Posts Tagged ‘family fun’


People enjoying a county fair on swings.

As the final school bells ring across the country, many kids head home to spend their summers at camps, baseball games, on vacation, or even in front of the TV. However, finding ways to have fun and spend time with friends and family can really bust the budget. Exploring different ways to save or free options in your local community are a great way to start turning summer fun into summer savings.

Tips and Tricks to Save on Summer Fun

Hunt for Online Ticket Discounts

From resorts and amusement parks to zoos and hotels, hunting online for discounts that reward you for planning ahead are great options for people on a budget. Always check to see if they have discounts for buying your tickets online. Many zoos, theme parks, and museums have discounts for planning your trip ahead of time and purchasing tickets online. Don’t forget to check if you’re a member of different groups for a discount, Veterans  and AARP Card holders often get discounts at hotels and at other attractions.

Plan Early & Do Your Research!

It can take some to investigate and find the best deals on flights, amusements parks, and hotel stays. There are great comparison websites and by doing your independent research you are able to weigh the costs and the benefits of trips. Because research can take some time, planning your travel early is never bad for your pocket! Buying tickets, hotel stays, or camping spots early often allows for cheaper prices, more seating options, and better lodging accommodations. The early bird not only gets the worm, but they can get the worm cheaper!

Create Meals on the Go

Food is one of the most expensive parts of a trip, vacation, and even everyday life. When planning your summer fun, be sure to account for food costs, even if it is just an ice cream cone at the local pool, be sure you budget for snacks. One way to lower your food costs is to pack or bring food with you! When packing think of portable healthy foods like fresh and dried fruits, cheeses, yogurts, veggies, and drinks. Even when you are headed somewhere farther away, bringing lunches, or preparing meals in your hotel room can help make a more expensive trip, budget friendly.

Make a Budget and Stick to it

Before the summer has even started, map out your budget and stick to it! By setting limits, budgets help to reinforce financial control and anticipate costs. Determining the maximum amount of money you have for transportation, hotel, food, and entertainment helps establish financial boundaries for you and your family. For a sample budget plan, America Saves has tools that can help to build a spending and savings plan.

Low cost or free options for Summer fun on a budget:

  • Attend minor league sporting games
  • Visit a local, state, or national park
  • Head to your local county fair
  • Visit museums, parks, and community pools
  • Lake Erie Light House Tours
  • Check out the Cincinnati, Cleveland, Toledo, Akron, or Columbus Zoos
  • Enjoy local water parks or lakes

As long as you plan ahead and remain financially conscious, your summer plans can be a great time to reconnect with friends, family and other loved ones.

Written by: Ryan Kline, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County, kline.375@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu


Schmidt, Judy. 5 money-saving tips for traveling on a budget, Illinois Extension. https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/connection-corner/2023-04-05-5-money-saving-tips-traveling-budget

Vacationing on a Budget. Family Financial Management. University of Kentucky Extension. https://fcs-hes.ca.uky.edu/files/2016-05-moneywise-newsletter.pdf

Summer family fun on a budget, University of Minnesota Extension. https://extension.umn.edu/spending-and-saving/summer-family-fun-budget

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We all love the weekends- it is the time for fun! What did you do this past weekend that was fun? Did it bring a smile to your face? Are you counting the days until next weekend? We need daily fun in our lives. Fun provides many health benefits and makes life interesting. Having daily fun has a huge positive impact on our health and overall well-being. The benefits of laughter and fun include:

  • Reduced stress
  • Improved coping abilities
  • Boosted energy and work performance
  • Improved memory and concentration
  • Improved relationships
  • Improved sleep
  • Increased creativity

Here are ideas to add fun everyday into your life:

  • Get outdoors-take a walk, have a picnic with friends or family
  • Plan a fun night out- mini golf, karaoke, bowling, or dancing
  • Implement a weekly game night with family or friends
  • Visit a park
  • Enjoy an outdoor concert
  • Star gaze

Having fun is important. Start today to reduce stress, boost your energy level, improve productivity, and increase overall happiness by adding more fun into your daily schedule!

