Invest in experiences that don’t break the bank

Studies show that kids prefer time spent over toys given.  But why don’t we believe this? It may be because toys and technology occupy so much of kids’ attention these days.  And yes, while they serve their purposes, imaginative play is so much more beneficial.  My son sleeps so much more soundly after playing hard outside vs. inside.  Early on, my husband and I decided to invest in the experiences.  Still, even those experiences can be costly, and I’m not just talking about vacations. Here are some local activities we do on a weekly/monthly basis where we’ve cut corners and costs in Norfolk Virginia.

  • The Botanical Gardens is our only yearly membership.  Equipped with a children’s splash pad, sand pit, play houses and more, the $95 yearly membership pays for itself in a few visits.  It’s cheaper than the YMCA monthly membership for their water parks and other water parks around.
  • Speaking of swimming, check your local community pool.  We signed up for 8 Parent/Child swim lessons for $25, significantly cheaper than the Y.
  • The Children’s Museum is both educational and interactive.  Normal cost is $11/adult/visit, but they had $5 specials on Wednesdays, so I did that twice this summer. Children under two are free.  It seems children under two everywhere are free, so take advantage of that!
  • Our Zoo visits have been because of the generosity of friends who have memberships that can get us in free.  Because we don’t go that often, this is the best course of action.
  • Aquariums nationally all seem to be pretty pricey with a hefty $25/adult/visit and $20/child/visit fee, however look again for special deals.  In January I got an $11 rate just by doing a little research.  Always do your research!  And since the aquarium is a special visit, this once a year fee fits just right.
  • The Library offers a really wonderful children’s programming that is absolutely free.  I’ve been taking my son there since he was only months old. Programming includes singing, stories, crafts, and free play.  There’s also an indoor inflatable rec area and pretend kitchen.
  • My child is too young for camps yet, but even some camps are offered free of charge, ranging from sports camps to Vacation Bible Schools.
  • Your local parks and recreation always offer playgrounds, picnics, biking, hiking, beaching, etc. Get them outside!  Get them moving!  Get them exhausted.
  • Most malls offer an indoor children’s play area for rainy days or timeouts from shopping. Movie theaters offer cheap matinees and $1 deals.
  • Not to mention, there are so many free festivals and events with free children’s activities like bounce houses, face painting, crafts, games, etc.  Paying for fun is no fun at all, so unless it’s worth the admission price, look elsewhere!

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