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Post your free or inexpensive ideas for kid''s entertainment here!

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steph72276

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Hey, guys. Almost everyone is cutting back these days, and we are no exception. I am a stay-at-home mom to a 4 year old boy and I wanted to start a thread with fun ideas for cheap or free entertainment for our little ones. So far, here are ideas I have:

--During the summer, we go to our pool several times a week....(it is not really free since we have to pay a huge homeowner's fee, but we don't have to pay per visit)

--Storytime at the local library, then we go a check out books. (Used to spend a ton of $$ on buying books)

--Storytime at Barnes and Noble. Then we stay and play at the Thomas the Train table while I catch up on magazines. (Used to have about 10 subscriptions, but cut them out)

--Going to different parks and bringing a picnic lunch

--During the summer, our local movie theater offers free kids movies twice a week, so we usually go see at least 1 per week. We pack our own snacks so as not to be tempted to spend $20 on concessions.

--We get coupons for free ice creams at McDonald's or Chick-fil-a and then go to one with a play area so he can eat a snack and play. If no coupon, kid's ice creams are around $1 or so.

--We are in Orlando, so we get Sea World passes. They are the best deal around here....you pay for 1 time and then get a season pass for Florida residents. Again, we take our own lunch so we don't spend extra $$ on food.

Any other ideas? Thanks!
 

neatfreak

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Many public libraries have season passes to local attractions that can be "checked out" like a book for free.
 

MichelleCarmen

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Playdates? My kids usually have two a week during the summer and that really helps diversify their social experiences.

Also, are their any parks by you that have water sprayers/water park stuff? They are free and it''s a blast for kids to run around under those sprinklers and play with other kids.

Another idea that isn''t exactly free, but can be inexpensive is parks'' department classes. We get six sessions of swim lessons for $18 per child!
 

Aloros

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Do you have a Lowe''s nearby? The one near us runs free workshops every other Saturday, where your kids can put together things like tabletop basketball hoops, watch-it-grow planting boxes, a jewelry box, etc.
 

steph72276

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Oooh, some great ideas...keep them coming!

NF, I will have to check and see if our local library does this. We are in Orlando, so the attractions abound!

MC, I''ll have to check on the swimming lessons. He took them last year and they were $150! What a rip-off!

Aloros, yes we have a Lowes right down the street. I will check on the workshops, he would love to do that!
 

Haven

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My parents used to take us to volunteering events, like soup kitchens, bagging lunches and handing them out in the city, painting homes, that sort of thing. It was fun and it served the greater good.
 

OUpearlgirl

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When I was a kid we sometimes went to free concerts and plays in the park. I think sometimes our local zoo and some museums had lowered rates for certain days. Puzzles and board games are great for rainy days. I loved Sundays when we would have a cook out and take a walk or something else fun and outdoorsy.

I had a great imagination, if I had a friend over I was set for hours.
 

MichelleCarmen

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Yeah, swimming lessons can be very expensive. It''s worth taking the time to shop around. The YMCA is one of the crazy priced ones because either you have to have a membership or they charge a non-membership price. For my kids, it was $136 (both kids combined) for 6-8 lessons!
 

IloveAsschers13

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In my area, sometimes in the summer the local mall has mini "concerts" that the kids love.

I ALWAYS have dance parties with the girls I nanny for- we push all the furniture to the walls and I let them turn up their music (I think I know all the HSM and Hannah Montana songs by heart) and they think it's hilarious.

Also- Let 'em have it with the HOSE. I know, it's cold- THEY LOVE IT though.

We also have water parks in our county that are like 5 bucks per kid and we stay there all day and we have picnics there...

And picnics at the park! I know it gets hot in the summer, so we don't really go to the park that much, but they always want to!

Also- we go to the petstore or the mall and these girls can spend HOURS there looking around.
 

Amandine

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My Mom was pretty creative, I wish I could remember more of what she did with my sister and I. I do remember making homemade "play-dough", and it was edible...just in case!


If you have museums locally, a lot of them have one day a week (or more) that the admission is free.

