Free & low cost activities to do with toddlers

We live in an area of seemingly unlimited activities for kids. Museums, indoor play structures, gyms; classes are everywhere.  However, most of these things cost money, which for most of us is not unlimited. And sometimes you need a break from the park!  This is my list of go-to free (or low) cost activities to do with littles. Sometimes you just need to get out of the house!

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Little Free Library

Maybe you’ve seen some of these in your neighborhood. Community members build a small cupboard-like structure, usually located in front of a private home. People are invited to trade books, with Little Free Library’s “take a book, return a book” policy. We love to visit different ones around our area. We borrow a book, return it to a different Little Free Library the next week, and take another book. This is just so much fun. You can search for libraries in your area, here.

Hillsdale Mall Kiddie Kruzzer Strollers

Did you know that you can visit the concierge at Hillsdale Mall and borrow a Kiddie Kruzzer stroller for free? There are several varieties, but my kids love the double fire truck model. My kids enjoyed this long after they had stopped cooperating with traditional strollers. We have spent several afternoons, just doing laps around Hillsdale Mall in our fire truck. Sometimes we will visit Mrs. Fields for a cookie before heading home. The concierge is located on the lower level, near the M.A.C Cosmetics store. 

Construction site viewing

If you have a kid who loves trucks, it can be so fun to go and visit a construction site. I use this website for the city of San Mateo to look for current areas under construction and then we will go visit and just watch for a while.

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Visit the ducks

Bay Meadows Park in San Mateo is best knows for busy soccer fields. There is also an almost hidden pond at the North end, where my kids love to see the ducks. There’s a path around it, perfect for strollers or bikes. This is especially fun in the spring when you can hope to spot some ducklings.



Trader Joe’s coloring sheets

Trader Joe’s grocery stores are great for families, with lots of family friendly foods available. My kid’s favorite thing about them is the monthly coloring sheets. We will stop in and pick up a new sheet. Later in the week we bring it back colored and they are absolutely thrilled to see it hung up in the front. Usually they are given a lollipop for their efforts. A win for everyone!

-Sandi Arata