Whether your kids need something to do over a summer or spring break, a weekend, a holiday off school, or just need something to do when the weather is bad or they are home sick, if you’re not creative it can get quite expensive. If done with an fun attitude, you may even be able to slip in something educational for them also. Children need to learn so many lessons that aren’t included in school books. Parents and after school activities have to fill the void that they don’t get in school, to ensure they grow up to be balanced adults. Music, art, and physical education have been greatly reduced if not eliminated in our public school system, and need to be taught somewhere. Caring for others, animals and our environment need to also be added to the mix. Since children learn from our actions, there is no better way to teach these lessons than for them to see us enjoy them or working together toward these goals as a family.
Picnic – Whether elaborate (a large family get together, or even multiple families) or intimate (one parent and one child), a family picnic can be an enjoyable activity for everyone. You can even get the kids involved in the kitchen packing for the event, picking the location, and planning activities (throwing a frisbee, a ball game, swimming, etc.).
Get active – Many city parks or gardens offer tennis courts, basketball courts, biking, walking and hiking trails, baseball diamonds, and/or soccer fields. Even if your yard isn’t large enough for these activities, you can usually find great options in your area. Getting and staying active is great for every member of the family.
History around us – Most cities will offer some type of historical attraction close by. These little places that we take for granite in our local area can be very interesting if we invest the time to find out about them. The larger locations are marked by some of our national parks (hopefully you’re lucky enough to be close to them also). This country has a lot and quite a variety to offer us.
Pick your own produce – The kids will love to pick their own strawberries, blueberries, or whatever you have in your area. They love to see how things grow, and after tasting fresh produce they may be more likely to reach for those fresh fruits and veggies.
Zoos – Zoos can be both educational and fun. Children can learn to both love and respect the animals. Membership is something you may want to consider if you will frequently visit. Many memberships will offer reciprocal benefits with other zoos and aquariums. You can also look for discount days or coupons.
Playgrounds – There are many playgrounds available for free. The kids can get some fresh air and exercise at the same time.
Aquariums – Aquariums can be an entertaining and educational outing. Many offer great benefits with a family membership (like reciprocal benefits with other aquariums and zoos). Check out the fine print to see if it’s a good deal for your family. Look for discount days or coupons.
Museums – There are a wide variety of museums available. Introducing your kids to art, science, and history in a fun and entertaining way can be invaluable. Many have changing, special or traveling exhibits. Check for discount days and coupons. Membership may also be a good deal if this is some place your family will frequently visit or if other membership benefits (check for a reciprocal museum listing) would be frequently used.
Kitchen time – What kid wouldn’t enjoy making cookies with mom or dad? As the child gets older their duties (taster, mixer, measurer, etc.) can change as they are capable of more. (NOTE: If you plan to taste the dough you may want to use Egg Beaters instead of eggs, since they are pasteurized.) As the children get older a special cake or other special family recipe can be taught.
Library – Browse books together with your kids and share some that were your favorites when you were their age. Enjoy reliving the favorite times of your childhood and being young again. Share with your kids the books you enjoyed the most when you were their age. Many libraries also have special events (like book readings) that your family may be interested in.
Volunteer together – If your children are older, volunteering to help others is a great and rewarding learning experience. This could be anything from helping out with a food drive, helping a neighbor in need, or getting involved at school, church, or the scouts. Check out Volunteer Match for some additional ideas that fit your interests. This web site allows you to search for a volunteer opportunity in your area that matches your skills and interests.
Board games – Board games can be quite inexpensive and a great investment for hours of entertainment. The basics (cards, chess, checkers, Monopoly, Sorry, etc.) can usually be found on sale at Christmas time or even picked up second hand at a garage sale (make sure all needs parts are there).
Enjoy a movie – Rent a movie from NetFlix (save on late fees and offers a great selection) or you may even be able to find one at the library for free. Pop some popcorn and enjoy the family time.
Look for the cheap theatre – Most towns have a cheaper theater in town if you really want to get out for a movie. There are also matinees and movie coupons (check your Entertainment book or other local coupon book) to help out on the costs even further.
Minor league sporting events – The minor league or women’s leagues are much less expensive to attend and often offer a more personal experience too. This is a great way to get the kids to meet some athletes, which are often better role models than the major leagues also.
Art projects – Many web sites have ideas for children’s art projects. This is a great way to keep them entertained inside on a rainy or cold day, but also teaches creativity.
- Crayola.com – Crayola offers many free creative ideas. Free coloring pages includes over 1000 pages that can be printed off to color. Some are also educational. There are also sections for over 1000 craft ideas which offers crafts for many different holidays, a parents section and an educators section which includes lesson plans.
- HP Activity Center – The HP Activity Center offers a wide variety of printable projects. You can make calendars, cards, scrapbook pages, invitations, and party decorations to name a few.