Friday, January 13, 2012

Free for All Fridays - Ways to Entertain the Kids

It's time for another Free for All Friday. Last week's post was a bit heavy, and this week's WSJ Wednesday was another beefy topic, so why don't we lighten it up a bit.

My girls are always on the go. It seems they always want to do something that costs money--go out to eat, take in a movie at the theater, shop at the mall. I told them that the money tree in the back yard was bit sparse this past year, so we can't be running all over the place spending money  like there's no tomorrow.

Here are a few activities I've used when the, "Mommy, I'm bored," whine comes out.

Visit the Library

Even though we have tons of books at home, there is something about owning a library card and checking books out that is thrilling to children. The Wilbraham Public Library renovated the upstairs to create an area for teens and spruced up the adult non-fiction section. Along with some other cosmetic changes, the library is even more pleasant to visit than it was before, and the kids love going there. As an added plus, the library holds regular free events for everyone to enjoy.

Hold a Family Move Night

I'm not a big TV watcher, but find me a good movie and I'll plunk right down with a bowl of popcorn. Have your kids coordinate a Family Movie Night. Create and print invitations from the computer, allowing each person to vote for which movie he/she wants to watch. Majority wins. In the case of a tie, flip a coin. Plan a small menu: popcorn, pretzels, juice. At movie time, shut the ringer off on the phone, put a blanket down on the floor with some pillows and enjoy.

Ramble in the Woods

Our house is surrounded by woods on three sides. The girls often wander the trails alongside the house. They are only allowed to go as far as the pond because they remain visible from the house, but with my husband or me they travel farther. This can be turned into a learning experience too. If they keep a nature journal, they will see how the environment changes throughout the year.

Family Game Night

This is a tradition that is carried over from my childhood. After church each Sunday, we would have lunch, and then the rest of the afternoon would be spent playing board games. While during the week family members tend to go off in different directions, part of the weekend can be spent sharing quality time together. We have recreated this tradition with our kids, but it usually comes at night time when things are more subdued. Our family favorites are: Monopoly, Connect 4, Trouble, Candy Land, and Chutes and Ladders. Now that the girls are a bit older, it's not unusual for us to play Scrabble too. Though we tend to shy away from video games for these evenings, we have taken out the XBox360 or Wii from time to time.

Build a Fort

I don't know what it is about forts, but kids love them. Get some sheets and a few tables and you're good to go. When I'm feeling in an especially generous mood, I let the kids eat in their fort and even sleep in it. Yes, there is clean up involved, but if the kids are happy, I'm happy.

What other inexpensive or free ways can you think of to entertain kids?

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