Now that my kids are back in school, I feel a bit wistful of our carefree summer days. We went to the beach, chased butterflies in the backyard, and visited to every park in a 5-mile radius to our house.
My kids, on the other hand, love the fall. They like the shorter days and earlier sunsets (I, of course, beg to differ) because they love the idea of being up at night. It doesn’t matter how much I explain that 7 p.m. is the same time whether it’s full daylight or pitch black outside. They just think they’re up past their bedtime.
So while the days get darker earlier and colder (I know I shouldn’t complain, but I am from Hawaii), we like to find cheap and free family fun night ideas.
5 Cheap and Free Family Fun Night Ideas
1. Kid/Parent Date Night
My kids love one-on-one time with mom and dad, and changing it up to a “date night” out just makes it even more special. We’ve done everything from miniature golf to laser tag to watching the latest movie at a theater. We try to keep it focused on spending quality time together rather than shopping or buying goods – and I’m often using coupons or discounts I find online to keep costs down.
Another option is have a kid/parent date night in. Plan and cook a meal (check out these kid-friendly gluten-free recipes) together and watch a favorite DVD.
I admit we’re not big on outdoor camping, but my kids love camping indoors – especially in my room. They’ve grown so big that they can’t fit in my bed anymore. So we set up a tent with sleeping bags in my room so they can camp in. We’ll stay up late eating treats, make shadow puppets, and tell ghost stories like a real camping trip, but I still get to sleep in my bed at the end of the night.
Make your own s’mores with this Gluten Free Graham Crackers recipe.
3. Nature Night Walk
This is a kid-favorite. Once the stars come out, we take the kids on a night walk around the neighborhood. They really enjoy the feeling of being outside when everyone else is indoors (again, the forbidden stay-up-too-late thing). We’ll look at constellations, observe phases of the moon, watch cars go by with their lights on, and listen to the cacophony of crickets, frogs, and other creatures. When it gets cooler, sometimes we’ll opt for a night drive instead.
This is great especially during the winter when holiday lights go up around our neighborhood. We tell our kids we’re going “exploring” and try to find new areas to explore to instill a love for adventure. Take a healthy snack, like this Paleo Maple Nut Trail Mix, on your adventure or try this Homemade Electrolyte Drink if you need to replenish those fluids after a long walk.
Another option is geocaching with kids – a high tech treasure hunt you can do that’s free.
4. Indoor Scavenger Hunt
My kids really got into scavenger hunts this summer. I’d compile a list of things for them to find in our yard, and they’d compete over who would find it first. I’d tell them what they were searching for rather than writing it down since my youngest can’t read yet. We tried this at night with flashlights, and my kids went nuts. They felt like little detectives searching for odd-ball items I’d come up with that they could find throughout our home, like a blue crayon, a striped washcloth, a stuffed animal with whiskers, or a Hawaiian-print dress shirt (which they both own). My youngest can get fierce and a bit cranky with competition, so we’d encourage my boys to work together by offering a prize or a small snack to them if they helped each other.
Offer a sweet treat prize with one of these homemade candy recipes that are healthy and are made with real food ingredients.
5. Lego-Building Party
Legos are the “it” toy in my house. The idea here is to come up with a theme with the kids – like a medieval dungeon or ninjas in battle – and then the whole family works on Lego creations to fit the theme. Someone could even be elected as the storyteller to weave all the Lego creations together. Or take turns telling a story and reward the silliest or most creative. The kids enjoy when we work with them on building Legos, and coming up with a story boosts their imagination.
Make these delicious Homemade Healthy Fruit Snacks in Fun Lego Shapes to go with the Lego theme – while still giving the kids a nutritious snack.
Got any family-fun night ideas to share? We’d love to hear them.
This post was featured on Redbook Magazine’s Mamarama blog.
Photo credit: DepositPhoto.com / Gorilla
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