- Local spray parks - These places are ideal for a family like us. If you can manage to set strict rules and consequences to keep your kids from running crazy, this can be a wonderful option. If you're not familiar with spary parks, they are usually community parks with water play options similar to this. We love these places because they keep us cool but the danger of drowning isn't as high as swimming pools.
Cost: Free, unless you're kids are in diapers (like ours) then it's the cost of swim diapers. Plus, we sometimes get ice cream from the ice cream truck ($10).
- Indoor Malls - If we need a chance to get out of the house, we sometimes check out the indoor mall play places. We waste some time driving (which can turn into nap time for some of my kids) or good fun singing and talking, then they get the chance to play on a different structure than they are used to in an air conditioned enviornment. These types of locations are great to break-up the routine a bit.
Cost: Free, except gas. We spice it up sometimes by eating a meal at the food court, but that's not necesary.
- Community Events - Around us I look for outdoor movies, popsicle giveaways, outdoor concerts, and other similar events where the kids can just run around and play or otherwise get entertained for a while. One thing I love about living in the DFW metroplex is that there are a TON of these types of events for free, they are usually very family friendly, and not too crowded so it's easier to keep an eye on all the kiddos. There is one downside to these events. Many times they are later at night around dusk so it's cooler and getting dark, so for my younger kids this can be a problem.
Cost: Free! (+ 1/2 can of bug spray...)
- Netflix Membership - We love the netflix membership. I have one kiddo who doesn't nap anymore and need something quiet to do with him while everyone else is napping. We now have a weekend ritual of watching a "netflix movie" at naptime. My son looks forward to it. We primarily watch from our Wii, which means the movies are usually older and we both get to catch-up on shows that aren't on tv anymore. As an example, his newest favorite is pink panther. LOVES it. Or, we watch other older movies. This weekend we watched part of Mac & Me (before he fell asleep) and part of Spy Kids.
Cost: about $8/mo for just online access and $9/mo with 1 movie in the mail. That's $2/wk, and we watch at least a few movies a week...well worth it.
- The Hose - Yep, the good, old-fashioned hose. We now have a 3-lane slip n' slide, a hopscotch water thing, and 3 mini-pools (I buy stuff on sale at the end of the season). We also have 5 neighborhood pools and a spray park. Nevertheless, one of our favorite things is to sit in our front yard as a family after dinner. daddy and I sit in folding chairs and the kids run around in front of us while daddy sprays them with a hose. The water lands on the grass and trees, so we're doing a little bit extra watering in the process.
Cost: The cost of the water - minimal. Cost of swim diapers. Occasionally the cost of the ice cream truck ($10).
The point is - you can find lots of free and inexpensive options to entertain your family if you're willing to think beyond the normal things society calls fun, which often also happen to cost money.