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Five No-Cost Ideas for Family Fun

Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Family Activities & Crafts

Every family needs a few simple ideas for a good time that cost no money and require no equipment or even skill. Here are five all-ages ideas to use through the summer.

Treasure Hide and Seek. Use any object that’s handy and easy to spot to use as the “treasure” in a game of hide and seek. While the seekers hide their eyes and count to 30, the hider finds a good place to hide the treasure. Then everyone looks for it. Whoever finds the treasure is the new hider. Everyone enjoys this game and preschoolers can play too. Play outdoors or inside.

Scavenger Hunt. Draw up a list of things to look for at the park or on a hike, then look for them. Simple enough. Make the hunt more interesting and challenging by first generating a list of about 100 possible items (a feather, a soda can, a red leaf, a caterpillar, an empty chip bag, whatever…). Cut apart the list and put all the slips of paper into a jar. Draw out 20 slips and use those as the list for your hike. Or, each person can draw out her own set of 7 to 10 slips. This game is different every time.

Star Gazing. City kids hardly ever see the stars, so if you go camping this summer or find yourself out in the country at night, look up. But you can go star gazing any evening, even in town. Take a blanket or two to the park on a warm, clear night. Since it will be late, you can even bring the kids in their pajamas. Lie down on one blanket (use the other to cover the kids if they get cold) and see what you can see. Bring along some snacks and just chill out together.

Progressive Story-telling. This works well in the car, on the bus or airplane, or even standing in a long line somewhere. Start a story – just make up anything – but only talk for a few sentences. Then pass the story on to the next person, who takes the story on from there. Start with an agreed-number of turns (no more than 3 per person) before the story comes to an end. But then, of course, someone can start another story and around you go!

Left-Right-Straight Hike. You and the kids want to get out of the house and just take a walk in the neighborhood. But that seems so boring. Here’s a way to make it more interesting: take turns saying “left,” “right” or “straight” at the end of every block. You might find yourself going past houses and businesses you never saw before when you’ve stuck to your “regular route.”

Having fun is free and takes only a little imagination and a willingness to play along with the kids. Make sure the car is packed with a tennis ball or two, a Frisbee, and an empty ziptop bag or paper cup with lid (for catching or saving interesting things). Add in a sheet or blanket to sit on and a couple BandAids and you’ll always be ready for family fun!


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Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson

Dr. Patricia Anderson is a nationally acclaimed educational psychologist and the author of “Parenting: A Field Guide.” Dr. Anderson is on the Early Childhood faculty at Walden University and she is a Contributing Editor for Advantage4Parents.