It’s been a while, huh? But I’m still here and still working with the kiddos on playing, growing, and learning! We’ve had some family in town so it’s been a bit hectic and our schedule is all screwy. But what’s new?! In the past few days we have been to toddler story time at the museum to learn about the sun and shadows, gone to the aquarium on the ferry with a big group of friends, played at the splash pad at our local park, gone fishing with daddy, and had lots of snuggle time with my sister’s new baby. Whew! It has been a crazy week, but so much fun! And the best part…most of it was FREE! Who knew there was so much to do with littles without spending much money?! I sure didn’t, but with this time freedom of being home I am able to scout activities through Facebook and checking out sites for local venues that are just right for our family and our budget. The least budget friendly activity was the aquarium, but the kids had such a blast and there is such a variety of things to do there. Aquariums these days aren’t just fish – they had all kinds of other animals that are native to our area like eagles and alligators, as well as a nice outdoor playground area, and a fantastic dinosaur exhibit. Totally worth the $20 for our tickets!
So if you’re looking for free or nearly free activities for your littles, be sure to check out some of these places in your area:
- Museums – even ones that don’t seem all that kid-friendly may have special events for littles like story or craft time, and usually admission to the rest of the museum is free if you participate.
- Public libraries – our local branch has a great pre-school age story and game time in the children’s area. It’s a cool way to show your kids that libraries can be fun too.
- Parks – of course playgrounds are always there, but check out their Facebook page or website to look for events like movies in the park, play groups, and holiday activities.
- Home Depot – yes, the home improvement store! They have kid-centered DIY sessions that are free or cheap and the kids get to take home what they create.
- Town halls or Chamber of Commerce sites – lots of towns have free events like festivals, concerts, craft times, and other cool stuff to do.
- Local churches – especially in the Summer will have activities for kids. I know at our church there is no hidden agenda at our public events. We just want people to come have fun in a safe, kid-friendly environment.
There are so many things you can do with pre-school and toddler age children that are inexpensive because they are so easily entertained! Sometimes they feel impossible because their attention spans can be very short so make sure that whatever activity or event you choose has options to choose from. Also be sure that you don’t try to plan too much in one day – littles need their nap time and snack time and lunch time and quiet time and snack time and snack time…. So it doesn’t take much to fill up a day. One thing we noticed on the busiest of our days at the aquarium was that the kiddos got overwhelmed with so much going on. It was busier that day than we expected and we had so many friends with us too. We ended up going out to the snack bar and playground area earlier than we planned so the kids could have a sensory break. So make sure you’re flexible when taking them out on the town – frustration comes from trying to control too much that is out of our control. It’s also a good idea to talk with your kiddo about expectations for the day. Discuss what the plan is and what you expect from them throughout the day. If everyone has an idea of what is going on, it will make being out of your comfort zones a little easier.
One last tip – pray before you go! There is no better way to start your day than in prayer! I find that when I start my day in prayer I am a lot more likely to go with the flow and not get stressed or anxious when I’m thrown a curve ball.
Some other free and easy ideas for getting out of the house:
- Visit a friend or relative you haven’t seen in a while.
- Go to the dollar store.
- Take a walk through a pet store to see the different animals (it’s very important to discuss expectations here so you don’t end up with an unexpected hamster!)
- Feed the ducks at a pond or the birdies in a park.
- Play outside in your own yard with a sprinkler or even just some buckets with water in them.
- Chalk on the driveway, porch, or sidewalk is always a winner with my kiddos.
- The beach or pool is a sure way to wear out the littles if you’re feeling like taking on the world. Even in the colder months, many communities, hotels, and gyms have indoor pools with a low monthly fee.
- Flea markets and farmer’s markets are a fun place for kids to learn about different things they might not normally see and usually a safe place for them to converse with new adults.
- Double up on time well spent by involving the kiddos in your errands instead of just dragging them along. Let them talk to the teller at the bank window, pick out three pretty apples at the grocery store, or hand the money to the cashier at the pharmacy. If you have an extrovert, this is a good way to let them get their chatties out with some new people that will find it entertaining and brighten their day.
I hope you found some ideas to help keep you from going stir-crazy! It’s good to get out in the world – you know, a reason to put on real clothes instead of staying in yesterday’s yoga pants, and brush your teeth and hair! It can also mean a very valuable experience for the kiddos to play, grow, & learn!
Have fun out there!