I often post DIY ideas or crafts or a little travel in the hopes of creating beautiful things and memories with the family. But every so often it amazes me how much fun the simple things can be. Sometimes the big plans are a bust and the little, spontaneous moments can be the things that are the most memorable.
So I thought I would put together a list of 10 things that anyone can do completely free with the little ones. Hopefully these ideas spark a little imagination and fun in your house. Especially now that summer is winding down. I know I for one really want to cling to the extra time I get with my girls before summer slips away.
Here are 10 ideas for silly family fun (that is free!)
::Watch a Game Show- I know, know I am supposed to tell you my kids get 30 minutes of screen time a week and they read 3 hours a day and do crossword puzzles for fun 😉 Nope. It gets hot in California and we are busy and sometimes it is nice to just plop down on the couch and do nothing. Enter game shows. We love them- a few favorites include Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader, Family Feud and Match Game. My almost 9 year old follows along pretty well but my 7 year old gets a little lost. She likes to watch us being silly and yelling answers though. Sometimes Family Feud has adult content so best for the older kids for sure.
::Have a Dance Party- when we actually have a dance party it is so much fun! I love to do this on days I am stressed or the kids have been bickering or I feel guilty for not making it to the gym. The kids absolutely love this- here are some songs that are always fun for a dance party:
Oh Mickey by Toni Basil
Cotton Eyed Joe by Rednex
Shut Up and Dance with Me by Walk the Moon
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Tammi Terrell and Martin Gaye
Build Me Up Buttercup by the Foundations
And right now we are adding in the Wham Dance by Cupid too.
::Be a Tourist in Your Own City- recently I was searching on pinterest for travel tips to a few cities we are visiting and somehow a travel article popped up for my city. I typically think I am pretty in tune to what is going on in the area and I have lived here for 30 years, give or take, but I found quite a few suggestions that were new to me. I started checking more articles and came up with a few ideas of things to do- one is a wonderful sounding coffee shop and an amazing bookstore the reviewer raved about. I can’t wait to take my girls for hot chocolate, lattes and browsing aisles of books. Why not google or search pinterest for travel articles on your city and see what they recommend. You might be surprised!
::Cook or Bake– preferably something special. Maybe you can bake cookies from Grandma’s secret recipe? Or make a meal that you remember from childhood or google recipes from a city you visited or a place that is meaningful to you. My girls LOVE hearing stories about the family, my childhood, when they were babies… Here are a few things we have made – Grandpa Joe’s favorite cookies from his mother (secret family recipe)- we packed and mailed them with cards and little treats for his birthday, Grandpa Bob’s favorite birthday cake from his childhood- took me ages of searching to find this spice cake recipe, Ebelskivers to celebrate my husband’s Norwegian heritage and recently we made Minnie’s chocolate pie recipe (TWICE!) after watching the Help. My little girl could not stop giggling her way through eating the pie. (It was crazy good by the way.) My big girl did a book report on Alice Waters so we decided to make a cookie recipe and drink recipe from a cookbook we picked up at the library. Fun!
::Start a Book Club- I love the idea of a book club with the kiddos. And take it a step further and do something special for the book club. You don’t have to run around doing anything super fancy- my daughter was reading BFG awhile back and I bought frobscottle (aka an $.89 green apple Gatorade) and put it in a fun glass jar I had on hand and added a little sparkling water. We read Harry Potter aloud too and have made pumpkin juice or our latest adventure- I am reading The Penderwicks to my girls and we just got some big boxes from a dining room chair order. I sliced little slits in the top of the box, poked some Christmas lights through and we have a super cool fort to rest inside while I read. You don’t have to go to a lot of trouble or spend any money- just make things a little different and a little more fun. Maybe you can dress in all pink one day and get a bunch of Pinkalicious books at the library, drizzle honey over peaches while you read Winnie the Pooh, lay outside on a picnic blanket and read or sit in a hammock or drape a blanket over the dining room table to make a fort.
And another idea to consider- we have a Mommy book club too. Sometimes I read books that are interesting stories to tell the kids. When that is the case, I will spend time in the car recounting what I have read to them. Last year my 8 year old would beg every morning to hear about the book I was reading- I just told her the bits of the story I read the night before. The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street was her favorite last year.
