My Top Ten List of Fun, Free Things to Do in a Tight Economy.

On Monday, March 2, I was awakened at 6:15 a.m. by the exuberant shout of my 15 year old son. “They closed school! It’s a snow day! Woo hoo!” Now the fact that New York City closed Public Schools is nothing short of a minor miracle so it’s no wonder that my son was ecstatic: he’d only had one other snow day since he began school at age 4!

This particular snow day got me thinking. What, exactly, is it that’s so exciting about a snow day? There’s no question that it’s better than the movies, more exciting than a planned vacation. But why? I think that it’s precisely because it is unexpected and unplanned. Suddenly, a day that looked as though it was going to be ordinary and run-of-the-mill is transformed into a no-holds-barred, anything-is-possible kind of day.

A snow day is the equivalent of free entertainment. In our troubled economy, when money is tight and we might not be able to take advantage of purchased entertainment, I wonder if we can take the lesson of a snow day and apply it to our lives?

Carpe Diem! Rather than think about the things we can’t afford to do because money is tight, why not seize the day and do something unexpected and free?

Here is my “Top Ten List” of free, fun things you can do as a family (in no particular order):

1) Dust off an old board game (and actually play it!)

2) Get out the playing cards and see if you can remember the rules for “Hearts” or “Crazy Eights.”

3) Bake a cake.

4) Grab a DVD you haven’t watched in a while, make some popcorn and watch the movie together.

5) Pack a lunch and hop in the car, subway, or on a bus and go on an “adventure.” (Or, better, go green and walk somewhere!) Investigate a part of town to which you’ve never been or go to a nearby historic site and learn some facts about where you live.

6) Take some unshelled peanuts and some stale bread and go to the park. Feed the ducks and squirrels (you have no idea how grateful they’ll be!)

7) Check to see if the museum near you has a free day or night, then go!

8) Have an indoor picnic: pack a basket full of goodies, spread a blanket on the floor, put some music on the stereo, and munch away.

9) Play an “icebreaker” game. ( www.group-games.com, www.icebreakers.ws, http://fun.familyeducation.com/games/33076.html) You’ll need to sort through these to see which are indoor vs. outdoor, which are appropriate for the size of your family and the ages of your kids, but it’s worth it: you’ll be surprised at how fun these can be!

10) Go on a scavenger hunt in your neighborhood. (See who can spot a fence, a dog, a “wild” animal, the first bud on a tree, the highest open window in an apartment building, a red curtain, a lamppost, etc.)

I’m willing to bet you have some ideas as well. Why not