If you have a large bucket, or even a kiddie pool, put in some soap and water and make fun shapes with wire coat hangers--instant bubble makers!
 

MichelleCarmen

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Date: 3/23/2009 9:13:40 PM
Author: IloveAsschers13


Also- we go to the petstore or the mall and these girls can spend HOURS there looking around.
Oh, yes, the petstore is a great idea! My kids LOVE looking at the fish. There is an upscale pet store nearby us with fish & reptile tanks that are decked out and look 10X better than any aquarium I''ve ever seen. We spent an hour in there.
 

cnspotts

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My DD is grown now but we always had a pass to the zoo, still do.

Friday night movies in the park, or downtown (on the side of a building).

Ice skating (fairly cheap and lots of fun)

Feed the ducks, fish, whatever at a nearby lake. (loaf of bread, dry cat food)

Take bird seed to the feed the birds at the local park.

Body art (face painting, tattoos, finger paints,) using washable markers or not (sharpies do wear off)lol

Make cookies!!!
 

fisherofmengirly

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Hi Steph!!

I saw this thread yesterday, but was browsing from my phone and didn''t get on the computer to post. I was going to suggest the Lowe''s projects they have on Saturdays, too. Andrew would LOVE that! My nieces and nephew go to every single project day and they love it! The kids get a cute little apron to wear just like the employees. It''s so cute! Plus, they teach about safety and wear all the protective gear, too. It''s a good time.

As for other suggestions, my mom always tried to make things a lot of fun. Like when I''d go down for my nap, she''d sometimes make a treasure hunt for snack time after I woke up. There would be clues around the house and I''d end up finding the snack under the coffee table or things like that. It was fun, and helped me want to learn to read really bad!!

Also, we had a lot of story time and I just loved that. We''d read a story (or she''d read to me) and I''d always wonder what happened next, so we''d make up another story about what came later. That was fun. When I got older and could write a little, we''d write the story down and I''d have another "book." Awesome memories!

I don''t know about where you live, but here, they have Friday night movie night at a different park each week in the summer. It''s always a family movie and the only "admission price" is to bring a can of food for each person who comes to see the movie. I''ve not done this, but it would be fun for a family, for sure. It''s something sponsored by one of the radio stations here. The cans go to the Food Bank.

One thing I know the animal shelter here does is allow parents and children to volunteer to come play with the dogs in the yard area. They always look for volunteers to spend some one on one time with the animals, and they have a list of dogs that are child-friendly. (I''ve borrowed friends'' kids to be able to do this before!! It''s a hoot!!)

I plan on doing scrapbooking with my child, and letting them create their own scrapbook of memories. It will be a precious memory for them later in life, and although scrapbooking *can* be expensive, once you have the basics (paper, the binder, the glue, etc.) it''s not that bad, and you can even get a lot of stickers and supplies at the Dollar Store these days.

Sidewalk chalk is very inexpensive and as long as you don''t mind the driveway and walkway looking a hot mess, that''s entertainment for hours and hours!! Plus, you could make a hop scotch pattern and teach your son about the good ol games of our childhood!

Making cookies you can decorate is a lot of fun and is really one of the very most special memories I have of time spent with my mom when I was little. If you want an easy recipe for sugar cookies, I have a stellar one, and the dough remains soft enough that little ones can help roll it out, etc.

We used to take walks and play "I spy" as we went. That was fun and I used to beg for a walk, just so we could go spying.

Sometimes we would dance and sing while we did chores, that always made it more fun. Mom would call it "booty shakin" and we''d laugh and giggle because it was so silly. When I was really little, my chore was dusting and every once in a while, Mom would hide a treat somewhere that I''d only find if I was really doing the chore (like a Hershey''s kiss behind a picture frame on the shelf, or something like that). It didn''t happen all the time, but was enough to make me want to do my chore, and do it right.

One thing I look forward to with our child is bike riding.

Kids also really like anything dealing with dirt, so you could plant some flowers, or try to grow some from seed. That''s so magical to children (especially if it works!). I used to help my parents in the garden, and always felt like we were getting this HUGE harvest whenever I''d pick three beans and one cucumber. haha.

