My kids LOVE going on outings. They don’t really care where we go so long as we go. One of the first things my oldest asks me every morning is, “Where are we going today?” and he is inevitably disappointed on the days I don’t have an outing planned.
As much as I’d like to take them on a grand outing every day, it isn’t always possible on our budget. Luckily kids are fairly easy to please and I’ve put together a list of ten outings that are both fun and free! These are some of our favorite things to do together. It’s great to get the kids out of the house, and it helps me as their mommy too! It gives me a change of scenery and adds variety to the day. So without further adieu I give you:
- Costco – My kids love Costco. Their favorite thing about it? The food samples. Because of my son’s diet, we have to be careful about the samples he gets, but we always find several that are okay for him to eat. Our outings there are always a success. If you don’t have a Costco or aren’t a member, other warehouse-type stores often give out samples as well. (I suppose that a Costco membership isn’t free, but I consider it a free outing because we have the membership whether or not we take the kids there.)
- Early intervention and other playgroups – Every state in the U.S. has some sort of early intervention program. Many of these programs offer playgroups for kids in their programs and they are often looking for typical peers. Check them out, because the programs are usually free (or very low-cost) for typical children and are run by child development specialists who lead the groups. They are lots of fun! Right before my oldest aged out of early intervention services, I was able to take both him and my typical daughter to a playgroup together. We had a blast. Look at hospitals or local family organizations as well. You’d be surprised how many of these types of playgroups there are!
- A new park – I know, you might be tired of taking your kids to the same old park. So why not try a new one? We, of course, tend to stick to the parks in our neighborhood but my kids are always excited to try out different ones. So I try to mix it up every now and then and head to a park that we’ve never been to before. The kids are thrilled to try out new play equipment and a change of pace is always nice for me, too.
- Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s – Do you have one of these stores (or a similar one) in your area? Try an outing there! Even though I’m not a hunting enthusiast, I really enjoy taking my kids to our Bass Pro Shop. They have a giant fish tank and the kids can spend hours (well, maybe not hours, but a lot of time) staring at them. They also love looking at all the animals that are stuffed. If your kids are sensitive or inquisitive, you may want to be careful about the whole animals-on-display-thing. My kids happen to love them. They also like looking at the different boats in the showroom and the attendants are usually nice enough to let us try on a boat or two for size. We can spend a whole afternoon at one of these places!
- Little League Games – If your city has some little league games going, why not take your kids to watch? You can go for free, sit in the bleachers or on the grass, and take popcorn and drinks. Pick a team and cheer for them (my kids always go for red). It’s a nice way to spend an afternoon or evening.
- The Library – The library by itself can be fun for kids. Mine love looking at and reading as many books as they can get their hands on, and of course checking out books and movies and fun as well! Many local libraries also offer reading groups, story times, and all sorts of different activities for kids to enjoy. Our library has all kinds of story times, some geared toward older kids, some for younger, and some for all ages. There are lots of things offered by the library so if you haven’t been lately, check it out.
- Thrift Stores – Okay, I know this probably sounds like a weird outing, but it is one that I stumbled upon that my kids really enjoy. I love thrifting. I look for stuff that I can re-purpose, upcycle, or just plain sell online. And my kids love looking at everything as well. Here’s the not-quite-free-but-still-cheap part: I usually let them pick out a book to buy, and that’s the part my kids especially love. My favorite part of letting them pick out a book is teaching them about money and how buying things works. My older son is learning about money and the values of different coins and bills. He’s also starting to catch on to how you add the coins and bills together, so when he picks out a book, I let him try and choose the money he needs to buy it. If he has a book that costs 50 cents, I’ll give him a small bunch of coins and see if he can pick out the correct amount. Sometimes he gets it and sometimes he doesn’t, but we work it out together and it is a great learning experience for him. My daughter isn’t quite as far along as he, but I help her pick out the correct change. Both of them then carry their money and their books and buy them themselves. They’re thrilled and so am I!
- Pet Stores – My kids LOVE animals, so it’s no surprise that they enjoy pet stores. We’ve spent many an afternoon in a pet store. They love looking at the dogs being groomed, those in doggy day care, the cats that are up for adoption, and all the other animals as well. Lately they’ve caught onto the idea that most of these pets are there to be adopted and so I’ve had to make clear that we are NOT going to take one home with us! We go into the store with that understanding, and the kids end up having a grand-old time. Even though Wal-Mart isn’t a pet store, a lot of them have fish for sale and my kids enjoy going to see those as well. I sometimes use that as a bribe for good behavior in the form of, “If you are good while I get the groceries, we’ll go see the fish when I’m done.” Works like a charm!
- College planetariums/telescopes – If you live in a town with a university or even a smaller college, see if they have a telescope or a planetarium. We have a college with a planetarium and they offer programs and viewings to the public. You might be surprised at what they have to offer—I know I was!
- Nurseries – My kids love going to the nursery. Our nearest nursery has wagons instead of shopping carts, and my kids have a fantastic time riding around in them. They love looking at all the different plants and trees and tell me they feel like they’re in a forest. Even Home Depot and Lowe’s works in a pinch in the spring because they have so many trees and plants for sale. Walking around the nursery is a really pleasant way to spend some time with your kids.
So, as you can see, there are lots of fun outings you can take your kids on for free. You just have to get creative with it! Lately I feel that things have been getting a little hum-drum for us around here, so I’m going to challenge myself for the next two weeks to go on an outing every single weekday. I’ll let you know how it goes. Care to join me? Let’s see what kinds of fun things we can all come up with!