Doesn’t it seem as if the simplest activities these days cost a fortune? Taking a date to dinner and a movie could set you back $100. Even local high school football games can get expensive when purchasing tickets and concessions for a family of four.
Although budgets are tight this time of year, that doesn’t have to mean less fun for you and your family. We put together this list of ideas to keep your crew entertained this fall — without spending a dime.
1. Take a Hike
With its cooler temperatures, fall is an ideal time to head outside for a little fresh air. Take advantage of the parks, hiking trails, and nature preserves in your area. Prepare a scavenger hunt ahead of time to keep the kids entertained and engaged. Include both fun and educational elements in your hunt: animals, insects, types of trees or flowers, creeks, trail signs, colors — anything they might stumble upon or discover along the way. You can even slip in a few others they’re not likely to find, such as dinosaurs and tree fairies.
2. Say Cheese
Maybe it’s the pumpkin patches or the turning leaves. Or maybe it’s the kids bundled in sweaters and colorful scarves. Either way, fall is the perfect time of year for a family photo shoot. Find a location that has several areas of interest, because you’ll want a variety of different backgrounds. Look for bridges, benches, and arbors. Be creative, but the standard kid in the pile of leaves shot never gets old. Especially when it is your kid. If they can stand it, bring a change of clothes and knock out your holiday portrait while you’re at it.
3. Be a Giver
There are so many ways to help others. Sit down with your family and/or friends to brainstorm ways to help your community. Collect canned food for local food banks. Ask neighbors, family, and friends for old towels and blankets for donations to animal shelters. Many shelters let kids volunteer to walk dogs or play with cats (with parental supervision). Once you start looking for ways to donate your time and energy, you will find many options to get involved as a family. Local churches and community centers are also good places to start your search.
4. Visit a Fire Station
Every kid loves fire trucks. Huge, red, and polished to shine. How can they resist? Most fire stations welcome visitors and will give tours regularly. Some even allow birthday parties held in the kitchen — without a fee. Call ahead to check on visiting hours. You will find that firefighters love to talk with kids and will even let them sit in the driver’s seat. Although free, a batch of homemade cookies made by the kids would be a nice thank you.
5. Meander Around Museums
Many museums feature extraordinary traveling exhibits throughout the year, but they also host permanent collections, which are typically free to the public. Bring colored pencils and paper for the kids to sketch their version of famous paintings, statues, or local favorites. The results may be surprising. You can also ask museum docents for kid-friendly tips on pre-determined stops and ideas for discussion.
6. Host an Epic Game Night
Invite friends and family over for a night of serious competitive fun. Organize a potluck dinner, break out the board games, and let the gaming begin. It’s also fun to make up your own games and create family-night traditions. The sillier the better. Charades is always a solid choice to get the kids giggling.