Now that my little princesses have been out of school for summer break for a hot minute I am already hearing the wails “I’m bored,” “There’s nothing to do”, and the constant whine of my 4-year-old begging me to play with her (even after three solid hours of play).
To keep from going crazy and from taking a second mortgage out on my house to entertain the royal court, I have started looking around my small town for some things to do that are free or close to it. I work full-time and have a sitter keep the kids throughout the week. Therefore, I cannot afford to shell out a lot of money for activities, so we have gotten creative. I set aside $30 to last the entire week for entertaining the kids and, amazingly enough, that is plenty of money. Here are a dozen ways to treat your kids without breaking the bank:
1. Free movie at the local movie theater. I know, right? Where was this when I was a kid? Check your local movie theater to see if they have a summer program and get a movie list. Ours plays at two different times (both in the morning) and on two different days. Plus, if you want to look like Super Mom (and you forgot to bring the big purse to smuggle in treats), check to see what special they have for snacks. Our theater has a kids’ special for $5 where they get popcorn, a small drink, and a pack of candy. Cha-ching! You just made the kids super happy for next to nothing.
2. Story time at the library. This is 100% free, and no snacks needed other than that half eaten bag of goldfish you keep in your car. Plus they can peruse the kids section while there and check out a few books to read (or you to read to them).
3. Playtime at the park. There is nothing better than the feeling of soaring through the air on a swing feeling like you are going to kick the clouds; until you get into your 30s and vertigo starts to set in, in which case do not get on the swings. I try to take the girls either super early or pretty late, so we are not out there in the heat of the day when the ice cream truck comes rolling through, and the children swarm to it like moths to a sticky flame.
4. Go on a “wishing adventure”. This is a super fun one that I save for a special escapade when the girls are good, but just need to get out of the house for a little while. I scoop up a handful of pennies and go into town where we have several fountains. We all take turns throwing pennies in and making our wishes then we tell each other what we wished for. It is great entertainment for pennies. Unfortunately, none of my wishes have come true yet, but I am still hopeful.
5. Feed the animals at a local farm. We have one that is open to the public that you can park and feed the ducks, fish, even the goats, and peacocks. I buy two loafs of old bread at the bread store for 50 cents a piece and pack waters for all of us. We can spend hours out there feeding the animals, looking for four leaf clovers, and talking to the people who own the place. Look online to see where the closest farm is to you and call to see if they allow visitors. Kids love animals, the stinkier, the better. Just remember your hand sanitizer and wipes, goat slobber is not sterile, and I personally gag when I see the kids feed a goat then eat a piece of bread.
6. Go on a picnic. Even on rainy days, this is a good option. I move the dining room table to the side of the room and lay a blanket down. The girls will get their favorite toys and bring them over and play while we eat sandwiches, chips, and drink juice boxes. It isn’t much different from our normal lunch except we are sitting on the ground. However, the kids love it.
7. Catch fireflies (or lightning bugs if you are from the South). My neighbors think I am cuckoo for Coco Puffs because every night at dusk you can find me outside bobbing and weaving trying to snatch those little suckers up and trap them in a pickle jar. My kids adore doing this, and it keeps them from watching TV late at night. We do have one strict rule in my house; the fireflies have to be released before you go to bed so you can catch them again tomorrow.
8. Hit up a local museum. Many are free to get into and have child-friendly art. In our little town, we also have a train museum that boys go gaga for. If you don’t have a museum locally – make one. Buy some cheap paints and a ream of paper and let them go to town creating works of art. Once they are dry, let them decorate their bedroom/playroom with their masterpieces and hold an art show for the family and friends to see.
9. Create an outdoor “water park” in your backyard using a sprinkler, squirt guns, kiddie pool, and buckets. My girls love anything water related and can spend hours squishing through the yard, jumping into the pool, and squirting each other. Plan on getting wet too, there is something liberating about soaking your Mom and running like hell.
10. Set up a lemonade stand. I let the girls make the lemonade, decorate a poster with colored markers, stickers, and tape for the sign and take the play table outside for them to sit while waiting for customers. Of course, I end up spending $3 on watered down Kool-Aid, but it is well worth it to see their smiles. I also call my neighbors and ask them to purchase a glass. By the end, we usually have a fun gathering in the front yard of parents and kids, plus my girls “earn” a few dollars to spend on ice cream or another treat.
11. Set up a scavenger hunt. You can do this any number of ways to either collect items or just locate them. Create cards with either the name or a picture of what to find (a pink flower, a squirrel, ladybug, etc.). This is a fun activity that is best if you work together to keep it from turning into a competition.
12. Do a “Movie Night” in your living room. Pop some popcorn, get their favorite candy, put out blankets and pillows for all of you to lay on and turn on a movie. We always make sure to have our jammies on to make it feel more festive (and in case they fall asleep during the movie).
Summer has just started and I have no desire to sell my plasma to be able to pay for keeping the kids busy and me sane. These are all activities we can do as a family, and a range of ages will enjoy. If you live in a large town, you can probably find even more fun things to do for free or close to it.
What activities do you want to plan for your kids to have a great summer without going broke?
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This post was written by Gina Ballentine exclusively for BonBon Break Media, LLC.
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