With a house full of kids whose ages range from mid-teenager to preschooler, it can be challenging to find activities for our family. We are also a frugal bunch, and outings can become very expensive. So we try to stick to activities that are free or as cheap as they come, as well as enjoyable for all ages. We also have three sons attending three different schools, a daughter at home, and a daddy who works evenings so they only get to see him on the weekend.
Therefore, when choosing activities, we try to find things that offer a chance for us to talk, explore and reconnect with each other as well have fun. I have put together a list of some of the things we like to do together.
1. Walk Around a Farmers’ Market. Farmers’ markets may not seem like good fun for a teen or even a preschooler, but a lot more goes on than simply shopping for vegetables and fruits. The farmers’ market is an experience where vendors talk to you and people commune with one another.
2. Enjoy Free Admission Days at Art Museums. It doesn’t have to be an art museum. Science, history and other kinds of museums often have free days or reduced-admission days. In my city, the art museum is free every day.
3. Go Dollar Skating. Skating indoors is fun for the whole family, from the fifteen-year-old to the five-year-old. It’s fun for the daddy and me, too! Every Sunday our local skating rink offers 50-cent admission and 50-cent skate rental. They also have selective dates where you can bring in a designated item for the snack counter and get in for a buck.
4. Browse a Flea Market. Flea marts are one of our favorite things to do as a family. We have a few in our city. They sell oddities and antiques that we find fascinating, even if we don’t find anything useful. They are also great places to find bargains for things we need.
5. Walk in Nature. We have plenty of places in our city for a nature walk. I think it’s something the daddy and I need to get back into when the warm months come. We didn’t do so many nature walks as a family last summer, and this winter we have noticed. We got a little squishy.
6. Explore Letterboxing or Geocaching. This has quickly become one of my favorite activities. I started with geocaching, and then a friend introduced me to letterboxing. Finding hidden treasure troves in the woods or in the city (even in parking lots and public buildings) is loads of fun and completely free!
7. Go Dollar Bowling. We have a few bowling alleys in my city, and finding out when they have dollar days or reduced admission is as simple as picking up the phone and calling to ask.
8. Try a Nature-Themed Scavenger Hunt. Apart from geocaching or letterboxing where we go looking for a box or cache that was hidden by another, we can have our own scavenger hunts in the woods with the kids, where we try to find nature related objects. We find some fascinating things!
9. Look for Discount Days at the Zoo or Sporting Events. Our major league baseball team offers reduced admission often. They’re cheap seats but still a lot of fun. Likewise, you can check out the schedule page for the zoo nearest you to find out what events they have coming up that might be affordable for your family. Reduced or discount admission days often means contending with crowds, but for us, it’s just part of the experience.
10.Swim in a Nearby Body of Water. The beach area at our local lake costs about as much as the pool; however, they too will offer discount admission on certain days. There are also many lakes in our area with suitable places to swim that do not charge admission. We always make sure we’re allowed to swim there before we go.
11.Go Fish. It sure is nice to have plenty of local lakes around. Going fishing can start out a little expensive, but once you have purchased the necessary licenses and the equipment, it’s free every time after. And we get to eat what we catch!
12. Visit a Nature Center. Most nature parks have facilities where families can browse displays, look at some of the local wildlife, and even play nature-themed games. We can pick up brochures and speak with the park managers about weather, plant, and animal trends and hear news about the park. These are always free.
13. Picnic at a Park. If you live in or near a large city, you likely have some glorious parks around. I happen to live in quite a large metropolis, and even though my own little suburb is speckled with parks they are nothing to the parks found in the heart of the big city. When I first suggested to my husband to pack a picnic and drive thirty minutes across a bustling highway to sit at a park and relax, he thought it was too weird and I had to twist his arm to get him to do it. It turned out to be one of the most peaceful, relaxing things we have ever done as a family. We strolled, played catch, watched people, and even napped. We cannot wait to go back!
14. Backyard Camp. We love to camp, but we are rarely able to get away for a weekend. We do have local camping facilities, but they are usually sweeping lawns with patches marked out and electrical outlets hooked up to them. It’s not exactly the roughing-it experience we look for, and we might as well pitch the tent in our own backyard. So that’s mainly what we do with it. One day we hope to take the kids on a real camping trip, with actual woods and stuff.
15.Tour Your City’s Historical Area. Every city has a history and, often, people with a passion for telling it. Our city already has a self-guided walking tour mapped out, easily accessible with wide sidewalks and large decorative signs to point us along our way, and a brochure that gives the details of each stop. If yours does not have this, you have the bonus fun of hitting the library to research and plan your own course. I know very few people who aren’t at least mildly interested in learning about the history of where they live.
Despite being a large family and very thrifty at that, we are rarely ever bored, and it is uncommon to find us all parked in front of our television. When you know where to look and what to look for, you can find some fantastically fun and frugal ways to keep your family entertained, learning, and connecting all year long.
Destany Fenton, Author of They Are All of Me
Destany is an artist who works from home while raising her four kids, who range in age from teens to littles. A self proclaimed cheapskate and “maker-queen,” her do-it-yourself attitude compels her to promote self-education, frugality, and taking responsibility for our global community. She is attentive to her children and works to foster and maintain a deep connection with each one, while finding harmony within herself and remembering to take time for her husband. When she is not painting, cooking, gardening, knitting or playing with her kids – even the big ones, she is blogging about her life at They Are All of Me, where she shares crafts, recipes, and crazy mama mishaps that are bound to crop up when living with pets, teenagers and little ones.