My parents really encouraged us keeping in touch with our grandparents (they lived on the other side of the country from us), so we''d mail them letters and pictures we drew a lot and whenever we got a letter back, it was really special. I hope to teach my child the joy of "real" mail. I still get thrilled when I get a real letter over an email. And that''s also a precious thing for grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, to receive, too.

We also used to do a lot of craft things, which was fun. Michael''s has some projects that are kid-oriented, although not free, it''s usually under $10 for the class and it lasts a while and is usually something you could re-create at home, if they wanted to do it again.

Your son is at such a wonderful age. Old enough to do more, but still young enough to not think everything has to be about going out and spending money. Have fun with him! He''s a doll!!
 

msb700

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Hi Steph,

you''ve gotten some great ideas so far, but one that i think might be fun if you''ve got a front or back yard (and if not u can do this in ur living room) is a build a castle or pirate ship with him..pile up cardboard boxes, some sheets and some scotch tape and ur all set..i used to do that with my cousins when we were younger and we spent HOURS on end playing there...
 

steph72276

Ideal_Rock
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Mar 16, 2005
Messages
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Wow, thank you guys so much for all the great ideas! Hopefully more people are reading this thread for all the wonderful, creative ideas you guys are coming up with!

Haven, the volunteering thing is a great idea. We make stocking for the needy at Christmas, and he loves doing this, so I bet he would love it.

OU, I will have to check out the free concerts....we are in FL, so lots of outdoor activities especially during the spring/summer.

ILoveasschers, we dance around like that too. He loves to listen to music and dance with me! The petstore is a great suggestion....but then he ends up wanting to take a doggie home so our dog will have a friend!

Amandine, the play-dough idea is great! He loves playing with it, but it would be super fun to make it. I will look up a recipe now. I will also check out the local museum. We are actually going to a children''s science museum next week for a bday party, I''m sure he will love it!

cnspotts, I am going to get a season pass to the zoo too. Although it is not free or cheap, I think we will go so many times we will get our money''s worth. We have a lake and he LOVES to feed the ducks!

Fisher, wow...you have so many great ideas. Sounds like you had a wonderful mother growing up. You are going to be such a great mom, sweete! I love all your ideas, especially the treasure hunt and the animal shelter! Andrew LOVES sidewalk chalk. Luckily we have a big backyard with a brick patio and he goes crazy back there. It is all neon until it rains! He loves I spy, it is his favorite game to play on walks and in the car! We will have to start writing more letters...we are in FL and the grandparents are in GA, so they would love to get more handwritten letters. Great ideas!

MSB, he would love that. We do have a big backyard, so we will have to make a big pirate ship!

Thanks again everyone for the great ideas!!!
 

Lynnie

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Joined
Feb 17, 2008
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1,166
I kinda feel cheesy posoting this, but...
My mom used to take us to the train station by our house. Just to watch the trains go by. For some reason, it was very exciting to us.
She also used to bury little treasures in the backyard and have us hunt for them. Once we found a real fossil, I think my brother still has it!
You can teach him how to use a tape recorder, and have him make up stories on it and play them back for you. I gave many "Super-Lynn" stories to my parents. I guess nowadays you could set up a videocam and have him make a movie! Either way, makes for a great keepsake.
Have a garage-sale shopping spree. We had this huge flea-market type building about 20 minutes away. You could spend hours there.
Do you have any horse tracks near you? We used to go to the track with our grandpop... They used to let you visit the stalls after the races, I''m not sure if they still do.

I like everyone else''s ideas too!
 

fisherofmengirly

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Ooh, I thought of some more stuff I just loved as a kiddo!!

My brother and I would make "forts" out of the kitchen table or the couch by putting a sheet over the whole thing and hide out under there.

Sometimes on weekends we''d put a tent in the backyard and "camp out." I loved that!

Sometimes we would make smores from the fireplace at home in the winter. I loved that and Paul and I do that now. It''s fun!!

As for summer time when kids get a little nuts and need extra outings, a lot of churches have Vacation Bible School that lasts a week. You don''t have to be a member to come, and it''s a good time! Kids make new friends, create crafts, and learn. Oh and there''s always a few silly songs, too!