Written by:  Beth Stefura,  Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County, stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Margaret Jenkins, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Clermont County, jenkins.188@osu.edu


Bekoff, M. (2014). The importance of play: having fun must be taken seriously. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/animal-emotions/201405/the-importance-play-having-fun

Becker-Phelps, L. (2018). Why you need to have more fun. WebMD. https://blogs.webmd.com/relationships/20180620/why-you-need-to-have-more-fun

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Many communities and families are considering their best options to celebrate Halloween this year. The CDC has ranked different activities and risks related to spreading viruses. The following suggestions are listed as lower risk Halloween activities:

  • Carve or decorate pumpkins with members of your household to display
  • Carve or decorate pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
  • Decorate your apartment, house or living space
  • Have a virtual Halloween costume contest
  • Have a Halloween movie night with people you live with
  • Have a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house

Whether you have little ones at home, are deciding about passing out candy or do not typically participate in trick-or-treating, why not use Halloween to plan a fun meal? Using the colors of orange, black and purple, mix up the fun and add some tasty treats to your menu.

Making orange (and red) vegetables a regular part of your diet will help reduce the risk of chronic disease, as well as improve overall wellness. The next time you are at the store or farm market, look for orange peppers, carrots, pumpkins and other winter squash. Many of those vegetables can be prepared in a variety of ways and one easy way is to roast them in the oven. Add a little olive oil and some herbs and roast them in the oven alongside your favorite choice of meat.  

Choosing Winter Squash at the Farm Market

Canned pumpkin is a healthy and convenient ingredient. Although these suggestions might sound unusual, my colleagues who teach nutrition education and my household can attest that these are adult and kid approved recipes:

Add some dark colors to complement the orange such as black olives alongside a vegetable tray or as a garnish for cooked dishes. Blackberries are a delicious fruit and can be served alongside orange slices.

For fall snacks, not only are pumpkin seeds easily available this time of year, sunflower seeds are also a crunchy treat. Enjoy a handful of seeds as a snack or toss some on top of a salad or winter squash soup. Chopped nuts (like peanuts, almonds, walnuts) are a nice garnish on top of salads or soups.

Bowl of soup with pumpkin seeds garnish

Sweet Treats: While candy (in moderation) can have a place in celebrations, it lacks nutrients like fiber and vitamins and minerals. Try some of these sweet treats:

  • Make popcorn, a whole grain, and toss it with cinnamon and sugar
  • Serve fresh fruit slices alongside the pumpkin dip
  • Bake apples or pears with cinnamon. For optional toppings, add chopped nuts or a drizzle of honey
  • Warm up some apple cider and garnish with a cinnamon stick

For a spooky presentation, fill clear, food grade gloves to “serve” up some snacks. Fill them with dry cereal, nuts, mini-pretzels, snack mix or popcorn for bony fingers. While this Halloween might look different than those in the recent past, consider using the day to create a healthy and memorable menu this year.

Written by: Patrice Powers-Barker, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Lucas County

Reviewed by: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Perry County


Ellis, E. (2019). Enjoy a Healthy and Happy Halloween. Eat Right, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Retrieved 10/20/20 from https://www.eatright.org/health/lifestyle/holidays/enjoy-a-healthy-and-happy-halloween 

Halloween. (2020). Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention. Retrieved 10/20/20 from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html#halloween

Photo credit: farm market from CDC and squash soup from Pixabay

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In my family of four, it is often my thirteen-year-old daughter who requests a family game night. This is the same thirteen-year-old who truly does not want (or need) a cell phone because she doesn’t want to become addicted to a phone. I think she’s on to something here… She craves the interaction and time with family, and time away from electronics, work and other distractions. And while some family game nights end up with someone frustrated over losing…most of the time we have fun and enjoy taking time to play together. There are a lot of benefits for families who play good ole-fashioned board games and card games.

board game

Games build character

While playing games, family members must learn how to take turns and be a good sport. Parents can model good character and sportsmanship by encouraging one another and showing how to win and lose graciously. This can be difficult for children (and some adults) to learn handle the disappointment of losing, but all the more reason to persevere with family game night.

