Inexpensive Family Entertainment

By Jonni McCoy

"Hey, Mom! I'm bored! Can we go somewhere?"
These are common words in most homes. Instead of paying a bundle to go to an amusement park, we have found some creative activities that cost very little. Most take some time and a little creativity, but your kids will love the time you spend with them!

* Make face paint and use it one each other's face. To make the face paint, mix together 1 tsp. cornstarch, 1/2 tsp. cold cream or Crisco, and 1/2 tsp. water. After mixing, I divide the cream mixture into small portions, then add
different food coloring to each. This way I have many colors available. I use either a paint brush or cotton swab to put it on.

* Make paper airplanes. My kids love making them, and we have a few books that help with model designs and instruction. Many of the books come with paper to fold. Here are some of our favorites:

Amazing Paper Airplanes, Hui Edmond, PhD
Best Jumbo Paper Airplanes, Campbell Morris
Fantastic Paper Flying Machines, E. Richard Churchhill

* Have a game night. Pull out all of your board and card games, make some popcorn, and have fun!

* Take a picnic basket to a park.

* Borrow videos from the local library. Search for the old classic movies or old television series.

* Visit your local pet store -- it's like a mini-zoo. If you get to know the owners well, they often let the kids play with the pets.

* Have a taffy pull. Make it together and then stretch it as far as you can.

* Build a gingerbread house. This can be a fun activity any time of the year. Let everyone decorate a part of the house their own way.

* Have the kids put on a magic show or skit for the family. Have popcorn to add to the fun.

* Take advantage of local museums and any free days that they may offer.

* Look into music concerts or local plays offered in your city. Many are free.

* Visit a factory that offers free tours or crafters in their studios (pottery, glass blowers, etc.).

* Ride the public transit of your city, and see the town. I was amazed that the kids loved this.

* Go star gazing. Many community colleges have free observatory nights.

* Go miniature golfing or bowling. Look for 2-for-1 coupons in the local paper.

* Take some old bread to a pond and feed the ducks.

* Do a jigsaw puzzle.

* Make water balloons and have a water balloon fight.

* Make sidewalk chalk (Plaster of Paris in paper cups) and cover the driveway with art.

* Go on a treasure hunt or a scavenger hunt.

Dating Your Spouse
Even married couples need to go on dates. It can be a source of real enjoyment and a needed break from busy routines at home and office. It's not necessary to spend a lot of money on these dates - indeed, many can be done free. Before movie theaters, snow mobiles, ski lifts, or even cars, people had fun.

When my husband and I need some time alone, but can't usually afford the combined cost of a sitter, dinner at a restaurant or movie theater tickets, we find a cheaper alternative that is as fun. Some people complain that these
aren't as exciting as a dinner out or a movie. That may be true, but focus on why you're going out in the first place - to be together. Romance is all in your point of view.

Below are some of our ideas that we have tried. To add your own to the list, think like a tourist: read the Sunday newspaper's travel section and get ideas, or read the visitor's guide put out by your city.

Inexpensive Date Ideas
* Drive to the tallest place in the city and enjoy the view or drive around the outer limits of the town.

* Rummage through a flea market.

* Visit a local art gallery or a local bookstore's poetry reading.

* Go out for coffee and dessert instead of dinner.

* Go to a matinee -- they are sometimes half price -- or find the cheap movie theater in your area. They often cost $1 per person.

* Pull out the music you used to listen to and reminisce.

* Cook something together.

* Go square dancing.

* Go for a walk.

This article copyrighted by Jonni McCoy 2006,

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