We went spelunking a few Saturdays ago. There’s a state park with caverns about a 30-minute drive from our house, so we packed a picnic and headed down to check it out. I have to admit–my husband was more game than I was. I was a little worried about bats and claustrophobia. And I really wanted to work on the weeds that are overtaking our backyard. But he insisted the kids would love it, and he was totally right. It was one of the most fun Saturdays we’ve had as a family in a while–and it was practically free.
For me, it’s easy to fall into thinking that there’s nothing to do in my small hometown. But an article in the March 2012 issue of Family Fun magazine (and my trip to the caves) has me thinking otherwise. You don’t have to plan a trip to Disney World to have fun together as a family. As the article suggests, tons of low-cost adventures can be had close to home.
Here are a few ideas from the magazine’s readers for your next outing:
Take a Behind-the-Scenes Tour: There’s a world of information just behind the scenes of places you visit on a regular basis. One reader has taught her kids the motto “ask politely and you shall receive.” That truth has earned them trips back to the kitchen at their local bagel shop to see how the process works. At the grocery store, the produce manager showed them the fruit storage area when her 7-year-old asked about clementines. One idea in the magazine my kids would love: Visit your local dump for a special tour. It’s also a great way to teach about the need for conservation and recycling.
Become Local Experts: When I visit a new city, I seek out guides written by locals. After all, they know the best spots, right? Become that kind of expert for your hometown. One Family Fun reader in Illinois put together a guide of 50 parks with her kids. After each visit, they documented the highs and lows in a notebook. Then they would refer to their experiences when planning new trips to parks. Experts don’t have to be so organized. I loved one reader’s idea of finding “secret spots” with your kids–the special rock shaped like a bench behind the library or the booth in the back of the coffee shop where it’s fun to act silly. By naming these places together, you create fun memories for your kids.
Make Exploration a Game: Everyone loves a good challenge, so turn typical outings into a game for your family. One family featured in the magazine “visited China” by stopping at their local Chinese gardens, cooking Chinese food that night at home and doing a Chinese-inspired craft. For younger kids, I like the idea of posting an alphabet chart that you fill with photos associated with each letter–you and your child at the ice cream parlor for “I” or at a car show for “C.”
In the end, there are tons of adventures to be had, and while you might have to reach deep into your imagination, you won’t have to reach that far into your pockets.