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Summer is here, and you know what that means. Your kids are BORED! At least, that’s what they tell you, repeatedly. As astounding as it may seem to adults who never have enough time; when kids have nothing to do, it’s a problem. Unfortunately, if you’re on a budget, it can be hard to come up with inexpensive ways to keep your kids entertained.
Resist the urge to spend a lot on fancy summer camps or expensive toys and games. Instead, come up with a game plan.
Create a Summer List
Your summer list is simply a list of specific things for your kids to do throughout the summer. The list should be large and placed in a spot where they’ll see it every day, such as the kitchen. Use lots of colors, and be sure to cross off activities as you do them. The goal of a summer list is to accomplish as many activities as you can.
The best part about a summer list is that it gives you and your kids something to look forward to all summer long.
If you already have big plans for your summer, such as a family vacation, include those on your list. For the most part, though, come up with small, achievable activities, such as a rainy day movie marathon. Include both outdoor and indoor activities, as well as numerous wet ways to cool off. Keep in mind that most of these are meant to be inexpensive but fun.
1. Backyard Water Park
Break out any water toys you have, such as a Slip-n-Slide, water guns, water balloons, sprinkler, and kiddie pool. Use pool noodles, beach balls, and buckets to create games and other water fun. Use your imagination!
Bring some nets to a frog pond and see who can catch the biggest jumper! Be sure to release them right away, though.
3. Go for a Rain Walk
Put on your rain gear and go on a rainy, puddle-splashing adventure.
4. Make Recycled Art
Let the kids raid your recyclables, arm them with a glue gun, and see who can build the best city, robot, or whatever they can think of.
5. Go on a Scavenger Hunt
Make a list of items for your kids to find at the location of your choosing. Outside, choose things such as acorns, a rock that looks like an ear, specific flowers and leaves, etc. If it’s raining, have a scavenger hunt at the library by listing items, such as an author with the middle initial Z, a book about pterodactyls, etc.
6. See a Movie Under the Stars
During the summer, you can find movies shown at outdoor parks. Pack a picnic dinner and movie snacks to enjoy. Bring chairs for the grown-ups and let the kids snuggle in sleeping bags on the grass. This is one of the most popular inexpensive ways to keep your kids entertained as it cuts out the cries for expensive movie theaters as well.
7. Find a Sprinkler Park
Sprinkler parks are popping up all over, and they’re a great way for kids to stay cool.
8. See Fireworks
Between the 4th of July, Old Home Days, and other local celebrations, it’s easy to catch a free fireworks show.
9. Pool Time
Public pools are a great place for your kids to have some fun and make some new friends (or meet up with some old ones). The best part is that they’re usually free for residents.
10. Go to Five Playgrounds
Instead of going to the same old one, find some new fun. Your kids will love the change.
11. Catch Fireflies
Break out the frog nets and catch some fireflies. Put them in a jar with holes punched in the top, and watch this natural lantern glow. Be sure to release them when you’re done.
12. Check Out the Library
Libraries have summer reading programs so kids can keep their reading skills sharp over the summer months. Many also have various activities and fun things for kids and families to do over the summer, all usually free.
13. Make Blanket Forts
The classic fort is always a rainy-day favorite.
14. Chalk Art
A big box of sidewalk chalk can entertain your kids for hours. Have your child lie on the driveway (on a not-too-hot day), and outline him or her in chalk. Then, have the child draw in the clothing and other features.
15. Visit a Museum
Museums are fully air-conditioned and ready for summer visitors. Check your local library for free or discounted passes before you head out.
16. Go to a Free Movie
Many movie theaters have summer programs that offer free or discounted movies for kids before the start of normal business hours. Some will even allow you to bring your own movie snacks or offer inexpensive ones.
17. Take a Hike
This can be anything from climbing a mountain (bring appropriate hiking gear) to a trek to the nearest ice cream stand for a hot-fudge sundae.
18. Plant a Garden
Kids love seeing something they planted grow, especially when they can eat it! If you don’t have room to plant a vegetable garden, put a few containers of soil on the deck for the kids to plant.
19. Make Icebox Cakes
Line a bread pan with plastic wrap, and then layer ice cream sandwiches, fruit, cookies, rainbow sprinkles, or other treats between layers of your favorite whipped topping. Freeze overnight, turn out onto a plate, slice, and enjoy. This is one of the best inexpensive ways to keep your kids entertained as you’ll end up with a refreshing dessert too!
20. Backyard Camping
Backyard camping is fun for all. Pitch a tent, and if you have a fire pit, let the kids cook up some tasty hot dogs and s’mores.
21. Make a Movie
Most computers and cell phones have some kind of editing software that you can use to make a movie. Help your kids come up with the script, and then help with the filming. This can be a simple afternoon project or a summer-long one, including lots of scenes, location shots, and special effects.
22. Have a Watermelon Seed-spitting Contest
Draw a line with sidewalk chalk in your driveway and see who can spit a seed the farthest. Or, draw large and small circles and have them go for accuracy.
23. Go on Picnics
Picnics are cheap and easy, and you don’t need a fancy picnic basket. Pack up their regular lunch and a blanket and find a spot at a local park where your kids can burn off some energy afterward.
24. Make Fairy Houses
Use only things from nature, such as acorns, bark, leaves, stones, etc. to create a house fit for a fairy king.
25. Play in a Stream
Find a small stream or creek and let the kids splash around. Make boats out of leaves and sticks and see whose sails down the stream the fastest. Have your kids wear water shoes or an old pair of sneakers.
A summer list means there’s always something fun to do, and they’ll look forward to checking off all the fun activities. Instead of coming up with “boredom busters,” a summer list is a positive game plan for inexpensive ways to keep your kids entertained. Of course, if your kids are a little older consider helping them find a summer job and not only will they stay entertained but they’ll make money too!