.  Bring small prizes from the dollar store.  The winner who returns first with all the items could get an extra treat, but each participant should get a reward.  Bonus!  You are cleaning the park while having fun.  Remember to bring a garbage bag for the trash.

9.  Bake and decorate cookies together.  This is a recipe for Easy Drop Cookies that make 3 to 4 dozen.  The ingredients are 1 Cup of butter or margarine, 1 Cup of white sugar, 1 egg, 1 Teaspoon of vanilla extract, 2 Tablespoons of milk, 2 1/2 Cups of all purpose flour, 1/2 Teaspoon of baking soda and 1/4 Teaspoon of salt.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Cream together the butter or margarine and white sugar.  Add the egg, vanilla extract and milk.  Stir well.  Gradually add the flour, baking soda and salt.  Mix well.  Roll spoonfuls of dough in your hands to make little balls.  Place the balls on a cookie sheet, pressing them dough down with the bottom of a glass or a fork.  Bake for 12 minutes.  To make the frosting, combine 1 Cup of powdered sugar, 1 1/2 Tablespoons of milk and 1 Teaspoon of vanilla.  Beat all ingredients until smooth.  Allow the cookies to cool before adding the frosting.  Let everyone decorate their own cookies.  You can find a good variety of decorations for a low price at dollar stores. 

10.  Take a trip to the library.  They offer various clubs and your family members can choose their favourite one.  Register for individual memberships (remember to bring identification). Books can usually be borrowed for up to three weeks.  Check their calendar for special activity days.  Note!  Most activities are free, but you may have to sign up.

11.  Visit your local SPCA and volunteer to walk the dogs.  They almost always need extra help but there may be a schedule where you choose a designated time to arrive and indicate how long you can stay.  Dogs will be well screened for positive social skills and you may find a new family member! If you are not in the market for a pet, explain this to younger children before you go in order to prevent a melt down when 'the cutest dog in the whole world' has to be left behind.

12.  Check your town or city's website for free swimming and skating times.  Note!  Second hand stores are a great place to purchase skates as are online local selling sites and traditional swap meets.

13.  Most golf courses allow winter time sledding but call to be sure.  Bring thermoses of hot chocolate to warm chilly tummy's.
14.  Have a sand castle competition at the beach.  Bring a variety of containers from that you can pack sand in to make different shapes and sizes.   It is easier to work in teams rather than individually.  Two to a team is ideal, but it depends on the size of your family. Food coloring is an inexpensive way to add to the fun!

15.  Look on local Internet sites and in newspapers and compile a list of yard sales for a Saturday morning outing.  Give your kid's each five dollars to spend and hit the road!  Note!  Take a few minutes to plan your route so you are not backtracking to the sales.

16.  Visit Seniors in nursing homes.  Ask the director or head nurse which residents would benefit from a visit.  Talk to the activities co-ordinator to see if your family can volunteer.  Note!  Seniors are a wealth of information for your children so encourage them to ask questions.  Your entire family will benefit from the resident's stories and give children a valuable insight into the past.

17.  Purchase sidewalk chalk at the dollar store. Thousands of years ago, the Romans played hopscotch and you can still enjoy this timeless game with your children.  You can find a hopscotch pattern and the rules of the game here:  The site also offers variations on the traditional rules for hours of fun.  Note!  While playing hopscotch, everyone is also getting a good cardio workout.

18.  Plant a garden.  First, allow yourself some time to develop your garden location.  Start by visiting this website: How to Prepare Soil for a Garden,  Have the family decide whether to plant flowers or vegetables.  Perhaps they will be industrious and choose to plant both!  Seed packages cost about a dollar fifty for flowers and a dollar eighty to three dollars for vegetables.  If this is your first time gardening, it is best to keep it as simple as possible. Sunflowers, sweet peas, marigolds, geraniums and pansy's grow easily.  as do carrots, green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers.  Let everyone share in the planting.  Assign daily watering duties.  Children can also help with the weekly weeding, if they are old enough.  Your family will feel great pride and a real sense of accomplishment when they admire the colourful blooms and/or taste the succulent vegetables they grew themselves. NOTE! See if any of your children have learned that although they are sold with the vegetables in stores, tomatoes are, in fact, fruits.

19.  Rainy nights and weekends bring the opportunity for everyone to test their pantomime skills with a spirited game of charades.  An impressive charades word list for kids can be found at this website: 

20.  Have a family breakfast at a restaurant that has a play area for the kids.  While the kids frolic for an hour, you can settle back and read the newspaper or a book while you sip on your second cup of coffee.  Note!  Breakfast is typically the cheapest meal of the day.

21.  Attend free shows oftentimes presented by local festivals.  For example, during a week-long celebration showcasing award winning musicians, smaller venues may offer concerts with no charge for admission.  Check your local free newspapers, listen to the radio, switch to your community cable channel or the entertainment section of the locale's website to see what is happening in your area.  Note!  If an establishment where they serve liquor is one of the sites where a free concert is being held, call ahead to be sure minors are allowed to attend.  (Usually, if the site serves food, minors are allowed.  If only liquor is served, minors are probably not permitted.)

22.  A trip to the zoo is sure to rate highly on the family's 'fun for everyone' list.  Many zoos have family rates that are cheaper than if you paid individually.  Many zoos are open year round so take advantage of colder weather when animals are more likely to be active rather than laying under trees or in the tall grass or escaping into their enclosures to avoid the heat. Note!  You may be required to show id for a child if the zoo offers free admission under a certain age.

23.  Fireworks are often put on by municipalities for special occasions.  Buy the kids sparklers at the dollar store and let them put on their own show.  Plus, if you go early to get a good viewing spot, your kids will have something to entertain them while they wait.

24.  Family photo night!  Everyone dresses up as silly as possible and they take pictures of one another.  Some ideas include wearing a colander as a hat, putting your clothes on backwards, pulling your hair over your eyes and put on a pair of sunglasses, having a toddler wear Dad's shirt and tie and dress up Dad in Mom's costume jewellery.  Don't forget to include your pets.  Your little dog wills look adorable but silly in the baby's kitty cat pyjamas!

25.  Vacation time!  Get a jar with a large opening or a strong box.  Have everyone decorate the jar or box with craft supplies from around the house.  Label it your 'Vacation Savation'.  Put it in a prominent place in your home, easily accessible by all family members.  Encourage everyone to faithfully contribute their spare change and set a monetary goal.  Once a month, have everyone share in counting and rolling the change.  You will be astonished at the amount you will save if everyone is diligent about contributing to the fund.  If you are planning a family vacation, you can save towards a special extra activity such as spending a day training and swimming with the dolphins.  If you are not planning a family vacation, your goal could be a family dinner at a favourite restaurant followed by a movie at the theatre.  Either way, your 'savation' will show everyone that saving money leads to rewards. Note!  After each goal is reached, set a new target and continue your 'Vacation Savation'.

These preceding ideas clearly demonstrate it is quite obvious that families can handily find activities that are affordable, entertaining, fun, enjoyable and even educational!  Endeavour to indulge in the ideas whenever possible and not only will you find your wallet heavier and your bank account balance in the black, you will treasure the time spent with your family, which is priceless.

Pauline Milner

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