Everyone always tell you that quality time with your kids is more important than quantity time, and that does make it easier to leave your kids alone after school, with a sitter, or in daycare. You’ve probably also been told that you shouldn’t just spend time watching TV, so what can you do with your kids without spending a lot of money?
Check Into Grants
Whether your kids are interested in soccer, kickball, or karate, they might be able to participate for a lower rate. The YMCA in many areas offers memberships based on sliding scale for many families.
Although you will usually be expected to pay something, that means that your kids can take the classes that they are interested in, for a much lower cost than their peers.
Additionally, at places like the YMCA, these grants will typically allow everyone in the household to participate in the activities. My best example would be that in Austin, Texas, when you joined one facility, you were allowed to use any of them in the city. Our favorite gave my first daughter self-defense classes on Sunday afternoon, and then we had the opportunity to swim. The really nice part was that you could choose whether you want to swim in the outdoor pool, or in the heated, indoor pool that was open all year. My daughter’s class cost less than 30 dollars per six week session, and the swimming was free with our membership.
Although my kids were never very interested in sports, I do know that when most cities offer teams sports like soccer, kickball, or baseball, they make a limited number of places available to kids whose families cannot afford all the fees. Applying early for this is key, since they do tend to have only a few slots open each season, although there are sometimes a few more available in bigger cities.
One day when my kids were little, I thought was going to go crazy. It had rained for days, and my kids had been stuck inside at daycare all week, so they were not happy with being stuck inside an apartment all weekend, too. Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford to take them anywhere, so it seemed like that was our only option.
Until I remembered a flier that had been shown up on my car one day. The great room at a nearby church was open to kids on some days. This was a Saturday, and they weren’t answering the phone, but we went to that church the next morning. Apparently, every Sunday after their last service, they ( and several other churches) opened up either a great room, the gymnasium, or both and allowed people to come in and use it. It was a great way for the neighborhood kids to burn off some energy, and for people to become familiar with the services of the churches. When it became so popular, they also began to open the rooms up during the week for stay at home parents, and parents who worked non-traditional hours.
This is not necessarily a grant, but the churches provides this area for free, so it’s definitely better than taking your kids to the local McDonald’s, or a mall with an indoor play area every weekend.
Most museums offer one day a week or month, or certain hours of the day, when t is less expensive to get it. The Children’s Museum that I took my girls to when they were little had two different low-cost times. They stayed late on Wednesday nights, and your entry fee was a donation, but it was also free to get in the last two hours they were open on Saturday’s. Since their exhibits usually changed monthly, it was nice to know that we could do something educational and fun at least twice a month, since it was impossible to see and do everything in only one short visit. Always call to see when the discounted times are for your nearest museum.
If you live in or near a big city, and your kids are old enough to be interested, in art, history or science, you might want to take a look at http://www.freemuseumday.org/. It tells you when you can go to museums for free in most big cities in the U.S. Also, free museum day was September 25, 2010 and will probably be around that time in future years as well. It’s something to plan for!
The library is so much more than free books, although the free books are a good enough reason to go as well. In many areas, they regularly offer festivals, reading contests, internet access, computer classes , and more. When my youngest daughter was little, we went to the story time they offered in the evenings and they did arts and crafts. We still have a stuffed toy she made that night.
Even the smallest library will usually have extra activities available the Holiday break from school and during summer vacation. I saw recently that the library not far from where we live offered a haunted house for Halloween, and a lock-in soon after for teenagers. It’s certainly worth a call and any time that we can encourage our kids to be near books, it’s probably a good idea.
Jumping Into Scouting
Whether you have boys or girls, Scouting is a wonderful way for your kids to spend their time. In addition to the civic-minded activities that they engage in, kids learn how to take care of themselves and they learn how to safely camp. At the same time, they work on both personal responsibility and responsibilities to the community. Although the fees for scouting are already very low, most scout groups make room for kids whose families cannot afford to pay. Again, you should call to see who is able to help you in your area.
It is incredibly possible to get your kids up and moving, no matter how tight your budget is. It should take just a few phone calls to find things for you and your children to do, regardless of the weather. Your kids will thank you one day for helping them have educational and fun things to do.