Games develop motor skills

Rolling dice, shuffling cards, manipulating small pieces… all these tasks help young children build fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

Games train your brain

Some games help kids learn math, counting, strategy, problem-solving and how to count money. Games can also help teach spelling, vocabulary and general knowledge. Playing games also requires learning and following rules. Research from Carnegie Mellon University indicates that playing a simple, board game can lead to better academic results later in school.

Games teach flexibility

Sometimes it’s difficult to get the family to agree on which game to play and when to stop. The more members in the family, the more flexibility is required. Also keep in mind to be flexible about having a regular game night… sometimes the family may be too busy or just too tired.

Games help us turn off electronics.

It’s hard to play a game (well) and have electronics on, even in the background. Try some screen-free time and put on some background music instead during game night.

Games bring families together for fun

Numerous studies show positive outcomes for kids who spend quality time interacting with their parents. When families have fun together, lasting memories are created. Be intentional about spending time together and make family game night a regular part of the schedule.

If your family schedule won’t allow for a weekly family game night, try once a month. It’s well worth the investment of time and energy.

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County.

Reviewed by: Alisha Barton, Program Coordinator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Miami and Champaign Counties


Ankowski, A. & Ankowski, A. “Bringing Back Family Game Night.”  Public Broadcasting System. Retrieved from: http://www.pbs.org/parents/expert-tips-advice/2015/07/bringing-back-family-game-night/

Laski, E. V., & Siegler, R. S. (2014). Learning from number board games: You learn what you encode. Developmental Psychology, 50(3), 853-864. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0034321

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Most schools have either finished up in the last week, or will be wrapping up in the next week or so. Initially everyone in the family is excited and there are lots of ideas of what to do – but it doesn’t take long and we hear those famous words “I’m bored! I can’t find anything to do!” As adults it isn’t our job to plan their days to the extent that schools do, with a new activity every 45 minutes, but we do need to keep them engaged so they don’t watch TV or play video games all day – everyday. Some parenting experts even suggest that a little boredom  isn’t a bad thing for children; it is a way for them to learn how to fill their own time and learn what makes them happy. Several of these experts suggest developing a family list of things to do whenever you say “I’m bored”. When children say “I’m bored” they need to pick something off the list to do. Depending on the age of the child this might include:

  • Playing cards or other games
  • Puzzles
  • Coloring or other crafts like playdough
  • Reading
  • Bubbles
  • Science experiments like making your own slime (Click here for recipes from Penn State).
  • Hula hoops
  • Playing dress up – chef, teacher, police officer, farmer, etc
  • Building sets or blocks
  • Music or dancing
  • Cooking
  • Gardening
  • Riding bikes
  • Sandbox time
  • Writing their own play to act out a book they read
  • Playing or caring for the family pet

If parents or grandparents work with children to do a little research, you can typically find a variety of activities that are offered in your area (with many at low or no cost) to include one or two days a week as well. You may want to select a day of the week that you will do one of these “away” activities, or develop a calendar that they can see to know which day you will do something next. Look for these activities from:

  • City parks or recreation – pools, craft sessions, fishing, free lunches, or lessons.
  • Museums or State/National Parks – Junior park ranger programs, historical reenactments, volunteer opportunities.
  • Free movie programs – at local cinemas, libraries, or parks.
  • YMCA or Boys/Girls Clubs – Day Camps, events or lessons (like swim, basketball, soccer, gymnastics, etc).
  • Summer Reading Programs and Events at Libraries – typically include reading programs for all ages, volunteer opportunities for teens, carnivals, crafts, and author events.
  • School or University Programs – many offer a week of special camps, often at a very low cost. In my area they include technology camp, art programs, Chinese camp, space camp, and summer sports camps.
  • Bowling – The Kids Bowl Free Program is offered at hundreds of bowling lanes around the country. This program allows children to bowl 2 free games per day and adults of families who participate can pay a reduced price as well. My family took advantage of this program for several years.
  • Extension or 4-H Programs – Check with your local university Extension or 4-H Office for summer camps or programs that are available. Some may require a membership, but others are open enrollment. Possibilities are Space Camps, STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math Programs, Cooking Camp, Babysitter Trainings, or traditional 4-H Camp.

