There’s a little more than seven sun-soaked weeks left in the summer for most Inland Northwest children. That’s roughly 50 days or 800 hours of idle time, based on 16 hours of daylight.
Filling those hours with enough activities to keep kids occupied can be tricky, especially on a budget.
“It’s extremely important to keep kids busy,” but even more important to do it on the cheap, said Brenda Albaugh, a Spokane mom
who brought her two sons Hunter 4, and Tucker, 6, to a Spokane Valley theater for $1 admission day this week.
“Even though I am a stay-at-home mom, we can’t really just stay at home; we’d go crazy.”
But like many families, the Albaughs don’t have unlimited funds, so they have to get creative.
Around Spokane and North Idaho there are plenty of activities to cure the summer doldrums. The best part is that most of the activities are free, or inexpensive enough that the cost can be found by digging for change among the couch cushions. Here’s a short list:
Albaugh and her children joined other families Tuesday at the Spokane Valley Mall Regal Cinemas for the $1 admission for “Cats & Dogs: Revenge,” as part of Summer Movies Express. The theater, along with the Regal Cinemas at Riverstone in Coeur d’Alene, will show a $1 movie every Tuesday and Wednesday through Aug. 15.
“Last year we came all the time,” Albaugh said. “You just can’t beat it.”
Next week’s flicks include “Adventures of Tin Tin” and “Puss in Boots” at both theaters, starting at 10 a.m. More information is available at www.regmovies.com.>
If $1 is too much, try the Garland Theater, where a new free summer movie shows weekly at 9:30 a.m., Monday through Friday. This week, the theater at 924 W. Garland Ave. is showing “Kung Fu Panda 2.” After that, “The Smurfs” plays July 16-20. Go to www.garland theater.com/events for more listings or call (509) 327-1050.
If an air-conditioned theater isn’t the ticket, find an outdoor movie. The Shop on South Perry Street features free outdoor summer movies every Saturday at dusk. Bring your own chair. This Saturday the featured film will be “The Princess Bride.”
Roll a strike
School-age children can bowl for free from now until Aug. 31 at three bowling alleys around Spokane, including North Bowl, Lilac Lanes and Valley Bowl. Two free games are provided to kids and families through a national organization called Kids Bowl Free.
“We have done this for a good 25 years, but it’s just been called different things,” said Barbara Cook, owner and manager of North Bowl, 125 W. Sinto Ave. “Bowling is a lifelong sport everyone can enjoy.”
To print coupons for free games and family passes that provide discounts for adults, register at kidsbowlfree.com or call (866) 798-4502. The games are free, but shoes must be rented for around $2.
Book it to the library
There’s more to do at area public libraries than just get lost in a good book, although ultimately that is the goal.
The Spokane Public Library’s free summer reading campaign called “Dream Big, Read” includes a free book for every child who reads for 15 hours or reads 15 books. The program also includes a variety of hands-on demonstrations and activities, including Mobius science exhibits and experiments, musical performances, a medieval weapons demonstration and magic shows. The Coeur d’Alene libraries have a similar program, including a LEGO club.
“The real purpose is to keep kids from experiencing that summer slide where they have to make up ground that they lost over the summer because they weren’t doing the reading,” said Sumi Shaddock, the downtown youth services librarian. “We want to get kids into the library for the fun stuff, but we also want them to know they can come for the reading. This is their place.”
Get your groove on
In Spokane, several parks will host free concerts every other Thursday night, including at Audubon Park in northwest Spokane and Coeur d’Alene Park in Browne’s Addition. The series continues tonight at Audubon with the Spokane Jazz Orchestra from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Visit www.spokaneparks.org for more information.
The Downtown Coeur d’Alene Concert Series continues every Tuesday through Aug. 21 in Sherman Square Park, 316 Sherman Ave. The Coeur d’Alene City Park Concert will be Sundays through Aug. 19, from 1-4 p.m.