NEED TO GET OUT?
find the freebies.
summer in a small space may mean you’ll be looking to get out a little more than usual. summer draws us out anyway, but we get especially stir-crazy around here. but when you are living on a budget, you have to do a little homework in order to get out and not break the bank. be on the lookout for frugal finds and freebies.
chick-fil-a, for example, is having a cow appreciation day this friday (tomorrow). dress up like a cow and receive a free meal. partial cow costume = free entree. this event is going on all day. monday, the 15th is lucky tray day 11am to 8pm. a sticker on your tray earns you a free dessert. then, tuesday, the 16th, is family night with gymboree. stay in-the-know by checking out your local chick-fil-a’s website.
max and erma’s is a favorite of our’s. they also have a great website that details the events happening in your neck of the woods. kids eat free on tuesday nights; wednesday is a free cookie day and karaoke night. hubby and i get sandwiches, the kids eat free, and we spend the money on dessert since we saved on dinner.
check your local libraries for story times, craft days, guest readers, etc.
one of our local malls holds a story time on two different days. tuesday’s is at pottery barn kids (you receive a stamp and once your child earns five, they get a reward), and every other wednesday, another story time is held by the mall itself.
bite the bullet and buy some passes.
my sister- and brother-in-law bought our kids the most awesome christmas gift last year. passes for the zoo, the aviary, and the children’s museum. although, they felt badly on the day not having a tangible gift to offer the kids, we have assured them a gazillion times that this was the best idea ever! we make sure to remind the kids each time we use the passes that we have this fun opportunity thanks to aunt and uncle. it’s the gift that keeps on giving. the passes are good for the entire year, and that is from when you activate them/make your first trip not when they are purchased. we didn’t go to the zoo until the weather warmed up, and so our zoo pass, for example, is good until next spring. not to mention, we also get a discount on other zoos for having this pass. we have gone to each of these places so many times over the last few months. it has more than paid for itself. plus, you can take a bagged lunch along with you and have a really special day that is ultimately free! these passes aren’t cheap, i know, but if you can plan ahead and budget them as a special gift for christmas or a birthday, do it. you will get plenty of use out of them, and your kids will thank you in smiles all day long!
also, the museum here gives you one guest pass that is good for up to four people, so you can plan a family play date as well. it’s perfect for a rainy afternoon! one of the floors in our museum has several awesome activities for little ones (toddlers/pre-schoolers), and there’s a section of couches in the middle where i’ve seen groups of moms sitting and chatting while their children safely play around them. and the zoo will have special member events, like a visit with the elephants or a family night, etc. these passes are worth every penny for sure.
seek out local play groups or events.
this is a big one for us. b/c i’m online often, i receive several emails a month from local groups (macaroni kid, patch, galleria). they keep me up-to-date on local events, play group opportunities, and freebies galore. i jot all of these things down in my planner. it doesn’t mean we’re going to do them for sure, but at least i have the info handy if we have the opportunity. also, talk to people. other parents are in your same shoes. i heard about a really great play group held at a local church from my cousin, and then i bumped into a parent of one of my old students, and she was telling me about the same group! parents will gladly share their treasures with you if you ask! b/c this group meets at a church, it takes place rain or shine. it’s a safe environment for my kids to get out and socialize and a chance for me to have a conversation with someone who doesn’t want “milkies” or “binkies.” win-win. 😉
don’t be afraid to plan a free event for your friends and their kiddos too! i did this earlier in the year. we had a little valentine’s tea party at my community’s clubhouse. i got some help from friends with a few crafts. all of the moms brought something food- or drink-wise. it was a lot of fun. one friend mentioned that she appreciated it, b/c her older child was having a valentine’s party at school, and our party gave her little one the same opportunity!
plan frequent play-dates.
i am fortunate in that i have several stay-at-home (full-time and part-time) mommy friends that i can connect with a few times a month. facebook and social networks have really helped us to find out who else out there holds the job description of “personal assistant to…little one and little two” or “taxi driver at the smith household.” connect with these other parents, and make it a point to get together. grab some coffee, meet up before nap time, and have fun! play dates have been so helpful in keeping this mama sane, and the kids need and love them just as much as i do, if not more!
* go to each other’s houses (take turns bringing coffee or a baked treat, etc.)
* meet at local parks
* visit the children’s museum or other fun place together
* plan a lunch date at chick-fil-a or have a picnic
* stroll around the malls or outlets and hit up build-a-bear or let the kids explore the disney store for like an hour 🙂
* go to free local story times or events together
play a sport or take a class.
our little ones are three and under, but i found a program that allows even our two-year-old to play soccer. it’s an added expense, but after being cooped up all day, it’s an expense that’s worth it to our family. they look forward to it every week. i can’t say they actually participate faithfully, but they do look forward to it! (or maybe it was the new tennis shoes and ice cream cones afterwards that sealed the deal…)
HAVE TO STAY HOME?
keep the indoors a fun place to be!
here are some fun things to do while indoors:
- indoor picnics / tea parties
- baking / cooking together
- creating something other than food in the kitchen (make your own play dough, salt dough ornaments, etc.)
- dance parties (we love the songs, “dance” by jesus culture and “deep cries out” by bethel church. “deep cries out” is an awesome song for following directions in movement. we are working on learning our right and left using this fun song! plus, they’re worship songs. it melts my heart when i hear my kids singing to the Lord randomly throughout the day.
- spa day! give your kids mani/pedi’s
- write letters / call some relatives (they would love to hear from the sweeties, and your kiddos are learning about correspondence!)