On long road trips, my parents would play the "story-go-round" game with us. One person starts a story, then each person adds to it, until it''s done. It usually ends up being incredibly silly and non-sensical, but kids thrive on that!

Do you remember those little beads that you stick to tiny pegs in a shape and then iron them and they stick together? I don''t remember the name of it, but we used to make stuff like that all the time and it was fun. Also, there is craft dough that you can use (non-toxic) to make shapes and figures and bake (or even just let sit out to harden) and then you can make stories with them. I did that a TON as a kid.

Going fishing is always fun, too. And building sandcastles. I am determined that our kid will have a sandbox one day. I spent probably 4 years of my life playing in sand!!


Steph, this was a really great idea for a thread!! I love the ideas being presented here. I hope to remember lots of this stuff when I''m a mom!
 

somethingshiny

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There are so many good ideas on here!

I''m always a little shocked when I see that most of you have access to zoos and stuff. We would have to take a day trip to get anywhere like that!

We live in a farming community, so our "fun and free" usually involves a tractor or hay bales, rope swings in the barn, swimming in the pond, etc.

Fishing is a lot of fun too. (even if it''s play fish in your backyard wading pool) We also do lots of hiking and exploring.
 

Italiahaircolor

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Dec 16, 2007
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5,184
Here in Chicago we have the Lincoln Park Zoo...which is free! It's in the middle of this beautiful park, and its a full blown zoo, too. Do you have anything like near you?

Also, bounce-towns are a good and fun way to pass the day. Around here, drop in bouncing is only $7.00 for 3 hours! Pretty cheap.

What about a movie marathon? If you have redbox near you, you can rent all the new releases for only $1.00!! It's much cheaper than going to the movies, but you can create a movie theater experience letting your son melt butter for popcorn and stuff.

How about "dipping fruit"....I know it sounds silly...but I used to love to dip all sorts of fruit with my mom when I little...we'd did pineapple, strawberries, cherries, raspberries...you name it, it got dunked! And eatting it was pretty amazing too!

Kid cooking classes? Many park districts offer these for free to teach children about nutrition and portions.
 

oobiecoo

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Date: 3/25/2009 1:21:54 PM
Author: fisherofmengirly
Ooh, I thought of some more stuff I just loved as a kiddo!!


My brother and I would make ''forts'' out of the kitchen table or the couch by putting a sheet over the whole thing and hide out under there.


Sometimes on weekends we''d put a tent in the backyard and ''camp out.'' I loved that!


Sometimes we would make smores from the fireplace at home in the winter. I loved that and Paul and I do that now. It''s fun!!


As for summer time when kids get a little nuts and need extra outings, a lot of churches have Vacation Bible School that lasts a week. You don''t have to be a member to come, and it''s a good time! Kids make new friends, create crafts, and learn. Oh and there''s always a few silly songs, too!


On long road trips, my parents would play the ''story-go-round'' game with us. One person starts a story, then each person adds to it, until it''s done. It usually ends up being incredibly silly and non-sensical, but kids thrive on that!


Do you remember those little beads that you stick to tiny pegs in a shape and then iron them and they stick together? I don''t remember the name of it, but we used to make stuff like that all the time and it was fun. Also, there is craft dough that you can use (non-toxic) to make shapes and figures and bake (or even just let sit out to harden) and then you can make stories with them. I did that a TON as a kid.


Going fishing is always fun, too. And building sandcastles. I am determined that our kid will have a sandbox one day. I spent probably 4 years of my life playing in sand!!



Steph, this was a really great idea for a thread!! I love the ideas being presented here. I hope to remember lots of this stuff when I''m a mom!

I think the beads you iron were called "Perler Beads" maybe? I had a friend whose mom was obsessed with them while we were in middle school so we did quite a few projects with them hehe.





Steph- I saw that you mentioned reading the magazines at Barnes & Noble... do you feel guilty for reading the material and not purchasing anything? I''m only asking because I used to do that alot but now I kind of feel bad. I''m not trying to be judgmental... just wondering what other people''s takes are on that sort of thing.



