Finding fun and cheap ways to entertain your kids can be a challenge. We don’t participate in the usual karate classes, T-ball games, or soccer practices because we live so far from town that the travel expense of going to games and practices is not feasible for our family. In fact, with the rising cost of gas, any trip into civilization requires us to factor in fuel costs before deciding on activities that fit into our budget. Luckily, we still have lots of options. Here are a few of our cheap favorites that may give you ideas about how to entertain your family for less, too.
- Visit the park. In most cases, the only expense you will incur during your visit to the park is the cost of fuel to travel there. If you live within walking distance, even better. To avoid the trap of buying goodies at the concession stand, always bring along water and snacks from home, since physical activity is sure to send your little ones begging for refreshments. Your kids get to interact with other kids, run, climb, and swing till their heart’s content while you get to relax on a shady bench or climb and play along with them.
- Feed some animals. Most kids love animals, and feeding them is an easy way to spend some quality time together. Our area has several public parks with ducks to feed, and we even have a local free petting zoo that has a virtual Noah’s Ark, with deer, tigers, llamas, raccoons, birds, puppies, cats, and a whole host of other domestic and wild animals. The only cost is a donation to help buy the corn you feed to the ducks and deer. A pack of stale crackers or bread heels can be recycled into an animal feeding outing for cheap entertainment.
- Visit the library. Even if you’re not an avid reader, your local library is a wealth of free entertainment for the whole family. Our county library has a wonderful children’s department that features weekly free crafts, contests for the kids, puzzles, board games, computer stations set up to be kid-friendly, and free classes, sing-alongs, and activities. My kids have gone to the library to learn about bee keeping (and handled live bees), planting a flower garden, digital photography, and even had a summer water games fest. They’ve gone to home school activities to learn to play group games, and watched butterflies hatch in a special display. The only cost we had in any of these activities was the cost to travel to classes.
- Geocaching. Geocaching is a fun, free activity that is a lot like finding buried treasure. You’ll need a GPS app enabled smart phone (iPhone, Android) and a list of geocaches in your area. You can also purchase a handheld GPS device for $100-$150. Using the coordinates provided by Geocaching.com, you turn on your GPS and try to locate the cache. Usually, you’ll find a water-proof container with small items inside. We carry a bag of small stickers, erasers, and small toys so my kids can “trade out” an item in the geocache box as a prize once found. If you already have a smart phone, the only cost involved is travel-related.
- Look into your community resources. Most communities offer a wide variety of free or low-cost activities for families. Our county has several wildlife education centers that host nature hikes, classes, crafts, and contests for kids. Our local movie theater offers free movies for families once a week during the summer to see an older, but still enjoyable, family-friendly movie.
What free or cheap family activities make the list of your favorite ways to entertain your kids? Share your ideas with us!