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Family Fun on a Budget

Social workers and social service directors have historically noticed a link between economic downturns and more calls to child protective services. Theories abound, but one includes the notion that stressed parents are more likely to turn abusive. And lack of money plus bored children can quickly ratchet up the stress factor. To prevent this stress, the Virginia Coalition for Child Abuse Prevention recently released a list of budget-friendly ways to have fun with your kids:

  • Instead of going to the movies, watch a film already in your personal collection, and pretend each family member is one of the characters.
  • Instead of going to the toy store when the kids say they’re bored, take them to a park or the library. Or keep them busy with a bottle of bubbles, board games or recyclable items such as paper towel tubes and shoe boxes that make great temporary toys.
  • When they’re craving treats from a fast food place, encourage them to eat healthier versions by peeling potatoes and oven frying them, buying a whole wheat pizza crust and other ingredients to make a pizza, or partially freezing fruit juices in paper or plastic cups to make a slush.
  • Instead of shopping for gifts, make a card, craft or other present that suits the tastes and personality of the recipient.

And here are some other ideas:

  • Hold an impromptu picnic. Gloomy weather? Spread a blanket on the living room floor and a eat picnic foods on the floor.
  • Make your own bowling set with washed 2-liter soda bottles. For the young set, use empty bottles and large balls. For older kids, fill the bottles with sand.
  • Save paper towel rolls, cereal boxes, washed milk cartons, coffee cans, shoe boxes, etc. Give your children a bag filled with the recycled materials to build towns, forts, etc.
  • Got a camcorder? Have each family member make a 5-minute film. Host a family film festival.
  • Try a new recipe together.

And from this week’s KidStuff calendar, here are some budget-friendly ideas for your family to do this week:

  • Saturday: Breakfast with the Easter Bunny, White Oak Fire Department, 12 Newton Road, Fredericksburg. A morning filled with food and fun. Bring a camera for pictures with the Easter Bunny. Adults must accompany children.  8–10 a.m.; $2, ages 3 and under; $3, ages 4 and up. 540/379-7875,
  • Sunday: Easter Egg Hunt, Woodland Academy, 2054 Neenah Road, Montross. Open to children of all ages. Egg dyes, face painting and food. Free. Information and directions: 804/493-8244.
  • Sunday: Easter Bunny Visit, Art from the Heart, 60 Susa Drive, No. 103, Stafford. Visit with the Easter Bunny and paint a free bunny ornament. Bring a camera. 2–4 a.m., registration required. 540/659-4092.
  • Sunday: "A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “The Red Shoes,” James Monroe High School, 2300 Washington Ave., Fredericksburg. Story ballet by Shakespeare and original choreography based upon the movie classic. 3 p.m. $13 in advance, $16 at the door. 540/429-0764,
  • Monday: Preschool Egg Hunt,  Rowser Building, 1739 Jefferson Davis Highway, Stafford. Ages 5 and under can join the Easter Bunny for a hunt. Bring a basket. Held indoors if raining. 11 a.m., $3, registration required.  40/658-5115,

 And a recent travel story listed 40 places to see in Virginia that are cheap or free. For the list and more details, visit