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10 Free (or Nearly Free) Activities for Kids

You can enlighten, educate and entertain your young offspring without breaking the bank

6. Turn half-pints into handymen (and handywomen)

In addition to free weekend "how-to" workshops for adults, Home Depothosts them for kids between ages 5 and 12 on the first Saturday of each month, while Lowe's offers them on select weekends. In these clinics, kids get the lowdown on do-it-yourself projects and typically build a wooden craft they can keep.

7. Let them be crafty

For those who prefer pipe cleaners and beads for their creative construction, MichaelsHobby Lobby and A.C. Moore host regular, in-store crafts classes specifically for kids; many are free, others cost $5 or less. Legostores hold free, monthly model-building events. Meanwhile, any-aged offspring -— or you — might enjoy spilling creative juices at BeFunky.com, where uploaded photos can be tweaked into cartoons, Warhol-esque painting or who-knows-what.

8. Host a yard sale

You can get rid of clutter, teach some entrepreneurial-enhancing skills and earn a few bucks. For the best turnout, pick a Saturday morning — and have the kids spend Friday designing and hanging signs in the neighborhood. You can post a free advertisement on Craigslist and in some community newspapers.

9. Instill a science alliance

No disrespect to the classic "volcano" made from baking soda, vinegar and food coloring, but an at-home Science Fair can reap more inventive, if not yuck-inducingly offbeat, projects — and also help your kids get a jump on mandated assignments for the coming school year. Find dozens of creative experiments, for various skill levels and ages, at ScienceBuddies.org,ScienceAndMath.com or other websites by doing a Web search on "science experiments." Most projects can be done with less than $20 of already kitchen-stocked or store-bought materials.

10. Hit the big screen (at a small price)

They may not be new releases, but some theaters have free or low-cost showings of family-friendly films, typically on weekday mornings. Chains offering freebies include REI CinemasMuvico and Clearview Cinemas. Admission is $1 at Regal as well as Cinemark and Century theaters, with the latter providing a $5 punch card to see 10 films in its series.

Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling.

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