*I promise that nothing totally exhausting, expensive, or overly complicated will ever be featured on a Frantic Mama list. (For example, yes, children's museums are grand; they are also expensive, often far away, and exhausting for the parent. Ditto for the zoo. And yes, parks are wonderful, but they are often a whole lot of work for a tired mother).
I have compiled a list of ideas for stay-at-home parents to try this summer [to prevent us from going completely insane]. This list is geared towards the under 5 set. None are particularly ground-breaking, but they are ideas that I actually do and that you can too! Please Comment with your own ideas too.
1. Check out the summer programs at your local community center. In Minnesota, there are lots of community centers in various neighborhoods, and many offer low-priced camps, activities, classes. They are usually for ages 3 and up, but sometimes you can find ones of the younger kids that require parent-participation (though such classes are much realistic if you only have one child).
2. The YMCA offers some sports, like soccer and t-ball, for ages 3-5. They aren't very expensive, and if you are lucky, there's one close to your house. You do not have to be members to sign up for a sport or class. My son has had a terrific time with the soccer program there, with just a few other kids in the class. it isn't competitive, overwhelming, or exhausting. (Well, I have to spend the entire time chasing my 1 year old around the YMCA while my son plays soccer, but both kids enjoy going there once a week, so I suck it up and off we go!).
3. Music Classes. Yes, this one can get a little pricier, depending on the class you sign up for. Music Together is a national program, but there might be smaller ones in your area, like there are in mine (McPhail in Minneapolis, for example). Sometimes you can find one at a local church. My friends and I found a music therapist last summer who does 30 minute classes; she came to our homes every other Friday for a short little music class. It wasn't super cheap, but it was a really fun way to spend a Friday morning with friends without having to chase the kids around the park in a sweat all morning.
4. Library. I am a fan of taking the kids to a local (free!) library and letting them loose in the children's area. Needless to say, it is much easier to keep track of your kids if you only have one, but still worth the effort if you have a growing brood.
Them: "Entertain us."
Now for a few simple ideas you can do in the ease of your own home and yard:
4. Sidewalk Chalk. If you haven't stocked up on chalk yet, then you must.
5. Sprinkler fun. My kids like to run around in the sprinklers in our yard, old-school style.
6. Walks. I invested in a double stroller when I had my daughter, and it gets used a lot in the summer. I find it is a way for me to get exercise, keep the kids confined for 15-20 minutes, and get some fresh air.
7. Break out the Baby pool. These are cheap at Target and both of my kids like them. My son (almost 4) puts cars in it, and my 1.5 year old likes to splash around in it. This is messier, but maybe worth it at the end of the day when you feel guilty about all the Dora your kids watched that day.
8. Sandbox. Again, a messier activity, but something where the kids might stay in one spot while you get to pull up a chair for 5-10 minutes and watch them dump sand on each other's heads.
That's about it for now. Anyone have any other ideas that fall into the not-very-expensive or overly-tiring category of children's activities?
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