Saturday, July 21, 2012

Family Fun with Preschoolers

We had a great Saturday packed with family fun. Lazy Saturdays, when we just lay around the house and play with toys are fun too, but I enjoy doing more active things outside the house too, and generally try to get at least one such activity into each weekend. So it's in light of that that I bring you this list of things to do for families with preschoolers (i.e. for whom movies, go-karts, and other big-kid attractions aren't good options) designed for those days when you're thinking, "We really need to get out and DO something!" 

Farmer's Market
That was this morning's stroke of genius. It's been ages since we've been to a farmer's market, and the first time the girls have been to Nashville's big Farmer's Market. Saturday is usually our grocery day, so instead we decided to start our meal planning with the fresh, local stuff, and build from there. It was great for the kids because it was stroller-friendly, there was plenty to look at, and it promotes healthy habits. Even though we went to the pool this afternoon, Kate said the "fruit market" was her favorite part of the day. Find a farmer's market near you with

One of my goals when we moved back to Nashville was to make use of our public library system more. And we definitely have! We have a branch just a couple miles from our house, and it fits my love for "free" perfectly. Most any book I want to read, I can request and have it waiting for me, and while we're there picking it up, Kate can pick out a few books for herself, and do some puzzles and play on the playground too! The library is a great place to go spend time as a family.

If you have a zoo in your town (or even within an hour or so—we joined the Nashville Zoo when we still lived in Clarksville) I highly recommend becoming members of it. Memberships typically pay for themselves in only about three visits. It's so freeing to not feel like you have to "get your money's worth" on the entry fee each time you go. If we only go for an hour or two, it's still fun and we don't feel we've wasted any money by leaving whenever we get tired!
Mommy and giraffe-print Claire with the zoo's new baby giraffe in the background.
Pet Store 
AKA the "poor man's zoo," pet stores are great diversions for kids, with bunnies, hamsters, fish, birds, and maybe even puppies and kittens on display. There's so much to look at in a confined, air conditioned space, and I've never seen a manager get upset at people coming just to browse, not buy.

One of the big draws for our house, when we bought it, was that the neighborhood pool is just out the back door. It's one of the best things to do during the summer since it's right there and it's free! If you have a pool in your backyard or neighborhood, this one is quite the "duh!" entry on the list, but if you don't, chances are there is a public pool near you, or a YMCA. Not free then, but still one of the best ways to have fun with little kids.

I love doing little crafty projects with Kate, and there are a gazillion ideas out there on Pinterest and elsewhere. Last weekend, I was about to throw out a styrofoam egg carton, and instead cut it into three strips (it was a carton of 18) so we could make caterpillars by painting each hump and sticking some popsicle sticks in for antennae (pipe cleaners would have been better, but you use what you have—it should be easy and low-key). We folded one strip in half and painted it green to be an alligator, with popsicle sticks for the eyes. The base of a bunch of celery also makes a great stamp, as it looks like a rose!

Ice Cream
Another "duh," but stopping for ice cream (actually, fro-yo at Sweet CeCe's) is one of Matt and Kate's favorite Daddy-Daughter Dates on the way home from school some days. And I love suggesting a spur-of-the-moment ice cream run after dinner some summer nights. Feels like vacation at home!

Local Events
Do you pick up those free family magazines that are available in your doctor's office or grocery store entryway? I love them, and it's not so much for the articles. The calendar of events in those magazines is the perfect guide to fun events in your area that you might not hear about any other way. And, the best place to find a complete list of consignment sales each September and March! (If you happen to live in Nashville, BlondeMomBlog posted a list of specifically-Nashville things to do this past week. Check it out!)

Writing Cards
When we're grocery shopping, I let Kate pick out a few of the 50-cent note cards on the bottom row of the greeting card section, and together we write notes and draw pictures for people in her life, like her teacher at school, the nursery worker at church, and her grandparents. I try to get her in on the correspondence with our Compassion and World Vision sponsored kids too (though I admit even I am not as good about writing as I should be!) Sending cards to loved ones is a fun activity that, at the same time, teaches concern for others and delights other people. It's also a lesson in the art of "snail mail," which feels amusingly archaic when explaining to a child!

Indoor Play Places
Most of the "bouncy places" and other indoor activity centers I've found have been through Groupon. Snap those deals up to try different places and find your favorite. It's nice to have a place to go on a rainy Labor Day, like we did last year, and to get out energy during the winter when you can't play much outside. Monkey Joe's is my favorite in Nashville, since they have lots of seating for the parents and other amenities like massaging chairs and internet access. My dream is to find a place like this with a Starbucks inside. Fast food restaurants with play places, like McDonald's and Chik-fil-A are good diversions too, but generally a lot smaller and messier.

What are some of your favorite things to do with the little kids in your life?


Kristen P said...

Great list. I disagree with the Pet Store one, especially when it comes to puppies and kittens since over 99% of all pet store puppies come from Puppy Mills and so I decided I had to stop even enterting the stores. plus I've had pet store employees actually guilt me for not taking a pet out to play by saying "but she hasn't been out of her cage in 3 days," trying to urge me to play with and then buy it. As if it's my fault that pet stores create such terrible conditions for these animals. Not that not going to the pet store will necessarily stop the puppy mills, but it's the only thing I can really do in protest, so I do. I was glad when the pet store in my local mall went out of business because the dogs there just looked so miserable and it was depressing to walk by it.

Jessica Miller Kelley said...

Good point, Kristen. I remember the yucky mall pet store in our local mall when I was growing up. The locally-owned chain in Louisville we've taken the kids to hosts rescue groups, so the dogs and cats don't actually live at the store. The humane society/Shamrock Foundation people bring them in in hopes that people will adopt them.

Kristen P said...

Oh, that's very nice then. I suppose I just need to steer clear of pet stores in general until I live in a place that actually allows pets! I want them all :-)

Domestic Sweetheart said...

I heart your blog! I'm hosting a giveaway for Panera Bread...thought you might be interested :)

P.S. I'm a new GFC follower :)

Julie said...

One thing we like to do in the summer is go to splash pads. My kids aren't great in the pool yet and I have four. It's impossible to hold them all...splash pads are a nice alternative and they're often free.

Lil Light O Mine said...

such fun ideas!

Blue-Eyed Bride said...

these are great ideas! my boys would LOVE some of these. thanks for linking up with us today!

Jennifer said...

love these fantastic ideas!! I always need inspiration! Thanks for linking up and for sharing.


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