Frugal family fun

Local budget-friendly options support good times and happy wallets

Illustration by Kathleen Bergen

Raising children can be expensive, but Winnipeg has budget-friendly organizations and events to keep many kids entertained.

Christina Poolie created her website, Kid Friendly Manitoba, because she saw a need for more online information about activities for children.

“Ten years ago, I was researching to open a kid-friendly business, and I kept coming across all these events that had happened,” Poolie says. “I thought it would be a good thing for us to have a place where everyone can find out about those events beforehand.”

One of her go-to ideas for an inexpensive activity is a visit to a public pool.

“Every single pool has a time when it’s free or a time when it’s like a loonie or a toonie to swim,” she says. “The St. James Civic Centre has family swimming on Friday nights for free.”

Poolie says she likes to attend these family nights with her two sons because of the opportunities for socializing. They get to meet new kids and see friends from school.

For something creatively stimulating, Art City in West Broadway runs drop-in programs for all ages, free of charge. 

Throughout the year, artists lead different classes on their area of expertise at Art City.

“The reason that stuff is important is that central to our model is to have real artists facilitating all the workshops and designing the workshops,” Josh Ruth, managing designer, says. “We sort of make a distinction between art experiences and what we call cookie-cutter crafts.”

Ruth says there is merit to a craft where everyone has the same result in the end, but Art City’s programming is more about freedom of expression.

When coming up with art activities at home, he says it’s best not to overthink it.

“We hear all the time from adults, ‘I’m not creative, I can’t even draw stick figures.’ It’s like grown-ups have inhibition toward art-making that kids just don’t have,” he says. “We invite families to come here and see what we do first hand and use that as a springboard for their own projects.”

For the academically inclined, Poolie suggests purchasing a family membership at the Manitoba Museum. The membership is an initial investment of $115 but allows the whole family unlimited visits for a year.

“If my oldest and I go four times for the year. It’s paid for, and that’s not including bringing the rest of the family,” she says.

Activities can also help children engage with the world around them and empower them to have opinions about it, Ruth says. 

Art City offers a class from March 20 to 21 called Portage Vs Main Design Challenge.

“With Brian Bowman’s promise to re-imagine Portage and Main, we wanted to have the kids form a response to that,” Ruth says.

Art City partnered with Architects without Borders for the workshop, where children can make dioramas showcasing their ideas for the intersection.

Published in Volume 71, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 9, 2017)

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