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Every parent dreads hearing a certain two words come out of their kids' mouths: 'I'm bored.' Those words are even more discouraging if you're trying hard to save money. After all, it gets tough to say no to new toys and video games and to big-money trips to theme parks, concerts featuring the latest hip Disney star and kid-friendly hotspots like Chuck E. Cheese's.
The good news is that with a little creativity (and a willingness to let the house get a little messy) your family can have plenty of fun for cheap. Here are ten great ideas to get you started.
1.) Make a giant fort in the living room. Pull out all of your blankets, sheets and towels, clear out an open space in the house and challenge your kids to make the biggest fort possible. All they'll need is some chairs, clothespins, thumbtacks and similar supplies to hold up the sheets. You can even allow your children to use the couch cushions to build walls.
2.) Camp in the back yard. Get out your old tent and host a camping trip in your own back yard. You can start the day by taking your kids on a hiking adventure around your neighborhood or a local park, staying on the lookout for interesting birds, insects and animals. Later you can grill hotdogs and hamburgers outside and even make s'mores in your microwave to make the experience more authentic.
3.) Check out movies from the library. You don't have to pay for pricey movie tickets, go to a movie rental store or buy your children their favourite movies to have a fun movie night with the family. Your local library will have plenty of children's movies you can check out for free. You might also ask fellow parents if they have any fun movies they can lend you. You can also save serious cash by getting a Redbox movie (only $1 a night) or by taking the kids to a matinee earlier in the day.
4.) Have a family picnic in a local park. Eating lunch together, feeding the ducks, rolling down grassy hills and playing on the playground makes for a fun, low-cost afternoon.
5.) Children's museums on free days. Children's museums (and even grown-up museums) are great educational experiences for the whole family, and the good news is there are always certain days during the year (usually state holidays) when admission is free. Be on the lookout for those days and plan your trip accordingly. Besides, you'll need something to do on the days the kids are out of school!
6.) Slumber parties. Ask your child to invite over his or her best friends and plan low-cost activities, such as scavenger hunts, sack races and three-legged races to keep them busy. Keep low-cost foods like hot dogs or finger sandwiches at the ready and low-cost drinks like Kool-Aid or homemade lemonade on hand.
8.) Plan a craft day. Go online and learn about fun crafts you can do with your children. You might use print paper to teach your children how to make unique snowflakes, teach your children how to make their own play dough or let them cut up a stack of magazines to create beautiful collages.
8.) Bike rides together. Put on your helmets and go for a bike ride as a family.
9.) Family game night. From Candy Land to Twister to Battleship families can have a blast playing games together at home. Card games are also fun with games like Go Fish and War being perfect for young children.
10.) Plan a water fight/bubble day. Water balloons and plastic water guns are fairly cheap and can provide hours of entertainment in your backyard on hot days. You can also easily make your own bubble solution using a little dish soap and water and fashion a wand out of a metal clothes hanger.