Have you taken your kids to your local college campus yet? Colleges often have a lot to offer families, and usually at very affordable (often free!) prices! College campuses are designed to withstand the antics of college students, and that tends to make them pretty kid-friendly – although I have noticed that railings aren’t necessarily toddler-proof.
Here are a few resources I have discovered at the various universities we have hung out with our kids over the years:
What You'll Find on This Page
These tend to be traditional rather than hands-on museums, but the exhibits can be very interesting. Some offer family programs that are specifically geared towards young children, many of which are free!
Emma and I spent a LOT of time in Cambridge University’s beautiful Botanic Garden during the three months we spent in England when she was a baby. Stanford is in the wrong climate for that type of garden, but they do have lots of interesting plants, and they have entire site dedicated to trees of Stanford (perhaps not coincidentally, Stanford’s mascot is a tree).
I picked Stanford as my undergraduate campus in part because I liked the architecture (based on brochures; I had not actually seen any of the schools I was deciding between in person), so it’s not a big surprise that this made my list. Because campuses frequently expand their buildings as people donate money, you get to see a wide variety of architectural styles within a single college campus! The college campuses we have spent time on with our kids – the University of Edinburgh, Cambridge University, MIT, and Stanford University – are all home to a wide range of architectural styles (some more attractive than others, in my opinion).
College sports games can be a lot of fun to watch, and they are typically less expensive to watch than professional sports. Sometimes games are completely free! College campuses also often host sports camps for kids that get good reviews.
I have saved the best for last, really! Visiting a college campus are a great way to get kids interested in academics! They get to see energetic young adults spending their days learning because they want to! Your local college may have concerts that cater specifically to kids, as well as theater productions and displays of student projects that your kids will find interesting and inspiring like this exhibit about extinct birds. Just remember that college students are adults, and so you may want to research the content before taking your kids to an exhibition (just as you would for any public event generally targeting adults).
College campuses often host academically-themed camps for kids during the summer; having worked at these both as an educator and a counselor, I find that the camp quality can vary quite a bit even within a single college campus (or a single program spread across campuses), and so I recommend getting personal recommendations for programs from other parents before signing your child up for the summer.
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