Our entertainment budget is pretty minimal since we’re working hard on our big, fat goal to pay off our law school loans asap. Just because we don’t spend much on entertainment doesn’t mean we’re not having fun! Fun definitely isn’t measured by the money you spend. In fact, free family activities may even be more fun because you won’t need to get out your wallet!
Here are some of our favorite free family activities from this summer:
Hiking– My husband and I both enjoy hiking, but we haven’t done it very much with our children. At ages 2, 4, and 6, they are all old enough to hike on their own. A few weeks ago after Saturday chores were done, we headed up the road to some national forest land. We parked the car and just started walking. The kids loved exploring, climbing, running, and filling their pockets with rocks. It was a simple activity that took no planning and was totally free, but the kids loved it!
Camping– Our kids love camping. They enjoy sleeping out under the stars at home, but it’s especially fun when we get to set our tent up away from home. We like to camp outside of the designated campsites that you pay for, partly because we’re cheap and partly because we like being more than 20 feet away from our “neighbors.” It’s a great time to bond and spend quality time together in the great outdoors.
Playing at the Park– Even though I occasionally take the kids to the park by myself, it’s different when we go as a whole family. Daddy is better at helping the kids catch frogs and he spins the merry-go-round way faster than I do. A normal, everyday activity jumps up a few notches on the fun scale when the whole family goes together.
Swimming– It’s been a couple years since we’ve been to an actual pool, but we do a lot of splashing, wading, and swimming in creeks, ponds and rivers. With easy access and no admission charges, these natural bodies of water are a perfect way for us to cool off.
Reading– While reading is often an individual activity, it can be a great family activity too! We have read chapter books to our children since the oldest was about 3. The younger ones enjoy the stories too.
Audio Books– When it’s too hot to be outside, the whole family can curl up and listen to an audio book together. You can download lots of great books from librivox.org. We recently enjoyed The Adventures of Reddy Fox, and other audio books by the same author.
Games and Puzzles– We love board games but we don’t take time to sit down and play them very often. Pulling out an old favorite or learning a new game is a great way to spend time together without spending a dime.
Movie Night– Since we don’t have cable (or a TV, for that matter), watching a movie is something special. The kids sometimes watch DVDs while I’m working on something during the day, but to have mom and dad sit down and watch a movie with them is a big deal. Including popcorn or a sweet treat makes a movie night particularly memorable.
Gardening– Sometimes weeding in the hot sun is not what we want to do on a Saturday morning. In the words of my favorite nanny “In every job that must be done there is an element of fun. You find the fun and… snap! The job’s a game.” When we work together, we not only have more fun, but we get something done in the process.
Preserving Food– Our kids like to be involved in what we’re doing, so we make canning a family activity. It’s fun to work together when each person has a job to do and we are working together to accomplish a task. It’s fun to be a part of a big project and the tasty fruits of our labor are fun to enjoy together, too!
Building Something– My husband and our kids have a long-standing tree house project going on. While it could be classified as work, they are having loads of fun learning about tools, being creative, and accomplishing a goal. While we were camping last weekend, my husband and the kids built a log raft (see top image), which was loads of fun!
Local Organized Activities
Library Activities– Our local library has lots of fun, free events, especially during the summer. From puppet shows and wild animal shows, to craft projects and story time, there is always something going on that my kids and I would enjoy.
County Fair– I went to my first county fair a couple weeks ago. I took the kids on kids’ day because admission was free for kids. I made cupcakes to enter into the daily baking contest because you got free admission if you were bringing a baking contest entry, though it did cost $2 to enter the baking contest. Since it was kids day there were all sorts of free kids activities. I mapped out the best free activities the night before so our schedule was booked with fun things. We even found free food!
Church Activities– We’re very involved in our local church congregation, so we try to make it to all the activities. They are always lots of fun with good friends and yummy food and they don’t cost us anything (expect maybe a contribution to a potluck dinner here and there).
Fun Promotional Freebies
Home Depot Kids Workshops– Home Depot offers free kids workshops on the first Saturday of the month from 9-12. Kids get to make a real project to take home and get their own orange apron. The projects are designed for ages 5 to 12, but younger kids can participate as long as their parents help them.
Lowe’s Kids Clinics– Lowe’s has a Build and Grow Clinic for kids twice a month on Saturdays from 10-11 where kids can make a project for free. You can see the upcoming projects and register online.
Cow Appreciation Day at Chick-Fil-A — Did you know that if you dress like a cow you get a free meal at Chick-Fil-A on cow appreciation day? This is an annual event that usually happens on the second Friday in July. A yummy free meal for the entire family is totally worth wearing a cow costume in public, in my opinion!
7-Eleven Day– You can get a free Slurpie at any 7-Eleven convenience store on July 11th. Since we don’t ever get Slurpies, something like this is a fun treat that our family gets excited about.
How about you?
What are your family’s favorite free (or frugal) activities to do in the summer?