Keep Your Kids Busy This Summer — Without Breaking the Bank
You remember the feeling. The bell rings and you’re done with another school year — it’s summer vacation! You race out of the building, cheering with your classmates and look forward to the lazy days ahead.
You never stopped to think what your parents were experiencing as you were “set free” for three months — but now you know. Now, you’re the parent, and you’re faced with figuring out how to keep your kids busy this summer. Here are a dozen ideas to stave off boredom without dipping into their college funds, courtesy of credit.com:
- Let them be bored. Kids today experience highly scheduled lives, so as soon as you let them be, they’re bored because they haven’t learned to play on their own and be creative. Experts say boredom is essential for learning creativity — so it’s not a bad idea to give your kids down time. Provide them with time to come up with things to do, and don’t immediately fill up their schedules when boredom inevitably strikes.
- Institute a chore chart. You can keep your kids busy and get something out of it. If you don’t already, teach them responsibility with a chore chart that includes unpaid daily chores like making their beds, feeding the family pet, etc. Or you could step up your game by making a list of chores kids can get paid for, including their monetary value. You’ve got to make an investment, but it’s a great way to make kids accountable and help them start managing their own money.
- Visit the local library. Most local libraries run summer reading programs that may incentivize even non-readers to pick up a book. Make a habit of stopping by the library once a week or more often, and let your kids pick appropriate books they find interesting. This is a two-birds-one-stone approach, since visiting the library is a fun outing and reading whiles away many hours.
- Create a craft station. Got creative kids? Consolidate your crafting materials into one place, and let them go to town. You don’t have to buy a bunch of brand-name craft kits; start collecting things like used printer paper, old crayons, toilet paper rolls and nature items. Keep these, along with basic supplies like craft paper, scissors and glue, in the craft area. Let kids create on their own, or use social media sites like Pinterest for inspiration.
- Check out your local parks & recreation department. Summer camps can be prohibitively expensive if you’re on a budget, but local parks and recreation departments may run day camps that are much cheaper, and allow kids to be outdoors and burn off some energy. Even if your local department doesn’t run camps, chances are it hosts some cheap or free summer events you can attend as a family.
- Plant a garden. Get kids out of the house and into a healthy pastime with gardening. Even small kids can help plant corn if you’ve got room, as it’s easy to grow in many U.S. climates. Or talk to your local gardening center about fruits, vegetables or flowers that thrive in your area. Let your kids help choose the plants and the layout — and be responsible for weeding, watering, and other garden maintenance.
- Get to know free activities in your area. The internet is rife with great blogs highlighting local activities, especially for families with kids. Run a quick Google search for your area, and get familiar with what’s out there. Oftentimes, these blogs have calendars of family-friendly activities, often free or cheap, throughout the summer.
- Create an activity jar. Write down potential activities on popsicle sticks and stick them in a jar. Let the kids choose one activity each day, which could include making homemade ice cream, building a bicycle ramp in the backyard, creating a sprinkler out of a two-liter bottle or building a fort in the living room. Try to come up with ideas using materials you’ve got on hand, especially if they’re things the kids can do largely unsupervised.
- Explore new local parks. Make it a goal to go to one new park each week this summer. If you’re in a medium to large metropolitan area, there are probably loads of neighborhood parks you’ve never even heard of. Set aside one afternoon each week, pack a picnic lunch and try out a new park.
- Create a summer memory board. Kids love to collect things, whether it’s movie ticket stubs or rocks. And if you’re like many parents, you like to take photos of your kids having fun. Combine these two things with a summer memory board. All you need is a large cork board, which you can get for a few bucks at a local craft store. Each time you try something new or create new memories, add to your board — creating a great memento of the summer.
- Pick up some board games. Board games for kids have come a long way since Candy Land. While the old games are still great, many new games teach skills like resource management, teamwork and basic strategy skills. You’ll need to invest some money upfront, but you can get most kids’ games for $20 or less.
- Start a small business. If you want to keep your kids really busy, get them thinking about how to earn, save and invest money. Young kids can plan for a garage sale late in the summer, spending time sorting through clothes and toys they no longer need. Bigger kids can mow lawns or pull weeds for the neighbors, or act as mother’s helpers, taking care of little kids while mom is still around.
Happy summer! Be safe; enjoy the long, warm days; and make sure your kids have some great memories before they head back to school in the fall — a day that’s surely marked in red on your calendar.