::Explore the World- have you travelled around the world? I have been to a few countries in Europe and South America and of course Canada and Mexico. So I have some photo albums and stories and memories to share with the kiddos. Occasionally we get out the globe and talk about various places- this is great for Grandma and Grandpa time too. My Dad has been to some amazing places- China a bunch of times and Egypt. If you haven’t done much traveling, what about places you dream of going? Get some books about the place from the library, make food from that region, listen to music… Give Your Child the World is a great resource if you like this idea… And domestic stuff is great too! My daughter got an A+ on her geography tests last year and we talked about interesting things from each state. (Nebraska is where Mommy’s friends live, I met them in college and… Kentucky is where a company Mommy used to work for is headquartered- we almost moved there…) and so on. Once she took her last test I promised to get a surprise from one of the states- she struggled with Vermont so I bought a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. She will never forget the state of Vermont again 😉
::Visit a Farm- One of our favorite activities is to search out local farms, farmers markets or farm stands in the area. Pick up your normal groceries or just wander around and people watch. We recently went to a local farm that was open to the public. It really wasn’t very pretty or fun and the day was insanely hot. We found one sprinkler running on a patch of flowers and the kids had so much fun just getting wet. Yeah we could have turned on a sprinkler at home but I think there is something to finding the magic in any situation. I could have just called it a bust with the farm that was bleh on a super hot day but instead we played in the sprinkler and stopped at a new to us bookstore on the way home- they had a great, curated selection of books- we read a bunch and popped next door to Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and discovered caramel apples buy one get one free. So for $4 we wound up having a really fun day that the kids loved. Lots of farms offer special days with cooking classes or kid’s activities or tours or events. Check it out, you might be surprised! And if the farm turns out to be a bust, maybe there is something you can find to turn it around? When I used to work in the wine industry we used to always say “well at least they had a dog.” Meaning that the wine may be crap but if nothing else you can seek out the winery dog and that should cheer you up. Every winery will have a dog. 😉
::Visit the Ladybug Cafe- Can I tell you about Aunt Sandy? She is amazing. My Father In Law’s sister, she is the one that remembers every birthday, always has a huge smile and there is nothing more important than family. Aunt Sandy babysits all the kids in the neighborhood, pet sits, goes to every soccer game, remembers everything you like and always has it waiting for you when you come to visit. We don’t get to see Aunt Sandy often but when we do she turns nothing special into magic. On our last trip to Seattle, we basically showed up on the doorstep unannounced like Cousin Eddie. Sandy promptly showed our girls to the front yard where she has an amazing drooping tree that is a secret hideaway. She gave the kids gardening tools and a few odds and ends from the kitchen and my girls had the time of their lives! They played in that tree just digging and rock collecting and whatever for hours. (Aunt Sandy calls it the ladybug cafe because if you are patient enough, ladybugs will eventually stop by to visit. Once a year the neighborhood kids come over and they buy paper plates and party streamers in red and black, make ladybug cupcakes and buy a container of ladybugs from the garden center. After the party is finished, the ladybugs are set free inside the cafe.) Every time I see Aunt Sandy I learn how to create magic with simple things. The kids had so much fun with literally dirt, a tree and a few shovels and tupperware containers. She is amazing! Oh and one more thing about Sandy- she remembers the details- so always vegetarian choices for me, she had a plate of tomatoes for my little tomato lover and dug up a jar of pickles for my littlest pickle-fiend. How she remembers these little likes I do not know but when my girls wrote Sandy thank you notes, I found things like “Thanks for sharing your lady bugs and for the pickles.” The small things really do add up to be big things and Aunt Sandy is a master of small things.
::Volunteer Your Time. I know this is a little cliched but volunteering for a worthy cause can really be such a great family bonding activity. Last year we volunteered for Feed My Starving Child and it was SO FUN! If they come to your area, sign up for sure! We also packed boxes for overseas military one year and the kids made a bunch of cards to include inside the boxes. This year my daughter and I are learning to sew and we have started buying material on clearance and in sales and making little pillowcase dresses to send to children in need. Maybe you can take some old books to a Little Free Library in your community? Or build one for your neighborhood! My big girl loves animals and we occasionally go to the humane society and walk the dogs, stuff envelopes, drop off food donations… she LOVES this time.
::Learn a New Skill. You Tube is awesome. Check You Tube for videos on how to do a country line dance, make origami bookmarks, science experiments, craft ideas, decorating or organizing. Whatever your kids are into or you have always wanted to learn to do. Try to dig up some You Tube videos and learn together. What is on our You Tube agenda this summer? How to do Dutch braids (I want to learn this myself and my littlest loves watching these as she does them on her American Girl doll). How to make friendship bracelets. Dang if I didn’t make a million of these as a kid and now I can’t remember how 😉 We have also learned how to make perfect scrambled eggs, tons of perler bead and rainbow loom ideas and sewing tutorials and kids yoga classes. Oh and we learned how to do the Whip and Nae Nae awhile back. 😀
So there you go! Fun ideas for spending quality time with the kiddos. I hope some of these are useful to you and I’d love to hear your secrets for creating those really memorable moments with your kids!
Here are a few other articles you might enjoy:
Summer Fun List- tons and tons of ideas for summer fun