I live in California and in a very small house. It’s in the most beautiful part of the country but space is at a premium. It doesn’t have a yard, it doesn’t have a garage (sorry husband) and it doesn’t have the large room dedicated play area that I see when I type in “kid’s playroom” on Pinterest. What it does have is a perfectly reasonable amount of spaced gated off for our son to explore, play and crawl safely. My son is starting to crawl now, and for the first 9 months of his life I would look at our quaint house and say “See it’s not so small! The baby has SO much room to wander.” Granted wandering at that time consisted of laying on his back with the occasional roll thrown in there but I didn’t see size as a limitation. Fast-forward to month 10. We have a full blown crawler. If it’s something he can grab ahold of he wants to pull himself up. If he sees a door he needs to push thru it. If he sees open space he must explore it. I immediately began feeling that parental guilt over our lack of 5000 sf of crawling space so I grabbed my phone and quickly looked on Redfin to see what type of houses were available that “were great for kids”. After that dismal exercise along with the realization that we can’t simply move to get more open floor space I then went to my other best friend, Amazon.com and started doing a frantic search for play rooms. Sandboxes. Indoor slides, Water tables. Fabric tunnels. I thought to myself “If I can’t make more space at the very least I can build him a play yard”. You name it I put it in my cart. At the end of my “binge carting” I looked at the total and the total made me think a new house was the best option again. I went and talked to my husband and told him of my plan and he was the voice of reason I needed. “The Children’s Museum! That museum has all the space we need, all of the toys and best of all no clean up.” He was right. A few weeks earlier we had purchased an annual pass to the Bay Area Discovery Museum (in Sausalito, CA) for $250 per year for a family of 4. It had everything: water tables, climbing gyms, slides, space, art, and learning. And it wasn’t trying to be crammed into our tiny home. And I thought a children’s museum had art and sculptures geared towards children… who knew!!

So just for fun I wanted to share with you the cost savings (not to mention space savings) of all of the items I felt in a panic I needed to create in my own playhouse in our house. All of these items (and in a better version) can be found at your local children’s museum, and for a fraction of the price.

 

1. Outdoor Playset (Retail Value $500+). The children’s museum has every type of swing set you can imagine. Monkey bars, slides, rings, and ours in Sausalito even has an old boat the kids can play in.

2. Water Table: (Retail Value $60+). Not only can your child splash around in a water table but they can do it without you needing to throw down a tarp in your home. Many museums have elaborate water sections that include rivers, actual fish and the ability to splash around.

3. Sand Box: (Retail Value $100+). Not only do you not need a vacuum to sweep up the mess BUT the museum we attended had that magic sand that doesn’t break apart into a billion literal sand particles. Genius!

4. Musical Instruments (Retail Value $400+). Xylophones, bells, chimes, drums. It’s all there and more. I have found that my son is intrigued by loud noises these days so double bonus that these stay out of sight until our next trip to the museum.

5. Climbing Equipment (Retail Value $1000+).  This one was huge for us. Inside the museum they had two unique rooms specifically for kids under the age of 3. Each room had climbing walls, soft flooring, buildings, slides, tiny mountains and tunnels. It was a climber’s delight. My son really loved the tunnel he could navigate thru. I loved the space he had to explore.

6. House Cleaning Services (Retail Value $1200 per year). This had to be mentioned. The joy I felt when I got to leave the museum knowing I wouldn’t have to pull out the vacuum, I wouldn’t have to scrub down the table, replace the water in the water table, pull sand out of my couch cushions, and so on made me squeal with delight. How great is it knowing your child can have a blast and you don’t need to deal with the mess?

7. Toys toys and more toys (Retail Value $1000+). Stuffed animals, robots, art projects, hula hoops, giant blocks. The list goes on and on. And even better the museum replaces these items out every few months so they are new to your child. Forget birthday parties take me to the museum!

8. Space (Retail Value -Going Rate for Square Feet). This was the big one for me. I want to make sure that my son has the ability to roam around and we have found it at the museum. So many rooms to explore, space to wander, it made me feel as though we aren’t doing him a disservice by not having a huge home with a gated yard.

 

I know I may have given up some secret that may cause the museum to become overcrowded, and Amazon may lose some revenue but the more kids who can enjoy this experience the better.

I encourage you all to drive down to your local children’s museum, buy that yearly pass, and then treat yourself with the savings above! Or save it. Or maybe split the difference. Any way you slice it its money well spent and such a wonderful way to spend time with your child.