What's entertainment? When I was a young girl, it meant exploring the nearby woods, making peach ice cream on my grandfather's porch, watching the Saturday afternoon westerns on TV, or a yearly trip to the circus.
With a higher standard of living today, many children define entertainment in more costly terms . . . seeing their favorite movie for the secondm time, a trip to Disney World, or a TV video game attachment. But the higher price tag doesn't necessarily mean more enjoyment than with the simpler activities. In fact, rich memories usually come from the companionship and active participation many families rediscover as they work to cut expenses.
Last summer our family decided to make better use of the low-cost, convenient entertainment in our own community. This search was prompted by a city excursion that included a museum, lunch, movie, and parking, totaling more than
Newspapers, phone books, neighbors, and the Chamber of Commerce help identify valuable points of interest. A child's interest is a primary guide. For instance, one mother didn't consider taking her seven-year-old son to a Chinese bronze exhibit until discovering it contained miniature soldiers. His interest in soldiers was a springboard to Asian history. Also, don't let a child's age limit your excursions. Children derive different benefits at different ages. At an airport a 4-year-old may enjoy counting the jets and identifying their colors, while a 12-year-old may discuss aerodynamics.
When our son went through a stage of fascination with trains, we stopped at the nearby railroad classification yard. Here locomotives thrilled him as they squeaked, banged, and reorganized. The engineers got to know this train buff and even let him be "assistant" in a diesel locomotive one day.
Visits to the local greenhouse are especially fun in the spring when lilies, daffodils, and hyacinths bloom. A stroll along the paths tests our botany know-how and builds anticipation of springtime.
A nearby farms operates a donut machine and a cider press worth observing and sampling. Another farm has apple picking and free tractor rides which quickly became a tradition with us.
The list is endless. The cost is minimal.
Dr. Lawrence Cremin, president of Columbia Teachers College, emphasizes using the community as an educator. "By tapping community resources, parents and teachers can offer real experiences, and perhaps re-establish the links between child and adult life," he notes.