5 thrifty ways to spend time as a family

By: Kait Fowlie

© Photography Author: Canadian Living Credits: © Photography


5 thrifty ways to spend time as a family

By: Kait Fowlie
Now that the evenings have cooled down and school is back in session, most families are getting back into a more practical routine. But just because you're spending less time outside doesn't mean the fun has to stop. If you're looking for some ways to kick family time up a notch, you don't have to spend a ton of cash or devote an entire weekend to the cause. With a little creativity, you and your crew can have a blast and make lasting memories on a shoestring budget.

We turned to Robin Hicken, who, with her husband, Ed, created Frugal Family Times, a website dedicated to helping families save money and spend more time together. She shares some expert tips for having fun on a budget.

1. Have a wacky games night with your family
Are your board games getting a little tired? Think outside the box and use your tried-and-true collection to make your own personalized games.

"Let the kids mix and match a few pieces from other games and create their own rules. Then they can teach parents how to play their invention," says Hicken. "Be ready for nonsense rules and, as a parent, never actually being able to win. The creativity is the point of it all and, with that in mind, it can be a blast," she explains.

This whimsical idea is a surefire way to have lots of laughs around the kitchen table.

2. Host an international-theme dinner party
Get the experience of going on a trip without even leaving the house. Transforming your kitchen into another country around dinnertime makes for a fun cultural experience.

"Ask the kids to pick a country and plan a special dinner from there. Serve food from that country, download music to play during dinner and learn some things about life in your theme country to talk about," says Hicken.

You can also deck out your kitchen with some cultural decor. Cultures that make use of lots of bright colours in their traditional dress, holidays and events often have cuisines to match, such as India, Thailand or Mexico.

3. Make some memory-preserving crafts
Want to relive the fun of your last vacation? Take those pictures out of the photo album and bring them into your daily life by printing them out and getting creative with their display.

"Have the kids choose their favourite vacation photos to make into a collage to hang in their room," says Hicken. "Or for something even more special, print the collage on an iron-on T-shirt transfer and make a memory shirt or cloth bag."

Having pictures you can hang or wear will make your family cherish those memories even more.

Hicken has one general tip when it comes to crafting: "Whatever you do, keep it simple. If Mom and Dad have to do most of the work, it's not a great craft for kids," she says.

4. Get nostalgic with old toys
What's better than new toys? Old ones! Revisiting your childhood with your kids is an activity you'll both have a blast doing.

"Show your kids some of the games you used to play. You'll be surprised what comes back to you. They might also like to hear about where your toys came from," says Hicken.

You may find yourself giving an impromptu family history lesson. "Keep in mind that your childhood toys are decades old. They will be brittle and easily broken," she warns. "They will probably break, so make peace with that if you want to have fun."

5. Go on a park crawl
Look no further than your own neighbourhood for an active family adventure.

"We ride our bikes to a bunch of neighbourhood parks, play a few minutes at each one and then head to the next," says Hicken. "We then talk about our favourites and why. If we made our ultimate park, which features would it have?"

Doing a park tour is a great way to rediscover your neighbourhood and to learn a lot about your family's likes and dislikes.

You don't have to break the bank to have fun with your family. Quality time can be enjoyable for everyone with just a little imagination. It's all about reinventing what you have and seeing things through new eyes. Kids really help with that. Go with the flow and see where the fun takes you!

Read more articles like this in Relationships.
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5 thrifty ways to spend time as a family