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Cool ways to have fun with the kids on the cheap.

When the temperature drops, kids’ boredom can escalate.

Whether you’re cozying up indoors or bundling up and heading outside, there are lots of fun ways to spend winter days without spending a lot of money.

Check out these six budget-friendly activities that will help you warm up to winter:

  1. Set up a hot chocolate stand: Enjoy a cool twist on a summer favorite. Choose a day when the weather isn’t too cold, bundle everyone up, and set up a hot chocolate stand. To prepare, you simply need to pick up cups, a couple of tins of hot chocolate powder, and either cookies or mini marshmallows (to sweeten the deal). Then, split the earnings: Give 50 percent to a charity of your family’s choice, and 50 percent divided among the kids to put in their savings or spend on a little treat for themselves.
    Tip: Round up supplies for the kids to craft a sign (that’s one more winter activity to keep them busy). Looking for a charity your kids will be excited to donate to? Check out Charity NavigatorThird Party Link and Give BackThird Party Link.
  2. Make your way to the library: It may be old-school, but a library can offer a treasure trove of fun if you know where to look. Go for an hour or an afternoon and tuck into a cozy corner, or take some books to go. Kids will enjoy picking out new novels or stories and using their own library card to check out. Many public libraries offer reading programs, storytime hours, and drop-in programs and activities like crafts for kids, LEGO workshops, makers clubs, and more. Find a library near you and see what programs they have to offer (best of all, most are free!).
  3. Get crafty: There are many great arts and crafts activities to keep the whole family busy on a cold winter day, such as making a Pine Cone Bird Feeder. You need only four materials to make it work ― pine cones, peanut butter/nut butter, bird seed and wire. Then:
    • Spread the peanut butter on a pine cone.
    • Roll the butter-covered cone in bird seed.
    • Wrap the wire around the bottom of the cone at least twice, slipping the wire between the open scales.
    • Hang the pine cone in a tree and watch the birds (and possibly squirrels!) enjoy the winter treat.

    For more tips on getting creative indoors, check out 7 craft ideas to keep your kids engaged, learning and having fun.

  4. Go sledding or skating: There are plenty of ways to enjoy the great outdoors, without having to spend a ton on equipment and fees. Try sledding — you don’t need a very steep slope for kids to have a blast whizzing downhill. Most hardware and toy stores offer a variety of sleds and discs for around $10. Or, hit the ice at your local public skating rink (some rinks are free and just charge for skate rentals, others offer discounts for kids). If you don’t have skates or a helmet, see if you can borrow from friends for an afternoon, or try Craigslist, a consignment shop or a sports swap store like Play It Again Sports.
  5. Do some cooking or baking: Trying some new recipes as a family is not only a fun way to spend an hour or two, it’s also a productive one because you can make a meal, dessert or even snacks for school. The kids will love getting involved and getting their hands dirty, and you’ll love the quality time together. Get cooking with these family-friendly recipesThird Party Link or these fun recipes for kids.
    Tip: Make a little extra food with these 4 ideas to help you hold onto your lunch money.
  6. Explore a national park: The United States has some incredibly beautiful national parks, and if you’re lucky enough to live close to one of them, they offer many great ways to spend part of a wintery day. The National Park Service’s park directoryThird Party Link can help you find a park near you, and fill you in on walking trails, heritage areas, and other activities and events. It will also alert you to weather conditions and other important bulletins so you can plan your visit accordingly. And while some parks do charge for admission, U.S. fourth graders may be eligible for a free Every Kid in the Park passThird Party Link.

If you’re already counting down the days until spring, start planning ahead with 4 weekend escapes on a budget.

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