We frequent a pet store at least once a week. Though, we do go to different ones each week since there are a ton in our area. Your child will have as much fun at the pet store as they will at the zoo. You can talk to your child about each animal and if your pet store is as friendly as ours, your child can hold different animals and talk about the textures and other features. We have an amazing fish store called FinTastics. It is seriously like going to an aquarium. They have salt and fresh water sting rays, puffer fish, crabs, lobsters and other really cool fish. Though, try not to be tempted to bring any animal home! We came home with 4 of these yesterday:Another great place to go is to the candle store. You can call me crazy, but this is a great place to teach your child colors and smells. We love to go to Yankee Candle and they know us by name. Ella can pick up a candle, and 9 times out of 10, tell you what it smells like. She also likes to grab candles out of the bin and smell them. She'll have 3 or 4 in her hand and then I make her put them back. This also works on her sorting skills. I have been taking her to Yankee Candle since she was a little baby. So she is used to the store and knows not to touch the glass. Only you are able to judge if this is a suitable activity for your child!
Exercise is very important to every child. We try to get to the park at least once a week. Another great thing about parks is that most have preschool programs that are usually free or under $5. Charlotte has tons of parks and recreation centers. There are usually 5 to 6 programs going on daily that will teach younger- and older- children about nature. There is an amazing park here called Latta Plantation that actually has ponies and horses to ride! I know you can find park events on Zvents or you can look up the website for your county's park and rec centers.
Go to an art museum or gallery. Most galleries are free, though museums have free days. Talk about what your child sees in the pictures. What colors they see, how it makes them feel. It's really cool to see their interpretations, especially if you frequent a place and their opinions change.
Libraries are also great. Most hold story times daily for different ages and have arts and craft activities going on. You can find out what's going on at a library near you by searching for your county's public libraries. I usually will take Ella on a rainy day and we'll go sit in a corner and read.
Michaels and Lowe's both do monthly arts and craft events at all of their stores on Saturdays. If you visit their websites you can find out which craft is going on. You will need to register for Lowe's and you can just walk in at Michaels.
Do you have any fun educational outings with your children? I'd love to hear more ideas!