How to entertain your kids for the summer on a shoestring budget

School is out (or almost out) and it doesn’t take long to hear the dreaded statement that comes from every child: “Mom, I’m bored.” If you have the money to send them to camp, great. There are camps for everything from hiking and biking to arts and crafts so it shouldn’t be a stretch to find one that is perfect for your child. If, on the other hand, you find those camps a bit pricy as I do, here are a few ideas to keep the kiddos entertained on a budget.

Special Outings:

For parents the summer always seems to fly by, but for a kid it can seem like an eternity. It helps to keep them in the loop about what to expect during the summer months. If you are planning a family vacation or a few special outings let them know and add it to the calendar so they have something to look forward to. Every outing does not have to include an expensive hotel or amusement park. Plan a few day trips that include activities like bowling, fishing, biking, hiking, or boating for fun. You can also visit businesses that cater to kids like a trampoline park, or arcade on a budget. Or, just take some time to visit a friend or relative!

Parks & Recreation Department:

Check your local Parks and Recreation website or visit the office. Many towns offer free or low-cost activities for all ages during the summer months. If your town doesn’t offer much, check nearby cities. Although they may charge an out-of-town rate, the programs are still very reasonable. Also be sure to check for a listing of local parks to see which playgrounds might work best for your kids. Some parks have great playgrounds for toddlers while others are geared more toward teens with skateboard parks and ball fields. You might even find a park nearby with water features like a splash pad! Also check online to sign your kids up for sports like t-ball, swimming lessons, judo and more.

Library:

Portrait of a lovely girl with touchpad and open book sitting in library

Head on down to your local library. Like Parks and Recreation, many libraries offer free activities for all age ranges. They may have reading programs with games and incentives that help keep children occupied while keeping their minds sharp during the summer, or clubs such as Anime, chess, and special activities for different age groups. While you’re there, be sure to ask about tickets to local attractions. Many libraries offer free or discounted tickets to attractions and museums such as The Boston Museum of Science, The Museum of Fine Art, The Butterfly Place, the See Science Center, and more. Be sure to reserve your tickets early, some libraries have a limit and offer them on a first-come, first-served basis. You may even be able to view a list of attractions and reserve your spot online.

Friends & Family:

It can be easy to lose touch with school friends during the summer. Before school ends, encourage your child to get contact info for his best buddies so they can stay in touch. Talk to the parents and see if they want to do an activity swap:  you take their kids for an activity, they take yours. Also check with your relatives. Can they visit their grandparents or a relative who lives someplace else for a little while? When I was growing up, my siblings spent their summers at a farm in Maine with their cousins.

team group of happy child outdoor in nature have fun

Volunteer:

It is hard to feel sorry for yourself when you are helping others out. The summer is a great time to instill the value of volunteering. To find a volunteer opportunity near you visit http://www.givebacktime.org/ or https://www.volunteermatch.org/ or simply call a local organization and ask if they need help. If your child has a special talent or interest, brainstorm to figure out how that gift may be of assistance to others.

Work:

Sometimes boredom simply comes from not having structure. The summer might be a great time to implement a chore chart for your kids. Have them clean their room or wash the dishes for an allowance. Or spark their entrepreneurial spirit and help them set up a business. If they are into arts and crafts, have them make items and help them sell them online. If they prefer to be outside, help them set up a small business walking the neighbor’s dogs or mowing lawns. If they are earning money, you can throw in some smart savings goals and have them save for something special at the end of the summer.

Stay tuned next week for even more ideas for the summer!

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