Credit: Jennifer Aline Graham
When my twin girls became more mobile and talkative, I realized the days of hanging out inside in bouncers and tummy time room rotations were limited. I also knew, realistically, I could not afford to sign the girls up for a different activity every day of the week – nor would my sanity allow that.
Therefore, I got creative.
After some digging and reaching out through local groups on social media, I discovered some very budget-friendly options available in most cities that mothers of pre-toddlers and toddlers should absolutely take advantage of. Not only were some of these options organized social groups, some were simply ideas of ways to keep a little one busy before naptime while still getting them out of the house.
Barnes and Noble Story Time
Photo credit: Jennifer Aline Graham
Barnes and Noble offers three-to-four story times throughout the week where a staff member sings songs, reads a story or two, and brings out toys afterward to keep the little ones busy.
The major plus: this activity is completely FREE.
This little activity only lasts about ten minutes, but realistically – babies and toddlers can barely sit still for a ten-minute span anyway. The real reason most parents bring their little ones to story time is for the socialization, introduction to song and literature, and, let’s be honest, parents want to be around some other adults too.
By simply going on the Barnes and Noble website, you can find the schedule of story times in your area. They often have additional story times scheduled around the holidays or vacations to keep the little ones busy, socialized, and learning.
Pet Store Browsing
I discovered this activity on a rainy day. My girls had been stuck in the house for two or three days and not only were they getting a bad case of cabin fever, but I was going stir-crazy. I had wanted to bring them to the zoo, but the rain, and my bank account, decided against that adventure.
And then a commercial for PetSmart came across the screen and the girls started screaming “fish” and “bunny.”
Instead of spending money and going to the zoo, we went to our local pet store. We walked around that store for over an hour looking at the fish, guinea pigs, lizards, birds, and cats. When customers walked in with their dog, we worked on appropriate manners when meeting new animals. Not only was the adventure a learning experience, it was a FREE one.
Library Story Groups
Photo credit: Jennifer Aline Graham
Believe it or not, libraries are still out there and very much alive. Even though it seems as if eBooks and audiobooks are taking over the world, libraries still offer amazing activities for people of all ages – and most of those events and activities are free of charge.
Most libraries offer baby and toddler groups where songs are sung, books are read, and the little ones get to socialize and learn. Usually these groups are thirty or forty-five minutes long and different props such as rattles, puppets, bubbles, and scarves are incorporated.
By just searching for your local library on Google and checking out their website or Facebook, you can easily find a schedule of events. Even if a parent is unable to get to a scheduled event, libraries often have nice children’s sections with board books and toys for little ones to explore.
Fire Station Tour
Most toddlers and children can recognize a big, red firetruck and the siren that booms from it. Similar to libraries, every town has a fire station and most stations offer free tours. These tours are often very kid-friendly and, sometimes, allow the children to visit with the trucks and learn about the different parts of the station.
This not only is a way to keep an active toddler busy, it teaches them about fire safety and the different jobs community members have. When they see a firetruck or station in a movie or book, they will connect the visual to the memory of their visit.
That is a win-win activity for both the mama and the little one.
Jennifer Aline is a coffee addict, mama of twins, and a passionate freelance writer and author. She writes for Moms.com on a regular basis and has had articles in publications such as the NY Daily News, NY Post, and In Good Health Newspaper. Aline received her Bachelor’s Degree in Child and Family Studies from Keuka College and worked in the Human Services field before her two little girls entered her life. Aline now focuses primarily on writing, teaching aerial arts classes in the evenings, and caring for her twin daughters – all while continuously chugging coffee, of course.
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