By: Kris Berry
For the month of January I have put myself on a spending moratorium. I do this most Januaries, it is my way of kicking of the year on a positive note and recover from any indulgent spending that might have happened in December. This means I am not allowed to spend money on anything other than groceries. No clothing, no impromptu trips to the craft store, not even coffee at Dunkin Donuts. Only trips to Shaw’s and BJ’s count. So of course that also means I can’t spend money bringing the children to indoor play places. Could I have picked a worse time of the year to limit my options on indoor activities with the children? I don’t think so.
But, because I’m frugal, I’m always up for a challenge. We’ve spent hours in our local library, attending their music classes as well as just going to hang out, read books, and play with their toys. While it’s always fun there, I like to add variety to our days. Enter IKEA. Holy cow, this place is amazing. My boys have been to their play area a few times and they love it, especially the ball pit. I only discovered it this fall (where was I?). As long as your child meets the height requirement and is potty trained you can drop them off and go explore the store. The time you can leave them varies depending on the amount of children they have in the area. It can range from 45-90 minutes. It’s free to play and they offer a “Ladybug Card” where, after your 10th time attending, they give your child an ice cream treat. Yes, you read that right. Free play and then a free treat if you go there enough! That’s a win in my book!
My daughter isn’t old enough to be left there so she and I walk around the showroom while the boys are playing. She loves it because she can play with all the toys in the children’s rooms as well as explore all the “houses.” And, truthfully, we have been there once where the play area was packed because of school vacation and my boys were just as happy to walk around the store and explore.
IKEA also has a café where you can grab a quick (and cheap) lunch. There’s a small area with child-sized chairs and tables and sometimes they have a movie playing. The lunches are very inexpensive and they offer nutritious options. My favorite is their salmon plate. Often I’ve seen advertisements for free children’s meals, or free breakfasts, and you do not need to purchase an adult meal to get them for free.
There are a few other options out there for very inexpensive places to play. The South Shore Plaza has a small play area in their food court which is fun. My library offers passes to many local museums. I like to pick up the pass for 50% off at the Easton Children’s Museum, my kids love it there. And of course, fresh air is the best! On days that aren’t extremely bitter or blizzardy, I will bundle them up and head to a playground or just play in our yard. I try to get them out at least once a day as long as the temps are above freezing.