Tick, tick, tick. You don’t always have lazy Sundays or long vacations to spend uninterrupted time with the kids. But if time isn’t on your side, especially before or after work, try one of these foolproof ways to spend a few minutes of quality time with the kids with zero advanced prep and low cash investment. Read on for tips on making the most of your precious time with your sweeties.Child sitting near fountain

photo: Peninsula Park by Benjamin Chan via flickr

1. Stop at a park
Portland Parks and Rec has a great parks finder, which allows you to search within a given quadrant, or by a certain amenity or activity. Keep this one in your back pocket for days when the sun peeks out unexpectedly. Parents love well-maintained Peninsula Park for its rose gardens and fountains; your kids will love the playground.

2. Hit a library story time
The Multnomah County Library has programming for all ages. Younger kids’ story times (Book Babies, Tiny Tots, etc.) last about 40 minutes, followed by social and play time. Days and times are subject to change, so always check ahead before making the trip.

cappuccino

photo: cappuccino by Jeremy Keith via flickr

3. Sip some coffee
Try grabbing a cup of coffee at a kid-friendly cafe like the new Fillmore in Montavilla, featuring a train table. Keep our list of kid-friendly cafes on hand for busy days.

4. Head to a play cafe
Maybe the kids need a little more than a train table to keep them occupied. For a few extra dollars, you can take them to a play cafe, where higher volume is tolerated and there are way more toys. Play along, or sit and enjoy your wi-fi in relative peace. The Pied Piper Play Cafe in Sellwood will keep the little ones entertained.

5. Think Fun Thursdays at Beaverton Library
From 4-5 p.m. on Thursdays, the Beaverton Library has fun activities available for kids ages 3-8. You’ll do puzzles one week or play with LEGO blocks the next.

6. Take in some music
Cafe au Play, the Warehouse Cafe, Mississippi Pizza and others often host music shows by the city’s hottest kid-friendly musicians. Check ahead for an hour’s worth of listening in and getting down. Right now, Tuesday mornings at 10 a.m. you can enjoy the toddler-friendly tunes of Mr. Ben at the Village Ballroom, followed by playtime and toys courtesy of Woodlawn Swap n Play.

ice cream cone

photo: Cool Moon Ice Cream cone by Shelly Y. via Yelp

7. Grab an ice cream cone
Snag a sweet treat! There are plenty of places to grab a cone, both old-school and highbrow. Don’t worry, though. That line at Salt & Straw shouldn’t take your ENTIRE hour. (Though if you get scared off, try Tonalli’s on Alberta, 50 Licks on Division or Cool Moon in Northwest.

8. Nibble at the farmer’s market
Many of the Portland Farmer’s Markets offer kids’ programming, cooking demonstrations and crafts. If not, there’s probably fresh fruit to munch on (as well as other delectable edibles) and live music. We love the small size, quality vendors, and convenient location of the Buckman Farmer’s Market, Thursday afternoons, on SE 20th and Salmon. During winter, try out the Lloyd Farmer’s Market: It runs all year long.

9. Wiggle at indoor gym
Drop-in rates at Portland Parks and Recreation open gym times are usually less than $2, so you won’t feel guilty if you only stay for an hour (or even for half an hour on a tough day). The equipment is nothing fancy, but the chance to run around and chase balls somewhere other than your house can be priceless. Matt Dishman Community Center offers Indoor Gym for just $1 for kids 5 & under. Older kids (17 & under) can drop in to Youth Open Gym times for free.

Reading area at Annie Bloom's

photo: Annie Bloom’s Books via Yelp

10. Delve into a book
If your schedule doesn’t align with a scheduled reading, DIY one of your own. Green Bean Books, Powell’s, Annie Bloom’s, and A Children’s Place have got you covered for a cozy spot to settle in with a book.

11. Make the most of your membership
Got a membership to the Oregon Zoo, Portland Children’s Museum, OMSI? Art ala Carte? Take advantage by dropping by whenever you have the time. And if the kids complain when it’s time to go, you can tell them in all honesty that you can go back soon.

What’s your favorite way to pass the time when you only have an hour to squeeze in the fun? Let us know in the comments!

—Kelley Gardiner