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How to Have Fun with the Kids on the Cheap

Family fun can get a little pricey; I know this first hand.

Our culture even tells us that in order to have the best time, you better be willing to shell out the big bucks. But the truth is that family fun doesn’t need to be expensive, it just needs to be fun! (Yes. I am trying to think of a cheesy connection about putting “The Fun” back in “Family Fun” here.) You don’t need to drag all the kids to the water slides or to a crowded theme park for the day. Just keep it simple! Here are a few ways to have fun with your family that won’t break the bank! Bear in mind, I am writing this from the perspective of a father who has 3 kids – ages 5, 3, and 1½. So, my fun gauge might be a little off when it comes to kids that are older. But so far, my kids have loved each of these things below and my wife and I put them each in the Win Column.

(“Make Family Fun Great Again!” Haha! I found the connection!)

#1. The Park – Probably the most cliché form of family outings. But this doesn’t mean that going to the park needs to be boring. Next time you go to the park bring some sandwiches, some snacks, and some drinks and your lame park outing is now a fun picnic. Make it even better by Googling parks in your area and try to find the best park around. Find the park that has all the cool bridges, walkways, secret passages and everything that your kids’ imagination will thank you for! You will probably need to drive a little farther than just going to a park around the corner from your house, but your kids will have a great time and make some fond memories. Sometimes simply going to a new park is a whole new adventure for little ones.

#2. The Nature Walk – Now this category will need to be altered to the age of your children. Young children wont be hiking up a mountain for 5 miles, but your 10 year old just might enjoy something that adventurous. Specifically, for the younger ones, the fun part is finding stuff that they might find interesting. Like weird looking bugs or interesting rocks. These Nature Walks can be anywhere; near a river or around an orchard. If you are in driving distance of some foot hills or mountains, maybe you can find some cool places to walk around there. The pro way to do this, is to go to a national park. Some parks are free and some parks you might have to pay a few bucks, but if you have the time and money to spare this can make for a great family outing filled with amazing scenery and wonderful experiences. Again, just going somewhere new can be all you need.

#3. The Bike Ride – By now you are probably starting to see a theme (take your kids outside). This is probably easier to do when your kids are a little more grown up and can ride a bike by themselves. But if not, then you can try to find a bike trailer either at a garage sale or at a Wal-Mart. Granted, getting one isn’t cheap by any means, but if you already have bikes and your kids already know how to ride than you are good to go! One way to go about this trip: Pick a destination (probably not too far away) and pack a lunch. The destination has be the goal, and achieving the goal is what makes it fun! Near where we live is a tiny little collection of trails near the river. When I was a kid my dad would bike with us from our house to this tiny spot all the time and we had a blast! We used to make jumps out of the dirt and see how high we could get and try to create berms and go as fast as we could around them – it was great! The point is that you just need to find somewhere to go.

Or contrarywise - maybe you and your kids just go exploring. You already packed a lunch and some waters! Go out there and get lost! (but not really.) Your inner 12 year old might come out and you mind find your sense of adventure again.

#4. The Kids Museum – Not every inexpensive way of having fun hinges on the accessibility of the outdoors. Sometimes, you can find a local Kids Museum to visit. And before you start tweeting Dad Jokes to me, I’m just going to preemptively say that this is not a Museum OF Kids. It’s a museum FOR kids where there is a plethora of science experiments for them to check out and experience. The Kids Museum near us has really big vats that blow HUGE bubbles, big building blocks, and lots of cool experiments involving lights and prisms and other things. It even has a section for kids who can’t walk yet. It’s awesome! It’s basically the bedroom I wish I would have had if I was 5 years old and my parents were extremely eccentric.

#5. The Mini Zoo – What’s a mini zoo? It’s a zoo, but I coined the term “mini zoo” because it’s usually a small, inexpensive zoo that may or may not have a playground nearby. The one near my house is about $6 per person to get in. So, about the same price as going out to eat at Taco Bell, but hours’ worth of more fun and you won’t have to worry about the intense bowel movement later that evening. Older kids might not find this as fun, but your younger kids will love it!

These are just 5 things I have done with my family that didn’t set us back very much. My children are still considerably young, so I’m sure family outings will get more expensive as they get older. But for now, we are just enjoying their age and they are enjoying going outside.

A lot.

If you have any tips for me to try, send me a tweet at @nerddadzech! I would love to hear them and give them a shot. We are a community of fathers here and sharing our ideas will help us all raise a generation of better human beings. Maybe your idea will even make it on the podcast!
Keep it nerdy, my fellow fathers in nerdy dad things!

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