A Quick List of Free Things My Family Has Done So Far in 2013

We went ice skating as a family during a free skating day at the local ice skating rink. We found out about this because we watch the local community calendar.

We played several board games among the ones already sitting on our shelves. At different times so far this year, all of us have suggested playing a different game.

We’ve continued a daily family reading time where the adults are reading aloud from a relatively long novel (currently, Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, which was a gift for our family) and then everyone reads a book independently (except for our two year old, who receives help from an older sibling or a parent) from their collection or from the library.

We’ve gone sledding several times at a large hill near our house.

We visited a local food co-op during a “food celebration” where we enjoyed enough samples to serve as our family’s lunch while also learning a great deal about what foods are in season at various times of the year in our area as well as how cheese is made.

We built an enormous palace out of almost our entire collection of LEGO bricks, incorporating some Magna-Tiles as well. We also built an interpretation of Big Ben out of LEGOs.

We did a 100 piece jigsaw puzzle and most of a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle, both of which were received as gifts recently.

We spent a large portion of a weekend making an enormous art project out of materials already around the house, including dried beans, magazine pictures, and a small mountain of other art supplies.

We started an inventory of every piece of stored clothing in the house, figuring out which hand-me-downs from cousins now fit our older children and figuring out which pieces from our older children fit their youngest sibling. This turned into two days of dress-up.

We also started an inventory of all of the toys that had accumulated around our home. We’ve been sorting these into two piles, with one of the piles intended to be given to Goodwill or to any charity that can take them and use them. This has enabled the children to play with a lot of toys they haven’t touched in a while and also to recognize that there are some that they simply don’t enjoy any more.

We transformed a bunch of the 2012 Christmas cards we received into ornaments and mementos for future Christmases, mostly just using careful cutting and folding.

We’ve taken daily inspections of a house construction project near our home, walking around the new construction and observing the day-to-day changes and the work involved. This has been a spectacular tool for teaching our kids what goes into building a house.

We’ve also went on several family walks on the warmer afternoons, strolling around the neighborhood just to get some fresh air, stretch out our legs, and see what’s happening around us.

We’ve enjoyed three movie nights in which we put on a classic family film, turned the lights down low, and enjoyed some of the popcorn that’s been in the pantry for a while.

We’ve had quite a few long conversations about the things that our children are curious about. This led to some research and conversations on topics as diverse as the Red Scare of the 1940s and 1950s, the role of percussion in a musical group, and potentially useful evolutionary adaptations of the human body.

We made a gigantic blanket fort that took over the basement, the stairs leading to the main floor, and part of the kitchen.

The world is filled with things to do that don’t involve spending more money.

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