Childhood Family Games That Save Money

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In this day and age of satellite television, home video game systems, iPods and other toys that entertain and often isolate us, it is sometimes difficult to recall that not too long ago, there was a time when there were no expensive electronic toys to keep us occupied. The older I get, the more I wax nostalgic for those days of old and, increasingly, I find myself trying to minimize my use modern distractions so that I can relax, whether that is with a good book or a game of backgammon or cribbage.

I am doing my best to involve my family in my exploration of what I consider to be 19th century pastimes. Just this past week, I have found a willing audience for three consecutive nights while I read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol aloud. The lyrical quality of Dickens’ prose is far and away more satisfying and inspiring than anything we could have found on television and it was a wonderful shared experience for us. The experience was even more special because I was able to read a version of Dickens’ Christmas tale which my parents had given me more than thirty years ago.

As we ease into the leisure days of summer, there are a lot of wonderful outdoor activities which are inexpensive and can bring your family closer together. Whether you are throwing a football, shooting baskets or just taking an evening stroll, getting outdoors does not cost any money and offers a host of inexpensive recreational activities. Indeed, for the more adventurous among us, America’s National Parks are throwing open their doors for free for a few weekends this summer so you can consider a weekend of discovering the America that is right in your own back yard — wherever you live.

For those afternoons and evenings when you cannot go outside, or choose not to go outside, here are a few games that I remember from my childhood and which were popular in the USA and Europe until quite recently. You and your family and friends might want to consider:

Play Charades

My children loved to play charades when they were young and they still do, even though they are older. Charades can best be played by 4 or more people and can offer hours of fun. Pop some popcorn or bake some cookies and spend an evening relaxing with a game of charades. You will be entertained for hours and you will learn a lot about the people with whom you are playing.

Play Backgammon, Chess, Cribbage and Checkers

Backgammon has always been the game of choice when I have had time to relax with my Dad. It is an ancient game and it remains as stimulating today as it was in ancient times when it was invented. I used to play cribbage with my mother and Chinese checkers with my grandmother. I had a great aunt who was a champion Scrabble player and I still play Scrabble with my kids today. Whatever game you like to play, chances are good that you have a game board lying around at home. If not, you can find inexpensive game boards at any toy store. Whether you are with one friend or a group of family or friends, a game night is easy to organize and won’t cost you much. Just remember, you are never too old to play.

Stage a Play

Have you ever considered joining a local community theater, or just staging a play at home with your children? You do not need lots of expensive props. You just need to find a play that you want to perform and assign roles among all of your participants. Children, in particular, can lose themselves for hours in learning their lines. After you have spent the days or weeks necessary to prepare for your production, you can invite family and friends to see the show and make an evening of the show and party to follow.

Learn to Dance

Have you always wanted to learn to dance? Are you a fan of Dancing with the Stars? Whatever motives you may have, learning to dance does not require expensive lessons. It just requires a basic knowledge of the steps and then a lot of time and practice. You can find dancing instruction on-line and then just plan a night or two (or more) each week when you can dance with your partner at home.

Form a Chorus

Do you love to sing? If you do, you may be surprised to learn that you have friends who sing as well. It costs nothing to form a chorale group. Whether you are singing merely for fun, or to prepare for Christmas caroling, or for any other reason, a song on your lips will lift your heart and spirit without lightening your wallet.

What other “olde tyme” recreations have we lost in our modern age? What do you miss about your childhood recreations? What other family fun can we find in the pages of history?

(Photo courtesy of Candie_N)

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7 Responses to Childhood Family Games That Save Money

  1. Ann says:

    When my mother died, I asked my nephews and niece if there was something in particular that they wanted to remember her by. My one nephew mentioned a brainteaser puzzle that my mom had that he used to sit and play with for hours! 🙂 As a matter of fact, he and his brother and sister used to fight over it. LOL

    Scrabble, Monopoly and card playing carried from early childhood to adulthood for all of us. Putting together a big puzzle together kept popping up intermittently. Lots of pleasant memories — like learning how to play poker literally on my grandpa’s knee, while he took his sons to the cleaners. 🙂

    If your budget is really tight, hit Goodwill or Salvation Army. Ours here has a whole row of board games and puzzles for just a buck or two each.

  2. Tightwad says:

    We enjoyed playing “Kings in the Corner” card game, as well as “Rummy” and other card games. A deck of cards can still be found pretty cheap and I believe that the .99

  3. I’ve gotten to know many of my readers over the past several months. Some, I know from past jobs or from schools I attended. Others I’ve met at, a World War II forum that I moderate. Often, I receive comments via e-mail instead of posted to this site. A comment I received yesterday I found to be quite wonderful and, with the author’s permission, I post it here.
    I grew up in the northwestern section of Philadelphia, in an area called West Oak Lane. I lived on a small street not far from a main trolley route that extended from the suburbs (Cheltenham) to a major north-south subway route that led into the center of the city. Looking back, the area was probably a lower-middle to middle income neighborhood. In the 1950

  4. Justin says:

    These are some great ideas for families on a budget looking for entertainment. Plus, a little family time definitely never hurt anyone. Thanks for the post.

  5. spicoli says:

    I still play Scrabble and a lot of board games and my adult friends enjoy those games, too.

  6. Meaghan says:

    These are great ideas. They cost nothing but they provide wonderful family bonding time.

  7. Persephone says:

    I love to play board games with my family. They are also a great way to watch our kids develop. My ten year old routinely beats my husband and elder son in games of SCABBLE. That is a joy to watch!

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