It takes a lot of work raising a family. There are tons of responsibilities and family should be the number one priority in your lives. But raising a family doesn't always have to be hard work – you can play hard too. I hear many families tell me they can't afford to take their children out to extravagant theme parks or amusement parks, but honestly, you don't need to spend a ton of money to make memorable family fun experiences with kids.
We have four children, and they range in age from 4 years old to 14 years old. Keeping them on their toes with fun adventures can be challenging, especially when the frugal side comes out of us and we don't want to spend too much. During the weekends, my husband and I had to find ways to save but still cherish each moment, so what did we do? We got creative! Here are creative family fun ideas you can do on a budget! These ideas hit every favorite activity for families – from DIY crafts to exploring out in your city, there are lots of things to see and do!
1. Printable activity sheets: Find printable workable activity sheets and print them off. Disney often has themed activity sheets available for FREE that you can print off – just bring out the crayons, scissors, and glue and you'll have hours of creative fun.
2. DIY Crafts: Want to bring out the crafty side of your child's creativity but don't know where to go to find ideas? PINTEREST is your best friend when it comes to easy, kid-friendly DIY crafts. And with just the cost of a few dollars at Michael's or Hobby Lobby, you'll be well on your way! Be sure to take a photo of your child and their finished craft to add on the memories.
3. Family lunch or dinner with coupons: This is great for those of you foodie families that want to take your family out for a nice sit down lunch or dinner. Target kid-friendly restaurants that offer specials or coupons for families with children. Restaurants like Chili's often email subscribers “Kids Eat Free” coupons so be sure to subscribe to your favorite places for coupons and deals. Also, restaurants like Jason's Deli offer Kid's Eat Free promotions during certain days of the week. Be sure to check around your local area for those specials and see significant savings to your bill.
4. You scream, ice cream!: Places like Yogurtland charge by the weight and can make for some affordable ice cream or yogurt fun. Just fill the cup with your choice of ice cream flavor and toppings, and voila! Want to stay in? Buy a gallon of ice cream, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, bananas, and strawberries and put together a fun “Ice Cream Shoppe” in your kitchen so the family can make banana split sundaes together!
5. Family Game Night: Parents and kids of all ages can have a lot of fun putting together a family game night. Pick out 3-5 game activities to play that evening (make sure to mix it up with electronic games and board games). Games like Chess, Monopoly, Heads Up! (game app by Ellen DeGeneres), a couple of games on the Playstation 3 or Wii U, and Tic Tac Toe can make for HOURS of family fun! And with such a variety, you'll never get bored!
6. Museum Day: Take your children to your city's museum (or children's museum if you have them in your area). They can learn a lot mentally and visually and the admission can be affordable. The Discovery Children's Museum here in Las Vegas is just $12 each person from ages 1 – 99! Are you a Bank of America customer? Bank of America offers FREE admission to select museums to all Bank of America customers.
7. National Parks: You can't go wrong with hiking, biking, camping, and exploring nature in your nearby national park. Our favorite is Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas where it's just $7 per vehicle and miles of exploration. Want breathtaking views? Go after 5pm in the Spring and Summer where you can catch the amazing sunset over the red rock mountains!
8. Outdoor shopping: If you live in an area where there are outdoor shopping centers, take your family window shopping. There are also some shopping centers that have rides like a carousel and events like outdoor movie nights that you can take advantage of! Las Vegas' Town Square offers fun activities for the whole family and they are often involved with charities too!
9. Family BBQ: If you want to stay in, but want to zest up family time then make it a fun BBQ grilling experience. Fire up the grill and spend time with each other outside. Afterward, your family can put together S'Mores and roast them over your outdoor fire pit or microwave for a fun dessert.
10. Baking: Let your children help you bake a cake (Martha Stewart came out with a new book “Cakes” and we're giving one of her autographed books away), bake cookies, make crepes, and more together. The quality time is so worth it.
11. Playground or Recreation Center: This one's the most obvious but often overlooked! Parks and recreation centers have so much to offer – mini splash parks, basketball courts, classes, family activities. The recreation center in our town of Henderson, NV is just $2 per person and there's tons of active ways to have fun together.
12. Bowling: Fun and inexpensive! You can't go wrong with bowling! And in the Summer time, kids can bowl free at participating bowling alleys! HOORAY FOR FREE!
