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7 Ideas For Days Out With The Kids That Are Free

Trying to think of somewhere to bring the kids for free? Our resident Dad, Pat Fitzpatrick, examines your options. 

1. A Toy Shop

Who came up with the notion that a giant toy shop is a great place to bring your kids for free? 

Is it,
A: The owner of a giant toy shop?
Or 
B: We all know A: is the right answer. 

Here’s how it goes.
YOU: OK, we’re not buying anything today, it’s just a look to see what you want from Santa.
5-YEAR-OLD: Gotcha.

Three seconds later.
SECURITY GUARD: Sorry man, but if she doesn’t stop crying, I’ll have to ask you to leave. She’s upsetting the other customers. 
YOU: It’s pouring rain and her mother said we’re not allowed to come home for an hour. The only way to get her to stop crying is to buy her something. Help me out here. 
SECURITY GUARD: That shelf there has items in the ten to 15 euro bracket, that should be able to help. 
YOU: The shelf marked “We Have You Over a Barrel”.
SECURITY GUARD: That’s the one. 

2. Museums 

The good news is that the Natural History Museum in Dublin is free. The bad news is it doesn’t have any dinosaurs and you watched Paddington on a loop to build some excitement for Paddington 2, so now your kids will start crying if you bring them to a museum that’s light on dinos, or small talking bears. 

Even bringing them to the real thing might not work. I talked to a Dad recently who took his kids to London, to visit the Natural History Museum. This also ended in tears, because there was no sign of that guy Andy, from Andy’s Adventures on CBeebies. 

So, here’s the low-down. Don’t waste time telling your kids what they are going to see in a museum; the important thing is to tell them what they won’t see. (You, for an hour, if they are suitably distracted, and you can hide behind a stuffed giraffe watching United and Spurs on your phone.)

3. Picnic

The definition of a cheap day out in Ireland is something that only costs €30. Why? Because that’s the minimum cost of anything in an Irish café. 

It doesn’t matter that you ordered four glasses of water and a photograph of a ham sandwich, the First Law of Irish Lunch is that the bill must come to at least 30 quid. (Maybe it’s a cover charge for using the jacks. Who knows?) Try that once a weekend for a year, and there goes 1500 quid that could have been spent on more important things, like health insurance or a weekend for two in New York. (Like that’s a real choice, says you to the immigration guy at JFK.) 

Anyway, if you fancy a taste of the Big Apple with your partner, buy a few small apples, bread rolls and a packet of ham on your big day out with the kids. 

4. Nature

I’m not sure the exact age when humans first start to appreciate scenery. I know it isn’t five. That’s the age of my eldest. An area of outstanding natural beauty for her is a sweet shop showing Ben and Holly on a loop. Unless it’s next to water and has some loose stones lying around. Now you’re talking. 

You see, I have no idea how long my two will stay throwing stones into water. That’s because it usually gets dark and I have to lure them away with Kinder bars before they hit someone with a rock. All I know is that no kid has ever said, “I’m bored with throwing stones into water.” It must be the best way to eat up time with kids, for free. (Just make sure to bring a change of clothes, Dads. One of them is bound to fall in and you’ll get the blame, when you arrive back home.)

5. Culture Night

What is the real meaning of Culture Night? It depends who you ask. For some, it is a time to celebrate our creative heritage. For others, it means free child-care in your local area. 

Don't get me wrong – I have nothing against the woman in the old shawl, reciting what looks like a very sad poem in Spanish, or possibly Portuguese, for well over an hour. But that’s not really why I’m here. 

I’m more about the African Drumming lessons for my kids followed by a very long queue for the free face-painting. As far as I can see, kids will stand still, in line, for up to three hours, as long as there is a person at the top of that line who knows how to make them look like a cheetah. Just toss them the odd banana if they get hungry. (Your kids, as against the person doing the face-painting. A banana will seem like a very insulting tip.)

So, let’s hear it for Culture Night. As far as I’m concerned, the only downside is that it isn’t called Culture Week. 

5. Walk

We all have nostalgic notions about family walks when we were young. In our memory, the sun was shining down on us, as we giggled our way along the beach in the evening sun. In truth, we were only there because no one had invented Snapchat, and I had a giant scrawl on my nose after telling my sister she was a snotbum.

The truth is, kids enjoy a walk about as much as your average man enjoys watching 30 seconds of Say Yes to the Dress. (It’s a cruel and unusual torture.) The only way to get your kids to walk anywhere is to bribe them with cake and two hours of Ben and Holly when they get home. And that just defeats the purpose. 

6. Library

The best thing about the library is it’s one of the few ways you can get something genuinely good back from your tax money. (Unless you are one of those people who thinks the Affordable Childcare Scheme is a winner, in which case, seriously?) 

Better still, the government actually employs people to sit in these libraries and tell your kids to be quiet. How sweet is that? 

Seriously though, some of my best times with the kids have been sitting in a dry, spacious building as they wander off and find me books to read about dinosaurs and true love. The only downside is when we bring a few books home and then lose them, because everything is lost all the time, when you have kids. But still, the library is a complete winner. 

7. Geocaching

You’ve probably heard of this treasure-hunt app for your phone, where you set off with the kids and try to find something hidden in your area by a fellow user of the app. I’ve heard it said that a lot of Dads get over-competitive and start moaning because the kids are slowing them down. I’m not surprised at this, but don’t let it put you off. 

The app is free for the basic model, you pay $30 a year for the premium version, which unlocks some of the more elaborate caches. Some say this is a rip-off. I say you’d spend it in 5 minutes if you stop for coffee in an Irish café. So bring a picnic and go Premium. 

Have you any other suggestions for free days out with the kids? Let us know in the comments section below! 


About the Author

Pat Fitzpatrick lives in Cork city with his wife and two small kids. He gave up a decent job in I.T. in 2008 to head for the lucrative world of writing. So don't hire him as a life coach, investment advisor or anything to do with your career. His Sunday Independent newspaper columns have been entertaining Irish people through some tough times. Pat is a regular on the on the RTE Today show with Maura Derrane and Daithí O’Sé and pops up frequently on radio shows such as the Right Hook. All of this is a bit too much like hard work, so he has started writing novels which will hopefully fund an early retirement to a hammock in the back garden. His first novel, Keep Away from those Ferraris, is available online and in shops outlined here http://www.patfitzpatrick.ie/novels/. Pat’s kids are both under two, so if you don’t mind, he is now going for a quick lie down.

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