In these waning days of summer you may be desperately searching for something to entertain the kids. They may be tired of the pool, the family vacation was a month ago, they’ve exhausted all their toys and games (and those of their friends), and it’s just too hot to go outside or hit the local playground. Boredom has set in and you’re looking for some free activities to keep them busy until school starts.
Many people don’t realize that many national chain stores offer free or deeply discounted events for kids. Most of these are offered year round, not just through the summer, so if boredom strikes over Christmas vacation, many of these will be available even then.
Barnes and Noble: The book superstore offers an ever changing calendar of events for adults and kids. Most offer story hours for various age groups, themed book clubs like American Girl or Magic Tree House, events with authors of children’s books, puppet shows, and general interest book clubs.
Home Depot / Lowes: These home improvement retailers offer project classes for kids, usually on the weekends. Kids may get to build a small project like a birdhouse or start a small container garden. Supplies and instruction are usually provided free of charge.
Whole Foods: The grocer offers story times with healthy snacks, cooking and nutritional classes for kids, and themed events such as back to school events or Earth Day activities.
Craft Stores: Michaels, Hobby Lobby, Jo-Ann’s, and AC Moore all offer free craft classes for kids. Kids get to make simple projects like keychains, cards, bead jewelry, clay models, or paintings. Look for holiday themed classes, as well.
Bass Pro Shops: The outdoor outfitter has many opportunities for kids. Recent events at my local store included feeding the fish in the big tank while getting a lesson about the different types of fish, a behind the scenes store tour, and an appearance by a local race car driver. Many of their fishing and sporting classes are appropriate for older kids, as well.
Disney Store: The Disney Stores offer story times, craft classes, how to draw classes, and other events themed to forthcoming movie and DVD releases.
Pottery Barn Kids: These stores offer story times, reading challenges, tea parties, and themed events such as Star Wars, National Geographic, Lego, or other special activities.
Apple Store: Activities include using GarageBand to record a song, using iPhoto to make interesting photos and photo books, and making movies with iMovie. They also offer a more comprehensive three-day summer camp program dedicated to making movies that culminates in a film festival.
Toys R Us: The toy store sometimes offers holiday parties, events where kids can come in and play with newly released toys, themed events like Barbie or Thomas the Train, or competitions such as a Beyblade tournament or a board game competition.
While most locations participate in these programs, not all of them do. Call your local store or check their website to make sure they offer these or similar activities and to get complete scheduling information. And don’t limit your search to just national stores. Your locally owned retailers may offer special programs, as well. Independent bookstores offer story hours and independent hobby stores may offer craft classes. If you have a favorite retailer, ask what they offer or make a suggestion. Many restaurants, such as Chik-Fil-A, also offer kids nights where, along with discounted food, kids can join in activities like face painting or crafts. A quick look around your area will probably yield lots of activities for your kids.