For anyone with kids, it’s a known fact that entertaining the little ones doesn’t come cheap. Trips to the store, amusement parks, the trampoline house, or the arcade can put a dent in your wallet. So what’s a parent to do? Well, there are alternatives out there. If you’re willing to do a little research and apply some imagination, you may find that the free options can be a hit too!
1) Town Activities
A great place to start is with your town or local municipality. Scan your town’s website, and you’ll likely find an events page that lists upcoming activities. Local libraries often host reading events, puppet shows, or music programs. Local businesses sometimes partner with towns for festivals, especially during the warmer months. Some cities run recreational sports leagues — some at only a little cost to parents.
If the weather is pleasant, a local park can be a great option (with social distancing these days, of course). Parks come in all shapes and sizes, so check your local government website for descriptions and upcoming activities. Many parks will set aside at least one day a week for hands-on learning projects aimed at specific age groups. Some may require sign-up in advance. That said, these programs are a great way to get the kids outside, have fun, and have them learn something too.
Even when there are no scheduled activities, there’s plenty to do at many parks. If there are hiking trails, grab a map and explore on foot with your little ones. Pack some snacks and plenty of water — if you have a dog, bring them as well. There are often small adventures to be had if you’re willing to look for them!
The classic playdate is a go-to move for parents on a budget. Invite a few of your little one’s friends over and watch them go. Yes, it will be disorderly. Yes, it will probably be messy. And, there may even be a few tears shed, but playdates give everyone’s kids a chance for socialization. Talk with other parents and arrange a rotation so that everyone is included and shares the hosting duties. Maybe you have a swing set in your yard, but your daughter’s friend does not. Maybe her friend has a pool, but you don’t. When you join forces, everyone can share the wealth.
4) Local Attractions for FREE
Visiting a local museum, zoo, or aquarium can be a great option, but it isn’t often free. The key to finding free dates are checking in the off-season. If you visit their website, you can often find upcoming dates where admission is either waived entirely or discounted heavily. There may also be coupons on the site for buy-one-get-one admission or kids-free-with-adult admission.
If there is a particular attraction that you know you’ll visit more than once a year, consider buying a membership. In addition to saving on future ticket prices, some include attractions in other locations where you’ll get free admission because of your group membership.