I’m a homebody by nature, and I absolutely love being at home with my family, but sometimes you really need to get yourself and the kids out of the house. When there is pleasant weather it can be really easy to find a place to take the kids for free; playgrounds and parks always provide lots of opportunities to exercise and play. We have a beautiful local garden that is full of paths to walk and areas to explore.
However, when the weather is bad it can be a bit more daunting to find a good outing. There are lots of places where you can take your kids to play, but they can be expensive. We have a few indoor play areas where the entrance cost is about $13 per child, which we can’t budget as a regular outing during the rainy season. So, I’m putting together a list of my favorite places to take my kids on the cheap; most of them can even be free!
- Shopping Malls: Going to the mall, if you aren’t a big impulse buyer, is a fantastic way to get your kids out for free. I have never visited a mall that doesn’t have a free play area where your child can run around, climb on things, and do other activities. Also, you can go for a walk to look at things and get some exercise.
- The Nature Center: One place that my mom always used to take us to when the weather was bad was the nature center near our house. While nature centers have lots of outdoor areas to visit, they also typically have an education building where they have animals and interactive exhibits. In our county nature centers are owned by the Parks and Recreation Department and visiting is completely free.
- IKEA: One of my favorite things about going to IKEA is that they have a play area where you can drop off your potty-trained child for free! Then, if you want, you and your spouse can go get a cup of (inexpensive) coffee, wander the aisles looking at all the interesting furniture, and just enjoy a little bit of time without the kids. Having an actual uninterrupted conversation with Matt? Yes, please! It’s a great cheap date! So, if you need to get your furniture shopping done or you need a little bit of time away, it’s a wonderful place to get a break without hiring a babysitter. (The cinnamon rolls are delicious and affordable, so I always pick up a batch of those for breakfast the next day too!)
- Library: I love taking the kids to the library. It’s a short walk on a good day, and a 2-minute drive on a bad weather day. Spending a half hour looking at books or doing other activities there can be a terrific way to change the pace. Be sure to check your library’s schedule for special activities such as story times or play hours. There are a lot of opportunities for a free or inexpensive outing.
- Fast Food Play Areas: I’m not a huge fan of fast food as a rule, but on those days when we are on the run with a bunch of errands your local McDonalds play area can be a life saver. You can grab a quick inexpensive lunch, and your kids can get some of their wiggles out. We often look for these on road trips so that our boys can have a chance to run around and play between stretches of driving.
So, there are five cheap outings to get your kids out of the house when the playground or a walk aren’t really a possibility. While there are plenty of awesome places I can go with my kids that charge an entrance fee, and I love going to places like that with my kids, living on a budget means planning options that are free or cheap for my kids and I to explore together.
What about you? What are some of your favorite things to do when the weather is bad to get out of the house?