Try these ideas for the “I’m bored!” crew and don’t forget it is OK for them to be a little bored. Children should use that time to develop their own hobbies and interests. Remember to limit TV and internet time to no more than 1 to 2 hours per day. Excessive TV viewing can contribute to sleep problems, obesity, behavior problems, and risky behavior.


Penn State Extension, http://extension.psu.edu/youth/betterkidcare/early-care/our-resources/tip-pages/tips/make-your-own-mixtures.

University of Michigan, Medicine, http://www.med.umich.edu/yourchild/topics/tv.htm.


Writer: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County.

Reviewer: Michelle Treber, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County.

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summer road trip

Summer is here and it’s time for the American road trip. There is no better way to escape the daily routine than to hit the open road. There is nothing like a short road trip to refresh the mind, body and spirit. Before you break out the cooler and hit the open road, plan in advance to avoid the pitfalls of open road trips. Here are some healthier ideas while on the open road:

• Make rest breaks active- pick a road stop or park and get the family out of the car to take a brisk 10 minute walk and move around. This helps to burn off some energy and helps the driver feel rejuvenated and more alert.
• Pack to play – plan to include regular physical activity in your daily routine while you’re away from home. Pack a football, Frisbee, paddle balls or a soccer ball so you can be physically active during your down time.
• Bring plenty of water. Sitting in the car for long periods of time can make it tempting to drink soda. Pack water or small portions of juice to quench your thirst.
• Pack healthy snacks in the cooler. Bring celery or carrot sticks and hummus for dipping, apple slices, fresh berries, grapes, low fat cheeses, healthy sandwiches, whole grain breads, pretzels, bags of dry cereal and whole grain crackers to snack on.
Safe travels this summer!

Written by: Beth Stefura, M Ed, RD, LD. The Ohio State University Extension, Mahoning County. stefura.2@osu.edu
Reviewed by: Susan Zies, M.Ed, The Ohio State University Extension, Wood County.

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Amid all of the crazy busyness of our daily lives, it’s paramount to spend time together as a family. Common activities strengthen family bonds and build a strong foundation for nurturing, communicative, healthy relationships; those feel-good family moments.

Autumn provides opportunities for those feel-good family moments by enjoying the beauty of nature while learning about life on the farm through the neighborhood pumpkin patch. No matter what your age, there’s something very special about visiting a pumpkin patch and what better way to strengthen your family than a fall family outing?

I don’t know about you, but in my travels this fall, not a day goes by that I don’t see an opportunity to visit a neighborhood pumpkin patch.

Agritourism (income from agriculture tourism) allows farm operations to boost their income by adding a variety of activities such as pick your own pumpkin, apple, or produce patches; haunted trail/scary maze; fun-centers with bounce houses and slides; barn parties; and petting zoos with llamas, alpacas, goats, ducks, and geese. These activities bring out the “kid” in all of us.

Undeniably, what people go in search of in the neighborhood pumpkin patch are pumpkins. But, what people are really seeking is a good time, and a memorable family experience.

In addition to the neighborhood pumpkin patch, here are a few suggestions to increase time together with the family this fall – pumpkin patch

• Pumpkin carving or decorated gourd contest – Have a pumpkin carving or decorated gourd contest. Set the timer for one hour and allow each member to create the pumpkin/gourd of their choice. Have a friendly competition, awarding a prize for the best decorated pumpkin/gourd.
• Build a scarecrow – Make a scarecrow together using at least one piece of clothing from every family member. This can be especially fun if you find old pieces of clothing that have a story or a special memory.
• Read some fun fall books – Visit your local library for a variety of fall-themed books you can enjoy as a family. Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert and Pumpkin Circle – The Story of a Garden by George Levenson are two great choices to get you started! Head to your local library and see what titles await you.

Happy fall!

Written by: Cynthia R. Shuster, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Perry County, Buckeye Hills EERA

Reviewed by: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ross County/Ohio Valley EERA.

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How much physical activity should we have?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children and adolescents need 60 minutes of physical activity each day. The bulk of the activity should be aerobic (walking, running or other vigorous activity), with some of the 60 minutes spent on muscle strengthening (pushups or gymnastics) and bone strengthening (jumping rope or running – for 3 days a week). Adults need about 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week.

