Cool places to play for free this summer

Cool places to play for free this summer

And places that are cheap to play at, too!

Now that summer has officially arrived and most of us in the Midwest are sweating bullets (as any native will tell you, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity!”), it’s really time to start finding creative ways to have fun with our families without getting too hot. We can play outside in the pool or sprinkler (or even the shade) for a while, but certainly not for the full day. So what do we do?

Here are some creative, free and cheap places that you can use to play at this summer.

The grocery store. You think I’m joking, right? The last place you want to drag a bunch of hot and cranky children is the store, where they will beg for everything in sight! But you know what? We keep running into friends at the store and our kids play so well and have such a good time while we chat. If it’s not crowded, they might race up and down an aisle; they might play pretend with loose toys (like stuffed animals) or “detective” to find certain items in the store. It’s cool, free and fun.

Local field trips. Head over to the hardware store and introduce your child to every tool available, or go to the movie store and interview a worker. Go to a restaurant just for dessert and water (share if you want!) and play tic tac toe with the waiter/waitress every time he or she returns to the table. (Be sure to tip!) Tour the library, the local historical society and the recreation center. See who offers free tours. Really get to know your town while keeping cool at the same time.

Volunteer centers. There are lots of indoor volunteer opportunities in many communities. Maybe the senior center could use help with mailing materials and stuffing envelopes, or a local hospice could use a typist. Assisted living facilities could always use a reader of stories or a painter of fingernails—while food pantries could usually use help sorting food. You could help people while not drowning in your own sweat—and teach your children about giving back at the same time.

Sample counters. Take a trip to the food court and try every sample—then hang out at the children’s play place! Many supermarkets host sample days as well; call yours and see when it will be, then take the kids to have a walking picnic! If you like something, why not take a bit home (or to the park after it cools off)?