Fun, for Free (or almost free)

I wanted to do a follow-up on my previous freebie post.

I had mentioned Toys R Us in my last post. Since then, we’ve gone back a few more times for various make-and-take events.

In November, they had a Pokemon Mega Construx event. We learned from previous experience that we need to sign up for these things. Pokemon, being a MAJOR collector brand, was a HUGE draw. It was WAY crowded. We grabbed our pieces and instructions and fled. We were lucky enough to have been invited to my cousin’s baby shower the same day, so Tucker got to build his Pokeball there.

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More recently, we joined Toys R Us once again for a make-and-take event. This one was a hero-themed Lego day. Tucker had the option of four different figures:

Tucker chose to make the bat girl. Now, usually they give us a the bits and directions to make the object. This time, however, we sat ourselves at a table with a giant bin of assorted Legos. Jason and Tucker got to work using just the image above as a guide to build the bat girl figure. It was pretty fun, especially when Tucker got his superhero mask.

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Of course we are still sad about the closing of our favorite toy store.

So the Toys R Us events are free. For our final freebie (sorta), we do actually have to get a car wash.

We actually signed up for a membership to Mister Car Wash. For about $40 a month, we get unlimited car washes. We go every weekend; my car gets clean, smells great, and the boys have fun watching the cars run through the wash.

Some of the locations have these cool squirt guns for kids to “help” wash their cars.

What fun things do you do with your kids that are free (or nearly free)?

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Free For All

There are so many things out there for kids that are free, whether it’s a free story-time, or a monthly or weekly learning opportunity, it’s worth it to look into.

We had an amazing, and [mostly] free, Saturday.

Last year, I had the bright idea of signing Tucker up for Geoffrey’s Birthday Club at Toys R Us. We had already gotten a “membership” card and signed up for emails on upcoming deals for toys. The cool thing about the birthday club, however, was that Geoffrey himself would call Tucker on his birthday. So that happened last year. It was pretty cool. I played it through our car’s speaker phone, and Tucker LOVED it.

This year, we received an invitation to attend Geoffrey’s Birthday Club birthday party. Heck yeah we were going! We were given two dates to choose from, one before T’s birthday and one after. We opted for the party before his actual birthday.

Before I get too ahead of myself, I will share an even better free opportunity we had on Saturday. When I say “better,” I just mean that it’s a recurring opportunity. It happens once each month (more in the case of November).

Home Depot, in an act of marketing genius, hosts a Kids Workshop each month. Between 9 and noon on these workshop days, kids and their parents are provided with a kit. Each month is different. A bug house, a delivery truck, a pencil case, and a piggy bank are the projects we’ve been able to complete in the past 4 months.

The kit comes complete with wooden parts, each pre-cut, and a pack of whatever nails and/or screws are necessary for completing the building of the project. In some cases, children are meant to paint their projects before affixing stickers at the final stage. Other times, no paint is needed and stickers are placed strategically to finish out the craft.

First of all, how smart is Home Depot? They are helping to create lifelong patrons of their business. They are building such a positive experience for these kids to associate with their brand. T recognizes not only every HD we pass, but when a Penske truck passes, he calls that out as “a home depot truck!” We made a Penske delivery truck in August.

Second, Tucker gets to do cool building stuff with his dad (and me!) every month. He gets to don his apron, use tools that help him develop his fine motor skills, and spend quality time with us. And then he gets to take home the project, a final product of his hard work and attention. He gets a cool pin for each project completed.

This isn’t something just for little kids. I see kids who are probably 10 or even 12 years old working with these tools, following the multi-step directions, and they have an apron PACKED with pins. It’s clear this has been an activity kids love for the long haul.

These kid workshops are offered nationwide, and are usually held earlier in the month. There are two next month. They are doing a regular craft at the beginning of the month, and then at the end of the month, they are doing an ornament.

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Now, back to the birthday party.

The event wasn’t super fancy, just a few tables set up at the back of the store where they sell baby clothes. There were about 12 kids (maybe half of them were actually birthday kids, the rest were siblings of the birthday kids) ranging from a year to 9 or so.

