In these days where I've been trying to pinch some pennies since I'm not contributing monetarily anymore to the Shaw piggybank, I've been trying to come up with some less expensive (even FREE) things to do with the kids. It's not easy in these parts where every store lures me to spend extra pennies on everything. I can't even go buy my kids a pair of shoes without spending an extra $3.00 on the mechanical horsy that plays horrendous music and shakes Hannah around while I'm trying to get her to choose a pair of shoes that is not to tight on her "high-instep" (aka "chubby") foot. And no, it's not $3.00 for the ride on the horsy but they strategically have the ride only last 30 seconds so that by the time she's satisfied, I've spent $3.00.

I love getting out and finding different stuff to do with the kids but since Luke's attention span and awake time is minimal, it's often not worth spending any money on an activity. Even the farm near our house is a $10 outing and when his favorite attraction at the farm is a duck, which I could find at any local pond, the money could better be spent elsewhere. And although the playground seems like it would be a free outing, with the ice cream truck somehow ALWAYS arriving minutes after we do, it's another $6.00 dinner-ruining experience. The moms at my local playground have often joked that we should pay off the ice cream truck to stop coming, so that we could actually all go to the playground to PLAY and burn energy, not sit on a bench and eat a Dora ice cream pop. The kicker for us is that Hannah is allergic to the ice cream sold at the truck so her snack of choice is a bag of pretzels. Not sure what the creepy ice cream man puts in his pretzels to make them so much more appealing than the ones I carry in my purse.

So, I've been working on coming up with free activities. Activities that don't require a trip to Michaels where I spend a fortune on art supplies that look much better in their plastic wrap and that turn into much more impressive pieces of art in my head than in reality. Activities that I can utilize what I already own... here in my own house. Here's what I've come up with (some have been more successful than others):

- Play diner. Hannah likes to be the hostess, chef, waitress and cashier in this one and I am just the customer. She uses a little notepad to take orders, her play kitchen to cook and prepare food and her play cash register to charge usually $2.0o for a meal. I often like to be a belligerent customer to really push her buttons.

- Play beauty spa (works best with a daughter I suppose). I get a little head rub, back massage and makeup application out of this one.

- Play the silent game. I like this on those particularly noisy days where I can use some quiet... Hannah thinks it's funny to see who can be quiet longest. I pretend to have a really hard time keeping my mouth shut to make the game last longer.

- Play "Let's see who can be the best rock". It's a different version of the silent game if your child doesn't like to be told to be silent. I actually haven't tried this one yet but it's in my back pocket for other I'm-in-need-of-quiet days.

- Lay on a blanket outside and watch the clouds. This unfortunately is something I really like to do, but Hannah was pretty tired of it after the first cloud looked NOTHING like the puppy dog I insisted it did.

- Visit a local church and pretend it's a princess castle. I haven't done this one yet but there is a local church with a fantastically tall steeple and whenever we drive by, Hannah oohs and ahs about it and wonders which princess must live there. I think I could probably convince some friend of mine to dress as Cinderella and hang out outside the church for our benefit. I haven't told her it's a church yet because since we're Jewish and there is certainly no synagog as impressive as this church, I don't want to disappoint her. The castle idea is definitely the way to go.

- USE your empty cardboard boxes. Ours have become houses, cars, trains, jails, cages, and beds. A little white trashy but entertainment for all ages. I've told Hannah to "pretend" to be a cat and "pretend" to go to sleep in the box and she actually laid in there purring with her eyes closed for 30 minutes or so.

So, there you go! A few ways to save a few bucks and feel like a "good' mom doing it. Who needs the carnivals with the $4.00 snow cones or the "free" storytimes at your local retailers who lure you into spending $100's once they have you? Not me!


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