On Fridays, I share tips I have actually used to save my family money, along with my once-a-month grocery update. The posts will (typically) be short and sweet, giving you ideas to work on saving money over the weekend or, in this case, for the upcoming week.
So, it’s the middle of summer, there’s no camp this week and the kids are at home all. day. long. They are restless, complaining of boredom and you’ve been to the pool one too many times.
Though they may be entertained by various electronic devices, it’s important for them to get out into the real world too. A 2010 study found that kids spend 52 hours per week on electronics and that number is only growing.
So what do you do? A little creative, frugal summertime entertainment may just be the solution.
Consider these simple, money-saving suggestions to get you through those long summer days.
Nature has many wondrous things for kids to explore and time in nature is important to children’s physical and emotional health.
Visit a local park that has nature trails. Take a hike, not with the end in mind, but just enjoy and explore along the way, allowing your child to go at his/her own pace. Create a nature scavenger hunt or build a shelter out of fallen branches. Take a net and hunt for insects, frogs, and turtles (be respectful – catch and release).
Go camping, even if it’s in your own backyard. Though it may not seem like a big thrill for adults, roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over a fire, catching fireflies, counting stars, and sleeping outside all provide a world of excitement to young children.
Many county, state and national parks have museum-like visitor centers that are fun for kids to explore. Be sure to check out free ranger programs offered in parks you visit. Some parks allow kids to check out nature backpacks, full of great tools to help your young naturalist explore, such as binoculars, magnifying glasses, and guidebooks for plant and animal identification.
Give them a camera
Some kids may need guidance learning to use the camera, but many will catch on quickly and become aspiring photographers in no time (obviously this is going to depend on kids’ age and the camera). Most kids will enjoy the freedom to explore their creativity and experiment with the camera.
Parents can provide a theme or challenge to provide direction, if needed. Have kids practice taking pictures close up and far away, hunt for letters, words or colors, take a photo walk or hike, and play around with photo editing (check out picmonkey for free, user friendly editing).
Print out their favorite photos and have them put together a scrapbook or album. (Bonus: these would make frugal gifts for family/friends too!)
Build a fort
Kids love to build forts because it’s a natural way for them to organize and build their own special “space” (and it’s good for their development too). Forts are the perfect activity to keep kids busy for hours, inside or outside.
Building inside? Provide them with a room or portion of a room for their secret hideaway. Give them sheets, clothespins, pillows, cushions, cardboard, or any other safe materials around the house.
For outdoor forts, sticks, bushes, low hanging trees and maybe some old sheets or a tarp with some clothespins and rope will do the trick.
Kids love to plan and experiment with building their own little structure and will play in the completed project, continuing to improve and expand for hours, or even days. Don’t forget to complete the fort building project with a picnic!
Backyard water fun
Kids are drawn to water. If you’re tired of going to the pool and just want to stay home, a small pool in the backyard or patio may be just the ticket. Many can be found at a reasonable price, particularly mid-season.
Don’t forget the floats, sponges, cups and bottles, balls and squirty toys. Though the kids may not be able to “swim”, they can pour, squeeze, squirt and float!
Other water activities include water balloons, running through the sprinkler, or making your own water “blob”. Get creative and make your own little “river” out of tin foil or other household items (and don’t forget to build a dam out of rocks).
Experiment and create
Years ago, my son spent several days during the summer building his own, very large paper mache volcano (with a 2 liter soda bottle under the top opening), painted it to look like a volcano with lava, and used baking soda and vinegar (poured into the bottle) for a great volcanic eruption in the backyard. over. and over. and over.
Simple science experiments keep kids busy and satisfy their curiosity. Kids can make their own bubbles, ice cream, kites, paper airplanes, silly putty, chalk, crystal candy, solar oven and so much more! Search the net or check out a library book, get creative and watch their eyes light up when they witness the wonders of science.
Check out your local library
Many local libraries offer summer programming for children. Not only can your child participate in book reading challenges, but activities such as craft workshops, movie night, story time and other guided programs that are entertaining as well as educational. Most library activities are free of charge and offer ongoing summer programs.
As long as they can run, satisfy their curiosity or build something, kids are usually happy. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to keep the kids busy during the summer.