It was a little crazy, to be honest. Kids shouting, being rambunctious, hopping all about and checking out the goods nearby. Parents were, for the most part, paying attention, helping kids with their coloring pages while we all waited for the big man, Geoffrey.

And then he came out.

A little background on Tucker’s experience with large puppets. Before this event, he’s met one other puppet in his 4.99 years of life. Orbit, the mascot for our city’s minor league baseball team. And he was, as was to be expected, quite freaked out to say the least. I was kind of expecting the same thing this time. The Orbit experience was two summers ago.

When he first saw Geoffrey (a giraffe, if you weren’t aware), his jaw dropped. But he was OK with getting a picture with him. He was a little shy at first, but relaxed pretty quickly.

The host, whose name I am sorry to say I cannot recall, was really friendly and brought out snacks and drinks for all the kids before hunkering down on the tile to read the genesis story of Geoffrey. During the story-time, Geoffrey had retired to the back of the store.

Once the story had been read, it was time for the parade! This was super cute. Each kid trailed behind Geoffrey, toting a parent and a birthday balloon.

When the parade ended, each kid who remembered their invitation, was gifted a special Geoffrey plush toy. Apparently, the birthday kids normally get a birthday Lego set, but they were out. The Geoffrey plush is SO much better. T hasn’t parted with his since.

And yes, it was free. All we had to do was bring that invite.

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And finally, free Legos.

Lego has put out a new movie, maybe you’ve heard of it: Ninjago.

Tucker has seen a handful of episodes from the series on Amazon and knows enough about the characters to recognize the different ones and how their personalities are different.

Randomly, I saw an advertisement on Facebook announcing that Barnes and Noble stores would all be hosting a special event to celebrate the movie’s release. It was scheduled for 4pm on Saturday. Kids would get to “make and take” a Lego construction. The dragon from the movie. And it was, you guessed it, free.

I don’t have any awesome pictures from the event, my phone was well dead after photographing the previous activities (including T’s biweekly science class which I’ll write about at a later time). Let me just say, that it was intense, packed, and just a tad crazy.

I should say that B&N is right next door to Toys R Us. This was oh so convenient. We got there RIGHT on time. Actually, about 2 minutes late because the woman hosting the event was already talking to the crowd about what was about to happen.

We weren’t too close, but we pulled up to a table and waited, for a while, for our pieces to get to us. I was impatient, however, and wanted to make sure Tucker got a set. I ended up following the woman around and we all ended up back at the center of the floor near the tables where the majority of the kids were eagerly building from their pre-made baggies of Legos.

By the time the woman did get to where more kids (and we) were waiting, she’d run out of pre-made baggies. We then had to, very precariously, pull the correct pieces for the set from the original bags that came from Lego. This wasn’t a horrible experience. The other mothers and I were kneeling on the floor, most of us wrapped over our kids who were helping as best they could to collect the pieces as we picked them out. And it wasn’t so crazy that people were mean. I was actually impressed by the helpfulness of us all. I know my husband was watching in awe as this all went down.

The other part that was hectic, was that there were only two sets of instructions. There were 50 sets of dragons, and two sets of directions, you read that correctly. T and Jason (AKA the hubs, AKA Tucker’s daddy) found a little table off to the side, and I floated back and forth between them and the directions. We built our dragon right quick. I was high on adrenaline to be sure!

All in all, we had a great time Saturday. Tucker got some really cool things, and we didn’t have to shell out a ton of money. The cool experience, coupled with the goodies, made for a fun family weekend.

I suppose the take home message for you, my reader, is that there are things out there for you to do with your kiddos that don’t cost any money. Could we have just played at the park? Sure. But T gets to play on the playground at his preschool. These events were more hands-on, more engaging, and more exciting for the three of us.

The birthday club is a once-a-year thing, and the B&N event isn’t one that happens often. Both places do have weekly story-times for kids. We’ve not done a story time at Toys R Us before this weekend. But we have done them at B&N before. We plan to continue going to HD while Tucker’s still interested in doing it.

Check your library, bookstores, bio-parks, and museums. There are so many things out there for kids that are free, whether it’s a free story-time, or a monthly or weekly learning opportunity, it’s worth it to look into.

If you have any freebies you’re enjoying doing with your kiddos, share them in the comments!

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