On Fridays, we offer financially savvy advice for the household CEO – from household budgeting, to saving for college, to where to find the friendliest deals for your wallet. This week – where to find FREE, or very affordable, engaging activities for your kids, no matter where you live.
Did you know many nationwide retailers offer free activities for kids? Here are a few of our favorites:
In addition to DIY workshops for adults, Home Depot also offers great FREE kids workshops on the first Saturday of every month. Workshops are designed for children aged 5-12, but many of Big M’s preschool friends have participated with parental assistance. All participants get to take home their creation, along with a workshop apron, commemorative pin, and a certificate of achievement. Be sure to register online at the store nearest you to insure they are prepared with enough materials for all attendees.
Not to be outdone, Lowe’s also offers FREE clinic for children. Lowe’s Build and Grow Kids Clinics are completely free, open to the public and occur on select Saturdays at 10AM. All participants build a wooden project and receive a free apron, goggles, patch and more! Upcoming clinic schedule and registration for clinics can be done at the link below.
Michael’s craft stores offers an array of courses in-store for craft, baking and hobby enthusiasts of all ages. But their Kids Club is the real bargain. For $2, children 3 and up can make a pre-selected craft on Saturdays. Crafts range from picture frames to masks and jewelry. Space is limited, so use the link below to see what Kids’ Club crafts are offered at the store near you. As a side note, other craft stores offer classes as well, but they are much more expensive.
Barnes & Noble stores host FREE children’s story times in their children’s department. Often, these may be accompanied by costumed characters, an opportunity to meet the author, or a coordinating craft. Local stores also often hold book fair fundraisers for local community organizations, featuring activities for children. To see what’s going on at your local Barnes & Noble, look up your zip code in the link below.
Williams-Sonoma offers FREE cooking classes for children, most appropriate for ages 9-13, though some open to children as young as 5. Classes are offered every Saturday. Kids will learn to prepare everything from main courses to desserts and snacks, with plenty of tasting. Class time varies by store location. Check out the weekly course offered below, and contact your local store for times and to register, as class sizes are limited.
Pottery Barn Kids
Pottery Barn Kids offers a range of FREE events and activities for children in stores. From holiday celebrations and crafts to Junior Design Camp and weekly story time at Book Club, check the link below for details and to find the specific times at your local store.
Bass Pro Shop offers a wide range of FREE entertainment for the whole family. During the summer months, they host a Family Summer Camp across all stores with activities every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday beginning in June. Activities include workshops in fishing, archery, water safety, free crafts, and more. Year-round events are store specific, so check your closest store for kid-friendly events at the link below.
Check out these locations in your town for more free (or affordable) fun for your munchkins.
Other than one time to cram for the CFA exam, I had not been to a public library since I was a child myself. We now our weekly regulars at ours. They offer story times for different age groups, family playgroups, crafts, creative writing sessions, Music Together sing alongs, and more. Many also offer the ability to sign up for and check out family passes or discounted admissions to local zoos, museums and theme parks. Google or Faceboook friend your local library – they have so much to offer you and your kids beyond the books.
Local or Regional Zoo
Many local zoos offer enrichment classes with pre-registration for preschoolers. They are often free with admission or with a small additional fee. Zoos also often offer free admission days for various organizations, local towns, or in the late afternoon. These days often coincide with school holidays, during the summer months and on weekends. Our regional zoo offers annual memberships for individuals for as low as $50 a year. Since both my kids are still 3 and under, they still get in free, so I only need an individual membership still at this point. We go all the time, so the membership has paid for itself many times over.
Like local zoos, many museums offer free admission in late afternoons. Some also sponsor playgroups and other activities for small children, so be sure to explore the museums in your area.
Local Public Board of Education
Give your local school district a call – many offer resources to families in their districts that begin well before your child enters kindergarten. Whether it is for early intervention, or community playgroups, these resources are available to you as a tax payer.
If you are a Connecticut resident, check out the State Department of Education website to see if a Family Resource Center is offered at a public school near you. We participated in a weekly playgroup offered by our local elementary school with Big M for more than two years at minimal cost. Scholarship is also available to those who qualify. The playgroups are hosted in a fully stocked classroom at the elementary school and facilitated by certified teachers. Each week features a craft, play dough center, free play, and circle time. I made some great friends at these groups… and so did Big M!
While this list is certainly far from exhaustive, hopefully it gives you a few new ideas to check out with your family… that also will be easy on your wallet! Did we miss a nationwide retailer you frequent for free entertainment? Tell us!