“Look Mommy it’s the Eiffel Tower,” my almost 3 year old screamed from the third row of our suburban. We were on our way to Goddard preschool at 8:30 in the morning. What she saw was a TV tower or maybe a cell tower. But clearly we could have saved ourselves the 9-hour flight (and tears from both me and my husband) to Paris last summer. My daughter’s idea of something spectacular is much simpler than mine.
This realization hit me a few days later as she was having a meltdown about leaving the library. After an hour of picking out free DVDs and almost a dozen books, I was ready for a change of scenery. Willa clearly was not. As I strapped the baby into his car seat, she climbed inside the reading barn and refused to leave.
As a new stay at home mom, I tend to overdue our outings. I can’t help it. After 15 years in news and marketing, I don’t really have an “off” switch. I’m determined to nail this job—give it 110% like everything else I do. So I spend a handful of hours on Pinterest, order countless art supplies on Amazon and research different kid-friendly locations to create the picture-perfect outing. And, I get it wrong about 50% of the time. (Our Pinterest fairy garden consists of one, half-painted rock.)
The truth is, kids see things differently than adults. They don’t need the best—they just need something to get their brain hopping. A trip to the Giant Eagle Bakery is just as exciting as eating beignets street-side in Paris. So I’ve scaled back on our outings. It doesn’t mean I’m not giving it my all, it does mean that I’m adapting for my kids. Here are a few $10 or less outings that my 4.5, 3 and 10 week old find quite delightful:
1. Visit a bakery and let them pick one thing. No rushing allowed.
2. Have a scavenger hunt in your backyard (or inside if it’s raining).
3. Let them pick a movie at the library and have a popcorn picnic at home.
4. Bake something quick and easy like crescent roll pizzas or a Jell-O pudding pie.
5. Give them $3 to spend at the Target dollar bin section.
6. Play dress up like mom or dad and let them pick clothes from your closet.
7. Take a soccer ball to a field and let them kick goals.
8. Check out the nature center closest to your home.
9. Give them their own bags to pick out veggies at the farmer’s market.
10. Create an obstacle course inside or out and give them paper medals.
Need some more ideas? One of my favorite resources is the Town Planner Calendar (www.townplanner.com) for my community. They have countless events, sometimes every day, and many of them are free.
And most importantly, the outings are close to home should your kids—or you—have a meltdown.