Barriers to becoming fit

You may be able to identify several barriers to getting in the recommended amount of physical activity in each week for yourself and your children. Time – it’s difficult to find consistent times every day when family schedules are already full. Sometimes it can be a challenge to find an activity that the whole family can become involved in when there are varying ages and ability levels. Or maybe you feel like fitness centers and exercise equipment is too expensive. There are ways around each of these barriers….

What can families do together to become fit?

Here are some ways to build physical activity into your family’s daily activities, and some suggestions for new activities together.

Small bits of time are OK. Try 10 minutes of activity at a time. If you cannot find an hour in the schedule, can you squeeze in 10 minutes here and there? Turning off the TV and other electronics might free up enough time to get moving. Can you walk or bike somewhere close by instead of driving?

Play together – have a family game of ball, chase each other around the yard. Even just putting on some music and dancing around the house can be a fun way to incorporate exercise. Plan a family activity each weekend – like going to the playground or taking a nature hike. Explore different types of activities to help kids find something they (and you) enjoy. If family members want to play video games – make it an active one and have a tournament taking turns.

Work together – You can make housework fun and active by putting on some of your family’s favorite tunes and dance while you clean. Yard work can be a great way to be active as a family.

Set family fitness goals – Track your progress with a family log. Get pedometers and county your steps. You can even increase your levels and set higher goals.  Celebrate with a fun activity when you reach a goal.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/children.html

WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/raising-fit-kids/move/family-fitness-ideas

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu.

Reviewed by: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County, barlage.7@osu.edu

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SoImageme families enjoy doing winter activities outside together, such as skiing, ice skating, and snow sledding.

However, others don’t like the cold.  What’s a family to do besides play board games together?  You might try some of these ideas:

  • Make a scrapbook or a video scrapbook
  • Watch for birds
  • Cook a meal or make a snack
  • Play games or active video games
  • Work on a jigsaw puzzlemother and daughter cooking
  • Send mail to a soldier
  • Put on a play
  • Play balloon volleyball
  • Start a Blog
  • Research vacation spots
  • Read silently or take turns reading a book together

You may also want to plan some trips to museums.  If you live in Ohio there are quite a few museums that provide excellent learning activities and interesting family time together.  Examples include: COSI in Columbus, Air Force Museum in Dayton, Johnson Humrickhouse Museum in Coshocton, David Warther Carving Display near Sugar Creek, Imagination Station in Toledo and Warther Museum in New Philadelphia.  There are also lots of local museums which have excellent displays and provide activities for children and families.

During the winter some museums have special exhibits; such as, art museums may have art displays from famous artists.  The Columbus Art Museum has an excellent display of “Think Outside the Brick: The Creative Art of Lego” until January 27, 2013.   History Museums may have traveling displays from other countries.  If you have small children, you might try the children and youth museums as they allow children to touch.

To make the most of your visit involve your children in the planning of the trip.  Consider:

  •   Talking to them about what they will see.
  •   Finding out what excites them.
  •   Relating what’s being learned in school to the museum visit.
  •   Reviewing personal safety and behavior rules before you go.  Explain what acceptable behavior in the museum you will visit is.

During the Visit

  •   Be flexible and follow your children’s lead.
  •   Try to relate facts about the exhibit to what your children already know.
  •   Ask your children to tell you a story about an object in the exhibit that interests them.

Play museum games such as:

–       Postcard games – buy some postcards in the gift shop and see if you can find the pictured items.

–       “I spy”

–      Seek and Find

–       Tell me why or how?

After the visit, look for opportunities to continue learning.

  • Use the museum’s family guide with ideas
  • Suggest your children start a collection of their favorite objects.
  • Go online.  Many museums have interactive web sites.
  • Ask your children to share information about their experience with relatives or friends.

Museums can provide interesting activities and learning experiences for everyone. Costs can vary. Some of them like the Air Force Museum in Dayton are even free, except for the IMAX Theater.  What winter activity or adventure are you planning to try?


Pulay, A. (1999) “Winter Family Activities” Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet

Author:  Pat Brinkman, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension

Reviewer:  Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension

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