Tuesday, July 17, 2018
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From PetSmart to Home Depot, take your kids boring places

Who remembers being kind of bored as a kid?

You went with your parents to the hardware store, to the DMV. You went to Kmart and put back to school clothes on layaway. You went to Blockbuster and fought with your brother about who could pick the new release. Then you went home and ran around with your neighbor, the one who always dared you to eat things from the questionable grain field out back of the house.

And who remembers kind of relishing it?

For a kid, 2017 is certainly a time to be alive. There's something going on around here every weekend, from festivals to splash parks to immersive theme park experiences in kingdoms heretofore unseen. This weekend, Sharon Kennedy Wynne offers ideas for making the most of the last few weeks of summer before school starts. She dug up everything from the Art of the Brick display in Tampa to horse surfing on Anna Maria Island (click here to find out what that means).

But all parents know, every day is not a carnival, and most weekends are less thrilling. Stuff needs to get done. With that in mind, here are a few errand-oriented places that can double as fun for little ones.

Pet stores: We went to PetSmart for a new cat box and literally spent hours there with my fiance's daughter. I would tell you how many hours, but time stood still. We looked at all the fish. We touched the paws of rescue cats. We named all the gerbils (Nibbles and Chub-a-Chub).

The library: Seems obvious, no? But our oft-forgotten national treasures are wonderful (and air conditioned) places to whittle away an afternoon. Barnes and Noble is good for plopping, too. Have a seat and, you know, read.

The mall: Magical play areas! Stores with things! Food court! Cookies! Retail centers are having a business model crisis, but what will we do without a single place to buy new running shoe inserts AND get a giant cinnamon pretzel?

Ikea: For 60 minutes at a time, you can drop off kids ages 4 to 10 for free to romp in Smaland, Ikea's play area. Kids have to be potty trained, and they have to be cool, man, real cool. No nonsense or they'll call you while you're trying to get your Malm squared away.

Craft stores: Places like Michaels and Jo-Ann have arts and crafts classes for kids that include materials. Home Depot's upcoming workshop invites kids to build a wooden Penske truck. They get a certificate of achievement, you get to price out stump grinders.

Places with food: Sharon puts in a vote for "good ol' Chuck E. Cheese's." Coupons are often available. And don't forget fast food play areas. If you need to fill out some tax forms, take your laptop, have a juicy McDouble, and let Clyde and Chloe run free. Promise it's just as fun as Harry Potter World.

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