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Cheap and fun things to do with kids in Pittsburgh

Keeping your kids happy doesn't have to break the bank. We have some of the best ways to keep your kids entertained in Pittsburgh without blowing your budget.

We all know Pittsburgh is affordable as far as major US cities are concerned. Once summer hits, there are more free movies, concerts and festivals than you can shake a stick at - it's fabulous! So, what happens when the long, hot days of summer start to dwindle? As a mom and co-founder of Pittsburgh's go-to bargain website, LivingPittsburgh.com, I can assure your kids won’t be slowing down any time soon, and you won’t be spending much money to keep them busy.

If your kids are climbing the walls looking for something to do, why not let them literally climb the walls? REI in the South Side offers a program on Friday afternoons called Kinder Klimb. It runs from 1 pm until 2:30 pm and is geared towards younger kids.  

Although the brochure mentions toddlers specifically, it's perfect for kids 7 and under. If that time proves difficult, kids are welcome to climb during any open member climb on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. These programs are for REI members only, but an REI LIFETIME membership is only $20. Past that, your kids are free to climb to their heart's content.

Next, party like it's 1985! If you have fond childhood memories of hanging out at your local neighborhood skating rink, this will be as nostalgic for you as it is fun for your kid. On Tuesday afternoons from 1 pm until 3 pm, Romp N Roll in Glenshaw hosts their "Tiny Tots" skate session. Kids 9 and under can enjoy a couple hours of roller skating, a slice of pizza and a fountain drink for only $5 - and the price includes skate rental. If the supervising adult just wants to walk on the rink next to their kids, they don't have to pay admission.

It’s worth the short drive to Cranberry Township for what my son describes as "the coolest place on Earth!" Fun Fore All is home to one of the most amazing kids play areas around. Ballocity is a massive, three story play structure filled with air cannons that shoot foam balls, a "ballcano" that sends foam balls flying up in the air, and a four story slide. It's big enough for adults to enjoy with their kids, and little ones stay safe in the separate toddler area. And it's only $5 for all day admission, and adults  are free with a paid child admission. A closed off area with one point of entry is a huge perk for parents looking to avoid hours of chasing excited kids from one activity to the next.

After all that running around, the kids may enjoy a break from physical activity. The Carnegie Libraries of Pittsburgh offer loads of free activities for kids of all ages. Baby and Me story times allow the two and under set to enjoy a lapsit-style story time, while toddlers can sing songs, listen to stories and make crafts at Terrific Tales for Toddlers. Elementary-age kids can take advantage of Imagination Builders, a building program where kids can build structures using a variety of building toys, developing math, fine motor and communication skills.

Speaking of building things, nothing instills a sense of accomplishment like creating something on your own. If you have a little do-it-yourselfer on your hands, Home Depot and Lowes  offer free kids workshops on Saturdays.Home Depot's Do It Yourself workshops are the first Saturday of each month, where kids ages 5-12 learn do-it-yourself skills and tool safety. In addition to their newly constructed project kit, kids get their very own little orange apron and an achievement pin.

Similarly, Lowes Build and Grow Clinics are offered on select Saturday mornings, usually once a month. Kids 6-10 enjoy building a free wooden project. The first 50 participants to sign up receive a free apron, goggles, project themed patch and a certification of merit upon completion.

Although the warm summer months have come to a close, don't pack it in just yet. Some of Pittsburgh's most amazing playgrounds are significantly more tolerable when the temperatures come down in the fall, and they won't cost you a penny.
Frick Park's Blue Slide Playground, aptly named for its fun-for-all-ages gigantic blue slide carved into the hill, will keep your kids entertained for hours. Highland Park's "Superplayground" is a monstrous wooden play structure with bridges, cars, nooks and slides and so much more.

Is your kid "too cool" to hang out at the playground with the little kids? Mr. Smalls Skate Park in Millvale is a labyrinth of quarter-pipes, half-pipes, ramps, bridges and decks, built for skateboards, BMX and in-line skating. With a $10 annual fee, your kids can skate or bike for $5 all day long.

If that's still too rich for your budget, there are city skate parks in Beltzhoover, Polish Hill and Sheraden that don’t cost a thing. Not as elaborate, this a great option for those looking to test the waters.
Lack of funds is no excuse for not getting out and having a fabulous time with the kids. What are you waiting for?

Captions: Fun Fore All; Blue Slide; Mr Small's Skate Park Sits Alongside the Marina at Millvale; Highland Park Playground; Fun Fore All.

Photographs copyright Brian Cohen
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