Having fun for less

Cheap Family Activities for Families with Grade School Kids

by Dollar Stretcher Contributors


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Cheap Family Activities

We won't have money for a big vacation this year. So I'd like to include some cheap family activities while the kids are off school. We have three in grade school. Can anyone suggest affordable day trips or at-home activities for my family?
Nina

Look for Local Free Activities

Check your local online newspapers and look in the activities or entertainment sections. Also check with news channels. Some post community activities, and some of these activities are free.
Stephanie (via Facebook)

Go Fly a Kite

One of our favorite family activities is kite flying! Find some parks in your area (or a little further out to add to the adventure) that have plenty of wide open space, and make a day of it with a fun picnic lunch. Parks near an ocean or bay shore, like we have near us, are great, as there's a lot of wonderful air movement going on. Actual beaches can be good, but they're often full of people and/or don't allow kite flying. We've also found that better kites, made of nylon, are generally easier to fly and much sturdier than dollar store plastic ones, which make them more fun and less frustrating. Shop around for decent prices on a few that you can enjoy for many summers to come.
Elaine V. in NJ

Buy Membership to a Zoo

See how much it is for a family membership to the zoo. When our kids were little, we bought a membership to the zoo every year. In just two visits, we had earned the value for the rest of the summer. We took our lunch and had a picnic. There was a playground there also. The membership also gave us inside information to special events held for members.
Cyndy (via Facebook)

See What Others Are Doing in Your Area

Here in Austin, Texas, there is a blog called "Free Fun in Austin." It's updated almost daily by several stay-at-home moms and is geared towards pre-school and elementary aged children. You might check your area for a similar blog or Facebook page.
Rae

Go Camping!

Check out the camping facilities at a nearby county or state park. One of our local parks has tent campsites with on-site playground, splash fountain, grills, nature trails, and a lake with paddle boats. You can camp overnight for a fraction of the cost of a hotel room, and if you don't own a tent, you could borrow one from family or friends.
Wendy

See What Your Library Offers

Check your local library. Ours has a "culture pass" that you can take up to the checkout desk and get free (or significantly discounted) entrance to local venues, such as museums, cultural centers, parks that have entry fees, etc. Each venue has different days to use the discounted tickets on and each library card can only use each option once. Another place to look for this sort of thing would be the Tourist Information Center if you are in a "touristy" town. They quite often have "2 for 1" or discount coupons.

Also check out discount sites like Groupon, Living Social, etc., as they quite often have discounted passes to these types of venues as well.

Our big box grocery store also used to have Kids Club Cooking classes that my godchildren loved to attend. They were fairly inexpensive (maybe $10 to $15) and they always came back really excited about being able to make a meal for the whole family with what they learned.

Many of our parks and larger outdoor malls also have special events like bands, dancers, story tellers that are totally free. Check out the city's website or mall site and see if they have upcoming events. Trips to the local farmers' market can also be fun or the "pick your own berry" farms.
Erin

Enjoy a Hassle-Free Staycation

An inexpensive way to enjoy family time is to enjoy the attractions, historical places, and museums in the area near your home. Some people call this a staycation. It can be even more relaxing than a trip because there's no packing and no airport hassle. And, you get to sleep in your own bed at night.

It's amazing how many sights we've never seen that are less than an hour away. Many have no fees or reduced fees on certain days. In my state, I can get free or reduced admission tickets to a vast array of interesting activities from my public library.
Barbara in CT

Keep Them Busy and Feeling Special

There are numerous ways to keep your grade school kids busy but feel special:

  • Hike in a local park. Take along a lunch that includes items your kids wouldn't normally get.

  • Find a water park and spend the day. At the ones near us, if you go after 5 PM, you get the next day free. Again, bring snacks and treats with you.

  • Follow the local sports team but not the major league one! Watching AA baseball, soccer, or most any other sport is a huge bargain, especially for seats up close, and is just as much fun.

  • Your county parks and recreation department will have a list of free or very inexpensive activities from camps to campouts.

JD in St. Louis

Have Kids Learn a New Skill

Every national park has free admission days. You just need to go to the websites of the parks near you and inquire which days they are. Also contact your local conservation office, and ask about what free activities are available. There are often quite a few.

In addition, Home Depot, Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores, Hobby Lobby and other stores have free training classes for kids on the weekends that let them learn a new skill and leave with a completed project.

Lastly, look in your nearest main city's Thursday or Friday newspaper. Usually they have a section listing off of the upcoming nearby activities, and many of them are free, including free theatre productions for kids.
Kamia

Look for Family Volunteer Opportunities

For interesting, and usually free, activities, look into volunteer opportunities for you and your family to enjoy. We have two girls (ages 11 and 8) and we've participated in a number of volunteer events. We've handed out medals to finishers at a triathlon that raised money to fight breast cancer. Just this past week, we participated in an annual night time census of counting horseshoe crabs at high tide on the beach. (They loved it!) We've spent the day helping at the local library's annual book sale. There are all sorts of fun, outdoor, rewarding things you and your kids can enjoy and you get the added benefit of supporting a cause you believe in. The kids may need some convincing (and have to be old enough for some activities), but you can search online for volunteer opportunities designed for families and you're sure to find something worthwhile. Enjoy!
OA

Sign Up and Save!

I'd like to suggest you sign up for Groupon.com. You'll find good deals on a lot of family activities. I have used it many times so that my family can go bowling (including shoe rental and soft drinks) for less than $40. You can also explore your hometown like you're a tourist. You can also have family game nights and cookouts at home. If you have young children, there is nothing like running through the lawn sprinkler to have some fun.
Glenda in Carrollton, GA

Create Theme Days

In my home, we create theme days:

Painting Day - We use finger paint, chalk or acrylic paint and paint on paper or clay flower pots.

Baking Day - We make different desserts or prep cookie dough to freeze.

Fort Day - We make forts in the living room and play board games or read books inside.

Pet Day - We visit the local pet shop. It's free and fun!

Magazine Day - We pull out kids magazines that arrive during the year and look at the pictures/read the articles.

Jennifer

Kids' Bowling

Children 15 and under can bowl 2 games for free any day this summer. You will need to pay only for shoe rental. Also, you can purchase a family pass quite cheaply for the whole summer when you sign them up so that you can bowl with them. Find locations at KidsBowlFree.com.
Katie

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