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Category: Frugal Fun

Guest Post: Summer Family Fun for Free

Guest Post by Christi Bovee from Blessings From Our Home to Yours

In our house, we are all getting antsy to get out and feel some sun on our faces and get our bodies moving in the summer breezes. Here are just a few of our family's favorite ideas for enjoying the Summer months without spending a lot of money. In fact, most of these ideas are free!

Summerfun

1) Try letterboxing. Our family discovered this fun activity a few years ago and our children have loved the thrill of this "treasure hunt". If you've never heard of this before, this article on "Start Finding Letterboxes" explains:

Letterboxing is an intriguing “treasure hunt” style outdoor activity.
Letterboxers hide small, weatherproof boxes in publicly-accessible
places (like parks) and post clues to finding the box online on one of
several Web sites. However, clues to finding some of the most
highly-sought boxes are passed around by word of mouth. There are about
20,000 letterboxes hidden in North America alone. Individual
letterboxes usually contain a log book, an often hand-carved rubber
stamp and may contain an ink pad. Finders make an imprint of the
letterbox's stamp on their personal log book, and leave an imprint of
their personal stamp on the letterbox's logbook .

To read more about letterboxing and the supplies you will need to get started, visit Letterboxing.org.

2) Visit your local library. The summer reading program at our library is always a big hit with our children during the Summer. Our library gives great prizes like Frosty coupons, Little Caesar Pizzas, Donuts, and Chocolate-Dipped Oreo Cookies from the local coffee shop. Those prizes are definitely great motivators for our children to read! Most libraries offer similar Summer Reading Programs and I'd encourage you to check yours out.

Mail.google.com

3) Participate in nature programs.
Many local parks offer nature free programs. If you check out the website(s) for the parks department in your area, you might be surprised at what things you can learn and do for free!

We often visit Maple Wood Nature Center in LaGrange, Indiana one Wednesday a month for an educational program. Their programs range from learning about maple syrup to patterns in nature to learning about instruments. Last summer we attended a park in Elkhart, Indiana which had a program on old fashioned sodas. We learned the history, tried samples of various old fashioned drinks, and then made root beer and bottled our own to take home.

4) Go to museums. Some of the best educational places are museums, but it seems–especially for families with even a few children–it is nearly impossible to visit these without spending at least the amount that would be spent on groceries for the week. However, don't let the admissions costs deter you because we've found many museums have free or discounted days a few times each Summer.

For instance, in the Chicago area, the Chicago Children's Museum offers free family nights on Thursday evenings and free admission on some Sundays and Mondays. The Chicago Museum of Science and Industry has six free days in June and The Art Institute of Chicago offers free admission on Thursday evenings. 

Bank of America has their Museums on Us promotion which provides free admission to over 100 museums nationwide on the first Saturday of every month. More details here.

I'd recommend contacting the museums in your city to see if they have any free admission days or times during the Summer. You might be pleasantly surprised!

There are so many options for parents who can’t afford to take an elaborate or expensive vacation but still want to create special memories with their children. It doesn’t have to cost you a months worth of wages, either. Time spent together as a family will likely be some of the best memories your children have all Summer!

Mail.google.com

Christi Bovee is a homeschooling mom who looks for every opportunity to build and create special memories with her husband and children every day and season of the year. She loves reading, singing along with her children and husband while he plays guitar, hiking, and enjoying the fellowship of her church family. She and her husband have three children with another one due in May. You can read about the blessings in her family at her blog.

Our $0.31 night of fun!

Did you get your $0.31 ice cream from Baskin Robbins tonight? We certainly did!

We've missed a lot of the other recent great food freebies and deals since I was too sick to make it out of the house. But the antibiotics are finally kicking into gear and I'm feeling much more energetic (I didn't know that was possible at 40 weeks pregnant, but compared to how sick I was last week, I feel great this week!) so we ventured out tonight to enjoy some very inexpensive and delicious ice cream.

Of course, apparently we weren't the only ones to have decided to hit up Baskin Robbins tonight. In fact, we had a hard time even finding a place to park–there were scores of people everywhere when we pulled up! The line was stretched quite far out the door but that didn't deter us. After all, patience is a virtue, right?

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Waiting on the bench outside for Daddy to bring our ice cream. Kaitlynn wasn't too thrilled at having her picture taken!

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And still waiting for Daddy to get to the front of the line! The girls were very patient and had a blast watching through the window as the long line of people gradually made it up to the ice cream counter.

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Ice cream at last! Yum!

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Yours truly (aka The Very Pregnant and Swollen Mama!) with my two little precious girlies.

It was a fun and memorable evening–all for only $0.31 per person!

Guest Post: Frugal Fall Family Fun

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photo by Brian Hathcock

Guest Post by Kate from Cincinnati Cents

Fall is such a magical time of year for children. Trees seem to change right before their eyes, bursting into brilliant hues of red, yellow, and orange. The warm air of summer has subtly been replaced with cooler, crisper mornings. Children are amazed by their power to create a frosty cloud when breathing into the cool fall air. It is a season of change, and with that change, comes a limitless supply of family fun that will last until the first snows of winter.

Pumpkins are wonderfully symbolic of harvest time, and most children have an amazing fascination with them. For young children who are not quite ready for the carving experience, paint is a creative option.  Don an old t-shirt, lay out newspapers on the table (I’m sure we all have plenty lying around), and pour paint into old yogurt cups. Voila! You have the perfect recipe for creativity. Cheerful faces can be painted on to adorn your child’s pumpkin, and their creations will last right through the Thanksgiving season.

For older children, carving a pumpkin is always a memorable experience. From the first cut into a pumpkin, the kitchen is filled with the fresh smell of autumn. The seeds that are scooped out can be washed and set aside for later roasting. They make a yummy treat after the hard work of creating a perfect pumpkin.

