In today's economy, families are watching every penny. That doesn't mean family fun has to end!

In today's economy, families are watching every penny. That doesn't mean family fun has to end!

Child rearing expert, Bette Holtzman, vice president of consumer and family advocacy at The Goldberger Co., offers some great family-friendly outings that will get parents and kids outside and moving this summer - without breaking the bank.

Take advantage of the warm weather with these 12 fun activities that cost little or no money at all:


1) Take a trip to the farmers' market. Farmers' markets are family-oriented places that offer great stimulation for kids. They present fun learning opportunities where kids can experience various colors, shapes, sounds and smells. Children can touch and taste. And there are plenty of freebies, which means Mom and Dad don't always have to buy. Frequent visits allow families to develop relationships with local farmers and vendors in their communities. To find a local farmers' market near you, visit: www.localharvest.org/farmersmarkets.


2) Do a little gardening. This is an inexpensive way to teach your kids about nature. Buy a packet of seeds from a local hardware store or gather some leftover seeds from the fruits and vegetables you bring home from the market. Kids can plant flowers, fruits or vegetables in your backyard garden, a flower pot, or a window box, and watch them grow. And we all know how much kids love to play in the dirt.


3) Visit the schoolyard or playground. Head to an elementary school playground, or any local park. When your kids have tired of the swings and jungle gym, go for a walk or take a bike ride.


4) Go on a picnic. Pack up some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and juice boxes and spread out a blanket at a nearby park. Meet up with other moms and dads and their kids. Feed day-old bread to the birds and ducks - just watch out for those pesky squirrels. You can even bring the family dog, a favorite doll or stuffed animal along for the fun.


5) Make your own bubbles. Whether you're at home in the backyard or at the park, blowing bubbles is always a fun activity for kids. Take the fun one step further and make your own bubbles together. All you need is a shallow pan, a little dish soap, water and glycerin (available at your local pharmacy). A house flyswatter doubles as a wand for lots of teeny bubbles. Check out some great bubble recipes and tips at http://bubbleblowers.com/.

6) Hold a neighborhood bicycle parade. Round up the children on your street and hold a bicycle and tricycle parade through the neighborhood. Use newspaper comic strips as handlebar streamers. Attach playing cards to the spokes of the bike wheels, and when the wheels turn, the cards will make all sorts of noise.


7) Have a garage sale. Get rid of stuff in the house that you no longer want or need. Parents are always looking for gently used children's things. Let your school-age kids manage their own lemonade stand - always a big hit. Or if you're in a shopping mood yourself, take your kids to a neighborhood garage sale. Let your kids pick out a new toy. Remember, another kid's old toy is new to your child. Garage sales also are great places to find gently used books for all ages to read. Check your local ThisWeek newspaper for garage sale listings.


8) Chalk is cheap. Sidewalk chalk is a great invention. It's thicker than blackboard chalk (easier for small hands to maneuver), it lasts longer and it comes in all colors and fun shapes. Any sidewalk or driveway becomes a canvas for works of art and will attract children of all ages. This is a fun mess that's easy to clean up with a garden hose or just wait until it rains.


And for rainy days or those days when it's just too hot to be outside, here are some great indoor activities to try:


9) Walk the mall. Many local malls open their doors for walkers before the stores open. Get a group of moms and dads together, grab the kids and strollers, and head out bright and early to get some exercise. Moms and dads can visit the coffee shop afterward and bring some juice boxes for the kids. Call your local mall to learn more about their walking program, as some require registration.


10) Visit the public library. The public library is a terrific and often underutilized resource for families. Because early literacy is a huge part of the library's mission, most libraries have a number of free programs including story times, author readings, reading contests, and even craft activities. Check out Columbus Parent Magazine's Out & About Calendar for events.


11) Make your own clay.

1 cup flour
1 Tbsp. oil
1/2 cup salt
1 cup water
2 tsp. cream of tartar
food coloring, beet juice or carrot juice

Combine flour, salt, cream of tartar in bowl. Gradually stir liquids into dry ingredients. Stir in food coloring or juice (add small amounts at a time). Cook in saucepan over medium heat until a ball forms. Clay will darken slightly when cooked. Remove from heat and knead until smooth. If sticky, cook for a few minutes longer.


12) Spend time on the World Wide Web. More and more parents are using computers with their young children and certain websites can help teach important skills. The Internet offers a wealth of knowledge and activities for children to do on their own, with parents or older siblings. Some phenomenal websites and resources are out there. Try www.PBSKids.org, www.ala.org/greatsites, and www.nwf.org/kidzone. Or Google "free stuff for kids" for a host of other options.



Bette Holtzman has been a family therapist and children's advocate for more than 25 years. For more information about The Goldberger Co. and to read more parenting tips from Bette, please visit www.goldbergertoy.com.