When I was a kid (you know you're a parent when you pull out THAT phrase), I remember leaving the house every morning after breakfast to go and visit “nanna and grandpa” two doors up. So did a lot of the local neighbourhood kids. We all congregated there to set up bike races, handball games and hide 'n seek. It wasn't until I was much older that I found out they were not related to us in any way at all. They were just kindly neighbours who were raised according to the “it takes a village to raise a child” mantra. My parents didn't need to organise too many activities for us - we made our own fun with our neighbours and I cherish those memories.
Today suburbia sings to a different songsheet. Children are supervised more closely. People work longer hours and are not home as often. Extra-curricular activities chew into any time left over. As a result, neighbours are often strangers.
So one affordable and fun family activity that I can suggest involves getting the kids together to help make something simple, like a muesli slice, then wrapping it up creatively into little gift packs. Even just cellophane and ribbon. That's a fun family activity in itself! Then go and visit a few neighbours that you may know well enough to wave hello too but have never really talked to. Hand over the slice as a little icebreaker and introduce yourself properly.
In my experience this simple activity has lead to the organisation of playdates, street parties, emergency babysitters, new friends for the children and even the otherwise innocuous discovery that one of our neighbours is a plumber – which came in very handy one day when one of our outdoor pipes exploded!
Note: when making the slice make sure you place a little note inside the package with the slice ingredients (for allergy purposes) as well as the first names of your family and a contact phone number if you like.