There are two ways to look at the inevitable running of errands: they can be a chore, or they can be a tantalizing trip of together time! But even the most prepared parent eventually runs out of distractions from books, snacks and Angry Birds on the iPhone. Undoubtedly you’ve already scouted out the toy stores with the ubiquitous Thomas the Train set up, and the book stores with the kids’ reading time, so we’ve rounded up five other retailers offering something extra for the kiddos!

Lego Store
Most kids can spend hours in the LEGO store, just digging around in the bottomless bin of Mini Figure heads, hair and bodies. But every month the store also offers a “Mini Build,” where kids can put together a cool limited-edition LEGO mini model, and take it home – for free! If you’re a LEGO collector, here’s the coolest part: Models are not for sale and cannot be purchased. Yep, you have a “one-of-a-kind” original!
When: First Tuesday of the month from 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Where: Washington Square; 503-670-9190
Ages: 6 to 14

Insider Tip: LEGO fanatics start lining up around 3:00pm for the 5:00pm event. (Really?) Show up closer to 6ish and you’ve got it made!

Home Depot
Can you fix it? Yes you can! Home Depot offers free workshops for kids where they don safety goggles and get busy building and painting! A different kit is available each month and might be a jewelry box, a car or a birdhouse, to name a few. In addition to the craft, kids get one of those famous orange Home Depot aprons, along with a commemorative pin and certificate.
When: First Saturday of the month; 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Where: All Home Depot stores
Ages: 5 to 12

Insider Tip: If you want to bring a group (playgroup, Scouts, etc.), call ahead. The friendly and helpful staff are super about accommodating you to make sure there are enough kits, and in most cases, give you a tour and demonstrate everything from paint mixing to cool tools.

Lowes Home Improvement stores also offer clinics on the second Saturday of the month from 10:00 am – 11:00 am. They ask that you preregister at

Feeling a little “Martha?” Your local Michaels stores sell everything you need to craft it up, and – no surprise – they offer a wide array of classes for kids, from cupcake decorating to friendship bracelet making! Most have a fee, but each month there is a free family activity, too. On Jan. 26, for example, most Portland stores will host a free Valentine making bash!
When: Classes vary
Where: All Michaels stores
Ages:  Vary by class

Insider Tip: Although they have an online calendar, not all the kids’ classes are listed. You will get more up-to-date and personalized information by calling your neighborhood store; find it at

Pottery Barn Kids
Oh how we love their cozy bedding and shabby chic furniture! What else do we love? That they love to entertain our kids! PBK has a story time every week and also offers classes on a rotating schedule. On the recent list have been teapots for dolls and capes for superheroes.
When: Reading is every Tuesday at 11:00 am. Check online at or with the store for upcoming craft activities.
Where: Washington Square; 503-598-1858
Ages: 3 and up for the crafts; all ages for the reading. They read three or four books and mix it up so there is something for all ages.

Insider Tip:
Many of the same crowd attend each week’s reading time, so who knows? You might meet your new BFF!  Kids start snagging carpet spots around 10:30ish but the friendly staff doesn’t mind them hanging around!

Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft Stores
Sewing is back! Not in a “Little House on the Prairie” way, but with Design Star flair! Just think how much your fashionista would love making the outfit of her dreams – if only she had sewing skillz! Among the kids’ classes offered are learning to sew “lazy pants,” (PJ pants); a bolero jacket or a fleece blanket.
When: Times vary; register 48 hours in advance
Where: Classes are only offered at the “superstores” at the Orenco Station, 82nd in Portland and Tigard locations
Ages: Recommended for 8+

Insider Tip: You know those Jo-Ann coupons that knock the price of your frames or wreath down by half? Classes are frequently on sale too! Watch your Sunday paper or visit their website for class savings. Also, they have sewing machines you can borrow, but feel free to bring your own if you want to learn to sew on the machine you will be using.

Have you taken your kids to check out these crafting and building classes? Which was their fav?

— Cathie Ericson

photo credit: Quiltsalad via flickr, Michaels facebook page