Cheap or free (family-friendly) dates

Hello all. I’ve been offline for quite some time. My husband and I had a precious baby girl just a couple of weeks ago. She has added so much joy and so many smiles to our already happy life together.

Just this morning I was looking at her and daydreaming about fun family activities we could do with her when she grows up. In the end I decided to write a list of them for fun, one for every week of the year. Forty dates had to be free or cheap, twelve could have entrance fees or a little more expense. So each month we could splurge a little one week and enjoy some wholesome, cheap, imagination-driven, media-free (except one) fun.

Sadly, children tend to spend more time on iPads than outdoors these days and adults spend more time watching movies than connecting with one another. Imaginations are crumbling and time slips mindlessly through our fingers. Most likely I’m not the only one who is bothered by this and is looking for cheap and active/educational ideas for family outings, so I decided to share my ideas here. I hope someone can get some use out of this list – they’re not in any particular order.

Free or cheap date ideas

Visit a Yankee Candle store. Each member of the family takes a turn closing their eyes. The other members can each choose five candles for that person to smell. The blind person then guesses each scent. (The ones choosing the scents can judge if the guess is close enough or not.) Whoever gets the most scents correct gets to choose a small candle in their favorite scent to take home.

Find or make a fire pit (taking safety precautions and making sure it’s legal) and roast hot dogs and s’mores together.

Make personal pizzas from scratch, each member making and topping their own.

Scoop a big bowl of ice cream if at home or order a large dessert if outside. Each family member gets a spoon and takes turns taking a bite. But before each bite they either have to say something they’re thankful for (if you prefer a little more serious) or ask a questions for 20 questions (if you want strictly fun).

Go to a library. Pick out a book together and take turns reading the story aloud.

Borrow camping equipment if you don’t have any and camp out one night.

Go to a gym together and workout as a family.

Go to a park with a picnic lunch and feed ducks with leftover scraps (if your park has ducks).

Try on crazy outfits at a thrift store, then buy any clothes you need before you leave.

Have family band night. Play instruments if you’re able or just sing and clap, tap or shake things to the beat.

Play hide & seek in the dark with a flashlight.

Go pick berries (or apples) and make a pie.

Go geocaching. (If you’re not familiar with it, it’s kind of like a treasure hunt. There’s a free app for smart phones.)

Build a giant sand castle or sculpture at the beach.

Have a jump rope competition with different categories. Adults get a handicap.

Go to a community dance.

Play frisbee golf at a free course.

Go to Sams or Costco, try all the different samples and buy one. Buy any groceries you need while you’re at it.

Borrow a projector and good speakers. Hang up a white sheet outside somewhere and project a black-and-white movie onto it. Watch from the car with homemade popcorn.

Paint or remodel a room together, letting everyone have some say in the design.

Go to garage sales.

Go to a farmer’s market and enjoy bites of this and that as well as possibly live music.

Have a pillow fight before bed.

Work in the yard together, then play in the sprinkler with water guns.

Borrow a telescope and star-gaze on a clear night.

Give each other foot soaks and massages.

Visit elderly relatives (or friends) and play classic games together.

YouTube a skill and practice it as a family.

Build a tent over an air conditioning vent in the house and cuddle in it with blankets, a flashlight and a book.

Make snowflakes and/or origami.

Have the kid pick a topic for Mommy and Daddy to debate. The kid is the moderator and judges who wins the debate.

Have a garage sale and give the money to a charity you have researched together.

Go to a pet store and choose a pet together, or, if you’re not in the market for a pet, donate old blankets and towels and just look at and play with the animals.

Build a wooden playhouse together for the kids to enjoy for years to come.

If a friend has a farm, go on a field trip. Feed and pet the animals, ride horses and collect eggs.

Play badminton together.

Visit a local swimming pool.

Build card castles. See who can make the tallest.

Make a time capsule to bury in the yard.

Visit downtown or a historic site nearby.

Paid date ideas

Go ice skating.

Go bowling.

Go to an aquarium.

Visit the zoo.

Play Laser Tag.

Buy tokens at an arcade.

Go to dinner at a place with live music.

Go to a water park.

Play Mini golf.

Order a magazine subscription to read together monthly.

Go rock wall climbing.

Visit a science museum.

I hope these lists inspire you. Please share any family date ideas you have in the comments!

P.S. One last idea I have is to put the free idea on slips of paper in one jar and the paid ideas in another jar and each week at a specified time pick a paper at random. One paid idea each month, the rest free. This adds an element of mystery and surprise each time. Enjoy!

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