Cheap Fun

Singing around our backyard campfire

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

And Dad and Mom, too.

There are plenty of ways to have fun with your kids if you are short on money, without biking or swimming . . . although biking and swimming happen to be my favorite ways!  I am the Queen of Frugal and I am here to tell you that even hobbies like biking can be done on the cheap. We’ve bought our share of bikes for $5, my favorite “stores” being: 1) hand-me-downs, 2) yard sales and 3) used sources: thrift stores, Craig’s List, classified, etc.

It is hard not to have enough money, but it is even worse not to have enough Mommy. Fun is an attitude, and if Mom is not engaged with the family, or short on fun, even money won’t make up for it.

When my kids were all at home, one of our favorite evening activities was playing hide and seek in the house.  Boy, did we ever get creative in our hiding places . . . inside cupboards, behind curtains on a wide window sill, up on a top shelf!  We often spooked each other by playing Sardines (when you find someone, you join them in their hiding place, rather than call out. Eventually only one person is left looking for the whole bunch in an eerily quiet house!)

Meal prep often can be a form of fun.  Making pizza can be really fun!  Set up the toppings on the table, and rotate several pizzas around, assembly line style, having one child spread the sauce, another the cheese, and then each in turn adding a topping. You’ll end up with a mess and several gourmet pizzas, some for now, and some for the freezer to make an easy dinner on a night when you or someone else needs it.

My favorite kind of fun is involving my kids in what I am already interested in.  I love to sew, and design swimsuits.  I’ve involved Louisa enough in my sewing and designing escapades that she is getting to be a great swimsuit designer—she’s sewn several new styles for herself!  Identifying and using herbs is one of my hobbies, and Emily and I had a wonderful time gathering comfrey and learning how to make it into healing salve. My husband has enjoyed teaching my kids to star gaze by taking them with him outside to see the stars. Fun with a little accomplishment mixed in suits me fine!

If you are having trouble playing with your kids, start small and inch your way into it. One checkers game. 10 minutes jumping on the trampoline. One short bike ride to the corner and back.  A little every day. We all have too much to do . . . and, if realistic, we all realize that it will never all get done. Take a break, play with your kids and see the amazing results.  You’ll be hooked!

Here’s some ideas for cheap and easy fun:

  • Buy bread off the clearance rack and take it to the duck pond
  • Even cheaper: save bread scraps, unfinished toast, etc. in a bag in the freezer and take it to the duck pond
  • Swing at the park
  • Take a nature walk
  • Eat a picnic under a tree
  • Play in the sprinklers
  • Paint fingernails
  • Read aloud
  • Jump rope
  • Play checkers
  • Plan a skit
  • Watercolor paint
  • Draw a hopscotch in chalk on the front walk
  • Do fun hairdos
  • Climb trees
  • Dance in the living room (teens especially like this!)
  • Bake cookies
  • Make doll clothes out of scraps
  • Play four-square in the driveway (draw it with chalk)
  • Make a cardboard playhouse out of a discarded appliance box (ask for them at the hardware store)
  • Cut out paper dolls
  • Play instruments together (recorders are cheap)
  • Find pretty rocks
  • Go visit the horses in the field and feed them grass
  • Go to the library and get picture books to read aloud
  • Play magnetic darts
  • Take photos
  • Have a family movie night with one of the real old Disney movies
  • Roast hot dogs or marshmallows over a fire (even in the fireplace!)
  • Write thank you notes to brighten peoples’ days
  • Play string games
  • Play “ding-dong ditch” leaving a surprise on a neighbor’s porch
  • Tell jokes (get a joke book at the library)
  • Fold some origami creations
  • Invent recipes
  • Sing (learning parts is really fun)
  • Make a “back rub line” (all family members sit in a line and massages the back in fornt of him)
  • carve soap
  • take videos while you make your own silly “commercials”
  • Pop popcorn
  • . . . shall I go on?

    It doesn’t take money. It just takes willingness.

    Have fun!

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