This post by guest blogger, Karen Pestrak. Enjoy!
Gainesville’s proximity to major theme parks, beaches and shopping provide plenty of great options for family entertainment, but the costs of travel, tickets and souvenirs can add up quickly, taking a chomp out of your little gator’s college fund. Here are a few easy options for family bonding that won’t break the piggy bank:
1. Attend community events
If local to Gainesville, take advantage of the cultural activities offered by and around the university. Professors and subject matter experts often hold book signings and lectures (for your older gators) and the city is rich with artists and craftspeople that showcase their wares seasonally at the Downtown Festival & Art Show (typically held in November). No longer officially in orange and blue territory? Check out your local paper’s event section for weekly listings and you’re bound to find similar offerings in your neck of the woods.
2. A day at the park
Remember parks before they had themes and charged $90 to enter? They still exist! A day outdoors at your local park, playground or picnic area can provide a much-needed outlet for your little ones’ excess energy and proven mental health benefits for you. And, if your family includes members of the four-legged variety, Gainesville offers great dog parks as well, and cities nationwide are placing a recent emphasis on creating clean, green community spaces for you and your whole family to get out and get active.
3. The reading rainbow
A confirmed bookworm, my personal favorite free family activity has always been an afternoon in the library. Whether absorbed in the pages of Harry Potter, or enjoying stories read aloud, your little gator is sure to enjoy a trip to the edge of their imagination. Time spent in the library can foster a sense of curiosity and a lifelong love of learning, and allowing your child to select and check-out her own library books can help build independence and responsibility. Added perk: the souvenirs at libraries are 100% free (provided you return them on time)!
4. Kisses from Grandma
Another favorite activity from my childhood was baking chocolate chip cookies with my grandmother, or rather, watching her bake while I “tested” the chocolate chips to ensure their quality. If you’re lucky enough to have family nearby, take advantage of a change of scenery and pay them a visit. Cousins the same age provide great playmates and grandparents can provide a link to family history and heritage (and the occasional killer cookie recipe) that can help shape your child’s worldview and understanding of self. And, bonus, you little gator will likely leave Grandma’s house with a tummy full of home-cooked food and a face covered in kisses.
In addition to getting out and about, family days can be spent taking advantage of resources you’ve already invested in; dust off those board games and hold a family game night, pop some popcorn and pick out a DVD to make it a movie night, put down some paper and hold a family art contest, the list goes on. These are just a few ideas of activities that you can engage in with your growing gator that will fill time without draining your wallet. In the end, the time spent getting to know and enjoy each other is more valuable than any amount you could have spent on expensive vacations or souvenirs.
photo credit: SalFalko via photopin cc
photo credit: sean dreilinger via photopin cc