14. Movie Night In: For just $8/month, you can have access to TONS of free movies and shows on Netflix. You'd need either a Smart TV or Roku type device. If you don't have access to Netflix, there are lots of Redbox kiosks near you where you can rent a movie for just $1!
15. Free events and workshops at your local stores and library: Stores like Apple and Whole Foods Market often offer classes or workshops for kids and families. In the Summer, Apple offers Apple Camp, where kids ages 8-12 learn how to shoot their own footage, create an original song in GarageBand on an iPad, and put it all together in iMovie on a Mac. This free workshop, held at the Apple Store, spans three days and ends with campers debuting their masterpieces at the Apple Camp Film Festival. And don't forget about your local library! They always have some kind of event or story time for children and families.
16. Tours and chocolate making: Check with your local candy store to see if they offer chocolate making tours. In Henderson, there's a fun place called Ethel M. Chocolates where they offer free chocolate making tours and you can check out their beautiful cacti botanical garden.
17. Staycation: Want a mini getaway with your family without breaking the bank? Staycation's are the way to go! And you can book a last minute staycation using the fun HotelTonight app. Right now, first time customers can receive a $25 promo code just for downloading the app using PROMO CODE: DTEH. I've seen 3-4 star hotels in several cities go for $75 and with the $25 discount, they were able to get one night for just $50! Score! Would you rather plan your staycation ahead of time? TravelPony is a new social media travel site that offers deeper discounts than places like Orbitz or Expedia and you can book in advance to plan ahead!
18. Storytelling Contest: Stretch their creative minds (and yours) by putting together a Storytelling contest. The goal is to get them to be as creative as possible with their stories, and whoever has the best and most creative story wins! We like to make sure all the children receive a prize or treat, though (just to be fair).
19. Bubble making: Make bubbles with dish soap, water, and glycerin (for firmer bubbles) and go outside to blow the biggest bubbles you can and pop them!
20. Muve Music Dance-Off Contest: If you're a Cricket customer, you can create free dance music playlists on Muve Music and the whole family can join in on a fun dance-off contest. Best dancer wins!
21. Have a picnic: Pack lunches, drinks, picnic basket, and a picnic blanket and head out to your closest park. If you'd rather use one of their covered spaces, go for it! The purpose is to be out with your family and enjoy your time together!
22. Puzzles: Juliana LOVES puzzles, and I've seen her spend hours on 100+ piece puzzles. There's nothing more fulfilling than finishing what you start and it helps improve problem solving skills that your brain needs to develop. Be sure to do it together with your children to make it extra special for them.
23. Playing in an open field: Our neighborhood has an open field area where we walk to with our children. We bought a kid's soccer set ($10 at Target) that comes complete with 2-goals and a soccer ball and we play soccer together. Or you can keep it simple by taking it old school with “Tag You're It!”.
24. Finding free events on MeetUp.com and Tourism Boards: Want to find more specific free events going on in your area? Sign-up for a MeetUp.com account and search for your city's group meet-up events to join in. You can also Google search ” Tourism Board” to find your city's official tourism website for all kinds of things you can do, explore, and experience.
Want more ideas or advice on family fun activities on a budget? This week, I'm on the Ask The Expert panel where you're questions are welcome! Submit questions within the comment thread of your blog post and social posts, via Twitter using hashtag #CricketTips and on Cricket’s Facebook page.
Don't forget that saving money in other places like your personal expenses can also keep your budget down! Assess your monthly budget and finances and figure out ways to save. I took a long look at my recent budget, and found that my most expensive costs were cable, internet, and mobile phone service. In fact, my monthly cell phone bill was averaging $200 each month for three lines! OUCH! That's $2,400 each year!!! Switching to Cricket Wireless means more money every month to take control and fund those things you want to do in 2014. They have a pretty amazing 5-Smartphone Lines for $100/month offer that cuts my wireless bill in half (offer available January 26 to March 29)! Cricket Wireless offers affordable plans and devices so can do MORE of the things you love with the money you save.
This is a sponsored post on behalf of Cricket Wireless. All opinions are 100% my own. Want more ideas or advice on family fun activities on a budget? This week, I'm on the Ask The Expert panel where your questions are welcome! Submit questions within the comment thread of my blog post and social posts via Twitter using hashtag #CricketTips and on Cricket’s Facebook page.