Every day when you wake up, it’s another opportunity to make a memory with your kids. But rather than dropping a few hundred bucks and hitting an amusement park, sometimes all that is required is a bit of free time, your cell phone tucked away, and full-on engagement with the most important little people in your life.
With that in mind, here are a few ideas for making memories without hurting your wallet:
The beach – If you’re lucky enough to live near one, nothing is better. The ocean is free, sand is free, and you probably already own the sand toys and bikes. Be sure to slather the sunscreen on the kids, then focus on showing them how to build sandcastles, picking them up under the armpits to help them jump waves, or simply digging a big hole and letting them “bury” you. Just make sure you get all the sand out of their clothes before letting them back in the house.
The Hardware Store – Don’t laugh. Today, I took my 2-year-old girl to Lowe’s and let her play in the washer/dryer section – and you’d swear by her reaction that we were at Disney World. To a kid that age, their brains are constantly screaming for input. All they want to do is look, open, explore. So, I simply stood there and opened every washer or dryer that she went up to, let her look inside, push buttons, open drawers and quench that thirst. It was particularly effective because we’re working on articulating words like “open” and “shut” and “help,” so I’d make her say each before I’d assist her. Now, if I could only teach her to separate the whites and colors and add detergent, she might actually be able to start helping around the house.
Walls – Know a nice quiet neighborhood where lots of houses have raised frontlawns with brick or stone walls out front? My kids love getting up on them, balancing like they’re on tightropes, or driving Hot Wheels along them. And the balancing helps with their coordination. So far, I haven’t ever seen any homeowners giving me the stink-eye – and please, if you’re reading this, remember that the next time you see me and my kids playing on your frontlawn, I’m truly appreciative.
Parks – This is an easy “duh” item on the list. I’m very blessed in my neighborhood with many great parks, each distinctive in their own way. But when you get there, don’t just sit on a bench and make phone calls like I see some parents doing. Jump on the slides with them, give them big emphatic pushes, and play lots of tag. No good parent will judge you, so go ahead and make a big ol’ fool of yourself – it’s all in the name of good parenting.
The Mall – Children’s Play Areas. Food courts with free samples. Lots of chairs to sit in, water fountains to throw coins into, and escalators to ride over and over again. What’s not to like? Hit the mall on a Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon, and you’ve got the whole place to yourself. And if Dad can help Mom by playing with the kids while she shops, or vice versa, all the better!