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June 25th, 2013, 10:04 AM
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Jenilope Jenilope is offline
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We use our library and parks department quite a lot.

Also, look into reciprocal membership agreements. Over Christmas, we went to the Outer Banks, NC for a family vacation. We visited the Manteo aquarium 3 times (which would have been $84 with the kids ages at that time) and a 2 year membership was $100, which sounds like taking a loss (since we don't live in NC) but we found out that membership includes free membership to the Shed Aquarium in Chicago (near where we live) AND to our favorite little zoo AND to the Lincoln Park zoo in Chicago, and to tons of other zoos and aquariums around the country. So, we got the 2 year membership for $100, and just last week took everyone to the Shed for free--that ONE visit normally would have been over $100! Our little zoo is only about $2 per person and has free parking and allows picnics, so it was already a favorite on our list of affordable family activities, but with the reciprocal membership it's now completely free! So, maybe consider doing some research about what places in your area that you WANT to visit, and see if they have reciprocal memberships with other less expensive facilities, even in other states, because we're loving the NC Aquariums deal--I mean, seriously? $100 for a TWO YEAR membership for the whole family? The Shed is $200 for 1 year and you have to add extra once you pass a certain kid threshold. So it's worth it to look into deals like that.

Also, we have a good variety of state and local parks that have free admission and we take picnics and hike, which is free. And our local parks have free concerts and movies in the park nearly every week in the summer.

Last summer we started a local map project that we're expanding this summer where we visit different parks, play grounds, mini golf, etc, take pictures, write up a little summary and put pins in a large local map we have about where these places were and rate our favorites at the end of the summer to re-visit before school starts. Our local history museum started handing out maps for walking tours that have been fun and free.

Berry or peach picking can take up the better part of the morning and then you can all make pies and jams together and freeze/can them. Combine that with an appropriate selection of library books about homesteading or "olden days" or the science behind different types of food preservation and you have a very "teachable moment." (not to mention a freezer and pantry full of delicious jams and pies to enjoy all year!)

We've got our kids started on some container gardening along side our larger garden which is inexpensive and actually yields a financial and health benefit to us while giving the kids something to do and making them more interested in their veggies.

If they are old enough, there might also be some volunteer opportunities in your area that they would enjoy, like maybe an animal shelter or horse rescue?
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~Jen

Mom to four beautiful girls








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