Fantastically Frugal Family Fun

Family activities don't have to be elaborate or costly to be enjoyable. Often the simplest activities are the ones kids enjoy the most. We've taken our kids to Walt Disney World and a host of other extravagant vacations, but the things they seem to enjoy the most are going on picnics and having family game night.


I can't guarantee that your family will enjoy all of these activities, but there's sure to be something here to please just about everyone.

  • Plan a family game night: Although Hasbro seems to think they patented the idea of family game night, families have been enjoying playing games together for generations. The best way to host a family game night is to select one or two games that your family enjoys playing, pop some popcorn or buy some munchies, turn on some good tunes and play. If you've got little ones in the house, it's always a good idea to choose a few games that they have a fair shot of winning. And believe me, nothing gives a kid more satisfaction than feeling that they've beat their parents at something.

  • Visit a local zoo: Nothing brings out the kid in all of us than a trip to visit the critters at the zoo. If you're lucky enough to live by a large free zoo, like Lincoln Park in Chicago or the St. Louis Zoo, plan several visits throughout the year because some animals are extremely active in the summer and sluggish in the winter while others are active in the winter. Unfortunately not every zoo in the country is free, some charge ungodly admission prices, but these fees can be circumvented if you're a savvy shopper and pay attention to your local newspaper.

    Many zoos offer free or reduced price admission to certain events or with coupons that are available in local newspapers or visitors' guides. As an example, Brookfield Zoo, which normally charges $7 a person admission, offers free admission on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the months of January, February, March, October, November, and December.
  • Visit a nature preserve: Many nature preserves around the country offer educational programs on the weekends or during the week. Some of these give kids: and adults: the opportunity to see wild animals and birds up close and personal. Other programs teach kids how to recognize wild animal tracks and educate them on the critters and plants that live around their hometown. These programs are especially good for smaller children who might be intimidated by the lions and tigers found at large zoos.

  • Take a hike: While you're at your local nature preserve or forest preserve, get some exercise by taking a hike. Most forest preserves and state parks have clearly marked trails through the woods. These trails are usually marked with a difficulty level and distance to enable you to tailor your hike to your fitness level.

  • Volunteer together: Taking some time out to help the less fortunate can be a great way to spend time together as a family and teach your kids the great feeling that comes from helping others. Deciding exactly how and where to volunteer should be a family decision and you should defiantly take into account the ages and temperaments of your kids. Don't discount volunteering just because your kids are young, even younger kids can help fill bags at a food pantry. To find volunteer activities in your community, visit

  • Cook together: All too often at our house dinner is a rushed affair that my husband or I throw together to fill our stomachs. Usually on these occasions, we decline offers of help from our kids because we know that cooking with kids generally takes longer than cooking alone. However, every so often: and it is not as often as it should be: we invite the kids into the kitchen to help us cook. It's a great way to help kids feel that they're contributing to the family and it's a chance to talk and find out what's going on in their lives. If you don't have the time to involve your kids in cooking dinner, set aside a Saturday afternoon to make cookies together or get out the cook book and make some banana bread or pumpkin bread. And I bet that the goodies your kids help make will taste a million times better than those you make all by yourself.

  • Explore your hometown: Taking a full-fledged vacation every year is not always possible, but you can have just as much fun taking time to explore your hometown. Even if you live in a small town, chances are you have a local museum or park nearby that you can spend an afternoon exploring. Or check out your local newspaper to see what events are coming up.
  • Have a picnic: Somehow food always tastes better eaten outside and the food doesn't have to be elaborate either, we've had picnics with burgers picked up from our local fast food restaurant and picnics with sandwiches prepared at home and taken to the park. No matter where you live, chances are you can find a small corner of nature to park your blanket on and enjoy the sun for an hour or two.

  • Have an indoor picnic: Don't let the fact that it's snowing or raining outside deter you from having a picnic. Get out a blanket, grab some sandwiches, and have an indoor picnic. And if it's the middle of winter and you're longing for sun, rent some beach movies and pop them in the VCR to bring the sounds of summer into your home for a few hours.

