Before I had Haven (my first), I had visions of taking her all over the place with me. I’d carry her in a Moby baby wrap, and we’d explore the zoo, the aquarium, shop, go to the movies, eat at my favorite restaurants with my sister, and whatever else I wanted to do.
Fast forward to when she was born and reality hit. I realized two things: I didn’t have all the money for those things, especially now that we were a one income family, and dragging my little lady around to a dozen different places was definitely easier said than done. I quickly realized that my visions were unrealistic and best left in my imagination where they belonged.
Fast forward even more to now, when I have two kiddos—a 6-month-old baby and an active 2 ½ year old who thinks she wants to leave the house, but gets flustered about 10 minutes after we actually have. Staying in the house and watching nursery rhymes on YouTube is a-okay with me. I’m usually happy to avoid meltdowns or fights to get Haven into the car seat after a fun shopping trip is cut too short, and the kiddos don’t mind getting sucked in to the tube.
But what kind of life is that? Sometimes when I’m still in my pjs at 2:00 p.m. and just trying to get things done until hubby gets home, I ask myself, “What will my kids have to remember from their childhood?”
I’m finally realizing that doing meaningful, memorable things doesn’t have to be big or take a huge chunk of time out of the day. And I can’t have it be expensive, which I imagine is the same for a lot of you.
Here are some ideas for creating memories when you can’t afford to go take advantage of all the amazing entertainment the world has to offer:
1. Bake or Cook Together. Confession—this one is hard for me. But then again, my kiddo is 2 and likes to pour things on surfaces rather than in bowls. But I try to do it now and then because I know how fun it is for kids. How great does it feel to create something and see how it turns out? Let your kids in on this little treat. Sure, you may have to sweep up flour that gets tossed on the floor, but that’s cheaper than a day at the zoo (nothing against the zoo, I promise!). If you have really little kids (like I do), you could try pretending to bake or cook. Haven has gotten really into this lately and pretends to bake a cake ALL. THE. TIME. I’d be triple my size if we really had cake as much as she pretends we do.
2. Go on Walks. This is one of my favorite things to do with my family. You can just stroll silence or walk and have a deep conversation. If you have young kids, try pointing out different colors you see or even do a little scavenger hunt, searching for things like flowers, sticks, rocks, or whatever you tend to find on your walks.
3. Work Together. This was my childhood. My dad owns a firewood company, and my siblings and I worked for him when we were kids. Work on a family project together. Plant a garden and then weed together. You might be surprised how involved your toddlers can get too.
4. Go to the Library. Simply exploring the library is so much fun, but the library also has so many activities to take advantage of, like story time, free movie showings, and so much more. Check out what your local library has to offer and then actually GO to it!
5. Have Fun with Water. What you do will depend on the age of your little ones. Try a water balloon fight—your kiddos will probably love being able to toss things at each other or you without getting in trouble for it. Last summer, Haven had a blast transferring water from one plastic tote to another with a measuring cup. You could also use an inflatable pool and get creative!
6. Go to Community Events. I know some communities show movies in the spring and summer months, while some even offer concerts. Look to see if there’s anything that could spark your fancy.
7. Dance! It doesn’t have to be anything formal—just turn on Spotify and start shaking it! I hope we do enough dancing in my home that my kids won’t be embarrassed by it when I turn on some tunes during breakfast when they’re teenagers.
8. Camp in the Yard or the Living Room. There’s nothing better than camping when you have access to a real toilet, right?! I haven’t tried this one yet, but Haven already likes to sleep in her play tent, and I can imagine she would love sharing a tent with Mom and Dad. Roasting marshmallows and eating your other favorite camp food could make it a more authentic camping experience.
9. Go on a Picnic or Have a Picnic in Your House. I once planned an elaborate picnic with my sister’s kids, then decided just to have it in the living room because I was pregnant and had little desire to walk five kids to the park. They loved it just the same! You know you would be feeding your kids pb & j’s at home anyway, so why not pack it up and take it somewhere else?
10. Go Hiking. Find an easy trail and take your kiddos out to enjoy nature! You could also have them try to point out things they see, like different colors if they’re young and still learning, or different types of trees or birds if they’re a little older.
11. Explore Your City. I feel like it’s super common to live in a city and not explore the things it’s well known for. Try going to check out what your city is known for! For example, I live just outside of Salt Lake City, which is home to the beautiful Temple Square, a place that is completely free to tour.
12. Go to Museums. There are a surprising number of free museums you can take your kids to visit. Search for free museums in your city and take advantage of the service.
13. Go to the Pet Store. It’s no shock that kids love this! When Haven was little, she got sad when she couldn’t touch that animals, but I’m sure it was for the better. We also used to live near a puppy store that allowed adults to pick up puppies so the kids could pet them. This was a blast for Haven and the other kids we went with.
14. Check Out Nature. I love how amazed kids are by nature. Take advantage of this! Watch birds or do some star gazing. Even just lying down in the grass together and looking up at the sky can be special.
15. Let Your Kids Decide the Adventure. Sometimes it surprises me what is fun for kids. We have a little hill behind our apartment, and my brother’s kids and Haven had a blast climbing up and then sliding down. It was so simple, and I wouldn’t have thought of it myself.
I know there are so many more things to do for free with your kiddos. What are some of your ideas? Comment below!