Top 10 Free Family Activities
Written by: Catalogs.com Editorial Staff
February 14, 2011
Filed Under Family
Contributed by Rosemary O’Brien, Catalogs.com Info Guru
Some people think entertaining children is expensive, but that is so far from the truth! As a former military spouse who has moved all over the place, I have met a lot of creative parents.
It’s not always easy to work outside the home with a spouse’s uncertain schedule, so money is not always available for outside activities. As a result, we tend to make our own fun much of the time. Here are a few ideas to make even the simplest activities free and fun!
My top ten free family activities:
10. Clean the house
Yes, I mentioned a chore as a fun thing to do with your family. The way I see it the house has to be cleaned, so why not make it fun? Set a timer and see who can finish dusting the living room in five minutes. Give everyone a basket or bucket and have them race to clean up all the toys. Send them to clean their rooms and have them compete for the cleanest room. Okay, maybe this is the lamest free suggestion, but you never know. Some kids like to clean, others like to have contests, and everyone loves a clean house. If you make it fun, they will come.
9. Build something
Go online for project plans. You can build a birdhouse out of scrap wood, for example. Scare up sticks and branches from your yard if it’s filled with trees, or go into a local woody area and find them. And you don’t even need nails. Put it all together using twine, string or even rubber bands. Get creative and see what you can come up with. How about feeding the birds who might live in that house? Spread peanut butter on pine cones using a spoon or popsicle sticks. Hang them to trees and see who shows up. Or make some cereal treats and instead of making a gingerbread house, build a box with the gooey stuff. When its finished, fill it with the cookies you decorated earlier.
8. Take to the open road
Take a drive to nowhere. Get everyone in the car and drive along the shoreline, into the countryside or just to get an ice cream in another town. My father used to pile us in the car and drive an hour away to get a chili dog in the next state. My brothers and I fondly remember this time many years later. You don’t even have to get an ice cream or hot dog. Drive to a local park and toss around a football, search for shells on the beach or rocks in the woods. The point is to spend time together. By having some unstructured hanging out time, you can often talk about things that are bothering your kids or just find out who they are by listening to them talk to you.
7. Cook dinner together
How many times do you tell yourself you have to teach your children to cook for themselves? I do it all the time. This is one of those free family activities that will teach them valuable life skills. Even if they are little, they can learn something. My eldest son has been tearing lettuce for salad since he was 2 1/2-years-old. My youngest son loves to crack eggs when I bake. It is not always neat and clean, but it is a necessary skill to have. There are tons of free online recipes from desserts and low calorie or vegetarian recipes. Even if you crack open a box of mac and cheese, cooking with your kids helps them to become self-sufficient. One day you may even end up with a home-cooked meal you didn’t have to cook!
6. Decorate cookies
Take the cooking theme one step further and decorate cookies together. By cutting a basic cookies into shapes with cookies cutters or a knife, you can come up with interesting shapes.
Pile on the frosting as a base for your masterpieces, then get out decorating gel. You can also reserve a bit of white frosting and color it with food coloring. Use zip baggies with corners cut off as pastry bags or dab some frosting onto toothpicks or skewers to fill in pictures. You can also use skewers to draw right into the frosting, then fill the gullies with another color frosting, or outline your shapes with your skewer. Get creative with little candies and sprinkles, too, and see what you can come up with.
5. Play video games
If you can’t beat them, join them! Okay. I know we all wish our kids would get away from the video games and run around outside more, but this can be fun for you, too. Pop in one of your kids’ favorite video games, grab a controller and have at it. Learn about the game by asking your kids to teach you how to play. Even losing is fun when you play video games with your children. In my house, we do a lot of laughing when I get knocked off cliffs or fly into walls trying to play some of these games. We do a lot of laughing and you will, too.
4. Get fit
Set up a backyard playground circuit or a fitness trail. This is more fun than hitting the gym and banging out your daily workout. Set up a jumping jack station, for example. Write out a card with, “20 jumping jacks.” When you get to that marker, which could be a stick in the ground or just a pot lid lying on the ground, you have to do 20 jumping jacks. When you’ve done that, move on to the next station. You can even write silly things like hop on one foot for one minute or twirl around both ways five times each. Get creative. After all, laughing is exercise in my book!
3. Blow bubbles
Blow bubbles. Try to fill up your yard with as many bubbles as possible, or do what we do. In the summer, my sons and I blow bubbles in the front of the house. They fly way up into the sky, by neighbors’ windows and sometimes get stuck in the trees before popping. You can add a little glycerin which you can purchase in craft stores to add longevity to your bubble soap, or what we call “bubble juice.” See who can make the biggest bubble or a bubble inside a bubble. There are even bubble containers that prevent spills for your little ones. You would be amazed how many smiles you will see on your neighbors’ faces when a bubble goes by their window.
2. Play board games
Remember when we didn’t have video games? Play a board game like Scrabble or Monopoly. Don’t just play the game, but make it a family tournament! Find a game that is age-appropriate for your whole family, and then get going. Come up with categories for your tournament and award little prizes like a “Get Out of Doing the Dishes Free” card. Who is the best real estate mogul in Monopoly or the one who amasses the biggest fortune the quickest? How about the All Time Obscure Word Champion in Scrabble? You can set a regular day for your tournament each month. In between, just play the games and get good so you can win that “Someone Else Folds Your Laundry” card! (That last one sounds like a good one for Mom.)
1. Hold a movie night
This is a favorite in our house. Every Friday or Saturday night we have Movie Night. We all get to pick a movie together, then pop some popcorn, put in a DVD and it’s suddenly a night at the movies. The best part is that you can attend in your pj’s and can pause the movie whenever you need a drink or a bathroom break. Old movies, Disney movies, and old films on DVD and videos are easy to find through your cable company or at your local public library. Pull out all of your pillows, pile them in front of the TV and enjoy the big screen on your little screen.
Having fun with your family doesn’t have to cost a lot or anything at all. With a little creativity, you can find many free family activities that are plenty of fun. Play a game, watch a movie or make something. They are all ways to get to know your kids and build memories that will last their lifetime. Who knows? You may be invited to a great Candyland Tournament one day hosted by your grandchildren. Whatever you end up doing, have fun.