Creating memories with children means taking them to places where you can have fun and create memories together. In the diapers and naps stage, outings are necessarily short, but when children reach the preschool years, the possibilities become endless. Consider the following guidelines before you head out and you can eliminate many of the problems that can get in the way of the good times you want to have together:
- You don't need to spend a fortune to enjoy your time together. There are many free and low-cost options available that young children will enjoy. In the listings below,
$ denotes free or low cost
$$ denotes moderate cost
$$$ means that you may need to budget for this activity in advance
- Preplanning is essential for any outing, even the shortest, so you can conveniently meet needs for toileting, eating, thirst, and weather conditions. Carry water and snacks wherever you go and find out where restrooms are ahead of time or as soon as you arrive at your destination.
- Remember that being in a new environment is highly stimulating, and young children are apt to tune you out as their eyes bounce from one new thing to the next. Be extra vigilant for their safety in crowds, while crossing streets and parking lots, and when looking at machinery or exhibits.
If this is an activity that you enjoy, so will your children. Be sure to include them in the campsite chores and end the day with the fun of singing around a campfire drinking steamy cocoa. If you are new to camping but would like to give it a try, contact local outdoors organizations like the Sierra Club for a safe and well-planned experience.
The only cost associated here might be stopping for a treat along the way. Check out local parks and find those with the most up-to-date equipment, as safety standards have been upgraded over the past 10 years in many states. Fast-food playgrounds are appealing to children, but if you go there, high-fat foods will become a strong temptation.
Rare is the child who will not jump at the chance to go on a picnic. Picnics mean eating with the fingers while taking in the outdoors. On the spur of the moment, try the back lawn, a local park, or pull off on a country road. Children can also help to plan the menu and pack the food, which will make it taste even better to them.
Community Events: $
Check your local newspaper for listings of special events in your community. Many of them are designed specifically for families and are free or low cost. Seasonal, multicultural, and holiday events can be found in every town, and if you mark your calendar, you will have a reminder to repeat the fun next year.
Park-District Classes and Events: $
Local park districts offer a variety of low-cost classes for children, particularly during holiday and summer vacations. Your child might learn to dance, bake treats, or create an artistic masterpiece. End with a picnic and you'll have a lovely day together.
If you have a local transit system, head off on a bus or ferry for a new adventure and a different view of your city. Check times and have the correct change available to minimize delays.
Nature Walks: $
An outing that never fails is a walk around the neighborhood, and if you make it a point, you can find something new every time. Walking together also gives you a chance to talk and share feelings and ideas and to collect interesting pieces of this and that along the way. It is also a way to model and build healthy exercise habits.
Not many children get to see where their food comes from, so a trip to a farm where you can pick produce will be interesting and exciting. Prices are generally reduced at picking farms, and you can go home and bake a treat afterward to share.
Art Galleries: $
In limited doses, many children enjoy viewing and talking about art. Some art museums even have sections designed just for children. Stick to a room or two and intersperse it with a juice break at the museum cafe. When your child begins to whine or fidget, it's time to leave.
Farmer's Markets: $
Open-air markets of fresh produce are enjoying renewed popularity across the country, and much of the produce is organic and pesticide free. Entertainment and music are often included, and you can take home something healthy to make for a snack or meal.
Local factories make fascinating destinations, and if the product is candy or ice cream, it can be like a fairy tale. Newspapers also make a good choice, as the papers spill off the presses at top speed.
Always a special outing, this one can rise in cost when goodies are included, and you may want to call ahead to check prices. Matinees offer substantial savings if your schedule permits, but snack prices are not usually reduced. Special caution should be exercised when selecting a film, being careful not to cave in to pressure from your child to see an inappropriate film that the media is pushing through targeted advertising.
Amusement Parks: $$
For children ages 5 through 8, a trip to an amusement park can be the highlight of a summer vacation. Be prepared for lots of walking, and carry water if it is a hot day. Children usually know their own limits, and some are more daredevil than others. Follow their pace and the day will go well.
Vacation Travel: $$$
Family trips require planning and budgeting, with lifelong memories as the reward. Automobile associations and travel agencies can offer you good advice on destinations and what you should take along. Preparation is half the fun, so take time to read together about what you will see and where you will go. It is wise to determine the amount of souvenir money available for the whole trip before you leave and to use this as a chance to experience budgeting and decision making.