There’s a sad fact of life that everyone has to learn eventually: doing awesome things can cost a lot of money. The good news is that kids usually don’t care how much it costs to do something fun. For example, most children can be just as happy visiting a free playground as they would be doing something much more expensive and involved, especially when they’re young. The other benefit to simple entertainment options is that they involve less standing in line, less being “on your best behavior” for kids who have a hard time staying still, and less stress for the rest of the family overall. The important thing is to spend time on the things that kids enjoy, not how hard it was for us to plan and carry out the activity.
With that in mind, here are some ideas for cheap or free activities to do with young children that will be more fun and less money for everyone:
- Rent or borrow a new movie: Most families end up having a few well-worn movies that the kids love to watch, but it’s always nice for everyone to have a fresh story to enjoy. Instead of paying to go to the theater and getting pressured into buying that $4 tub of popcorn, try renting or streaming a kid’s video at home and setting up your own “home theater” (trust me, the popcorn from the grocery store can be just as good). Almost everything about this is more convenient than actually going to a movie theater.
- Family picnic: Next time you think how nice it’d be to go to McDonalds and get the kids some food and run-around-time, I’d suggest first that you stop and think seriously about all of the better places you could get food. Second, try using what you have at home and setting up a fun outdoor picnic lunch for the kids, either in your backyard or somewhere close by like a neighborhood park. It doesn’t even have to be outdoors! Kids love novelty.
- If picnics aren’t your thing, or if you have slightly older kids, try baking or barbecuing together instead of visiting a restaurant.
- Set up a treasure hunt! It can be a simple map, a series of clues, or anything else that will lead them around the house and/or the yard to find some kind of “treasure.” It can be almost anything; in my family, my younger siblings loved doing this even when the treasure ended up being just a toy that they already owned. It’s the experience that’s the fun part!
Not only are these ideas less stressful for the parents, but they can also be helpful for children. There are some fun things that you can’t do at home and have to pay for, and I’m sure that everyone will want to do those every now and then, but showing children that it’s important to think about the cost of activities first will help them have better habits in the future with their own personal finances.
—Sam Watson, Editor, Stance