Family Entertainment on a Shoestring

A night at the movies, eating out, putt-putt, bowling, all fun pastimes but like most families there is a tendency to get in a rut plus sometimes there just isn’t enough money left in the budget for these particular family outings.   There is an almost endless list of unique and fun-filled activities that cost little to no money though.   We have grouped together 25 such adventures to get you started.  They may even trigger some ideas of your own.  Remember though, good ideas are no good if they are not acted upon.  Be intentional!  Schedule a family night and write it on the calendar.  You can even take turns deciding what you will do on the next family night.  It’s a great way to show your kids how important they are and how much being together as a family means to you!

1.  Visit a cemetery:  That may sound a little creepy but for years my children and I have walked through cemeteries reading headstones and speculating what life may have been like for that individual especially those who lived and died one hundred or more years ago.  Many modern headstones have elaborate artwork or unique sayings engraved in them.

2.  Make a pinata:  Pinata’s are fun anytime of year, an easter egg at Easter, celebrating Cinco de Mayo, etc.  Here is a link for making a simple or more elaborate pinata.  http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Pi%C3%B1ata

3.  Go on a scavenger hunt:  This has been one of my kids most favorite childhood memories!  Instead of an egg hunt at Easter we had a Bible scavenger hunt in which each clue was a scripture from the Bible.  They would look up the verse, read it aloud and have to figure out a key word from the verse that would reveal where the next clue was.  The final clue always led them to a treasure, their Easter baskets!

4.  Look through old photo albums:  kids love to see themselves as babies and hear stories about themselves.  You may also want to go through their baby books together.  Even teens and adult children love sitting down reminiscing.

5.  Take a nature walk:  Do a local search for hiking trails.  Most children prefer ones near water.  Take it slow, giving plenty of time for exploring!  Don’t forget to skip stones.  For younger children it can be helpful to prepare a checklist of potential items they’ll see, acorn, pine cone, maple tree, robin, butterfly, birds nest, etc.  Have them check them off as they find them.

6.  Concert in the park:  Check your local parks website for free concerts (or other activities).

7.  Bake cookies for a shut-in:  Don’t forget to include a kind note or colored picture and spend some time visiting when you deliver them.

8.  Camp out in the backyard or livingroom:  In the summer, camp in the back yard; play flashlight tag, tell stories, watch the night sky!  During the rest of the year set up a tent or make one out of chairs and blankets and set it in the livingroom.  Unplug for the evening and tell stories, make shadow animals using flashights, sing silly songs, just have fun!

9.  Go Geocaching:  If you aren’t familiar with geocaching it is like treasure hunting.  There are “caches” hidden all around the world.  If you have a smart phone you can download a free app for locations and “maps”.  When you find the “treasure box” open it, choose a treasure and place a new treasure in the box.  The treasure or cach can be a marble, mini flashlight, token, almost any small trinket or inexpensive treasure.  Remember geocaching is more than just finding a treasure it’s also about the adventure along the way!

10. Build a fort:  Couch cushions, dining room chairs and blankets are all you need to build a fort.  Eat a picnic lunch or supper in the fort!

11.  Check out free activities at your local library.

12.  Build small boats and watch them float down a river or stream, in the bathtub or in a pond:  Here is a link to 11 fun and simple boat craft ideas.  http://www.redtedart.com/2013/06/08/boat-craft-ideas-for-summer/

13.  Go bird watching:  Do some research beforehand. Find a list of local birds.  Become familiar with what they look like.  Make a list in a notepad of the birds you’ll be looking for.  Bring the notepad and colored pencils along so they can draw and color the birds as they find them.  Binoculars are really fun for kids to use but not required.  Some county parks have viewing areas where you can observe them from indoors.  For some extra fun, using recycled materials, build some bird feeders and do some backyard bird watching.

14.  Write a letter to a missionary:  What a great opportunity to learn a little geography and social studies as well as encourage someone who has left family and friends behind to share the Good News of Jesus with others in another part of the world.

15.  Draw or color pictures and send them to grandparents:  In this world of emails and texts we often forget how meaningful it is to receive something special in the mail!  Recently my son sent a charcoal drawing of some Calla Lilies to his grandma in the mail.  At a recent family gathering we learned that she hung the picture in her livingroom and shows it to everyone who comes over.  She hasn’t stopped talking about it!

16.  Choose sides and have a Nerf war:  Whether inside or outside, Nerf wars are a blast!  When my kids were young we gave ourselves superhero names and wrote them on our guns with permanent marker.  Make forts and barricades out of furniture, choose teams or go for it each man for themselves.

17.  Make a special dessert and surprise the neighbors with it:  Make it extra special!!!

18.  Watch the sunset:  We have watched many sunsets in all four seasons!  Such fun!  We are fortunate to live in Michigan and have a set a goal this summer to watch the sun rise over Lake Huron on the same day we watch it set over Lake Michigan!

19.  Play in the rain!

20.  Learn how to play disc golf at a local course:  Borrow discs from a friend and play at a local course.  They are common on college campuses and can sometimes be found at parks.  You may need to do a google search for a course in your area.

21.  Wash the car!  Your car may not be spotless when done but oh the fun when a water fight breaks out!

22.  Build a snow fort and have a snowball war!

23.  Go rock hunting!  This can be as simple as just looking for really cool rocks or as thorough as collecting and identifying them.  Pick from your favorites and place them in a mason jar.  Put a label on the bottom with the date and location and proudly display them in the open.

24.  Star gazing!  Become familiar with some of the constellations beforehand.  Whether you watch from your backyard or take a drive to the country, away from the city lights, lay a blanket on the ground and wait for shooting stars and talk about the beauty of God’s creation.

25.  Blow bubbles, chase and pop them!