Providing Enriching Childhood Experiences on a Tight Budget

How can I give my kids the chance to try different activities and programs when we don't have much money? I'm a stay-at-home mom and my husband works hard to support our family, but we're living on a shoestring budget. I don't want my children to miss out on life-enriching opportunities.

Parents are under a tremendous amount of pressure nowadays to buy the latest educational toys and video games for their kids, send them to expensive computer camps, and generally spend wads of cash making sure that they aren’t deprived of anything our materialistic and consumer-oriented culture has to offer. The good news for moms and dads in your position is that none of this is necessary.

Write this down and remind yourself of it every time you begin to question the choices you’ve made as a stay-at-home mother: the happiest, most well-adjusted children are not those who are involved in a million different activities and who own every electronic gizmo on the market. On the contrary, the kids who thrive best are those who have committed, caring parents who spend time with them on a regular basis, take a genuine interest in their lives, and emphasize the importance of character over comfort and consumerism. So if you’re feeling guilty because you don’t have the money to buy your kids everything our culture says they need – don’t.

There are dozens of ways you can provide stimulating activities for your children that don’t cost much money. A great place to start is your local library. You can help your kids check out books and DVDs that will introduce them to people and places they’ve never dreamed of before. If they’re old enough, they can get their personal library cards and select their own materials for check-out. Most libraries also have Web access (which parents should, of course, monitor) and many offer special after school learning enrichment programs. If it becomes a regular activity, we predict that your weekly or bi-weekly trip to the library will become an event that your children look forward to with great anticipation.

You should also be taking advantage of public museums, science centers, and zoos in your area, most of which offer low-cost or free children’s programs. If you live in a rural location this may involve a special weekend trip once in a while, but it’s well worth the time and effort.

It would also be a good idea to start introducing your children to the world of music and drama. Many communities and universities offer classical or popular concerts for kids and Saturday morning children’s theater productions. There are also a number of local classical radio stations across the country that produce educational programs aimed primarily at children.

These are just a few suggestions. If you put your mind to it, we’re sure you can come up with many more ideas on your own. If you need some help brainstorming, call and talk with a member of our staff. Our counselors are available to speak with you for a free over-the-phone consultation.


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