Last year at this time my son who was 2.5 decided that 5am was a great time to wake up, every day. That made our normally long day without dad even longer so we started filling our days with inexpensive outings. Here are the 5 that were all fun, frugal and educational. 1. The Nursery or Garden Center They are open early, have space to run, lots of plants to learn about, many have ponds of fish, and heavy lifting equipment like forklifts. All these things combined are fun to explore and learn about for zero admission fee! 2.Pet Store The fish, the reptiles, the gerbils oh my! If a whole day outing at the zoo is too daunting, time consuming or expensive try the local pet store. Trips to ours have led to many chances to learn about different kinds of fish and reptiles. 3.Home Improvement Store There is so much to see in these huge stores. Many have fun carts that look like race cars, and give the pusher a workout too ( trust me). On a quiet weekday it's a great place to explore shapes,textures in the flooring department, colors in the paint department and see machines like forklifts in action ( from a safe distance of course). 4.The Playground I know this one seems obvious but so often when we go it's empty! I have heard parents complain about it being boring if you go alone with just one child, and I can relate. To make it more fun for everyone play games. Bring something to hide, chase each other, make an obstacle course or my favorite "time" your child while they do different tasks. I don't grab a stop watch, I just count and my son counts with me as he zooms down a slide, or climbs a ladder. 5.The Library Another obvious but seriously under used option. The library is a fantastic place and even though sometimes little voices get those looks from patrons, there is no age restriction on the door so don't be bullied into leaving. The kids section is there for a reason to foster learning and a love of books, all for free! Most libraries have story times, special shows like puppet shows, crafts and programs for parents too.