At some point during the long summer, kids are bound to say the words every parent dreads: “Mom, I’m bored!” Oh sure, there are many things to do—amusement parks, costly trips to the mall, and summer camps—just to name a few. But thrifty moms and dads can keep kids happy without having to break the bank. With a little creativity, you can still uncover a variety of ways to keep your children stimulated with little or no cost. Here are some budget-friendly activities to enjoy during the long summer months:
Many local libraries put on engaging (and free) children’s programs. You might find a weekly story time specifically for toddlers, or a music class where parents and children sing together and socialize with other children. The bonus, most libraries have pretty good air conditioning.
On a sunny day, pack a picnic and a blanket, and simply enjoy a local park with your kids. They will love watching the birds, listening to the wind, and running through the grass. You can also go on a nature walk and point out items like leaves, acorns, and bugs to your curious explorers.
Help your toddler develop important social skills by finding a local playgroup to join. Sites like Meetup or Facebook often list playgroups in different cities. The best part? Most playgroup activities keep budgets in mind.
It’s not just for grandmas anymore! Digital photos can be printed at home (or for pennies at Costco or Walmart photo labs) and kids love seeing hard copies of their work. Use leftover notebooks or inexpensive art pads and decorate with markers, stamps and stickers.
Plan a board game morning
While family board game night is an old tradition for many, a board game morning—complete with pancake breakfast and lively tunes—will have your kids giggling. Buy a new board game or bring out the family favorites. Let everyone stay in pajamas and take turns choosing games.
Free Museum Days
A lot of museums offer discounted or free entrance on certain days and times of the week(and your kids will get a little dose of culture to boot). At least one museum will probably be offering special events: a sleepover night for older kids, a temporary exhibit, a hands-on workshop, a special movie screening, or a guest speaker. Take advantage of the discounted fun.
Summer is a great time to hit your local farmers’ market. Ask your kids to identity as many fruits and veggies as they can, and tell them to pick out something they’ve never tried. Then, go home to prepare and taste the new treats together.
Create a Neighborhood Scavenger or Treasure Hunt
Your first clue might be a note under their pillows that leads the kids to the mailbox, where they find movie tickets. A scene in the movie might provide the next clue. Get creative: hide clues in a book at the library, or in a tree at the park. The last clue reveals the treasure—a gift or tickets to a special activity.
Do your kids love animals? Watch the groomers wash and trim shaggy pets, ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ at the variety of fish and birds, and spy the scaly reptiles! Best of all? It’s totally free. But be careful parents, you may end up taking one of those critters home with you if you struggle with saying the word, “No.”
Plan a Volunteer Day
If you have young kids, you may want to limit your volunteerism to one or two days during the summer, it can be a long day for the little ones. Have a family meeting and brainstorm activities. Some ideas include volunteering at a marine rescue center, delivering food to the less fortunate, or even picking up litter from a beach, lake, or park. The possibilities are endless. Helping the community while keeping the kids entertained… it doesn’t get any better than that.
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