By Sholain Govender-Bateman an experienced news reporter, magazine editor,  freelancer,  loving wife to Barry,  mum of one beautiful girl, Isobel and someone with a passion for life and everything fun.

The recession has been hard for many South Africans and as parents we already have financial strain trying to keep sticked up on nappies, groceries, pay for extra lessons and all the other pre-requisites that we feel our kids can’t do without. So, it has been a relief for me to find quite a few places in Pretoria where I can take my active (almost) two-year-old toddler and keep her entertained for free! Here’s my top five list – would love to hear where other parents take their kids for low-cost fun!

1. Safari Garden Centre – another gem which can be easily found on Lynnwood Road,  – this garden centre is a fantasy world waiting for your child to explore. Isobel loves the water features section and then we usually have a light lunch at the outdoor restaurant. The menu offers yummy starter portions that pass as mains and a delicious cheese burger and we walk off the calories at the play area with jumping castles, sand pits, pigs and all sorts of other entertainment on offer including ‘train’ rides which you can pay for. Cost – budget for tea and treats, plants and other garden goodies, and the car guard, entrance – free.

2. Ludwig’s Rose Farm and Butterfly Garden – On the outskirts of Pretoria – this gorgeous rose garden which is family-owned, has a ‘faerie garden’ for kids to roam in with well maintained wooden play gyms and even a round-about for kiddies. The tea garden is also a welcome relief for parents as the kids play. [Take the N1 Polokwane high-way going North. Then turn-off at the Wallmannstahl / Pyramid off-ramp, No 163. Turn right over the highway, when you reach the gravel road take the first right and follow the road to our paradise of roses. Tel: 012 544 01 44 Cost – budget for a light lunch, entrance – free.

3. Atterbury Value Mart pet shop, Atterbury Road – if you don’t have a free petting zoo in your area, a pet shop is just as fun for a toddler, pre-schooler or under 6-year-old child. Animal Kingdom on Atterbury Road has puppies, kittens and reptiles on display and a walk-through ‘aquarium’ which is fun for both kids and adults. Cost – change for the car guard and cash for whatever pet supplies you need.

4. Hatfield Plaza fleamarket, on Burnett Street – a fleamarket is fantastic place to keep the entire family entertained and fed for a few hours! We stroll through the Hatfield Plaza fleamarket which is situated on the upper level parking area every Sunday. There’s live entertainment, a jumping castle for the kids and with just R50 you could get a few snacks from the food stalls, a book or two from the book stall or whatever else takes your fancy. Cost – budget for parking, entrance – free.

So where do you take your kids to have fun?

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