Summer is in full swing at our house & hopefully soon at yours as well. We have established summer rules with the boys a few years ago that has made summer flow a bit easier around here. Those rules are simple 1) We will not go out to eat every day. 2) We will not spend money on activities every day. 3) Free is what we want in the summer. The boys want to be on the move soaking up summer to the best of their ability every day. That is why we search out the free (or nearly free) activities that our city has to offer. We have learned so much about our local libraries, parks and rec, and outdoor nature center by going to the free programs offered to kids in the summer. So fret not, I offer you the top 10 ideas to make it a not so bummer summer (and to keep the budget intact).
1. Science Experiments. Think local dollar store to purchase the materials. Just the other day P and I made paint out of shampoo, food coloring, baking soda, and water. We had a great time painting up the driveway. P and his brother also like to fill a balloon with pop rocks, put the balloon over a bottle of pop, empty the pop rocks into the pop, and watch to see which concoction might blow up the balloon. We’ve had an army of catapults as well launching marshmallows, M&M’s, popcorn, etc.
2. Summer Clubhouse Movies. Cinemark Theaters offer ten different kid-friendly movies rated G or PG throughout the summer. It costs $1 for you and $1 for each of your kids that you bring to the movies. The movies might be two or three years old. Hey, I always say a good movie is worth watching again & for the price that is a great way to escape the summer heat for a couple of hours.
3. Read to the dogs. The local library hosts a Tail-Waggin’ Tutor program for elementary age kids to read to therapy dogs. We had a wonderful experience last summer of P anxiously awaiting his time each week to read to the therapy dogs. The best part the human handlers encourage the kids to sit or lay by the dogs which is fantastic for P to get the sensory experience along with the reading practice. This is on our must do list again!
4. Outdoor Nature Center. A visit to the outdoor nature center or local state park is always a great way to spend the day. We don’t own fishing equipment, so whenever a free fishing class is offered the boys are always asking to sign up. Whether it is a hike to see wildlife, skip rocks in the water, or partake in an activity like archery, fishing, or paddling everyone comes away happy. And maybe we’ve learned something new as well!
5. Community Centers. The community centers in our town are a great place to visit for art and craft type classes. They also have a game room stocked full of kid-friendly video games, pool tables, air hockey, Foose ball, toys, and puzzles. Best part it is no cost and supervised by the community center summer staff. The staff spends their days playing games with the kids. P loves visiting the community centers to play air hockey, Foose ball, and checking out what toys are available to play with that week.
6. Board games. Summer is a great time to dust off your board games. This is a great way to spend an afternoon having fun playing different games. Or hit up some local garage sales to see if there are any cheap games. Favorites at our house include Clue, Sorry, Monopoly, and Yahtzee!
7. Water Wars. Beat the heat while playing in the water! Another reason to visit your local dollar store to fill up on water balloons, balls, or other water toys. Get out the sprinkler, water guns, and get ready to get wet!
8. Visit family or friends. Make a day of it to visit relatives or friends. You don’t have to do a lot to have a blast! Pack up some games or outdoor toys for the kids. Make a picnic lunch for everyone to enjoy. The memories will last long after the day is over.
9. Try a new recipe. A sneaky little way to bring math practice into summer fun. Let the kids measure and mix and add and subtract. Try a new recipe together as a family or teach the kids how to make your grandmother’s chocolate chip cookies. P has a goal to make homemade barbecue sauce this summer. If you have a great recipe to share, I’d love if you would leave me a comment at the end of this blog.
10. Kids choice. Let the kids choose your activity or activities for the day. Maybe they have been anxiously awaiting to try something new or just spend time with you. It can be a daunting task to let the kids choose, so do what feels right, set parameters that you are comfortable with, yet the kids still feel like the adventure is theirs.
P likes to tell his dad and I that he was made for summer. I enjoy spending the summer days with my boys. They remind me to not live and die by the clock, the days are long with plenty of sun to enjoy and to not focus on the small stuff. There is something about a summer afternoon turning into a summer night that is a bit of perfection that we have at our fingertips. I never want my kids to lose the desire to run through the sprinklers and eat popsicles on a summer afternoon and to go on an adventure with their mom. What else would you add to the list for a free or nearly free summer activity?