So, you have a toddler, an energetic and bubbly toddler, and are looking for some places (any places) to take your little one without breaking the bank. Well, you’ve come to the right place. As a mom trying to stay on a budget myself, I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work with toddlers and my wallet. I’ve compiled a list of ten fun places to take your toddler.
The Aquarium. Aquariums are a great attraction for toddler audiences because they are low-key, allow for much passive entertainment, and, at least during the week, are light on aquarium goers. Most aquariums have annual membership fees that are considerably lower than the daily admission rate, so do your homework. If you plan to go often, the annual membership may be the best way to go.
- The Mall. Okay, so malls are great for shopping, yes, but they are also great community centers as well, filled, most often, with fun and inexpensive activities, events, etc. that you can attend with your toddler. To find out what major happenings are going on in your local mall, check with the mall's guest services department. Some malls also feature indoor play gyms (that are also free) for toddlers.
- The Park. More than anything else, it’s free! Plus, it’s outside and toddlers love, love, love to be outside. When looking for a toddler appropriate park, check to ensure that the equipment is age appropriate and safe for your little one. Along with being fun for your toddler, the park is also a great place for you to meet other moms. It’s truly a win/win destination.
- The Library. Libraries, like malls, are another hidden gem in communities that most parents overlook when looking for inexpensive ways to entertain their toddlers. Along with being free, and having a children’s section that is filled with books, small toys, other noisy toddlers, and stuffed animals that are fun for your toddler, most libraries also host weekly events for parents with little ones, such as story times, game nights, picnics, etc.
- The Pet Store. Yes, the pet store. Toddlers are fascinated by small animals, dogs, cats, and birds, and the pet store is a perfect place for them to see those animals up close. No need to take an animal home. For your trips to the pet store with your toddler, you are only there to look, possibly touch, and have fun!
- Petting Zoos. Check your phone book or online to see which petting zoos in your area are totally free, and get there! For many of the same reasons that toddlers love pet stores, they also love petting zoos and being up close and personal with furry friends.
- McDonalds' Playgrounds. Grab lunch and check out the fun playgrounds at McDonalds. Not only will your toddler love the nuggets but also having fun playing with and watching other children. Again, McDonald’s playgrounds are free to use, which parents love!
- Local Bookstores. Along with giving you some time to catch up on some reading, bookstores also have great children’s sections that are filled with fun seating and books that you can use for a makeshift story time. Some bookstores also have events specifically geared towards toddlers, events that are free and a lot of fun.
- The City. Just walking around your local city, the buildings, the people, the smells are all so intriguing to toddlers. Most cities are also the sites of museums and other free cultural centers that can be prove to be easy fun for your toddler.
- The Zoo. Yes. It’s free, filled with animals, and loads of fun.
The key to finding out what places are out there in your community to take your toddler for fun outings is getting out in your community and asking around. So often, great outing opportunities are missed by parents because such opportunities are not always publicly advertised. By asking around and expressing your interest in finding things to do with your toddler to other moms and dads in your community, you find tons of great things!