Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Free Family Fun

I used to think, to have fun it had to involve money being spent. ie. going to the movies, a dinner date, zoo, water park etc. Living on a strict budget, these days, has not left much room for extra spending on these types of things. But we have discovered there is still plenty of fun to be had. I am sure many of you have done these things, but wanted to share some of my experiences and hoping you will share some of yours in the comments.

Summer is a great time for free family fun...

  • splash pads- Splash pads seem to be popping up all over these days. There are two that we have tried. There is a new one in Oxford thats free for residents and a small fee for non-residents. Adults are free! We have family in Oxford, so we've been able to get in free and the kids have really enjoyed it......once they got over the freezing water :) We have also ventured to Partridge Creek Mall. They have jets that shoot water from the ground and a kids play area right next to each other. The kids LOVE it there.

  • beaches- We have been to several beaches this summer. While it takes some work to pack everything needed for three young kids, it provides great free entertainment. I've also had to get over having sand in EVERYTHING from the van to between every toe, but worth it for free family fun.

  • bike rides- If you have bikes and don't mind the exercise, this is one of our favorites. The kids sit in the trailer and enjoy the scenery and we get exercise all at the same time. We usually try to stop at a park or maybe splurge for an ice cream cone on our ride to give the kids something to do. Their favorite stop is at this little Pioneer town, in our town that has four goats that will eat anything that you stick through the fence.

  • local parks - try a different one each week. There are lots of parks around from community ones to school playgrounds.

  • library events- I feel this is a severely untapped resource. There are many fun things that libraries have to offer. Story time, craft times, special events, and if nothing else, an outing to bring new books and sometimes movies home. We love the movie section. They have a decent new release section (for being a library and not a movie store) and they're free. Go to the library during the day and then plan a special family movie night for the evening. Have the kids draw and cut out movie tickets for each person, pop some popcorn, turn the lights down, snuggle on the couch and enjoy the show.

  • parks and rec events - This summer our parks and rec department has been hosting movies in the park, family swim nights, a kite day, and many other free events just for family fun. Check out your local parks and rec. There may be fun at your fingertips just waiting for you.

  • game nights- when the weather isn't permitting for outside activities, game nights are always fun. We like board games, relay races, duck duck goose (the girls will even play with just the two of them), and then there are always made up games. M will make things up for us to do. Spin around three times, jump up and down, and then lay down. Be creative!!! It can even be as simple as pulling out a few toys that haven't been played with in a while.

  • things in your community - Before kids, I didn't give much thought to things going on in our community. But now I look for things all the time. A few weeks back there was a community open house. They brought in a bounce house, had a farmer's market, petting zoo, and fire trucks on display. The kids loved it. In out little town, there are also concerts in the park and a few yearly events that take place, sidewalk sales, peach festival and victorian days that offer free entertainment for families.

  • When you just can't seem to find anything to do, go to the "family fun" We get the Family Fun magazine which is FULL of great fun and free or almost free activities to do with your family. When we went to visit Chris's family recently, we had a three hour ride each way, so I spent the trip going through each magazine and tearing out pages of ideas I would use. It's two fold: I get a few pages of fun and then toss (or recycle) the rest of the magazine, decluttering my desk at the same time.

  • Camp out- one we have not done yet, but am looking forward too. We have been searching craigslist and garage sales for a cheap used tent, so the kids can "camp" in the backyard with daddy. Flashlight games, star gazing, making smores...the ideas are endless.

Other not quite free, but worth the cost (in my opinion)

Zoo- I listed it up there as an expense, but if you can budget $70 for a zoo pass, you can take your family year round for that price including parking. So while its not completely free, it is a great value for a family. It was going to cost us $50 just to go once, with parking and admission for 5 of us. Now we can go anytime we want. If the kids get tired and we have only been there an hour, that's okay we can come another day or ten other days for that matter :)

Park with Dinner - It's Friday night and dinner isn't made and your feeling like getting out. Grab dinner and head to a park. One of our favorites is Rochester park. There are two different play structures, ducks to feed, rivers to splash in, and trails to walk on. The kids have loved it. They get to meet other kids, play, and make family memories all at the same time. Of course packing dinner is always a more ecomical option, but there are just days where makingn dinner just doesn't happen :) We have done both this summer.

When the weather is not good a trip to a local fast food play place is fun. Sometimes, we eat before we go, and then I will just buy the kids a drink when we get there.

So there you have it......... some of my ideas........what are your family favorite free activities?


Rebekah said...

Ty's new favorite free thing to do is ride the pony at Meijer for a penny. Okay, I guess that's not "FREE" but it's a penny! :)

Not sure that would keep all your kids occupied at the grocery store, but it does just the trick for sweet Ty!

karen said...

Hey Dad and I have a tent in the rafters you can have...better than ;0)

Running after the heart of the Father. Seeking His face in All things. Walking His will out in my life. These are the desires of my heart. Along the way I am a wife and mom who wants to capture memories that will last a life time.