Six fun things you can do with your family for under $30
By Focus on the Family
The importance of spending quality time with your family can never be understated, and the Christmas/New Year holiday period offers us the ideal opportunity to spend time together as a family, making great memories and generally having the kind of unique and unhindered fun that the annual holiday break should be all about.
In order to help get the ball rolling I thought I'd suggest 6 different activities that families (or friends) can do together for $30 each or less.
ONE: A kite flying expedition There really isn't much explanation required here, it's simply a matter of investing in a kite and then heading off to the local park, domain or other large open space on a windy day to have loads of fun launching and flying your family kite. I have seen children's kites as cheap as $11 each on Trade Me, with regular kites starting around the $15 mark on Trade Me (you can get some really cool options in the $20 - $30 price range). The Kite Shop also has a great range of kites for under $30.
Once you've purchased your kite it's just a matter of waiting for a windy day to have a bucket-load of family fun - just make sure it's not too windy and that you're flying your kite in an open area with enough space between you and the nearest power lines, trees, etc. For more advice check out this guide to kite flying and this guide to kite safety from the Kite Shop.
TWO: Secondhand retail therapy and dinners It's amazing the bargins you can find at the local secondhand stores in your city or town. I suspect that the advent of Trade Me is one of the main reasons why secondhand stores have become a hidden treasure trove of cheap goodies in the past few years. Many refuse stations now even operate a recycled goods shop that sells items that people have dropped off for resale (no, these are not items that have been salvaged from the rubbish pile!), and they offer some great bargins, especially on kids toys. I recently took the girls to our local refuse resale shop and walked out with a box full of plastic toys and a netball hoop and net for less than $8 (tip: don't forget to give any plastic toys a quick disinfectant wash before the kids play with them at home).
Then there also the secondhand clothing stores, which can be used as the first step in a cheap family fun night. For example, you could have a 'world's silliest tie', or a 'zany fashion' dinner one evening, which starts with a family trip to the local op shop to purchase the outrageous ties or zany fashion items to wear at mealtime (such dinners can even include other creative fun, like an 'our family's got talent' contest, or a night of boardgames, etc.)
THREE: Sandcastles or cricket at the beach Some of the best memories I have from my childhood involve the beach, which, for most children, is an almost magical place to spend time. Apart from swimming, sandcastle building is one of the best things on offer at the beach. If you've got young children, The Warehouse offers several different sets of beach toys for less than $15 each. If you have older kids then forget the small plastic spades and buckets and spend your $30 on one or two large spades ($9.99 each), plus a couple of large plastic buckets ($1.40 each) and a couple of trowels ($2.99 each) - or, if you already have one, you could just take your own garden spade or shovel to make the trip even cheaper! Beach cricket is also a great family fun pastime, and cricket sets can sell for as low as $10 each secondhand on Trade Me.
FOUR: Have a War of the Worlds night. One of the best narrated albums (now on CD) of all time is the Jeff Wayne musical version of War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. It was released in 1978 and it still remains a popular seller, even spawning a new generation version of the original album with Liam Neeson as the narrator. For my money though, you can't beat the original version narrated by the late Oscar-nominated actor Richard Burton. Once you've acquired your copy of The War of the Worlds on CD (or an MP3 download of the album from iTunes or from Amazon) it's simply a matter of booking in a night (or break it up over a couple of nights) where you'll hunker down into your bean bags and lazy boys, dim the lights, break out the snacks, crank up the stereo and have great fun closing your eyes and letting your imagination go wild listening to the music and narrated story of the War of the Worlds. Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds can be purchased on CD from Mighty Ape for $29.99, and I have seen it cheaper than this on Trade Me and in store at The Warehouse. Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds is also a great way to pass the time during those long family journeys in the car these holidays!
A couple of important points:
a. younger children might find this version of the War of the Worlds a bit scary, so be discerning about whether they're old enough for this activity or not (maybe have a listen to it on your own without the kids present first, to decide whether it would be suitable for them yet or not).
b. When you are purchasing the album, make sure it's the full version, and NOT the cheaper highlights version which only contains the songs and not the actual narrated story, that you are getting (the highlights version is only one CD, whereas the full version is two CDs).
FIVE: Chalking Chalking is a great way to have some creative fun together as a family. All you need is a box of coloured chalk and some spare pavement or driveway space to create an awesome piece of artwork. If you want to spread a little Christmas cheer round your neighborhood this year, you can even decorate the footpath outside your place with Christmas messages for people passing by to read. One of the best things about chalking is that it doesn't stain, and it washes away with a garden hose (or in the rain if you want to wait). The Warehouse sells jumbo pavement chalk for as cheap as $4 for a box of 15 sticks.
SIX: Bugs Bugs is a great game for up to six players (or more if you use the cheaper paper version), and it is so simple that young children can easily participate yet at the same time even adults will have plenty of fun participating as well. The official Hasbro boxed version of Bugs (called 'Beetle') is available at the Warehouse for $16, and it consists of six plastic leaves, plus enough colured plastic parts (legs, antennas, eyes, etc.) to make six different bugs. The object of the game is simple - each player takes a turn to spin the wheel, and each time they land on a different picture of a part of the bug's body they add that part to their plastic leaf. The winner is the first person to make a complete plastic bug on their leaf.
The cheap version of the game (which can accommodate as many players as you like) simply involves one dice, plus a pencil and a piece of paper for every player. Each number on the the dice is assigned to represent a different part of the bug's body (1 = head, 2 = body, 3 = eye, 4 = antenna, 5 = leg, 6 = leg). Each player takes a turn at rolling the dice, and whatever number they roll is the body part they are allowed to draw on their piece of paper (so, for example, if someone rolls a 1 they get to draw a bugs head on their paper). The first person to draw a complete bug wins (a complete bug must have 1 x head, 1 x body, 2 x eyes, 2 x antenna, 6 x legs). If a player rolls the number of a body part that has already been drawn on their bug - i.e. they already have six legs and they roll a 5 or a 6 - then they skip a turn without drawing anything on their bug. The only other rule is that you cannot add antenna or eyes to your bug until you have first rolled a 1 and drawn a head, and you can't add legs until you have first rolled a 2 and drawn a body on the paper.
There you have it, six different ways to have some relatively inexpensive family fun these holidays. Feel free to add your own ideas for cheap holiday fun in the comments section below!