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Family Fun for Free

Stuck for ideas for things to do with the family that won’t dent the wallet? Check out our tips for free and fun activities.

Big budget, activity-filled days out are great, but getting together and sharing quality time as a family doesn’t have to mean spending lots of money. Often, the simpler activities bring the most pleasure and can make for cherished, lifelong memories. We take a look at some fun ways to connect as a family for free.

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Rainy Days Indoors

• Board games – put the Wii away and bring out old school board games such as Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Clue (Cluedo), Scrabble, or Twister.

• Bring Hollywood to your home – write, design, direct and star in your own family play, advert, promotional film, or even create a ‘how to’ tutorial. Upload it to the web or keep it just for family viewing.

• Get crafty – the choices are endless; from beading, jewelry and paper projects to more complicated techniques for older kids. When it comes to crafts, the internet is your friend with thousands of truly inspirational craft sites to banish boredom. A great place to start is the at site of unofficial patron saint of home crafting; Martha Stewart.www.marthastewart.com/crafts.

• Bake-off – cookies, muffins, cakes, ice cream or lemonade. The choices are endless and bound only by your own tastes. Turn them into gifts for friends and relatives by adding colorful gift-wrap and ribbon. The website funology.com has some great kid-friendly recipes and much more besides.

• Garden indoors – create a terrarium with a large lidded glass jar, some aquatic charcoal, soil and various humidity loving plants, and you will have a fantastic and instant garden in a jar.

• Experiment – science projects aren’t only for the school lab. There’s a lot of fun to be had at home using everyday household materials. Spoonful.com has some fantastic ideas to bring out the mad scientists in your clan: http://spoonful.com/crafts/educational-crafts/science-projects

• Memory box – create a much loved keepsake of photos, collected objects, or things with sentimental value. Cover a shoebox or whatever you have with paper and fabric, then embellish with ribbon, buttons or whatever appeals.

• Make animal feeders – in the winter, birds and squirrels will love a pine cone rolled in lard or peanut butter and coated in seeds or nuts. Butterflies will happily flock to a jar or dish filled with ‘butterfly nectar’ (overripe fruit blended with water and honey) and suspended with twine and decorated with colorful, handmade fabric flowers and ribbon.

 

Out and About

• Take a tour – visit a historic city or town near you, or rediscover your own town by taking a walking tour. Many tour operators or tourist bureaus offer free tours, some specially tailored for young children, or offer DIY tour itineraries that you can take away with you to follow. You could also try downloading an app such as gpsmycity.com for ipad, or a Lonely Planet audio guide for iPhone.

• Visit a museum – many of the museums located in world capitals offer free admission, either permanently, or on selected days. Many also run free programs for kids to get involved in activities. It’s a great rainy day activity and the perfect reason to visit a smaller museum, many of which contain unexpected cultural treasures. Check with your local tourist office for a list.

• Markets, festivals and fairs – it may be tempting to spend money, but a country fair, market or free festival can be a fun place to spend the day browsing, tasting produce and people watching. Check your local newspaper or tourist office for listings in your area.

• Go on a themed hike – it doesn’t have to be strenuous. A gentle walk with a theme will keep the kids motivated and provide a fun distraction for everyone. Get them to collect ten items to be made into a collage later, or simply set them a checklist of things to spot along the way (insects and flowers work well).

• Go fishing – combine a picnic with fishing for the ultimate relaxing family fun day out.

• Beachcombing – take a stroll along the beach and see what you can find for an art project or for displaying.

• Create a special garden – zone an area of your garden to create a vegetable patch, flower or herb garden. You can also get creative and make a sculpture garden, which can be added to over time for a fun and ongoing work in progress (see beachcombing). If you have a balcony, use pots or tubs as the base of your garden.

• DIY – get everyone involved to help transform an old piece of furniture, make a tree swing or build a sandpit.

• Go on a bike ride – a great way to feel fit and have fun as a family.

• Fruit picking – it’s not entirely free because you’ll pay for what you pick, but you’ll pay a fraction of what you will at the store, and there’s no charge for the fun you’ll have doing it.

• Host a yard sale – get the whole family involved and have a clear-out to sell unwanted items in a yard sale. Use the proceeds to do something fun, or to raise money for your favorite charity.

• Visit a farm – many cities have a free farm where kids can go to feed and pet the animals.

• Go camping – use a manufactured tent or create your own wigwam in the garden using branches and a blanket. Make your own snacks, build a campfire and toast marshmallows, sing songs and take it in turns to tell campfire stories.

• Volunteer – participate in a beach clean-up, assemble activity packets for inpatients at local hospitals, make holiday cards for soldiers overseas or get involved in a conservation project – these are just a few of the many family-friendly volunteering projects available around the world which bring you together as a family in order to give something back. Check out an organization such as www.pointsoflight.org.

• Scavenger hunt – download a themed scavenger hunt plan from the internet, and customize if necessary. The United Kingdom’s Woodland Trust has an excellent range of ideas such as a fairy or pirate themed hunt:www.naturedetectives.org.uk/summer/start/collect.htm.