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Guest Post: Frugal Family Fun – Part 1


photo by egarc2

Guest Post by Katie from Cincinnati Cents

As parents, there is a fine line between over-indulging our children and ensuring that we spend a reasonable amount of quality family time together. It seems as though schedules become incredibly hectic with the pace of today’s world, between school, work, soccer games, piano lessons, church commitments, scout meetings, social organizations…the list could go on and on.

It is essential for families to carve out time that is separate from the hubbub of the daily routine, in order to connect (or reconnect) as a family unit. Without this time spent together, the core that binds each family together becomes fractionalized, and suddenly the members become disconnected from each other, making family unity and harmony a challenge to be overcome.

While it is easy to agree that family time is essential, it is not always so simple to find activities and events that are family-friendly (oftentimes for a multitude of ages) as well as financially feasible. It is certainly not difficult to concoct grand plans for trips to amusement parks, the beach, or a local fun zone.

However, if these ventures are beyond your budgetary means, the additional stress they cause defeat the purpose of the unity-building experience. In this weekly series, I will be focusing on simple, frugal ways to celebrate your family, thereby spending quality time together (while maintaining your sanity as well!).

As Summer has quickly slipped away, and Fall is gently unfolding, it is an ideal time to enjoy the beauty of the season with a leisurely walk as a family in the coolness of the evening. I’ve found, it is easy to engage all participating “walkers” if you add a game into the experience.

Give each child a scavenger hunt list (younger children could be paired with older siblings or parents) of various items to locate while you are enjoying the outdoors. This turns the walk into more than just exercise and family time–it becomes a nature hunt, and children will be amazed with the autumn treasures they might find. Acorns, red and orange leaves, and squirrels scurrying to procure their winter store all make fascinating finds for young children. They are often amazed by what they can find if they truly look at their surroundings.

Bingo is another easy take-along game for an evening hike. Parents can make simple bingo boards prior to the family outing, utilizing cardboard or heavy cardstock and clear contact paper.  A simple 9 or 12-box grid would be ideal for younger children, whereas a larger grid (15 to 25 squares) would be more challenging for older children. Items that could be searched for would either be written in the squares, or pictures could be drawn for non-readers.

Once the boards are completed, a simple covering of clear contact paper will protect them from the elements on the journey. Each child would then be supplied with a dry erase marker and either a paper towel or a wet wipe. Whoever finds the needed objects and yells “bingo” first would win the game. The boards could then be wiped clean, and a new game could begin.

Of course, a game is not necessary for a family outing. It is oftentimes enough for families–especially those with very small children–to simply enjoy each others’ presence during the course of a long, leisurely walk. Young ones are so excited to witness nature’s beauty in its simplest form–a butterfly spreading its wings, a puppy barking from across the street, one last lazy flower poking its head out of the ground.

Regardless of the activity you choose, remember that life passes to quickly. Take time to smell those proverbial roses. Next Fall will be here in a blink of an eye, and you’ll want to look back and remember all the amazing memories you’ve created as a family over the course of the year.

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 favorite games to play or things to do while you’re out on a family walk?

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  • Jessica says:

    When outside, we like to watch for different birds. When driving, we watch car license plates to try to find the farthest away state, funny words, etc.

  • mom_of2boys says:

    The last couple family walks that we have taken we have picked up as many different leaves as we can. We put them in a ziploc bag until we get home. We name the trees they came from when we get home. If we aren’t sure, we try to look them up.

    Another fun thing that we’ve done is each person takes pictures…of a rock, flower, tree, bird or something else that we see along the trail. It’s great to see what everyone finds interesting.

  • Rochelle Wilkerson says:

    Great blog! I loved it!

  • Shayleen says:

    I spy!
    We also go for walks on garbage day and count how many coupon inserts we can pull out of the recycling bin!

  • Kasey says:

    I like to save old egg cartons and give one to each of my kids (4 and 2) to use as “treasure boxes” as they walk along. They love finding small items- acorns, berries, twigs, rocks, etc.- and placing them in the holes. Sometimes I encourage them to find matching pairs and place them side by side in the carton. When the walk is over, we find a quiet place to sit down and compare what we’ve found and talk about the wonder of nature. 🙂

  • Bethany says:

    I love being outside and have taught my children to love the outside as well. I insist on walking my older child to school everyday, unless the weather is unbearable, and have enrolled in an outside workout group, Strollerfit, where I can take my smaller child along with me. My children and I spend a good chunk of our day being outside walking and enjoying the fresh air or sitting on the front lawn talking and enjoying the closing of the day. I have found that being outside has kept us healthy emotionally and physically. I was so glad to read about the wonderful activities that can be done outside and I hope it encourages others to find the joy in the outside world.

  • Katie says:

    Awesome blog! Love the ideas!

  • laura says:

    We live in the country, so some of our walks are to our own garden, to see if the pumpkin is all the way orange yet (it’s getting there!). We look fo bugs, monitor ant hills, and take treats to the chickens (blades of grass, weeds from the garden, etc.)

    We live on a dirt road, so as we walk we’re learning the names of wildflowers and other plants. Sometimes we take the wagon, just for fun, and usually, we stop and visit a neighbor or two along the way. We love our walks!

  • Justmy3 says:

    As a former teacher, I love to turn walks into a learning experience. We count by looking for numbers- on license plates or house numbers,etc, we do the same with the alphabet. When my children were very little we looked for shapes and colors. But our favorite is to find letters in trees (like a Y)or cracks in the sidewalk,or a fence might be a T, L or E. It makes you look at things in new ways and it’s fun to see how creative we can be.

  • Hannelore says:

    There are some great ideas here! I really love being outdoors. They say “music soothes the savage beast” -well so does nature-it wonders for crabby children’s attitudes. We like to finish our homeschool book work before lunch so we have lots of time to play in our yard. Also, in the heat of Aug., we go outside for 30 minutes first thing in the morning to get out all the sillies and to enjoy the cool of the morning before starting school. We too like to look at leaves, moss, seed pods, and animals and then come home and “draw what we saw”. We are blessed to live near Ijam’s Nature Center and we love to go there to see the lillypads, frogs, butterflies, tiny log cabin, cave, river, etc! They also have an indoor area with animals, bones, eggs, animal skins, feathers, various exhibits, and the like-so even if the weather doesn’t cooperate, we can still enjoy nature. This is all free. And local zoos are usually worth the membership fee! But even without facilities like these, you have a beehive of nature activity in your backyard if you just slow down and look for it.

  • Jen says:

    Along with your BINGO idea, you can use clear plastic page protectors with a wet erase marker (like you’d use for an overhead) and just slide in the paper Bingo board. This saves time! The use a clipboard if you need a hard surface. I did this when I was teaching high school for activities–you may be able to use a dry erase marker on the page protector, I just haven’t tried it.
    Great ideas! Thanks!

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