 

Elmorton

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SS, some of my BEST childhood memories were at Wildlife Prairie Park! Isn''t that in your neck of the woods?

When I was little, I went to a Montessori school, and my FAVORITE thing was when we''d go on a "nature walk" - we''d just pick up random stuff (supervised, of course) for a collection and then get back and talk about what we found and what it was. I think my mom actually saved some of it in a box somewhere.

My grandparents had a cabin on the Mississippi, so we spent a lot of the summer there, and my grandma had the best stuff to do. Sometimes it was helping her cook or do little tasks with her, but a lot of time she just set me up with activities. I think her rainy-day stuff was actually some of the best! One activity was letting me sort buttons. I don''t know why that was so fun...but it was! She''d open this tin of buttons she had and I''d sit there for an hour just putting them in piles according to size and color. Another was that I''d write books with construction paper and then she''d "bind" them with some yarn and an apholstery (sp?) needle. We also "painted rocks" - she''d have craft paint (about a dollar each) and some pencils and let me paint these flat river rocks- sortof a super-basic version of paint your own pottery - and then she''d put the rocks in the garden. Another thing I loved as a kid was going fishing - basic child-sized fishing stuff can be purchased at Walmart or Farm and Fleet for very, very little - and this is definitely something that needs a lot of supervision because hooks are involved, but on a little creek (fishing for blue gill), this can be really, really fun and teaches a lot about nature/responsibility/conservation (because we threw back everything I caught, since they weren''t really edible).

Another thing I LOVED as a kid was this game where you got a fuzzy tennis ball and two velco paddles that strapped to your hand - it was great for "catch" before I really had the skill for that. Perfect for taking to the park.

Ditto sidewalk chalk. OMG that stuff was amazing.
 

Elmorton

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Joined
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Forgot! Some of the coolest stuff my mom did with me over the summer was re-creating activities and crafts I liked during school or daycare during the year, which was kinda neat.

ETA: Just realized that your adorable son is 4! Okay...some of my ideas may need to wait ;-)
 

steph72276

Ideal_Rock
Joined
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Messages
4,212
Date: 3/26/2009 11:04:14 PM
Author: oobiecoo
Date: 3/25/2009 1:21:54 PM

Author: fisherofmengirly

Ooh, I thought of some more stuff I just loved as a kiddo!!



My brother and I would make ''forts'' out of the kitchen table or the couch by putting a sheet over the whole thing and hide out under there.



Sometimes on weekends we''d put a tent in the backyard and ''camp out.'' I loved that!



Sometimes we would make smores from the fireplace at home in the winter. I loved that and Paul and I do that now. It''s fun!!



As for summer time when kids get a little nuts and need extra outings, a lot of churches have Vacation Bible School that lasts a week. You don''t have to be a member to come, and it''s a good time! Kids make new friends, create crafts, and learn. Oh and there''s always a few silly songs, too!



On long road trips, my parents would play the ''story-go-round'' game with us. One person starts a story, then each person adds to it, until it''s done. It usually ends up being incredibly silly and non-sensical, but kids thrive on that!



Do you remember those little beads that you stick to tiny pegs in a shape and then iron them and they stick together? I don''t remember the name of it, but we used to make stuff like that all the time and it was fun. Also, there is craft dough that you can use (non-toxic) to make shapes and figures and bake (or even just let sit out to harden) and then you can make stories with them. I did that a TON as a kid.



Going fishing is always fun, too. And building sandcastles. I am determined that our kid will have a sandbox one day. I spent probably 4 years of my life playing in sand!!




Steph, this was a really great idea for a thread!! I love the ideas being presented here. I hope to remember lots of this stuff when I''m a mom!


I think the beads you iron were called ''Perler Beads'' maybe? I had a friend whose mom was obsessed with them while we were in middle school so we did quite a few projects with them hehe.






Steph- I saw that you mentioned reading the magazines at Barnes & Noble... do you feel guilty for reading the material and not purchasing anything? I''m only asking because I used to do that alot but now I kind of feel bad. I''m not trying to be judgmental... just wondering what other people''s takes are on that sort of thing.




