Thrifty Toddler Activities

Let's get down to business, it's not easy keeping a toddler happy. Despite the fact that my house is filled to brim with toys, Lucas gets bored pretty easily. Plus, he's not really a "toy" kid. He's way more into rolling the vacuum cleaner around the kitchen or climbing into the computer chair and pressing all the buttons on the keyboard or switching our little white IKEA lamp on and off, on and off. These things will only ward off meltdowns for so long. Then it's time to venture out and get creative.

I am a thrifty mama on a serious budget, so our fun has to be low cost or (preferably) no cost. And thankfully I've found that's not so hard to do. So here are my Top Five Thrifty Toddler Activities that are making this summer magical.

1. Playing at the Parks
Park time is always a favorite activity and one that we enjoy often. With so many parks in the area we can easily play at a new park every day of the week. Heck, we could find a new park for every day of the month between Reno and Sparks. A great resource for finding new parks in your area is through your local parks and recreation department website. Explore new parks and have some good (free) fun on those nice days.

2. Wallowing in the Crick
If you live near a creek, river, pond or lake -- playing in the water is a great way to beat the heat.We are blessed enough to be a five minute drive from a nice slow moving part of the Truckee River where Lucas loves to splish splash near the shore and toss rocks into the water. 
If we're feeling especially adventurous and well rested Lake Tahoe is only an hour away and offers some splendid sand to dig in. If we want to go to Sand Harbor, however, parking is $10 a pop, so this is a once in a while treat for us unless we feel like hiking down to the beach (also lots of fun!).

3. Blazin' a Trail
Head back over to the parks and recreation site and find some trails to hike! The local parks departments usually have a nice guidebook you can pick up for free or you can look online and check out the online PDF. You can easily find flat, toddler friendly trails to hike. Most guides will show maps, distance, amenities, difficulty level and elevation increase. Lucas can't get enough outside time and this is a great way to explore nature together. Trails with ponds and ducks are always a big win. Ducks are my trump card to turn a bad day around.

4. Family Friendly Events
Check out local family friendly events going on around town. Reno and its surrounding cities have so many special events to offer, almost all of which are absolutely free. During the summer and fall months there is no shortage of great events to enjoy each month. We're currently looking forward to Hot August Nights, The Great Reno Balloon Race, and the Virginia City Camel Races.

5. All About Animals
When you need to beat the heat, air-conditioned stores are your friend. Air-conditioned stores with animals to look at, superfriends. Lucas and I frequent the big chain pet stores where he can say hello to all the animals. Adoption days at the pet store are also great since he doesn't understand these animals can actually go home with you (though its a major act of willpower on my part not to turn our home into a cat/dog sanctuary). Big sports stores like Cabelas and Scheels have great big fish tanks and taxidermy displays that keep Lucas entertained as well. 

Also, he really enjoys riding escalators. Two story shopping centers are big winners regardless of whether or not they contain critters.
 Do you have any fun thrifty activities to ward off toddler boredom?