Do spring showers have you locked in the house with the kids and stuck for ideas on what to do? Help is here!
Being at home with your children can be such an incredible time. A good day might include lots of reading, cuddling and, if you’re really on your game, some arts and crafts. But on those days when you’re all going a little stir-crazy and just need a change of scenery, it’s a good idea to have a short list of activities on hand so you can get up and go. Because we all know how easy it is to get out of the house with kids, right?
Where can you go and have some fun with your little ones, preferably for free or very little cost?
Your local library
We are very lucky to have the most incredible libraries in our community. There are 4 branches within reasonable driving distance, and each offers different programming for children of all ages throughout the week. These include singing, dancing, exploring with musical instruments, sensory bins, crafts, games and so much more. They also have tonnes of fun activities planned during holidays and March Break. The best part? It’s all FREE! While not all libraries offer quite so much, yours is likely to have at least a story or craft time scheduled a couple times a month.
Your local Early Years Centre
I have found a big difference in the quality of programming among Early Years Centres. Activities might include family playtime, sensory bins, crafts or song time. Many offer free childcare during programs so parents can catch their breath and maybe enjoy a hot cup of coffee while chatting with other parents on site. While some focus on diverse programming for the children, others offer more for parents such as guest speakers, behaviour management classes, breastfeeding support and even cooking classes. These programs are either free, or come at a very low cost.
A community centre
Depending on the size of the city you’re in, you might have several community centres to explore. They offer playgroups in the main centres as well as churches and other public buildings throughout the community. Yes, the toys available to children tend to be dated and a little run down. Most rely on donations from families and they take what they can get. But it’s an awesome way to get out, meet new parents, and play with tonnes of toys you don’t want in your house.
Many communities have museums specifically designed for children. Admission can be a bit pricey depending on the place, but many offer lower admission costs on specific days of the week so check out their website before visiting and plan accordingly. If your local museum is designed for adults, it might have a small children’s section worth checking out, or they might offer playgroups for tots at a very low cost.
An indoor jungle gym
Perfect for a rainy day, indoor gyms allow your kids to climb, jump, slide and explore until they’re ready to pass out. These facilities are padded and sectioned off so you can relax a bit knowing your child isn’t likely to get hurt or run out the door. Depending on your child’s age, you might even be able to read a magazine while they get some much-needed exercise!
A swimming pool
Check your community swimming pools for family or parent and tot swim times. It’s an awesome way to get some exercise, as well as get your little ones used to the water. Indoor pools will also get you out of the house on rainy or cold days.
A park or trail
Okay, this is an obvious one but it’s worth mentioning. Kids love being outside and it’s good for parents too. Why not mix things up and try a new park? Or, if you’re really ambitious, make a list of all the parks in your city and try to visit each at least once. Change up your mode of transportation (bike, scooter, wagon, car, bus), or give your child a simple scavenger hunt to complete while you’re out. And who says you can’t play at the park in the winter? We have great fun swinging and sliding in the snow and splashing in puddles in the rain!
An arts centre
Does your city have an arts centre for kids? They can be a great place to find visual arts, music and drama classes. These can be a bit pricey, but it’s usually with good reason. Programmers are qualified in their field and know what they’re doing. If you have the funds, I would highly recommend trying one out.
A gymnastics club
Check in with your local gymnastics club to see if they offer drop in programs for parents and tots. They’re usually quite reasonably priced and are a great way to check out the facility for future use!
A La Leche League meeting
This one is specifically for moms. La Leche League meetings usually occur once a month and are run by volunteers who are trained to offer free breastfeeding support for local moms. I first sought out my local League when my oldest was one month old, would not latch and screamed at my breast at every feed. I was desperate for support and nervous about being judged. What I found was an amazing group of women who let me cry, shared their stories, gave me tips, and checked in on me regularly. These were women of different backgrounds and family units, with all types of parenting philosophies. I continued to attend meetings long after I had weaned my first and was back to work. I still go now with baby number two. Give it a try. You might love it too!
Do a quick Facebook group search and you’re bound to find at least one parenting group in your community. Babywearing groups, cloth diapering groups, homeschooling groups–you name it, there’s a group for it. If you are new to a city or don’t have many friends at home with children, you can meet lots of other parents who would love to meet up to play.
Maybe this list seems a bit overwhelming. When you start doing a little research you might realize that your community offers a lot more to do than you thought. I know I struggled to remember which facilities offered what and at what times they were offered. And let me tell you, there is nothing worse than packing up the kids and driving across town with the promise of a fun-packed morning only to realize that –oops! –the museum is closed on Mondays for school programs! Ugh.
My secret? I put together a little calendar of my favourite activities. That way, if, say, on Tuesday at 8 a.m., I realize that I’m not going to make it through the day without an entire pot of coffee and a mini-breakdown, I can glance at my calendar and head out to “Explore the Floor” at the library, warm coffee in hand.
What are your favourite things to do when you’ve just got to get out of the house?
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Parent Life Network or their partners.