No Spend September: Free Family Activities (Podcast #13!)

Free Family Activities

Hey No-Spenders! Jen here. We’re almost mid-way through the #NoSpendSeptember2018 challenge and while my spend-hog kids have declared it “the worst month of their lives,” Corinne and I are having fun (mostly!) and feeling like we’re getting more quality time with our clans.

Aside from the gag-ilicious stew I made this past weekend from fridge scraps (adults liked it, kids weren’t sure), the backpack I bought on Amazon because Annie was falling down the stairs with the too-big one I tried to recycle, and Corinne convincing her mother-in-law to buy pizza for her kids, it’s been a VERY successful challenge for us so far. Listen to our wacky convo about it all in Episode 13 along with a bunch of the free and fun things we’ve done with our families and partners to make no-spend exciting. Here they are listed out for your reading pleasure as well:

  1. Go to the library. Make it a weekly trip. Get lots of new books, DVD’s and audiobooks.
  2. Play board games, cards and solve puzzles: Dig into that closet and have a ball rediscovering old games and puzzles. Ramp up the gaming and host a “Board Game Olympics” show-down with several games. Teach your kids the rules of chess (and learn yourself). Play poker with pennies.
  3. Set up an obstacle course around your house. Make a mess, but have a blast.
  4. Make a dedicated basement (or other) space for free, messy play. Speaking of mess, make an out-of-the-way space for your kids to make a mess and not have to clean it up every day. Keep it out of your eye-shot so it doesn’t stress you out.
  5. Make iMovies. Interview your family members, dress up and act goofy, and use the iMovie or another app to make movie trailers or little home movies. Use the slow-mo and time-lapse features. A slow-mo of your kid spitting is fascinating (yes, I have 2 boys!). If I can do this, anyone can.
  6. Make cards and write letters to friends and family. Who doesn’t like mail, especially the unexpected type? Decorate, write a quick note, and send! Walk to the mailbox for extra credit.
  7. Go for a hike or “adventure” walk in your neighborhood. Look for treasure, new creatures, or count things (like fire hydrants or basketball hoops).
  8. Make a picnic dinner for your backyard or local park. Pack it up and head on out! Make the food mess outside, but eat fast before the bees and flies find you!

For lots more ideas, check out this long list. And please share your no-spend ideas in the comments below!

In homemade playdough,

Jen & Corinne

TV-Free Family: 5 Things I’ve Learned Living Without Television

5 Things I've Learned Living Without Television

Hello! Corinne here. I’ve been wanting to share some insights I’ve gathered over the past six weeks of living TV-Free. And finally, it’s happening! When I say that we’re a TV-Free Family, I want to say that living 6 weeks without a television at home doesn’t mean we’re wedded to the idea forever.

I LOVE TELEVISION. Especially British TV shows (I’ve watched all seasons of The Great British Baking Show, Doc Martin, and Father Brown, Sherlock, and the list goes on—more times than I’d like to admit). It’s just that this experiment has been incredible and I wanted to share why.

I’m going to keep this post short and sweet though. My oldest two kids, Grace (3) and Audrey (7) were becoming TV addicts. They could zone out for hours at a time watching a show they’d seen 10 times before. (I wasn’t much better.) So when the TV went kaput one night, I turned to my husband Steve and said, “what if we didn’t replace it?” And we didn’t.

Sure there was some whining from the kids the first few days, but it subsided pretty quickly.

Here’s what I’ve observed from our tv-free family experiment:

We started doing new things (or more of the things that I always hoped we would do!).

We went to the library for the first time as a family (and have kept going weekly). The kids are comfortable talking to the librarians about books they’d like to find, we get 20-30 books out each week, and we’re getting out of the house and doing something for free! Total win. Also, the kids started asking to go outside more. They’ve spent countless hours digging in the dirt for worms, playing pretend in the backyard, and getting the back deck covered in play-doh or kinetic sand (rather than our kitchen floor). Another win. I guess a little boredom inside can really motivate a kid to go outdoors, who knew?!

We cook and eat more meals together as a family. 

We have a couple of step stools in the kitchen and my girls like to stand next to me while I get dinner ready. They love spending time together, stirring and measuring, and I feel so good about what they’re learning about food and the importance of family dinners. It’s a little slower and chaotic and sometimes it ends with me saying, “everyone out of the kitchen!” but most of the time I’m really glad we did it.

We do mundane things as a family and they’re more fun! 

Now that we aren’t glued to the latest episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, we’re happy to go as a family of five on a trip to Home Depot or the grocery store. Yes, I still enjoy the time I get alone on errands, but when we have the chance to go as a family, there’s always a funny moment to remember (there are probably tears or a tantrum from one of the kids too—but that would’ve happened at home anyway!) AND I’ve become much more comfortable with the kids in public, especially when things don’t go perfectly. It is what it is and I don’t waste as much time worrying about what everyone else might be thinking of one of the kids having a fit.

Morning and evening routines are easier with the kids.

We don’t have to deal with, “one more show, pleeeeaaaase!” when we’re asking them to brush their teeth, eat breakfast, get their PJs or clothes on, etc. This cuts way down on battles over the essentials of everyday life. Also, I’ve magically found time to go for a 20-minute walk most mornings and read before bed at night. This has been a total game changer for my energy and mental health throughout the day.

We found a way to enjoy movies and shows without a tv. 

We bought this projector, this adaptor, and this screen, and our living room transform into a home theater on Friday nights. Suddenly our popcorn popper was popping and movies like The Greatest Showman, Mary Poppins, Shrek, and The Goonies are so much more special when we haven’t been watching TV throughout the week.

The verdict on our 6-week tv-free family experiment…

I’m not sure if we’ll go back to TV any time soon. I definitely want to see if being a tv-free family helps make life more manageable during the school year. Most of all, I’ve just enjoyed being more present—whether it’s with the kids or when I have some time to myself (or with my husband) after the kids go to bed. Plus, we’ll be traveling to different friends and family’s homes on Sundays this fall during football season. Have you ever taken a TV hiatus?

In veggies and mud pies we trust,

Corinne