  • Play in the yard with the hose: Kids love to see Mom and Dad acting like kids, so the next time you're washing the car or watering the plants, turn the hose on your kids and be prepared to hear them squeal with delight, but don't be surprised if your enterprising kids find a bucket of water to dump over your head.

  • Have a snowball fight or go sledding: Summer isn't the only time you can have fun outside with your kids. The next time it snows, go outside and build a snowman, instigate a snowball fight, or find the nearest hill and experience the joy of rushing through the snow on an impossibly small piece of wood or plastic. And when you're done, don't forget to cap off the day with some hot chocolate.

  • Design a family Website: The Internet is a great way to stay in touch with far flung friends and family members and what better way to stay in touch than by staking your claim in cyberspace and building a family Web site. You don't even have to be a real techie to put together a passable Web site. Many sites, such as and, offer free Websites with site builders that make it easy to create a Website. And if you only want to post photos, take advantage of Yahoo's briefcase to create family albums. Websites don't have to be limited to photos, you could also scan children's artwork and type in stories and other school projects created by your kids.

  • Build a band: Kids love music and what better way to foster their creativity and love of music than by creating and playing instruments. Guitars can be made with tissue boxes and rubber bands and drums can be created out of round oatmeal boxes or coffee cans.

  • Go camping: Some of our best times as a family have been spent talking around a campfire late at night. We love making S'mores, roasting marshmallows, and enjoying a campfire cooked meal. Even if you don't have a tent or a trailer, you can still enjoy camping in many state and local parks that rent camping gear. Some parks in Illinois rent out small cabins for $35 a night.

Next time you think that you can't afford to have fun with your family, get out your creativity and this list and plan a fantastically frugal family adventure.

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By greg brandt. (Guest Post)
May 10, 20050 found this helpful

WOW.Neat ideas,with two teenagers an a eleven year,I think this is a less expensive way to have fun. A tired dad, thanks

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
May 26, 20060 found this helpful

Free Attractions
Summer is coming and the kids will be out of school soon. How would you
like to have a list of free attractions listed by state?

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
June 26, 20060 found this helpful

10 activities children can try when they tell you they are bored.
1-get a bunch of local near age friends together-elect one to hide the treasure for the TREASURE HUNT.
2-Take A CD radio outside in the yard -have a bunch of same age friends bring one favorite cd-then dance,jump,sing or play to the tunes.
3.Build a Club house in your yard or set up a tent to have your meetings,
4.Have Water Battles using plastic Soda Bottlles with a dishwashing bottle spout screwed on as the cap. After the battle enjoy a safe game of lawn darts using the same bottles with just a little water for weight.
5.Play Board and card games on your porch
Keep records to see who the champion of the summer will be for each game.
6.Plan a Lawn Movie Theater for some night complete with popcorn
Using your TV and VCR you have an old time drive-in without leaving your home.
Caution you should do this on a clear night early then make sure your electronics are unplugged and covered afterwards If you got a porch with a roof use that.
7.Study Nature-learn all the names of the trees .flowers, and insects ,or specialized in any other one nature topic, Keep a journel to record you discoveries and observations.
8.Write A poem or story keep going back and working on it until you are satisfied.OR You Can Start A Diary.
9-Invent Something-start with say a plastic soda bottle and create a new use for it Use Your Immagination.
10. Blow up a balloon and play keep the balloon from hitting the ground
Keep time and see how long you can do it.
Keep records to see who the summer champion will be.
EXTRA-Now you write 10 more extra things you could do if your bored and pass them on to somebody else.
Imagine if everyone added 10 extra activities. Why over the summer how many that would be and YOU would be part of it.
By the way I have a list of another 100 other actiivities if you email me I will gladly email that list back.
Feel Free to copy either list and pass it on if you think the activies are worthy give them to your friends

Reply Was this helpful? Yes

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