Ann A. Berry | 7/2/2005 1:43:44 AM
With the summer half over, you may be wondering about ways to keep your young children entertained, occupied and learning - without going broke! Family economics professor Dr. Ann Berry says options are available that are beyond cheap - they’re free.
Possibilities include playing on a swing, coloring, painting, singing, dressing up, reading, walking the dog, picking flowers, playing a board game or cards, drawing with chalk on the sidewalk or driveway and making an "obstacle course" with pillows and soft furniture.
"My son enjoyed making a ‘fort’ by pulling pillows and small furniture together and covering them with an old sheet," Berry says, adding, "You and your child may think of other ‘free-fun’ activities."
One activity you can do with your child is to make a "Fun-for-Free Box." You will need some plain paper or construction paper; pencils, pens, crayons, or markers; and a small empty box, such as a shoebox.
On one of the sheets of paper, make a list of fun things to do that don’t cost money. Be sure that you and your child come up with ideas together.
Next, cut other sheets of paper into squares. On one side of a square, write the name of an activity from your list. On the other side, help your child draw the activity. Put the finished square in the box. Add to the collection each time your child learns of a new way to have free fun.
Berry recommends that as you and your child make the fun box, explain that many fun things do not cost money. These free activities can be fun to do alone or with friends and family.
Kids need to be reminded they don’t have to spend money to have fun, according to the Thrive by Five curriculum, a program sponsored by the Credit Union National Association.
Berry says to point out that some things that seem free, such as food in the refrigerator or pantry, really cost money. For example, she recalls that her son and niece used to like "experimenting" with pantry items, such as food coloring. Although the activity was not as expensive as going to the amusement park, still it was not free!
"Remind your child, too, that love, hugs and friendship are all free and feel good to give and receive," Berry says.
"Of course, there are free activities to do outside the home, such as going to the library, the park/playground and taking a nature walk," the family educator adds. Check the local newspaper for a listing of free events, as well.
For information on related family and consumer topics, click on the Family and Home link on the LSU AgCenter homepage, at www.lsuagcenter.com. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.