The designs for pumpkin carvings are limitless. There are several online sites that offer free downloadable templates, with everything from very traditional pumpkin faces, to popular characters, and intricate scenes. Once the pumpkin is carved to satisfaction, a candle can be placed inside, and you have a one-of-a-kind autumn decoration.

Autumn leaves offer a great potential for creativity as well. Placed under paper, children can create rubbings of the leaves they find. Unpeel the paper from your child’s crayon, and rub the side of the crayon against the paper. Children are often amazed that the texture and shape of the leaf magically appears on their paper. As an added learning experience, older children can then identify their leaves, and label them accordingly.

Colorful leaves can also be torn and arranged on a sheet of waxed paper in the shape of animals or other objects of your child’s liking. Once your child is satisfied with his or her creation, place another sheet of waxed paper on top of the leaf design. Carefully iron the creation on low heat. The leaf project will need to cool for a few minutes; afterwards, punch a hole in the top of the waxed paper, slip a string through, and your child will have a unique fall creation to hang up.

Fall projects can also be created through the use of “puffy paint”. Mix equal parts of white shaving cream and white school glue. Add in various colors to create a multitude of options for projects. I often use Kool Aid to color our puffy paint, as it is inexpensive, and forms bright hues. Children can then use this “paint” to make puffy pumpkins or fall leaves (be sure to use heavy paper, as this paint is very thick).  When finished, glitter can be sprinkled on top to give the project a shimmery effect. These should be laid flat to dry for 24-48 hours, depending on how thick the paint is applied.

Of course, if you do not feel creative this Fall, that’s perfectly alright, too. Grab a rake, pile up a mound of leaves, and turn the clock back a few years. Jump with your children and let the leaves fly. It’s amazing how much fun it is to be a child again!  Enjoy your Fall!

Katie is a homeschooling mother of four. She blogs at Cincinnati Cents,
where she shares money-saving ideas, deals, and frugal activities to
enjoy as a family.

Ask the Readers: Food ideas for a road trip?

Cherilyn emailed and asked:

We are planning a 16+ hour road trip in December with three
adults, two kids, and two dogs – yikes! The decreasing gas prices are a
blessing but we would like to save even more by taking most of our own
food. We don't want to have to stop for every meal. Can you give me
some ideas for inexpensive ideas for eating on the road? Ideas beyond
bottled water, beef jerky, and muffins are appreciated since that is
all I can come up with. Thank you! -Cherilyn

I know many of you will probably be doing some traveling to visit family and friends over the next two months so I'd love to hear any and all ideas for road-tripping on the cheap–especially when it comes to food. What are some of your favorite frugal foods to pack and eat on the road? What ideas do you have for keeping food fresh and tasty while traveling? I'm anxious to hear!

Guest Post: Family Fun Night

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photo by Ella’s Dad

Guest Post by Katie from Cincinnati Cents

After a busy week of school, work, and extra-curricular activities, it’s sometimes difficult to imagine cramming another activity into an already-packed schedule. However, taking the time to purposefully plan a block of family time together is worth more than every quiet moment we could ever possess.

Picking one evening every week (or every other week, as your life may dictate at the time) as a “family fun night” allows families the ability to reconnect on a weekly basis, ensuring no one is lost in the shuffle of the daily routines of our lives. The night chosen is immaterial, as is the exact amount of time allotted to the event. It is crucial, however, that the activity chosen is enjoyable for all, and that every member of the family feels included. The focus should be on the family unit as a whole, and not on one particular individual.   

There are always a few more popular choices around our house for a family evening together. In the winter, and during inclement weather, our children love having a picnic in the living room. We spread blankets out over the entire floor (which not only creates a “picnic” atmosphere, but protects the carpet as well!), and enjoy our picnic dinner together. We often put on our family movies, recapturing the kids’ younger moments together. They laugh together at each others’ antics and marvel at how small they once were.

Cooking together is another fun choice for families. One of our favorites is making homemade pizza. The smell of warm yeast quickly gathers everyone around the kitchen counter, and eager hands rapidly knead the dough. Once the dough has risen, and is rolled out to the desired shape, children enjoy choosing their own toppings, and “decorating” their pizza. It is simple to make personal sized pizzas, allowing each child to become a master chef for the evening.

A family game night is an inclusive choice for families with children of varying ages. Older children can pair up with younger siblings for more challenging games, thus allowing co-sibling teams to be formed. On the flip side, younger children delight in playing their favorites with older family members. If every family member chooses one game, no one feels excluded. But, of course, who chooses first? Put numbers in a bowl and allow everyone to choose. This not only ensures a fair order, but also assists younger children in easy number recognition (as a homeschooling mom, I can’t resist those “teachable moments”!).

As odd as it sounds, we have also made family cleaning into a fun evening on more than one occasion. We have a master list of weekly chores that we highlight as we go along. When we choose this “divide and conquer” method, every child picks a few jobs out of each category. We then divvy up washcloths and cleaners (or spray bottles of water for our younger ones), put on some loud music that we all enjoy, and dive in. Afterwards, the kids tend to find a treat that has mysteriously appeared on the counter– usually ice cream!

The possibilities for a planned day or evening together are endless. The end result however, is priceless. Everyone goes away with such a feeling of connectedness–a sense of belonging that cannot be recreated outside this integral family unit. These moments are worth more than any number a price tag could bear.

Katie is a homeschooling mother of four. She blogs at Cincinnati Cents,
where she shares money-saving ideas, deals, and frugal activities to
enjoy as a family.

From Crystal: What are some of your family’s favorite ways to celebrate a night of fun together without spending a lot of money? I’d love to hear!