Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Using Your Community

A few years ago, I didn't have a clue about the many events there are in my area for children. Not only did I not know that these events existed, I didn't know that many of them are free or offered at a very affordable cost. Up until that point, I was struggling to find fun things for my kids to do at home.

My first introduction to free events was my local library. Every summer, they offer a reading program for kids beginning at birth. From June through August, any kids reading (or being read to) a certain number of hours would be awarded two free tickets to the local zoo, one for them and one for their parent. In addition to the tickets, the library held numerous free shows for the kids throughout the summer. They had everything: magic shows, sing-a-longs, puppet shows, and traveling petting zoos. Not only were there many fun shows to attend, but the shows traveled from branch to branch. Because of this, if we were busy and had to miss one show we could usually catch it at a different library branch the next day. If we especially liked a show, we would go see it again. One particular marionette show we saw four times in two days!

After finding out about the library shows, I discovered that there were other opporunities as well. Soon my calendar was packed full of opportunities every day of the week. I'd write down everything I could find. Each day when I woke up, I'd look at the calendar and see what our choices were and off we went.

I've always wanted to find a way to share my calendar with others. I was impatient for summer to come so I began hunting to opportunities that are happening now. The choices aren't as ubiquitious as they are during the summer but there are still plenty to keep families busy exploring the world outside their home. That was the start of my weekly listing of free and low cost events in the area.

Unfortunately, not all of you are from my area. Since I can't research the events in every town and city, I'll tell you where to look so you, too, can enjoy outings with your kids without breaking the bank. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Check your local library's calendar -- They will often have story times for toddlers and preschoolers year round. Many libraries offer a summer reading program. Some libraries have movie nights. Occasionally, you may find special events around a holiday or other celebration.
  • Check your parks department -- During the summer, you may find "Idol" competitions, concerts in the park, and outdoor movies. Sometimes I find special festivals with music, games, craft vendors, food vendors, and other shows. There may be special locations run by the parks department that may offer free or low cost special events. We have a living history museum run by the parks department here.
  • Look for a local parenting magazine and check it's calendar -- In our area, we have Puget Sound Parent and Seattle's Child. Both are free publications that can be found at the library, Toys R Us/Babies R Us, and other children's retail stores. Maybe your area has a similar publication.
  • Check out the local playhouses -- One of our smaller playhouses have free preview shows (their last dress rehearsal) and pay what you can performances We've enjoyed many live theater productions we wouldn't have been able to see otherwise.
  • Look around for museums -- There are more museums than I can count both in my area and in nearby cities. Many of them are smaller and have a specific focus. These smaller museums often have a very low admission cost ($1 or $2) but still provide a great learning experience. Some of the larger museums offer a free day or free night every so often.
  • Visit unique retail stores -- Some interesting and learning experiences can take place in unique retail stores. Look for art stores, stores selling items from a specific country or region, or curiousity stops.
  • Check with zoos in your area -- Our local zoo offers regular free days to the city residents.
  • During the summers, check your local cinemas. Both Regal Cinemas and AMC offer free G and PG movies on weekday mornings.
  • Contact your local Home Depot or Lowes --see if they are participating in the kids clinics/workshops.
  • Check all of the above for communities surrounding your own that you are willing to drive to.

That should get you started on discovering a whole new selection of things to do in your area...if you live in a larger town or city. If you live in a small community, you're on your own; I've never lived in a small town.

Have fun!

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2 Comments:

Firefly mom said...

These are great suggestions! One of my favorite resources is a free monthly family newsletter that I pick up inside our local library every month. It has activities listed and all pertinent information (address, times, prices, contact info) for every day of the upcoming month. It includes places in about a one hour radius of our home.

Mo said...

Great list! I cannot wait for GB to get a commuter car so I can actually go places during the week. We miss out on so much, but at least it's temporary :)