Spending time with your kids can be fun and rewarding, bringing you closer together as you build shared experiences, memories to look back on in the future.
It can also be expensive, depending on what you do. Amusement parks, last time I looked, generally cost $50 or more per person.
You can, however, have fun without spending too much. That’s what this article is all about, fun and inexpensive things to do with your kids when you spend a day together:
Fishing can be expensive the first time you go, since you have to buy the equipment, but it doesn’t cost much at all after that, and can provide an entire day’s worth of enjoyment.
I have fond memories of fishing with my Grandpa when I was young… we’d go to a creek and sit there all morning fishing, and Grandma would cook whatever we caught (or something else if we didn’t get any fish) for dinner that night. I wish I could do that again.
Wienie roasts are another one of those cool things I remember from when I was a kid. You build up a little fire, cut a few long, sturdy sticks, trim the ends to a point (this also has the beneficial effect of removing any bark and dirt), and you’re ready to go.
Of course, you have to bring along the hot dogs, buns, condiments, and other necessities (you know, chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers… can’t do a wienie roast without making smores!), but it’s easy and doesn’t cost much. You do have to find a place where it’s okay to build a fire, though… no wienie roasts in the front yard!
New Family Game
Another cheap way to have fun with your kids is to buy a new family game. You can usually pick one up for $20 or less… some of my favorites are Don’t Break The Ice, Operation, Jenga, Sorry, and Trivial Pursuit for kids.
Natural History Museum
Most larger cities have a natural history museum that is fun to visit and usually less than $10 per person. Virtually all kids like to look at the fossils, be disgusted by the bugs, and see the other exhibits.
This is definitely not one that you can do often, but it is fun every once in a while for something different.
Okay, so this one isn’t as cheap as the rest, but it’s still usually not too bad… maybe $20 or so per person.
You can’t really go wrong with the zoo, unless your kids are surly teenagers who feel it isn’t “cool” to go… even most adults I know love the zoo! How can you not love looking at big, dangerous, creepy, or just plain weird animals?
This is, of course, not an option for everyone, but if you live within driving distance, a day at the beach is always good, and usually costs nothing more than parking plus drinks and snacks.
You can swim, build sand castles, pick up shells… it’s easy to have a great day at the beach. And the ocean is just soothing, too… seems to take away a lot of the every day stress a parent builds up.
The park is definitely one of the easiest, and cheapest, ways to have fun while spending time with your kids. It costs nothing but the gas to drive there, and maybe the cost of a few toys, such as a frisbee, football, or basketball. Little kids can go on the jungle gym or swings, and big kids can play with the frisbee or ball.
You can make it even better by bringing a picnic, even if your “picnic” is just picking up something from the grocery store to eat when you get to the park.
Color Me Mine
This may be a local thing, I’m not sure… but you can probably find something in a similar vein near you. Color Me Mine is a store that has unfinished pottery that you paint at the store, and then they fire it for you. This can easily leave you with a keepsake, something you keep for the rest of your life because of the memories you associate with it.
It does cost a bit more than some of the other things, but if you choose their small items, it shouldn’t be more than $10 – $15 per person… and there will be no doubt in your mind that it was worth it.
Make Dinner Together
Making dinner together can be a fun way to have some family time, plus you end up with good (hopefully!) food to eat… how can you go wrong?
Bonus points on this one if you make something you’ve either never made before, or even better, never eaten before.
Create A Memory Album
This is an awesome idea, suggested to me by a friend. It’s basically scrapbooking for kids… you buy a big album, and then each week you add another page. The page might have a picture, a postcard, a letter to or from their grandparents, etc.
This leaves you with a fantastic book of memories to look back through when you (and they) are older. You might even be inspired to create your own memory album, not just one for your kids.
There are a lot of other ways to spend time together without spending a lot of money, too. One other easy, but not as specific, thing you can do is to explore somewhere new.
Some of the ideas listed above are things that you might do once a year… others are can be done once a week, or even more. It can be fun to have something you do every week, like adding a page to your memory albums, but it is a lot of fun to mix things up, too.
If you have more ideas, please share them in the comments. If I get enough ideas, I will ttake the best reader suggestions and add them to the end of the post here.