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Free Fun For Families

Updated on May 21, 2016
Anna Marie Bowman profile image

Anna wears many hats: writer, mother, crafter. Over the years, she has found what works and what doesn't for herself and her family.

One of the best words in the English language
One of the best words in the English language

No Money Down!

Family fun doesn't always have to break the bank! A trip to Disney World is fun, but it can be expensive. Family fun can be had for very little, or even, no money at all! Money is very tight these days, especially for people with children. There is never enough money to go around, and that often doesn't leave much of anything, after all the bills have been paid, to do anything fun with your family. Or does it? There are a lot of options out there for free, and fun, activities for a family on a tight budget! If you have other suggestions, feel free to comment and share!

Hit The Trails

Head outside. Yes, I said outside! That place you go when you head to your car to go somewhere, you know, the place with all the trees and the sunshine. Yep, that's the place. Go there. I know it may be difficult to tear the kids away from the DS or the iPad, but it will be worth it.

If all the members of your family have bikes, head out to a bike path, and take a nice, leisurely bike ride. Make a day of it! A lot of bike paths have places you can stop along the way for lunch, things to do in the towns you bike through, shops to look at, and that sort of thing. Window shop, see some things you may not have seen before, and enjoy the outdoors. Pack along a lunch in a backpack, or strapped to a rack on your bike. Younger children can relax in a variety of ways, from the seats that attach behind your seat on the bike, to the little trailers that attach to the back of the bike. The trailers have the added benefit of offering storage for additional items you might need. A bike ride is a great way to spend time together as a family without spending any money.

If you are short on bikes, head to a state park, or nature preserve and do some hiking. I'm not talking strenuous hiking, more of a nature walk sort of thing. A lot of parks offer walking and hiking trails at different levels of difficulty, to accommodate a larger number of people. An easy, relatively short trail might be better for a family with smaller children, while a more challenging, longer hike would be more suited to a family with older children. Again, pack a lunch, enjoy the fresh air, and natural surroundings, and have fun. Bring along a football, or other things to give you something to do when you stop. Take a camera with you, so that you are able to capture the natural beauty around you. Use your surroundings as an opportunity to teach your children about nature. Point out birds and animals, or plants that are safe to eat, or plants that are dangerous.

Find a hiking trail, or park to walk through.  Photo by AMB
Find a hiking trail, or park to walk through. Photo by AMB

Life's A Beach

Do you live near a lake? Or maybe the ocean? You have a built-in fun activity, that costs you absolutely nothing!!! Unless you live in the desert, you more than likely have a body of water somewhere near you. Even when I lived in the desert, I still had a lake about an hour away. Take advantage of nature! Hit the beach!!

Some places charge you money to use their beach or charge for parking, so avoid those places if you can. Most beaches are at your disposal, free of charge. Other beaches are only available to people who live in the communities surrounding it, so make sure you have access to the beach before you use it.

Pack a lunch, some towels, sunscreen and all that other stuff. Don't forget tools for sandcastle building for the younger kids. My daughters both love playing in the sand. Their shoes and pockets have been proof of this since they were small. A day of sun, swimming and sand can be just the sort of fun activity you are looking for. And, it's all free!! What more could you want? Again, make sure to bring your camera, so you can capture the natural beauty and the pictures of the sand castles the kids build. You may even see some interesting wildlife, like birds, crabs or turtles.

The beach is beautiful. Photo by AMB
The beach is beautiful. Photo by AMB
Family at the beach.  Photo by AMB
Family at the beach. Photo by AMB

Take in Some Culture or See the Wild

There are a lot of great museums in most cities, even some smaller cities, as well. A lot of these museums offer one day of the week that is free of charge, or certain free days every month, or only at certain times of the year. They ask for donations, but that is not mandatory. Do a little research. Check out websites, call some museums, and talk to people you know. Find out what museums offer free days, what days they are, and what restrictions apply.

You could plan several activities around different museums and see a lot of great things, from timeless works of art, to dinosaurs, to wonders of science. Sounds like a great day to me, and the kids will love it! As long as you don't take them to a strange dental museum, or something equally boring. My parents once took us to a radio museum. I can honestly say, that was about the most boring thing ever. Now that I'm older, I might enjoy it a bit more, but then...not so much.

Zoos sometimes offer free times or even free days. Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago is free everyday! The zoo near where I live offers free admission on Saturdays after 5 P.M. Kids love the zoo, and it's a nice way to get a little sunshine, fresh air and exercise. Just as a note, some zoos that offer free admission after a certain time of the day, often have some of their attractions closed by that time, so plan accordingly. You may not get to see everything the zoo has to offer.

My daughter petting a crocodile at the zoo.  All for free! Photo by AMB
My daughter petting a crocodile at the zoo. All for free! Photo by AMB

Fun At Home

Who says you have to leave the house to have fun with your family? What about planning fun activities right at home! Maybe you could do a game night. I know... kids love that! Younger kids really do, and you could even make it fun for the older kids, as well.

We all have a stack of board games somewhere in our house, right? But board games have changed with the times. They are more advanced as technology advances. Trivial Pursuit has DVD versions of their popular trivia game, and Scene It offers movie and television buffs a chance to shine. There are still the classics, such as Life, Monopoly and kids games, like Chutes and Ladders and Candy Land.

You could even add video games into the mix. I know, some parents don't really like video games, while others play them as much, if not, more than their kids do. Truth of the matter is, kids like video games, and family fun is supposed to be about having FUN, not doing something educational all the time. Some video games even offer the chance for exercise, and even, dare I say it, learning!!

So, every week, one member of the family gets to choose what game is played. This way, everyone gets to do something that they enjoy. If you have children of varied ages, set up game stations. Have one parent at a station with the younger kids, playing something like Candy Land, or other game geared towards the younger kids. Have the other parent at the other station, playing another game with the older kids. Or, find a game that all of you can play together. This can be hard, especially if there is a rather large age gap between your kids. My daughters are over six years apart, so finding something they both can play, and enjoy, is rather difficult.

Monopoly is a classic
Monopoly is a classic
I used to play the original Nintendo with my parents.  Am I showing my age?
I used to play the original Nintendo with my parents. Am I showing my age?

© 2009 Anna Marie Bowman


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