I have three busy, growing, active children. Right now, they are ages eight, six, and five. When they were all small, it was easy to find inexpensive places for us to hang out and meet old friends or hope to make new ones. The bigger they get, and the more varied their interests, it’s just not that easy anymore.
My old go-to places just don’t cut it when it comes time to keep them occupied on days school is out. They are too big for the play space at Columbiana Mall and many of the other ideas that come to mind cost way too much for this penny-pinching mama. My kids love Hi-Wire. Roller-skating, Ice-skating, and bowling are all great fun once in a while. But man, do those excursions add up! But with a little digging, I found some great ways for us to get out and explore the Midlands, inside and out!
My number one thing to do with my children is to get outside. Whether you find a playground you enjoy, like the newly renovated Finlay Park’s playground, or you hit one of the many trails that can be found in and around the Midlands, nearly everything is free or inexpensive. Pack some drinks and snacks, and enjoy the great outdoors! Check out these posts from our other contributors for more information:
See Hannah’s top 12 parks and playgrounds. It’s always great to get ideas on what another local and her kids enjoy the most around town.
Samantha sums up our area water parks and splash pads. These aren’t just for toddlers. Bigger kids and grown ups have a blast, too. You’d be surprised how many are free and open to the public.
I round up local swimming holes. As I mentioned, I love to get my kids outdoors to explore, and we’ve come across many areas for swimming that are a family favorite. The weather is warming up and the water feels fine!
Museums You Should Consider
Columbia Museum of Art – When you think art museum, you might not think family fun, but that’s not the case. The Columbia Museum of Art is a central piece of Main Street architecture and has an wonderful array of activities for children of all ages. You can check out a backpack with sketchpad and tour guide to help keep your children engaged on tour. There are free Passport classes for families all month. Ask the service desk about Scavenger Hunts and other ways to keep your budding artist intrigued throughout this ever-changing space. Did you know there is even an Interactive Education Gallery where kids can create their own art based on exhibits? I can’t wait to take my daughter.
South Carolina State Museum – If you have small children, no doubt you’ve been to EdVenture at least once (or heard about it). The large, child and baby friendly children’s museum is a popular destination for families. The State Museum shares a parking lot with EdVenture and houses four stories of interactive, educational exhibits for all ages, including a planetarium and 4D theater. While the Museum isn’t free, membership for families is very affordable at $99 a year. Homeschool families get in free, and many local businesses partner with the museum to offer discounted memberships to their employees! I’ll be honest, my kids LOVE the State Museum. From the Fossil Dig, to the Lasers, to the mini-movie theater with retro cartoons . . . there’s a lot to love here.
Libraries Aren’t Just for Littles
When my kids were younger, we did lap-sit and story time at the Lexington County Library. These events were not only fun for them, but a great chance for all of us to get out and socialize. Now that they are older, I thought they had outgrown the library programs. Boy, was I wrong! Both Lexington and Richland County libraries have tons of programs for kids of all ages, most are free, and all are highly interactive and engaging. Richland County’s calendar includes everything from Read to a Dog (perfect for your early readers) to Teen Gaming and STEAM activities for ages 6-12. Head over the Lexington County Library’s website – there’s Tween Lego Club, Family Dance Parties, and even Teen Yoga!