7 cheap things for dads to do with their young kids

Posted by on July 8, 2006

Guys’ Night
OK. As a new dad, it took me some time to develop the skills for just hanging out with my kids. Fortunately, I developed several ways to “cheat.” I will now share them with you.

My wife wanted to go to her women’s small group at our church, which meant I was watching our boys for about three hours on Wednesday nights.

Eventually, we developed the concept of “Guys’ Night.” Guys’ Night always included going somewhere in the car. This not only takes up time, but it gives them something to look forward to.

1) Kids’ Videos
One very cool thing was our “Blockbuster Rewards” membership. It costs about $10/year and includes one free old movie every month. These are excellent for picking up Clifford the Big Red Dog, Thomas the Tank Engine, Blues’ Clues, The Land Before Time 1 – 23 or so, and other such kids’ videos. You also get a free old movie with every new release Mondays through Wednesdays. Something for you, something for them. I usually close with a big bowl of popcorn, and of course I watch the movie with them. (Occasional comforting may be necessary at the “scary parts.”)

2) Running Errands
Going to “guy” places like Home Depot or Fry’s Electronics works pretty well as an outing. Fry’s has a couple of aisles of kid stuff that you can play with for free. Home Depot has lots of cool tools and hardware – need I say more?

3) Fast Food with kids’ “play lands”
We have a nearby McDonald’s with a one of those kids’ playgrounds with tubes to climb through, etc. For the price of a Happy Meal, or even less if we’ve already had dinner and we split a milkshake, we get at least an hour of fun.

4) IKEA
They recently put in an Ikea in West Sacramento. Yeah, Ikea is a furniture store, but it has toys you can play with, a restaurant with a kids’ area, and lots of big stuff to play in and climb on. Even the carts are fun – all four wheels turn which makes them great for spinning around. They also have 99 cent frozen yogurt cones. They’re a great closer. And, the sugar-induced sleepiness is a good deal.

5) Starbucks
Well, it’s not cheap, but they have $1 kids milk. So if Dad needs a little pick-me-up, the boys love to go to Starbucks, get their milk any way they like it (cold, with ice, steamed, even chocolate if I allow it).

6) The Mall
Going to a mall is a good thing. There’s usually a children’s area, and they often have fun strollers. When one store gets boring (for them or you), you just move on. If you’re feeling like a big spender, you can go to the food court.

7) Advanced Maneuvers
When you’re feeling more comfortable, you can start mixing in more traditional things. Since I have boys, that usually means throwing balls, wrestling, running around, playing with toy trains, or legos along with less gender-specific activities like reading books. This is what’s generally considered “quality time,” but I think that any time dads spend time with their kids – even if it’s chasing them around the video store – is important.

If you read this (which is anything but assured :-)), leave your suggestions as comments!

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