Well, actually I don''t feel bad at all because we used to then go a buy a ton of books afterwards and I would be sipping a Starbucks which was inside the B&N and everyone sitting in the cafe either had a magazine or a book reading it, so no I never felt guilty about it, but I don''t know I might if I wasn''t planning on buying anything at the end. Good question!
 

pinkstars

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Joined
Nov 28, 2007
Messages
532
Well I don't have much to add since I don't have kids and was boring child, but I came across a blog that might give you all some ideas.

I came across this while I was looking for a recipe on youtube, and I think her kids are funny.
Then by poking around her site I came across this. I think there are some pretty good ideas in her crafts section using mostly things that you'll probably already have around the house, but if not she has print outs for a lot of the activities.
 

zoebartlett

Super_Ideal_Rock
Joined
Dec 29, 2006
Messages
12,450
Hi Steph! I'm not sure how much things like this cost, but what about art classes (arts and crafts, etc.) or paint your own pottery places? Oooh, maybe your library has a summer program that ties in books with arts and crafts types of projects.
I was also going to suggest getting free passes from your library. Our local libraries around here have free museum passes, which are fun to use.


ETA: I've also shown this book (and others like it) to my class: http://nutrition.preschoolrock.com/index.php/home/books_for_preschoolers_-_play_with_your_food. We've replicated some of the pictures with fruit salad, too, when I taught a unit on nutrition. The kids had a blast and it was a fun way for them to enjoy nutritious snacks. By the way, if you go to the home page of the site I linked, you might find other ideas, too.
 

somethingshiny

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Jul 22, 2007
Messages
6,746
El~ WPP is over an hour away from us. But, yes, we love to go there, too.

And, I just heard on the radio this morning that nutrition counselors are doing "seminars" for kids. They involve preparing healthy snacks and exploring out-of-the-ordinary foods. That could be fun too.
 

Elmorton

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Jul 5, 2007
Messages
3,998
SS, bummer - that''s about how far away I was growing up, too - but I got to go sometimes because it was on the way to my grandparents'' house. One of my friends is a school teacher in Peoria and her elementary students get to go there on field trips. While I admire her greatly because I know I could not do her job every day, I''m SUPER jealous of when she tells me she went to WPP (even when she tells the horror stories of having to find WPP staff because one of her students threw a toy into the Bison field).
 

DivaDiamond007

Brilliant_Rock
Joined
Jun 7, 2007
Messages
1,828
DH''s boss got us a zoo membership for Christmas that we will be taking advantage of this summer. It will be so much fun! We also live near several metroparks that have free admission and plenty of walking trails.

Growing up my sister and I would play hide-and-seek, build forts with the dining room table and make lego neighborhoods. We always lived in a safe neighborhood so we would often ride our bikes for hours on end.

Another suggestion could be sidewalk chalk/paint to draw pictures with or blowing bubbles outside on a sunny day.
 

AGSHF

Shiny_Rock
Joined
May 7, 2004
Messages
147
Hello everyone,

I just saw this thread and didn''t read through all the responses, but here are a few more ideas--

(1) story or puppet time at the library, and our city library has reading "clubs" for preschoolers through adolescents which give rewards for reading. There are typically more activities offered during the summer (of course);

(2) when my daughter was very young, she and I visited the Fire Department near us (I had to buy brown paper recycling bags there) and the firefighters very kindly offered to let her tour the fire house and look at the fire engine and the EMS truck. She was delighted! Perhaps you can contact your Fire Dept. to see if they offer visits for children;

(3) if your city has mass transit trains, it might be great fun for the little ones to take a round trip or two, especially to a fun destination. My daughter and I rode the city rapid transit downtown and back and to and from the zoo. She thought it was a great deal more fun than sitting in her carseat being driven everywhere;

(4) most museums have free or 1/2 price days for small children;

(5) office towers/plazas that have water fountains were big hits. Where we live, a couple of public plazas have "dancing" water fountains and I see children happily running through these in their swimsuits.
 
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