4 Frugal (but FUN) Ways to Spend Time with Your Kids
Building a Stronger Family
During much of my adult life, I have worked retail jobs. These jobs are generally dead end jobs with horrible pay. I don't always get the weekends off and I don't always have a lot of money to spare. Needless to say, stress can be as common as air in my life. One of the things that relaxes me and gives me something to look forward to is time with my family. Outside of being great for me, I know that my eagerness to hang out with the kids signals to them that they are important and cared for. Overall, I believe that this helps instill self esteem and promotes stability in the family. Even with all the benefits, you can accomplish this without spending an arm and a leg. Here are a few of my favorite (cheap!) things to do with the kids:
Cooking at Home
One of the activities that all kids seem to enjoy is cooking. It makes them feel like "grown ups" and teaches them a bit of independence. Food choices can be anything from cookies or brownies all the way up to homemade lasagna. My personal favorite is making homemade pizzas. One, because kids loooove pizza. Two, because even if you have picky eaters you can top it with things they like. Generally speaking, you can make a couple of quality pies with about $20-25 bucks. Our shopping list includes pizza crusts, pizza sauce, cheese, canned olives, pepperoni, canadian bacon, a couple of roma tomatoes and maybe some oregano/olive oil from the pantry. Do all the knife work, but leave topping the pizza completely up to the little ones. It's a good way to spend the better part of an hour with younger kids, including eating their creations with them. You can even make a night of it by throwing in a movie after the pizza dinner. If pizza is too pricey, try homemade cookies, brownies or cupcakes (all of which can be simply done for about 10 bucks).
Arts & Crafts
Doing art projects with the kids can easily while away an afternoon. You can go as complex or as simple as you desire. For the most part, much of what you need is simple copy paper. I like doing projects with my son that I can later use to decorate the house, while commemorating these special moments with him. We use 2-3 vibrant colored finger paints to make coordinating masterpieces. This can be his multicolored handprints on one page and his footprints on another. Throw these in a $3 matted frame from Walmart and we now have art that matches the room. Or sometimes we just freestyle paint and color. Other crafts could include making puppets with paper lunch bags and putting on a play, drawing and writing your own bedtime story book together or making your own greeting cards around the holidays.
Spending Time with the Kids
Playing outside is a kid's favorite pastime. They can run around the backyard, ride bikes around the neighborhood or go to the local park. Using their imagination, the fun they create can be limitless. Red Light, Green Light or hide and seek....whatever the chosen activity, exercising is great for young children. Go sledding or make a snow man in the winter months. Rake up the leaves and then allow the kids to jump through the piles when the trees begin to shed in the fall. If you have a couple of bucks to spend, you can ramp up the fun even more. If you have warm weather, spend $2-$3 bucks on a couple packs of small balloons and fill them with water for a water balloon fight. If you have windy spring days coming up, buy a couple of cheap kites. You can even get a basic tent and "camp out" overnight in the backyard with the kids. Make a complete night of it by helping them make smores and hot dogs (I used a cheap mini hibachi grill I found at a dollar store).
I don't recommend doing this one too often, but sometimes being a couch potato together can be nice. Watch your kid's favorite show with him. Play his favorite video games with him. Grab a movie rental by picking out something together. Wake up and watch Saturday morning cartoons together, eating cereal in your night clothes all day. Sounds slothful, but sometimes this can be just what the doctor ordered.
Investing in Your Kids
These are just a few of the ideas that I use with the children in my life. All of them, costing me little or nothing at all. I know that with each activity I am getting a chance to not only let my son get to know me better, but also for me to get to know him better. This time is an important investment in our future relationship. Now that you have some of my favorite ideas, please share what are some of your.