Guest Blog Post: Fun Places in Public Spaces

Guest Blog Post: Mommy by the River

If you are a parent or caregiver who has preschool-age children (birth to age 6), you have daytime hours to “fill,” and you are willing to see our public spaces with fresh eyes, you may be surprised how entertained you can keep your kids with establishments right in your own neighborhood. I am only slightly ashamed to say that I have done ALL of the things on the following list at least once. Some of them (like the pet store and Barnes and Noble), I have frequented multiple times. Isn’t it amazing how creative you can get when you are desperate to fill those daytime hours and you are low on cash?

I’m sure many of you have other places you have visited with your little ones that you can add to this list. I would love to read them! The title of this list is “Fun Places in Public Spaces,” but I would also call it, “Fun Is Where You Find It.” Or even, “It’s The Simple Things…” The point is, we want to have fun with our kids while we are filling some time and sometimes we need to do that without having to spend a lot of money. Here are some extremely frugal and perhaps a bit unorthodox ideas and the time I estimate you can fill with them. (And maybe I should add these are ”off the record.”)


The Centre of Elgin: There’s a parking deck that connects to the Recreation “Centre” via an enclosed walkway. Let’s call it the “glass bridge.” Because the Centre is a happening place, there is a continual flow of cars and people driving under the bridge. And guess Centrewhat? It will keep your child amazingly entertained. Then, take a tour through the Centre and watch the swimmers in the pool, walkers on the track, people playing racquetball, and see miscellaneous exercise and dance classes taking place. It will reinforce the need to exercise and be healthy, so you have a life lesson built right in. While on the bridge, you can also open doors for people and teach your kids to doors open for women, children and the elderly. That’s an etiquette lesson built in too. Time filled: 15 – 45 minutes


Petco (South Elgin, West Dundee, St. Charles) or any pet store: Yup! A poor man’s zoo. Guinea pigs, ferrets, fish, tarantulas, birds, turtles and sometimes even cats up for adoption are on display. Plus, you can look at all of the dog toys–they are almost as good as your child’s toys. To ease my guilt, I often buy a couple of treats from the “treat bar” for our dog “Rembrandt” and our neighbor’s dog. Cost: $1 tops if you don’t want to feel as ashamed. Time filled: 30+ minutes


Barnes & Noble at Spring Hill Mall in West Dundee: Thomas the Tank Engine train set is set up on a large train table in the children’s book section. Plus, there is a puppet display at the entrance to the children’s section for you to entertain your child with a free puppet show if you don’t mind drawing a crowd of children. Don’t forget, you can look at all of the books too! Time filled: 45 minutes- 1 hour


Toy aisle at any store or go to an actual toy store: Need I say more? Time filled: 30-45 minutes


Menards or Home Depot at Christmas time: I went to the Menards in Elgin at holiday time and we enjoyed Christmas trees, giant inflatable snowmen/santas/reindeer, lit up Christmas villages, and Christmas decorations galore. All of the fun of Macy’s windows on State Street in Chicago, but you don’t have to fight the traffic. And your child will absolutely LOVE it! Time filled: 1 hour

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Mommy by the River

About Mommy by the River: My name is Pamela. I’m a mommy who lives by the Fox River in Elgin, IL who has longed for a local resource that would tell me WHERE to go with my child that costs me either nothing or nearly nothing. Full Bio