Parent/child outings: how to spend less but invest more - MetroFamily Magazine
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Parent/child outings: how to spend less but invest more

by Callie Collins

Reading Time: 3 minutes 

Oklahoma City family fun can be affordable.

It's fair to say that budgets and economic woes are on a lot of people's minds right now in our state. News headlines make the financial realities of raising a family seem suddenly complicated; uncertainty looms and we're all left wondering about education, oil, taxes and what's best for whom. 

As a parent of three small children, I know it's not always inexpensive to go out for family fun events, especially as other matters seem more pressing. Those shrinking discretionary dollars convert to "no cotton candy today," "maybe not that summer camp," and "let's rethink what we're doing where."

Our household lives and thinks in both Spanish and English and I think of the Spanish-language phrase "There's nothing more boring than a Sunday without money."  

True as that is, there are ways.

Free events are listed here on MetroFamily's searchable calendar and you can have fun that's memorable, literally one child at a time. My favorite solution is to take a break from it all with purposeful distraction: a mom-and-child outing, just us. 

Siblings are awesome. I enjoy seeing my children learn, grow and cooperate. However, there's a time for parent/child conversations too, if you make one. The place is up to you, though. 

"Where will we go?" Sam asks. 

"Where do you want to go?" I answer. 

"Mars!" he screams with a sly smile. 

"I was thinking someplace closer to home," I reply. 

"There are no cookie straws on Mars, so I guess we could go someplace that has them," he grins.

The witty banter is part of the deal. It helps set the tone. Conversation is free. Whatever comes with it, we can make decisions about but the usual sibling multiplier is removed when it's a mom-and-child outing. 

No matter where you're going, here are six tips to make the most of one-on-one time:

  • Switch off your phone: Phone addiction sounds like a first world problem that doesn't belong in the same category as other addictive behaviors. I know that for me, though, it's a really big issue because I have to wean myself off of it and intentionally remove the temptation to peek at every sound the device makes. Am I going to remember what my child has to say or is that Instagram notification going to stick in my mind a week later? Either way, it'll be there later but the conversation really won't. I have to show my kids an example of being engaged if I want them to drop their technology and look at my face when they talk.
  • Buy The Thing: You're a parent, so you know about The Thing. We all know about The Thing. It's the upsell, what your child asks for but doesn't usually get, what you're fending off from your wallet every other time you visited this venue. See above about the cookie straw. Okay, this one time, I bought the cookie straw. Two in fact, one each, and we had matching cookie straws. A one-off is fine now and then. Happiness is in the details. 
  • Find a topic: Talk about yourself less. Listen more than you talk. This isn't the time to hash out behavioral flaws. Keep the conversation light and if you get stuck, play "Thorns, Leaves and Roses," the worst, best and most interesting parts of each person's week. Make your summer bucket list. Talking doesn't cost and it can take place on the way to something else or be the outing itself.
  • Keep it short: The outing doesn't have to go on forever. An hour or two makes the one-at-a-time equation more plausible if you have more than one child.
  • Choose something age-appropriate: I can do a lot of things with a baby in my arms but rollerskating isn't one of them. That has to be a mom-and-Sam outing and it makes the experience more special. Conversely, when it's my turn to go out with Gabriel, age 1, Sam's going to skip Gymboree. Choose something that wouldn't be possible or at least easy with siblings present.
  • Take a picture together: My kids know something is important if I take a photo of it, whether that's a receipt for future reference or a selfie of the time we went out. I take a lot of photos of my family; I'm in very few of those and that should change. 

If you're looking for more ways to have fun at a discount in Oklahoma City, check out our all-new Kids Pass here.

Have fun together!

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