Taking the family to a ball game can be expensive. So can going to an amusement park or the zoo. With two small children, though, we try to do several things to build up our family, while not breaking the bank (Baby Step 3!). Here are some we have done or that we’ve thought about and may do in the future that your entire family can do for $5 or less.
1. Play Outside. Not only is it good for the kids health, it’s fun and free. It doesn’t matter if you have a huge swing set or just a small patch of grass, the kids will find things to do, and you might end up being “base” for a game of tag.
2. Go to a Park. We have a nice little park in our neighborhood and we like to walk there about once each week when the weather is nice. Almost every town has a park that kids can play on for free, so walk (or drive) there for an hour.
3. Go to the Library. Far too few families take advantage of the library! Our kids love it, and we need to do better about taking them there. In addition to the great books, there are often little plays the kids will love.
4. Go Visiting. We try to take our kids visiting with us about once each month, and they love it. We don’t stay long, but those moments are invaluable in their training to serve other people.
5. Have a Movie Night. Watch a video you already own or rent one from RedBox for $1. Always watch things that are truly Christian and enjoy the evening with some popcorn.
6. Have a Picnic. Our kids love indoor picnics! We put a blanket on the floor when it’s too cold to go outside, pop in an episode of a good TV show (“The Cosby Show,” of course), and have a picnic. When it’s nicer outside, we walk over to a pavilion near our house and enjoy a meal, then let the kids run around for a while.
7. Have People Over for a Meal. What? For less than $5? Yes, if you all agree to it. Have a group of folks who agree to bring something for a meal that costs less than $5, or have them bring the ingredients for a nice meal. It might start a good tradition among friends.
8. Check the Newspaper for Free Stuff around Town. Most towns of any size have activities quite often that are family-oriented and free (or nearly so). Plays, readings, museums, and even concerts are often free or need a donation to a worthy cause (like a can of food). We did this around Christmas-time and enjoyed a lovely concert in town.
9. Go Window Shopping. Not looking for windows, but go to an upscale mall or store with no money and just enjoy seeing the nice stuff.
10. Buy a Donut. Here is a little tradition I’ve started with our kids. We have a Dunkin’ Donuts store about 3 miles from our house. Some nights, I’ll just drive them over there and buy each one a donut (okay, I get one, too). We just sit and talk and enjoy the sugar. Cost? About $2.50.
11. Read to Your Children. Most kids have dozens of books, but often end up looking at those books alone. Parents, please read books to your kids! Some children’s books are expensive, so take advantage of the library here, too.
12 Have a “Dollar Tree” Night. Those stores where everything is $1 can be a treasure hunt for kids. Give each one a dollar (remember you’ll pay the sales tax) and let them buy one item. It could teach them a little lesson about being responsible with money, since they have to choose.
13. Let Them See “The Big Buildings.” A lot of people think that, in a larger city, you have to pay to see anything. Take your kids downtown and let them just stand in awe of the huge buildings. Kids get a kick at just looking up at them from the sidewalk. If you find one that will let you ride up to the top, enjoy that, and see a great view.
14. Skip Some Rocks. Take the kids to a lake or river and let them play along the shore. Obviously, this takes some supervision, but who doesn’t love to skip a few rocks in a big pond?
15. Interview Someone. As your children get older, use your contacts to their advantage. You’re not trying to get a job, but you might ask someone if your child can interview him/her to see what their job is like. Do you know a banker? See if he/she will let your child come after school and watch him/her work for 30 minutes.
For the last 5, I want to share some that are more spiritual in nature. Obviously, these will have an eternal impact!
16. Have Family Devotionals. These down’ t have to be fancy. Ours surely aren’t, but our kids are learning about God through them. Read a Bible story, sing a song, and have a prayer. Leah keeps a prayer list for the kids to remember who to pray for (and the kids make the list).
17. Worship Together. This may be the most obvious one, but families need to attend worship together, and they need to do so at every opportunity. Dads and moms, your kids see your consistency…or lack of it.
18. Make Something to Give Away. Have the kids make a card or a small craft to take on your next visit. Let them help you make cookies or bread to take to a neighbor. These cost very little, but are impacting the kids as well as the one who received the treat.
19. Let the Children Help When Having People Over. Whether it’s for a Bible study or just for a meal, let the kids have a part in the preparation. Our daughter loves to help set the table (and she’s getting pretty good at it!), and that helps her see the importance of preparation for these moments. This is especially true of you are having people over who are in spiritual need.
20. Put God First. This doesn’t cost a dime, but it shows in everything you do. Your kids will know, over time, whether He is really first or not. Start today by praying for His guidance in your home, and then see what happens!
What else have you done that doesn’t cost much, but has made a big impact?