Shoestring activities

Family Activities on a Shoestring!

Various studies have shown the importance of families spending time together. The children feel valued, fond memories are created, and lifestyle choices are improved. An article from the YMCA Total Health Online Wellness Center provides the following tips:

Most people think great family memories involve visits to amusement parks or trips to a tropical resort. Not so. Children want their parents to spend time with them on a daily basis, not just one week out of the year during the family vacation.

Your children will know they are loved and valued when you get to know them and help them get to know you. A month-long trip to Europe might be a lot of fun, but it's the daily experiences that really count.

But We're Short on Money…

Money worries can be stressful. When there's more month than money you might be tempted to take a second job. Perhaps you're currently out of work. As your grandma might have said, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade." When you've taught your kids how to adapt, you've taught them an important life skill.

Focus on the positive aspects of your family. Reassure your children of your love and their worth. There are hundreds of things you can do that don't cost much (if anything). Here are a few ideas to get you started:

   -  Stargaze

  -  Picnic with peanut butter sandwiches and pickles

  -  Run barefoot through a sprinkler

  -  Tell stories of your childhood

  -  Visit local museums and art galleries that are free

  -  Draw pictures in sand or dirt

  -  Garden

  -  Walk to the park and go down the slide together

  -  Check out books from the library and read out loud

  -  Play tag

  -  Identify leaves, flowers, or birds in your neighborhood

  -  Work on chores together

  -  Camp in your backyard or livingroom, using sheets to form the tent

  -  Make up silly songs and sing them frequently

  -  Attend free concerts in local parks

  -  Designate one evening a week as Table Game Night

  -  Adopt an older person, then help out by mowing the lawn or washing windows as a family

The demands and pressures of life and work can steal time away from your children unless you actively resist. Many children would forgo the trappings of a successful life (a bigger house, for example) if it meant mom and dad would be around more. Remember that one of the greatest gifts you can give your children is time with you.

    1. Goddard HW. Building family strengths. Principles of parenting. Alabama Cooperative Extension System.


The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) offers the following activity guidelines:

Toddlers: 1 1/2 hours minimum daily activity - 30 minutes planned physical activity and 60 minutes unstructured physical activity (free play)

Preschoolers: 2 hours minimum daily activity - 60 minutes planned physical activity and 60 minutes unstructured physical activity (free play)

School-Age: 1 hour or more minimum daily activity - Break up into bouts of 15 minutes or more. Infants and young children should not be inactive for prolonged periods of time - no more than one hour unless they're sleeping. School-age children should not be inactive for periods longer than two hours.