Centsible Mom: Inexpensive ways to keep kids occupied during holiday break

2012-12-16T00:00:00Z 2013-01-03T13:45:40Z Centsible Mom: Inexpensive ways to keep kids occupied during holiday breakAngela Pittenger Angela Pittenger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

It doesn't seem possible, but it's true: The kids' winter break from school is almost here.

So, what on earth are you going to do with the kids for two weeks, especially if you're on a budget?

Spending time together is priceless, but let's face it - they're going to get bored just being at home.

I don't know about you, but in my house a bored kid makes for a crazy momma.

You don't have to spend a lot to keep the kids entertained. In fact, some of the most fun times will cost you nothing at all.

Although a snow day would be nice, we are blessed with warmer winter temps, so why not go outside? It doesn't cost anything to go to a neighborhood park. Explore different ones around town.

If you're tired of the park, there are always places like Mount Lemmon or Sabino Canyon. Or hike a trail you've never seen. Pack a lunch and make a day of it. You'll feel like you're out of town without breaking the bank.

If you are at home, sidewalk chalk is cheap and provides hours of fun. You can get a bucket of it for a few dollars. Or make play dough using flour and water.

Give them paper, scissors, glue and anything else you find around the house and let them go to town. Best part of this is - it's free.

And who knows, maybe you'll end up with something cool to hang up or give to Grandma or Dad for Christmas.

Here are some other cheap, fun things to do with the little munchkins to keep them from going stir crazy and you from going ... well, crazy.

21 free and cheap things to do with the kids

Out and about

• Go to the library. It's always free. There are even fun classes, stay and play, games, movies, music and teen events. Go to www.library.pima.gov for a schedule.

• Winter Wildlife Month at the International Wildlife Museum, 4800 W. Gates Pass Road. Kids can do crafts and go on scavenger hunts from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. each weekend through Dec. 31. They are closed on Christmas day. The cost is $8 for adults; $6 for seniors and military; $3 for kids ages 4 to 12; and free for kids 3 and under.

• Trail Dust Town, 6541 E. Tanque Verde Road. There's a train, carousel and Ferris wheel for the kids, plus they can check out the western town. The carousel and Ferris wheel are $2 to ride. The train is $3 for adults and $2 for children. "Santa's Little Outlaw's" stunt show is at 7 and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and at 6, 7 and 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday through December 31. No show on Christmas. The show costs $4 for adults; $2 for kids age 4-11.

• Exploring Sky Islands at Flandrau Science Center, 1601 E. University Blvd. Learn about the geology, biology and ecology of our region through interactive exhibits. 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Monday through Friday; 6-9 p.m. Thursday through Friday; 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. Saturday and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Cost is $7.50 for adults and $5 for kids ages 4 to 15.

• Story time at Bookmans, 1930 E. Grant Road, is free and includes crafts, snacks and juice. 10 a.m. Fridays.

• Fireside S'mores at Lowes Ventana Canyon Resort, 7000 N. Resort Drive is $5 per person and allows the family to enjoy s'mores and hot chocolate by the fire. 7 p.m. Saturdays through Dec. 29.

• Egg Nog Jog, New Year's Day 5k, 8568 N. Continental Reserve Loop, Marana. Egg nog and prizes at the end of the race. Participants get a T-shirt. 9 a.m.-noon Jan. 1. $10 in advance; $15 day of event.

• Strike it Rich, Panning for Garnets at Sabino Canyon, 5700 N. Sabino Canyon Road. 10:30 a.m.-3:15 p.m. Wednesdays. $5 parking and $8 shuttle ride to location.

• Junior Ranger Wilderness Day Camp at Saguaro National Park West, 2700 N. Kinney Road. Three day programs for kids 10 to 14. Kids do all kinds of fun stuff like hiking, exploring, map and compass reading, pitch a tent, and exploring caves and burrows. Hours are 10:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 11:30 a.m. - 9:30 p.m. Saturday. $35 per person. Dec. 27-29. Reservations required. Call 733-5157.

• Early Bird movie specials at Park Place and El Con movie theaters are $6.

• $1.50 movies on Tuesdays at Century Gateway at 770 N. Kolb Road.

• Skate Country, 7980 E. 22nd St., has $1 night from 6-8 p.m. Mondays. Skate rentals are $3.

• Bedroxx Bowling, 4385 W. Ina Road has Family of Four Night Out on Mondays, which includes two games of bowling per person, four shoe rentals, one 12" one topping pizza and $2 in arcade play, all for $20.

• Tucson Museum of Art, 140 N. Main Ave. It's $10 for adults, but free for kids 18 and under.

Close to home

• Baking. For under $10, the whole family can bake together. Baked goods make great inexpensive Christmas gifts for teachers or coworkers as well.

• Arts and crafts. Get wood frames or boxes at Michael's for $1 and a few colors of paint for the same price. Throw in things found around the house and let them be creative.

• Board games. Pick a classic game, pop some popcorn and play. Some of the classics are available for under $10 at Walmart and Target if you don't already have one.

• Look at Christmas lights. Pick a neighborhood nearby to save on gas.

• Tag, hide-and-seek, kick the can, Frisbee and catch keep my son entertained forever and they're all free.

• Have a scavenger or treasure hunt. Buy fun finds at the dollar store and hide them. Make a treasure map using construction paper and markers.

• Living room forts with blankets, sheets and pillows are free.

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