- use the outdoor stuff indoors! friends of our’s have a very small slide in their living room against a wall of windows! my kids love it when they go over they just slide their little hearts out. it’s such a great idea and works so well in a small space! if you need the extra room, keep it somewhere else and just pull it out when it’s yucky out, or use it as a reward for great behavior, using the potty, etc.
- have a youtube mini marathon. we did this yesterday for about 30 minutes. i pull up elmo and silly symphonies and the kids are in awe! there’s just something about the “brush your teeth” song that draws my kids in like nothing else! i got some things done in the kitchen while they sat at the table watching short videos. rather than putting in a 30 min show, i think this works better for their short attention spans. plus, they’re singing along. it’s fun!
- we also love an indoor butterfly catching game that i made up using tissue paper “butterflies” and pink butterfly nets from the dollar store.
- for MORE great indoor ideas, visit this post from beauty through imperfection.
get outside anyway!
don’t have a swing set, sliding board, swimming pool, big yard? no biggie! our yard is only a small square behind our townhouse. try these things:
- hook up the sprinkler or hose
- get a water or sand table
- sidewalk chalk
- bubbles / bubble machines
- have a picnic / outdoor tea party
- go to the park / playground
- take a bike ride / go on a nature walk
- have a special “pool day.” our community has a pool, but if your’s doesn’t, don’t be afraid to ask a friend or family member if you can schedule a pool day, or check out your local pools.
- fly a kite at home or an empty ball / soccer field (our neighbors are super sweet, so they don’t seem to mind when we occasionally go running through the backyards with our kite!)
- for MORE great outdoor ideas, check out this post from beauty in the mess.
create a bath stash, and use it!
my kids LOVE bath time. like 99% of the time anyway. but, as you know, b/c you might be in the same boat, bath time happens at one of two times:
1) after dinner / before bed. this is the norm, and there’s little time for play. mom wants to get them to bed. dad wants to get them to bed. no one really wants to sit on the potty and watch their kiddos play in the bubbles for an hour when it’s already 7pm. not over here, anyway.
2) after they have earned a bath (i.e. getting into something dirty, pooping/peeing in their pants, dripping a popsicle all over themselves, “playing” with their food when you turned away for two nanoseconds to take/make a phone call).
that said, use a rainy day or a day in which you just need an indoor break (maybe you need to read your bible, or finish a blog post, or just sit down for a minute), grab something from your bath stash (a little collection of bath/water appropriate items) – bathtub crayons/markers/paints, a new toy or bubble bath, pool noodle blocks, bath tub letters/numbers, bubble wands, a fishing toy/game, whatever! i’ve even seen parents giving their kids popsicles in the bath tub – genius! use this as a learning opportunity or just a time for the kids to splash and play. no one’s screaming while you wash behind ears. there’s no rushing them out and into pjs. it’s just a time for enjoyment. sit on a stool or the potty and just enjoy watching your kids play in the water while you take a breather. i have to say this though – PLEASE DON’T LEAVE THEM UNATTENDED. EVER. ok, i know you knew that, but i just had to throw it in there just in case! and don’t fall asleep sitting there either! 😉 maybe this would be a good wind-down activity just before naps. and if you don’t do anything else that would get them dirty later, you just may be able to skip the dreaded 7pm bath!
1 – do your homework
familiarize yourself with your community. get the info you need in order to plan a fun summer for your kids. if you know what’s out there, you can better plan your week, while keeping your budget and priorities in check.
thanks to facebook and pinterest, info and ideas are just a keystroke away. take an hour or two a week – maybe on a quiet night, after the kids are in bed or during a nap time – and do your weekly schedule and meal planning. i say meals too, b/c your errands and daily plans are directly linked to what you’ll end up eating for the week, so get it all organized at once.
our week looks something like this lately:
sunday – church, lunch, naps (so anything goes after nap time)
monday – usually our stay-in-and-recuperate-from-the-weekend-day. we veg out, and i try to straighten up the house and catch up on chores, etc.
tuesday – am story time event and pm soccer practice
wednesday, thursday, and friday – errands, play dates, trips to the park, pool days (our townhouse community has a pool), etc.
having this basic framework allows me to fill in the gaps fairly easily and plan ahead meal-wise too.
2 – pretend you’re a teacher
this ties in with the above. basically, sit down and do your “lesson plan” for the coming day(s). check out pinterest too for ideas. luckily, i have some amazing friends that talk about what they’re doing with their kids on facebook frequently, so they’re always inspiring me and giving me great ideas for my own kids!
think about what you have around the house. do you have ingredients to make cookies one day? can you have a craft day? if you need something from the dollar store or michael’s, think about those things now, and plan ahead. this will make your life a lot easier.
also, stock up on things when you catch them on sale. while i’m at michael’s or target, i keep an eye out for clearance items that my kids will love, and i build up a little box of fun things. sticker books, little activity bags, craft bags, etc. aldi’s will also have seasonal baking projects for super cheap. i think i saw a monsters inc. cupcake kit there this week.
3 – make a flexible plan
in their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
make a plan, but remember, things happen, the kids need extra rest, a friend will call the night before for a play date, you suddenly run out of milk and have to make a store run, a realtor calls at 9am for a 12pm showing (this was my life for the past three months)…it all happens!
hope you found some helpful tips here! remember to check out the other great posts in this summer series! thanks for stopping by!
don’t forget to enter the giveaway here!
our winner will be chosen this coming sunday, july 14th!