I got a little smarter about the weekly trips to Mud Monkey about half way through the summer. After bringing home penguins, turtles, cupcakes, ice cream cones, fairies, and elephants, I insisted the girls paint something useful. The result of which was a colorful chip and dip tray.
About once a week, I'd give the girls some money and I'd drop them off at Mud Monkey. It was air conditioned, safe, lots of moms around and just a short jog from my house. The girls would paint, walk across the plaza to McDonald's for lunch, then call me on the cell and I'd come pick them up. Sure it cost me about $40 per trip, but how can you put a price on 3-4 hours of peace and quiet, happy kids, and a ceramic monkey you'll treasure forever?