(reprinted from MSN)

"I don't need to tell you that the economy stinks. A trip to Disneyland or to the water park doesn't sound like such a great idea anymore after watching five minutes of CNBC. That doesn't mean you can't have a great and memorable time with the family -- it's just time to get back to basics. Here are 10 great ideas for cheap family fun without leaving home." -By Craig Playstead

1) Sleepover movie night. Move all of your mattresses onto the family room floor for an energetic and fun family sleepover night. The kids will love it as you pop some corn, make root beer floats and watch a funny movie. Nothing brings a family closer than sleeping together as you tell stories and get away from video games, the computer and other distractions. We did this over the holidays and the kids still talk about it.

2) The (enter your last name here) Family Olympics. Now that the weather is shaping up, take a weekend day and hold an Olympics just for your family. Events can range from crab walks to walking with an egg on a spoon to the infamous water balloon toss. A combination of individual and team events will make everyone feel included. Use your imagination on this one -- the events are limitless.

3) Top Chef Family Challenge. Playing off the popular TV show, this turns into a party. Invite 2-3 families over and have a cook off. One thing to remember is that you need to set some ground rules so no one goes hog wild and prepares grilled sea bass or filet mignon. At the very least, make each family create one dish that has a $10-$15 limit. Have everyone taste the dish and declare a winner. The best part? Potluck at the end.

4) Backwards day. Take a day during the weekend and reverse everything to create your own backwards day. Here are some good ideas: have breakfast for dinner; put your clothes on backwards; watch a movie in the morning and cartoons in the evening. Include the kids in the planning and enjoy the ideas they come up with. Anything that is out of the norm will make for a fun day and break the daily routine.

5) Treasure hunts. These can be as elaborate or as simple as you wish. We started this when our kids were 3 and 4 and needed something to keep them busy while my wife was working from home. Simply ask them to "find something purple" and as soon as they find it and bring it back, request something else. At the end, give them a treat or a little reward. To make it more elaborate, give them a list of the things that you've hidden and let them go.

6) Eat like a pig. Kids love a mess -- that's not debatable. So break the rules one night this summer and have a dessert eating contest with only one rule -- no hands. Your kids will think they have died and gone to heaven. Any excuse to eat without silverware and be funny. This will be a blast for everyone. It's even better if you can move the contest to the backyard and hose everyone down when it's over.

7) Have a themed dinner night. One of the greatest tools we have to bring a family together is the good ol' family dinner. Just tweak it a bit. Make spaghetti, put on some Italian music, and have each member of the family bring one fun fact about Italy. Cook an authentic dish from where your family roots lie and let the kids learn their history. This is a great way to get kids to try new foods, learn about other cultures, and have fun at the same time. Get them involved in the cooking process to empower them.

8) Have an outdoor food fight. I made the mistake years ago of telling my kids about a food fight that broke out in high school. Now they ask me about it at least once a month. This isn't something I would do all the time, but it shows that you can let your hair down, have a little fun, and not take yourself so seriously. Just make sure you choose a food that is easy to clean up, and doesn't hurt when you get hit by it.

9) Make slime. Nothing says fun to a kid like something that's gross, oozing and slimy. Follow this recipe to make cheap and fun slime to entertain your kids for hours. It's easy to make, and it's a fun science experiment that will leave them playing for hours. This recipe was from a preschool function we were at years ago -- and I have yet to find a kid that doesn't love it.

1 ½ cups of warm water
2 cups white glue
Food coloring (any color)
Mix in container #1
1 1/3 cups of warm water
3 Tablespoons of Borax
Mix in container #2
Add container #1 to container #2, but do NOT stir. Pull it from the bottom and work with hands until all the liquid is gone (about 5-7 min.).

10) Family game night. I'm not talking about board games -- that's been done to death. If you're like me, you spend way too much time telling your kids that they can't play Xbox (or Wii). Well, indulge them. See what all the fuss is about, grab a controller and join in. Get the whole family involved and play a fun, multiplayer game like Rock Band or Lego Star Wars. The kids will be thrilled that not only are they playing video games, but they're not at war with you while doing it -- and you'll wonder where the last two hours went.

Craig Playstead is a freelance writer and happily married father of three living in the suburbs of Seattle. He frequently writes about fatherhood and anything else of interest to guys for MSN.

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