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Free or Low Cost Entertainment Ideas for Families


Renee sent me a link to a neat idea how you can entertain your children for free: visiting the pet store (a.k.a. the “mini zoo”). What a great idea! She also thought it would be great if we share some of our frugal entertainment ideas with each other. I agree!

Here are a few things that we do to keep family entertainment costs down:

Search for Community Events – We keep an eye out in the newspaper (online edition) and the flyers hanging in the grocery store. We look for any parades or events occuring that we can attend for little or no cost.

Attend Local Museum Free Days – A historical museum near me puts on an event every year when you can go and see railroad information for free. We didn’t do it this year, but we have gone in the past.

Look Through Old Pictures – My son absolutely loves to take a trip down memory lane and go through old pictures that we have in albums. He’ll sit there for hours and go through the pictures and ask about everyone in them.

Have a Movie Night at Home – We rarely go to the movie theater. In fact, we’ve only been to one movie since our son was born (Disney’s Cars). Instead, we go to the local movie rental place and rent the older releases at 99 cents/each. Every now and then we will get a new release (for $3.99).

Go to the Lake/Get out in Nature – We live only a few minutes away from Lake Superior and when we need something to do we hop in the car and head to the beach. Sometimes we bring a picnic…sometimes we go just to hang out. My son loves to make sand castles.

Attend State Park Low-cost or Free Programs – We haven’t done this one yet (trying to fit it in the schedule), but our local state park has programs throughout summer that are free for families. You can learn all about nature in a hands-on setting. Here’s a listing to the State Park Explorer program in Michigan’s State Park sytem.

Here are the ideas that Renee suggested:

Visit Your Public Library – The library is a great place to spend a few hours reading and learning. As an added bonus, on a hot day you could enjoy the air conditioning.

Visit the SPCA (or your local animal shelter) – Renee enjoys petting the dogs and bunnies at her local SPCA. We don’t have a local SPCA, but our animal shelter does enjoy it when people volunteer to come in and pet the kitties or walk the dogs.

Thanks Renee for this idea to do this! Does anyone else have any free or frugal entertainment ideas they would like to share?

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  • Reply ladydoughgirl |

    I think the idea of getting out into nature is the best idea in town. It is an activity that is free and that everyone in the family can appreciate. I also think it’s so important for us to take time out and connect to nature. We just took the kids to a public access beach today. It was so relaxing. All they needed was the wonder of the ocean and their imaginations to be happy.

  • Reply Kristina |

    I suggest people consider spending their free time at a local animal shelter (or similar rescue organization) over pet stores. In general, pet stores are terrible places for animals. There are endless documented cases of animals being abused by pet store owners and employees. Pet stores get unhealthy and abused animals from breeders. Animals live in depressing cages. It’s not a good lesson for children or a good cause to support. Instead, as Tricia suggested, your children can volunteer at a local animal shelter and be entertained for free while also learning about animal welfare and how to have compassion for animals.

  • Reply Lynnae |

    You have some great ideas! I love scouring the paper for free entertainment. We’ve found free ballet lessons, puppet shows, nature walks… There’s a lot out there if you look for it.

  • Reply paidtwice |

    I concur with looking in the paper or online newsletters for free activities. We’ve found a lot of free activities that way.

    And the library story time too!

    Also we became members of our local zoo. It is a big expense ($65 a year) but we can go anytime we want and stay as little or as long as we want. We went so many times last summer it was like a dollar a visit. lol

  • Reply Brenna |

    Take a walk together as a family or do some sort of physical activity. This will get everyone out of the house and hopefully the benefits of “exercise” will keep everyone healthy.

  • Reply Renee |

    I found another idea today in “All You” magazine – Get water guns from the dollar store and set up sprinklers, wading pools, slip-n-slides, etc. around your yard in little stations to create a day in the “water park”!

    I agree with Kristina about the problems in pet stores, which is why you should just visit and not buy any animals from there. However, our local PetSmart puts animals from the SPCA up for adoption instead of selling dogs and cats, which I think is great.

    Also, there are a lot of colorful fish at pet stores that can keep kids entertained for long periods of time!

    I also agree with the getting into nature ideas. It’s not too expensive to take a carload of people to the national park, and the hiking around here at Shenandoah National Park is great!

    I don’t have kids myself, but my step-sister has small children and her husband uses money as an excuse not to take them anywhere, which is why I recommended this topic.

    Great ideas you added, Tricia! We used to love to look at my parents’ old yearbook photos and look at photos of my grandparents when they were young, too 🙂

  • Reply Lisa |

    I agree with the comment regarding spending time at the animal shelter. My dauther and I did that for a while and it was crazy rewarding. We made lots of new furry friends and got closer to each other in the process.

  • Reply JW Thornhill |

    We live in Michigan and I really appreciate the tips. Especially, Attend State Park Low-cost or Free Programs – We haven’t done this one yet (trying to fit it in the schedule), but our local state park has programs throughout summer that are free for families. You can learn all about nature in a hands-on setting. Here’s a listing to the State Park Explorer program in Michigan’s State Park sytem.

  • Reply Cheryl |

    Our library shows movies for adults and kids, and has puppet shows, magic shows and craft time for kids. Our local Chick Fil A has kids night every tuesday, with a special deal on food and a hands on activity included. Our shopping malls have huge kids play areas also.

  • Reply Rogers Place |

    Movies – sometimes in the middle of week you can view a movie for the price of a rental. Renting a movie even instead of seeing it in the theatre if you can wait awhile will save a bunch. You can even watch in your own living room, get up whenever you want, eat your popcorn you bought at grocery store for pennies compared to theatre price.

    While at the public library read the newspapers, saves a few bucks compared to paying for home delivery.

    Don’t order domino’s pizza as you have to pay a delivery fee now, make your own pizza at home.

  • Reply Jen |

    I love the public library suggestion. Last summer I was home during the week. I went to the library to check e-mail (I was moving and my computer wasn’t setup) and I couldn’t get a PC because there were all these kids on them playing games! They were playing together, because they were talking to each other about what they were doing. I was a little annoyed, but a library is a better place than others for them to be!

    Also, some libraries rent DVDs for much less than Blockbuster. Mine rents DVDs for $1/week.

  • Reply Dasha |

    The libraries here in NYC rent dvds for free. We also have netflix, and its entirely worth the price in my opinion, especially since we like to watch a lot of weird and foreign movies.

  • Reply DHM |

    Click on my website link above for a link to a post where I listed some of my ideas for free family fun.=)

  • Reply Mrs. Micah |

    Those are excellent. Someone in the notes mentioned libraries renting cheap DVDs. In the county where I grew up, all county libraries loaned videos and DVDs for free, just like the books. They just had heavier late fines and only loaned for 7 days. Very popular ones only loaned for 3. You could put them on reserve, too, if they were checked out or at another library.

    Our collection was extensive, including older classics, newer releases, and a number of TV shows on DVD. Plus various workout videos. And lots of kids movies/shows–Bob the Builder, Dora the Explorer, all that.

    Unfortunately, where I now live the libraries rent them at $2 for 2 days plus entertainment tax. Cash or check only (normal for libraries). That makes it less worthwhile for me. Still, it’s not worse than a rental store.

So, what do you think ?