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Savings are a family affair Add to ...

12. Charge rent. No, your four year old doesn’t have to pay rent. But, your children ages eighteen and over do! Set a reasonable amount that they can contribute towards that roof over their heads. This teaches them how to be financially independent and prepares them for when they move out on their own. If you don’t want to take their money, you can put their rent money aside in a special account and return it to them when they move into a place of their own. They could use the money for furnishings or a down payment or a security deposit.

Now, let’s be fair. When kids are taught the true value of money, it’s very helpful, but kids are kids. (Even some of us grown-ups revert to childish ways now and again! Ahem …)

Kids need to have some fun along the way. Balance out all this new responsibility with fun activities that will show them that a frugal life isn’t boring.

Twenty Low-Cost Activities for Kids

Here are some fun, low- or no-cost activities for kids, plus extra space for you to write down more ideas of your own, once you’ve been bitten by the inspiration bug. Delve into your own memory banks and retrieve the precious memories that matter most to you—time spent with family, getting to know your best friends, parties, vacations, etc. These activities will show your kids that having fun does not have to come with a substantial price tag.

1. Lemonade stand. This is an entrepreneurial adventure that can earn them a little extra income. Very handy for when they want to purchase something that you can’t afford.

2. Go fly a kite. A wonderful activity for kids of all ages. You can purchase a basic kite for about ten bucks and it’ll provide mornings and afternoons filled with fun. Or, you can construct your own kites with fishing line, small dowel rods, plastic trash bags and ribbons.

3. Camping in the backyard. Do you have no time or inclination to go out and camp in the great outdoors? (And possibly encounter bears? Yikes!) Instead, try that favorite family activity in your own backyard. Or, if the weather isn’t cooperating, take your good intentions indoors and set up a fort or tent where it’s warm and cozy and safe. And, blessedly bug free.

4. Garage sale or thrift shopping. Now, here’s some shopping that isn’t so cash exhaustive. Teach kids that shopping can be fun when they have earned money to spend and when there’s a legitimate need for a certain item. Your daughter needs some new (or new to her) jeans? Take her shopping and give her a challenge to get the nicest ones she can find at the thrift shop for what your budget allows. Shop garage sales to find unique items to decorate your kids’ rooms.

5. Fun in the kitchen. Kids love to get creative in the kitchen. If they’re really little and the idea of letting them loose in the kitchen fills you with dread, provide a foundation for them to have fun with—let them decorate cupcakes or oversized cookies that you’ve already baked. Kids also love making candies (pouring chocolate into molds is great fun when you peel away the mold to reveal the intricate design left behind) or making homemade bread and buns.

6. Treasure hunts. A particular favorite of my childhood, this is a kids’ dream come true! Create a treasure map where each location holds a clue to the next location, and the end of the course has a hidden treasure.

7. Make pizza. This is a dual-purpose task. Not only does it keep your child entertained, but it also provides a meal for the family. Try a dessert pizza: regular pizza dough topped with sweet stuff instead of savory. Caramel or chocolate sauce or pie filling constitutes the sweet pizza sauce and add dessert toppings like coconut flakes, candies, chocolate shreds, dried fruit, nuts and marshmallows.

8. Emerging photographer. Digital cameras can be relatively inexpensive, making one worthwhile even for the junior frugalites in your home. If they show any interest in photography, a camera might make an ideal gift for them. There are sturdier cameras available now for little kids, able to withstand the rough and tumble treatment kids put it through. Encourage their creativity by going on photography jaunts, and then frame their best photos. An even less expensive option is to let the kids use your camera if they’re old enough to be responsible with it.

9. Pretty in paint. Painting can bring out the creative genius in your child. And painting isn’t only for budding artistes. Paint furniture and décor items to help your kids transform their room into a showpiece of their own personal style.

10. Find natural treasures. Challenge your kids to find an amazing treasure outdoors. It could be an especially beautiful leaf or a tiny ladybug. These finds can be the basis of a research project—search online or at the library to find out what kind of leaf it is they found or how ladybugs help us control pests.

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