How many times do you hear “I’m bored, what should we do?”
This question comes up quite often around our house. The answer usually sounds something like “I don’t know, we can’t afford to do (You fill in the blank) ”
Money has been a struggle for our family for as long as we have been a family. It didn’t get any better with the addition of baby #2, if anything money has been even more tight, but I’m more determined to make sure my children have what they need to thrive even if it means I go without.
For a child to thrive I feel they need to be released from the confines of the house, be allowed to explore & see new things. I was starting to feel like this was not an area I could be successful with our current financial situation. There are all these great places, designed for children to help them learn and explore but most of those places come with a price tag. I do not like the feeling of defeat, especially when it involves my children, so I started searching for places we could take the kids that were free. Free in the sense of no admission charge, of course some of our new-found adventures come with a price tag in the form of gas used to get there.
So in case you’re in a similar situation and feel like you need new ideas for things to do with your kids (or even a significant other), I feel I should share some of our newfound adventure ideas from this summer.
We’ll start close to home and move on from there.
Take to the streets (or sidewalks would be safer)!
We are fortunate to live in a small community, there’s a city park, safe neighborhoods, a river and a school all within walking distance (even for the short legs of a three-year old). Take your time on these walks, it doesn’t always have to be about fitness, although the physical activity becomes an added bonus. When you slow down and take your time on these walks you’ll be amazed what you may discover! Children seem to make the best discoveries on things that adults typically would over look, so do not rush them, let them be little. My son has stopped to admire something as small as ants or as large as the water tower. He’ll stop at a flag and bring his hand to his heart, I’ll take those moments to teach him the pledge of allegiance because I can’t be sure they’ll teach him that in school anymore. We recently took him to the track at our local school and the two of us started running, I didn’t figure he would make it long before he needed to stop and walk but his little legs just kept going. We ended up running the better part of a half mile before we ran out of daylight and had to head for home. On the walk back home we crossed paths with a lady walking her dog, my son says “Hi! How doin? I ran 50 miles!” My husband feels he will be a good fisherman since he is a natural at exaggerating when it comes to measurement.
Splash in puddles.
Summer often brings storms, storms often bring rain, rain often leaves puddles and puddles are great entertainment for a child. Obviously I wont take my kids out when there’s lightning nearby, but when the skies clear up we like to take a walk with the sole purpose of seeking out puddles to splash in. Sure it leaves our shoes soaked (thankfully sandals dry out quickly), it leaves our clothes drenched and sometimes dirty (that’s what washing machines are for) but the most important thing is it leaves the biggest smile on my child’s face (and mine too)!
Visit a local park.
Although we live in a small community with only one park, we live fairly close to a larger community with many parks. One of these city parks has a small petting zoo and great paths that are great for pushing a stroller on. We took the kids here one evening to see the animals (most of which were penned up in the barn for the night) and to walk the paths. Explore the parks in your area, if you always visit the same park, find a new one to visit.
Let’s not forget the county parks. Our county has several parks all within a short drive from our house, some I would even consider to be biking distance under the right circumstances. One park has a suspension bridge, another has a paved path through the woods (perfect for pushing a stroller or a child on a bike). We live about 20 minutes from a county park in a neighboring county that has many trails along the river bluff and through the woods for low-key hiking, a creek that has some great wading spots when the water is a bit lower. This particular park has a lot of wide open grassy areas, picnic areas, designated campfire rings with firewood piles to use for no extra cost and several play grounds. On a recent visit to this park I was sure to pack extra clothes knowing my little dude would enjoy playing in the creek after our hike. The trails aren’t really stroller friendly so I opted to use the carrier for little miss. We saw horses out for a trail ride & runners out for a jog (which little dude referred to as running guy and running girl and tried to run with them).
Don’t forget you share the trail and you should always try to leave it better than you found it, pick up after yourselves, your pets and since not everyone abides by this don’t be afraid to pick up after others.
Take me out to the ballgame!
Watch a town team baseball game, on a recent visit to a neighboring town we stumbled upon an in progress ball game with two local town teams. There was no admission, we simply had to find a patch of grass to sit and enjoy the game. If you know anything about kids, you know they do not have very long attention spans, it has been a couple of years since our family has gone to a baseball game because we know we’d have to cut it short when little dude loses interest and what a waste of money that would be. This was perfect! Little dude enjoyed the couple of innings we watched. If you’re in MN and interested in finding a town team near you click here.
Take a kid fishing!
We are lucky to have a lot of lakes in our neck of the woods. This weekend we decided to take little dude fishing but we couldn’t find a sitter for little miss. She isn’t quite boat ready yet and I didn’t really want to miss out on this experience so we opted to leave the boat at home and headed to a local fishing pier. MN fishing pier map is a great resource for anyone in Minnesota to find a near by fishing pier. This adventure was relatively low-cost as we already have our fishing licenses, poles and tackle. We did end up spending a little money on worms and snacks, this particular expense could have been avoided by bringing snacks from home. Remember you are setting the example for your children, practice responsible sportsmanship and follow your local fishing regulations. We require little dude to wear a life jacket when he is on a boat, fishing pier or dock, and generally require him to wear one whenever he is playing in or around water. Little dude reeled in his own fish (once) and actually held several fish! He was so excited every time a we would catch a fish.
Prepare for take off/landing!
My dad recently had an eye doctor appointment at the VA in the cities, he had asked for someone to come with in case he couldn’t drive after. At first I was hesitant to go, daycare was closed that day meaning I would have to haul both kids on a couple of hour car ride each direction and occupy their time while waiting for my dads appointment to wrap up. I’m not a big fan of bringing children, especially infants, into a hospital setting when it’s not necessary because you never know what they may be exposed to.
This doesn’t mean I’m a germaphobe & I don’t freak out when my son decides he wants to lick the dirt in his sand box (it stays covered to keep the neighborhood cats from using it as a litter box).
My dad offered to let us take his vehicle, which was good because I really needed new tires, but it also meant I didn’t have to spend anything on gas. Before we left I had packed a lunch and snacks for the kids. I also tried to come up with something fun to do with them while we waited. The VA clinic is close to the Mall of America, but I wasn’t in the window shopping mood. The clinic is also very close to the airport, so I started thinking of places we could park and watch the airplanes take off and land. Little dude always gets excited when he sees an airplane flying in the sky and even more so when we drive through the cities and he sees them closer as they approach or depart from the airport. I decided to do a quick google search of airport viewing spots, and discovered that MSP has a great Aircraft Viewing Area. We drove under runways, right into the heart of the airport (at least that’s what it felt like). There was ample parking, nice picnic benches, sitting benches & grassy areas. This was the perfect way to pass the time as we waited, little dude was enthralled by the airplanes taking off and landing. When my dad called to say he was close to ready for us to pick him up, we were only minutes away.
I’m sure this only skims the surface of fun things to do that cost little to nothing but I hope it gives you some ideas of things you can do if you find yourself at a loss for what to do.