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Five Ways to Entertain Your Kids for Under $5.00

In Myrtle Beach at Sea Captain's House

“If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them, and half as much money.” – Abigail Van Buren.

Entertainment is an essential part of parenting. Indeed, occupying your kids free time is a constant struggle. That's why the Academy of Pediatrics came out with its screen time guidelines. It's tempting to use television as a babysitter because parents don't know what else to do. Sure there are stories to read, but I haven't met a mom who wants to read "The Cat in the Hat" for 8 hours straight. 

If that mom is reading this blog, let me know. You are a saint and deserve to be celebrated! If you are a regular mom like me, you may need a little help...

Us regular moms need help entertaining our kids, especially those who work full time. As an attorney I spend every work week trying to help people solve problems--researching solutions, talking on the phone, and giving presentations. On the weekends, the last thing I want to do is have to think to much or exert too much energy entertaining my kids.

After Summer Vacation, You May Need to Entertain Your Kids On a Budget

I'm sure many can judge me for that statement. Know that I judge myself. Still, the reality remains that I need a packaged entertainment solution.

Playing at the Children's Museum
In the past two weeks we have been on a vacation to Myrtle Beach and traveled to Sandusky, Ohio and spent the weekend at Cedar Point Parks as part of a conference. So, my kids have had predictable, built-in education. I mean it's not hard to find ways to entertain them when you have the ocean, a large beach, and an amusement park with the most roller coasters in the country in your "backyard". Now that we are back home for the remainder of the year and are on a tighter budget because of our excursions, I am in pursuit of other, less expensive entertainment options. 

I figure that other working moms have transitioned from vacation mode to saving for the holidays as well and would appreciate some tips about how to entertain their kids on a budget. So, I am sharing what I have discovered. 

Well, my prayers have been answered. And yours have too.

Five Ways to Entertain Your Kids for Under $5.00

  1. Playgrounds: Playgrounds are an underutilized community resource. They are free, allow the kids to get exercise and to learn negotiation skills. If you're looking for something to do on a nice day, get out there and play! (For information about Pittsburgh Parks, visit Pittsburgh Citiparks.) 
  2. Children's Museums: We've practically lived at the Pittsburgh Children's Museum since my oldest child was born. The membership fee is $135/year for a family of 5. If you visit once a month it winds up being $2.25/person. It more than pays for itself. 
  3. Libraries: Libraries are absolutely free! In Pittsburgh, we are fortunate to have the Carnegie Libraries, which were started by Andrew Carnegie. They have computers there, toys, and of course books. They also have free tutoring and educational programs. My kids beg to visit the library, which  is great because it's free! (You can also get videos there and plan a family movie night!)
  4. Fast Food Restaurants: If you are an exclusive organic food eater, don't judge me, but I think that McDonald's is sometimes the answer to the prayers of families on a budget. Working moms, you can make a weekend special by planning a movie night (compliments of the library) that includes a special dessert that will cost you about $1.00/serving. Take your kids with you to pick it up and all of a sudden they had a fun outing too. (Also, review the nutrition content of the cone, sundae, apple pie, and fruit parfait. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised!) Other restaurants have good deals too, I'm just partial to McDonald's. It's probably because I can walk to one from my house! 
  5.  Explore Your City Like a Tourist: Walking around your city can be a great way to get exercise, educate your kids about your community, and experience some culture. Not all cities have free museums like the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. Still, I imagine you'll be pleasantly surprised if you contact your city's visitor's bureau to get information about a walking tour. You'll likely find inexpensive places to grab snack or lunch too! 
BONUS: If you are in Pittsburgh, there is free transportation from the Northside to Downtown on the "T". If you have a son who is obsessed with trains like mine is, take a ride. I promise you he'll think he's riding on Thomas the Tank Engine! 

Additional Budget Entertainment Ideas

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