How to Entertain Your Kids for Free
By Heather Murphy of Three Out of Seven
1. Look in Your Local Free Weekly Newspaper
This is the newspaper version of the cheapskate bible. Ignore the listings for escort and “massage” services and thumb to the event calendar. There is usually a long list of festivals, most of them free and family friendly. When you find one that sounds good, pack your own lunch. It’s free and I promise you’ll die happy even if you’ve never eaten a fried Snickers bar.
2. Go to the Library
Your tax dollars are paying for it after all. Library cards are free and the librarians in the children’s area are a little more laid back than the gestapo in non-fiction. Don’t know what to pick? Just grab a handful of books and start reading. Put back the ones you don’t want. Librarians are cool, but they’re tired of cleaning up after you.
3. Take a Walk
I’m surprised that people have to be reminded to do this but we forget the entertainment that’s right outside our doors. Leave the stroller at home and let the kids lead the way. It may take you 20 minutes to go a block because they’re busy examining every single leaf or crack in the sidewalk. Hey, that’s 20 minutes you won’t hear, “I’m booooooorrrrrrrrred.” Score!
4. Get in the Kitchen
Break out the muffin mix or cookie dough or whatever you have hidden in your pantry. Make your own dough from flour, salt and water. Squish it, mash it, roll it. Find different things to press into it like combs, pens, keys, a favorite hard toy, one of Michael Phelps’ Olympic gold medals. What. He has plenty to go around!
5. Be a Kid Again
This does not mean demanding candy for lunch and throwing tantrums. It means getting down on the floor and playing with your kids. Get bed sheets out and built a tent in the living room. Set up a racetrack for toy cars in the den. Sail boats in the bathtub. Color outside the lines in a coloring book. Play by the house rules, but relax and stop worrying about messes for a while. When you’re done, make a game out of cleaning up. “I picked up 3 cars. How many did you pick up? 5? Woo-hoo! Winner!”
Published October 24, 2008. Last updated July 9, 2018.