Saturday, April 17, 2010

Brainstorming for a Sunny Tornado: Free and Cheap Activities with Kids in DC

I have heard it said that you never feel prepared enough for parenthood.

A friend nicknamed my son "Sunny T", short for "Sunny Tornado", after observing the enthusiasm and speed with which he can turn a room topsy-turvy. Sunny T earned his title, in part, by systematically removing the contents of every drawer in our bedroom. While surveying the wreckage, I uncovered a scrap of paper tucked inside a parenting book on the floor near my bedside table. Scrawled on the paper was a handwritten list of free and cheap things to do with kids in DC that I began during my first trimester, after the reality of raising a family on a shoestring budget dawned. I added to the list periodically over the next six months, ultimately fostering this blog. As an artist and teacher, I was in the practice of conceptualizing projects or lessons through brainstorming, generating ideas to inspire the process. And new parents can't help but plan ahead, visualizing what life will be like with a child. It seemed like kismet that I should rediscover this list now, almost two years after it originated. What I hoped for then is now reality; we are making fun discoveries and learning and doing new things as a DC family while living economically. Every day I find affirmation that it is possible to be enriched more by collecting experiences than possessions.

I decided to share this in hopes that it will help others who want the same for themselves and their families. It's more than a simple list, it's encouragement. Please add your suggestions for free and cheap activities with kids in DC in the comment box below, and share the love!
  1. pack a picnic
  2. explore a playground
  3. hike at state and national parks
  4. become a Junior Park Ranger
  5. go geocaching
  6. observe the stars at the planetarium
  7. conduct home science experiments like baking soda volcanoes
  8. discover different toys and activities at interactive museums, playrooms and rec centers
  9. play with the train table at Barnes and Noble
  10. cultivate imaginary play and games
  11. dress-up in costumes fashioned from old clothes
  12. build a "fort" in the living room with blankets and sofa cushions
  13. ride a carousel
  14. fly a kite, kick a ball, or throw a Frisbee on the National Mall
  15. walk, skate or bicycle on a paved trail
  16. stroll through the city on a self-guided walking tour
  17. exercise on an obstacle course
  18. splash around in a DC Department of Parks and Recreation pool
  19. cool off in a public fountain
  20. enjoy a cool drink on an outdoor patio
  21. scarf ice cream at a parlor or a baked treat at a bakery
  22. share a bite of a local specialty at a neighborhood eatery, like Ben's Chili Bowl on U Street, NW
  23. host a potluck dinner for neighbors
  24. meet new kids and parents at Kiddie Happy Hours
  25. bring lunch to Daddy at work
  26. visit family and friends
  27. research family genealogy at the National Archives
  28. make a scrapbook or photo album
  29. call someone we miss on the phone
  30. volunteer and participate in fund-raisers
  31. register for classes or activities through DPR
  32. join a playgroup or team
  33. watch a local sports event
  34. have a pillow fight at a slumber party
  35. cuddle up and take a nap
  36. read and have "floor time" every day
  37. borrow lots of books, DVDs and CDs from the library
  38. attend story time at library or bookstore
  39. browse the children's items at used book stores and consignment shops
  40. write letters, poems and stories
  41. tell a joke or story
  42. submit artwork or writing for publication
  43. view contemporary art at gallery openings on First Fridays in Dupont Circle
  44. tour museums & attend family events
  45. re-purpose old picture frames to create a home gallery of children's art
  46. learn to home-make toys, clothes and holiday decorations
  47. take pictures with digital and toy cameras
  48. play online computer games and puzzles
  49. create outdoor art and games with sidewalk chalk
  50. collect found objects like stamps or coins
  51. make crafts from recycled or natural materials
  52. give homemade cards and gifts
  53. blow wishes on dandelions, fountain pennies and four leaf clovers
  54. draw and photograph the flora and fauna at a garden
  55. grow a windowsill garden or community garden plot
  56. watch birds with the Audubon Society
  57. learn about animals at the zoo and aquarium
  58. visit the horses at the Rock Creek Park Horse Center
  59. observe little critters at the pet store
  60. watch dogs chase balls at the dog park
  61. tour historic homes and monuments
  62. shop farmers markets
  63. dine at restaurants where kids eat free
  64. attend Mommy and Me events at Whole Foods Market
  65. taste free food samples at Harris Teeter
  66. ride in a rocket-ship shaped grocery cart
  67. cook, bake and eat together
  68. play a musical instrument and sing in a home-style jamboree
  69. dance to a live musician outdoors or at a coffee shop
  70. see a puppet show, play or dance performance
  71. be entertained and informed by public radio or television programs and podcasts
  72. see a cheap matinee movie or a free film at Screen on the Green
  73. putt a hole-in-one at the Hains Point miniature golf range
  74. take a short boat cruise on the Potomac
  75. rent a paddle boat or canoe
  76. cheer dragon boats and crew teams racing by the Georgetown waterfront
  77. see firetrucks up close at the local fire station
  78. appreciate flash art at a tattoo parlor, then get a temporary tattoo
  79. watch workers and construction vehicles at building sites
  80. study the architecture of unique homes, churches and museums
  81. search the grounds of the National Cathedral for gargoyles
  82. build towers of giant Legos at the National Building Museum
  83. walk under the Friendship Arch with a friend in Chinatown
  84. window shop at Gallery Place or in Georgetown
  85. ramble along neighborhood street festivals
  86. meander around a labyrinth
  87. watch a parade
  88. participate in a march to the Capitol
  89. request tickets to tour the White House
  90. ride an elevator to the top of the Washington Monument
  91. watch planes take off from Reagan National Airport at Dangerfield Island
  92. see the DC skyline from the observation deck at the Old Post Office tower
  93. see a free trade show at the Convention Center
  94. support women's flat track roller derby at the DC Armory
  95. take the Metro bus or train to explore another part of town
  96. take a day trip
  97. plan a staycation
  98. trick-or-treat or see holiday lights at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park
  99. ice skate at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden
  100. enter lottery for the annual White House Easter Egg Hunt

No comments:

Post a Comment


Copyright 2009 Kristen Morse All Rights Reserved