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Toddler Activities: Quality Outings on a Budget
I've had the opportunity to be able to be home fulltime now for the past 3 years. After my youngest son was born my husband and I made a last minute decision to become a single income family with a parent home at all times. We have 3 kids; Jacob -14, Janessa - 7, and Seanzo (Sean Alonzo) - 3. It was a difficult decision especially when you're use to having two incomes, but our circumstances over time had allowed us the opportunity to make a change. It was the unknown we were hesitant about, but we went with our hearts and have not regretted it one bit.
Being home full-time with Sean, especially at this age is so priceless to me. I didn't get the chance with my older kids to be home and dedicate all of my time with them at such a crucial age. It didn't take me long after leaving my career to realize that I had missed out on so much. What an amazing feeling to know that you are the one and only figure in their life 24/7. The possibilities of creating countless memories with him just excited me!
The toddler years or preschool age is something precious. You have and advantage in a way, when it comes to entertaing them. With older kids, they tend to have high expectations of what their idea of fun is sometimes. They know more about themselves and their likes and dislkes enough to let that determine whether or not they have a good time on an outing. With preschoolers, I find that it is the age of excitement towards the most simplest things. They're expectations aren't really set anywhere further than just you spending your time with them for the most part. So that's where we can take advantage of that eagerness and introduce to them the enjoyment that can be found just about anywhere. Hopefully it teaches them the importance of quality time as well as appreciating what surrounds us. Nowadays, this fits the bill. It's important to remember that a good outing for kids does not necessarily have to mean spending money. I've taken Sean out to many different outings, and he's always excited about what we'll do next. I've successfully been able to keep his mind and body active in ways that most of the time don't cost me a dime! Here are a few ideas for you.
Playing at the Park
I don't know of many kids who just absolutely dread going to the park. Especially for preschoolers, I believe they think that's the place to be. Being cooped up at home during the day can get old for a 3 year old. One of the easiest ways for a nice breather for you and your little one is to take him to the park. If it's close enough and the weather's nice, take advantage of that and walk there instead of driving. This now doubles as exercise for yourself!
This gives your toddler the chance to also socialize with other kids on the playground allowing them to develop their own sense of independence. Take this opportunity as a parent to open up and conversate with other parents there with their kids. Particularly if you notice your child getting along very well with theirs. It's a great way to establish a playdate 1-2 times a week for your toddler along with someone you know they'll enjoy spending some time with. If not, exchange numbers as parents leaving it an open option to call on days that you can meet up at the park.
Taking your toddler out to your local library can be exciting. Of course you'll want to hang out in the children's section. This is a great time to tour your little one around a library and explain to them the importance of books and reading. There are usually smaller tables and chairs for the kids sometimes already with books placed on them to look at.
Also, check with the librarian. There are usually storytimes once a week geared toward preschoolers where they can get together with other kids to listen to a story being read. In the summer here, our local library actually has something going on one night a week. Last summer, the kids got to see a little magic show, bubble show, even an animal presentation where my daughter actually got to go up front and help hold a big snake along with other kids.
Barnes and Nobles is a great go to spot for storytime. They have one twice a week with even a pajama night too. The local store here even offered the kids a snack from the cafe along with a picture and crayons for them to color with. Any of these story time outings are completely free yet a huge investment in developing a love for reading in your child.
Most of us wouldn't even think of bringing our preschoolers to a movie theatre. It may vary depending on where you live, but check with your local movie theatres. Edwards Cinema for three months during the summer offers free movies twice a week. These are all family oriented shows, last year we saw movies like; Alvin and the Chipmunks, Firehouse Dog, Underdog, Space Chimps, Nim's Island, Waterhorse, etc. They also have pretty good deals on lunch packages for the kids like $5 for a hotdog, drink and popcorn. There's no pressure when taking your little one to a theatre under these circumstances because the theatre is filled with nothing but little kids, allowing you the opportunity for you and your family to enjoy a movie outing without the frustration of feeling like your kids the only one speaking with a megaphone! lol!
Take a Tour
Just as the older kids in school have special field trips planned throughout their school year, why not put one together for your little one as well? Find out about local facilites in your area that might be willing to offer a tour for you and maybe a few other families that you can get together. For example farms that have animals to show, pizza restaurants, ice-cream factories, candy or soft drink factories, even maybe where the local newspaper is printed. Call and find out if they are willing to work with you and provide a simple tour, who knows- you might even score some free samples!
Fill your young one's day with excitement by going on a scavenger hunt! Have him help you think of things to put on a list. Be sure to add items that you know are easily found. For example, if you're headed to the park add items such as flowers, a bench, 2 different leaves, someone on a bike, a stroller, etc. Have him help you check items off as he finds them. This gives some added incentive to be more aware of his surroundings. A great way to stimulate their brain while they're getting in some exercise running around at the park. This can be done in your backyard, frontyard, grandma's house, in his room, anywhere really. The idea is to get him to be more open-minded to entertaining himself mentally. Your job is to help build the anticipation of finding these items and encouraging him. My kids love this activity! You can even put a twist on this activity and choose an item such as a toy truck. While in your backyard or living room, have him leave the area so you can hide the item in a way that they could find it if they just looked a little harder than normal. It works with more than one child too. Once the item is hidden, first one to find it is the winner!