For kids, summer is a lovely long stretch of day camps, playing with friends, going to the pool, and generally having fun. But for parents, struggling to keep those little folks busy can get costly. Trips to amusement parks, sporting events, museums, and such can seriously stretch a budget. And that’s not even counting the family vacation!
But it doesn’t have to be that way. While some summer outlays cannot be avoided, many expensive activities can be replaced with cost-free alternatives. Here are seven cheap ways to keep junior busy.
Write clues on scraps of paper and hide them in your yard, house, garage, wherever, and have each clue direct your kid to the next clue. Make the clues as easy or hard as needed, depending on how clever you believe your child is. If your child is into math, make the clues involve some calculations. Make the last clue lead to some treat. You can do this game with a group of kids, too, by dividing them into teams and setting up multiple clue trails.
An alternative to the treasure hunt is a scavenger hunt. Make a list of items your child (or each team) is required to find. As with the clues in the treasure hunt, make the items as easy or hard to find as needed depending on your child’s abilities.
Remember when using a camera was an expensive proposition, with the cost of film, developing, and prints? That’s a thing of the past — your digital camera doesn’t cost anything to use… But your kids will still get a thrill out of being photographers for a day.
Take them to favorite places and let them shoot away. Get on the bus or train, visit the park or beach, anyplace you like going. They’ll get an extra thrill documenting every step of the way. Upload the photos to your computer and print out a select few to create a collage. It will be a day to remember, and your wallet will be just as thick as it was when the day started.
Do you remember the fun you had the last time you saw a magic show? Let your kids in on the action by having them set up their own magic show for friends and family. Here are two easy tricks any kid can master:
- Shuffle a deck of cards and quickly glance at the bottom card. Let someone pick a card, any card. Have the person put the card at the bottom of the deck. Lightly shuffle the deck again. Flip through the deck until you find the card that was originally on the bottom; the next card should be the card the person picked. Pull it out with a flourish!
- Next hold a carrot under a handkerchief as if it’s your finger. Tell the crowd you’ve discovered a secret formula for resisting pain. Poke a pin deep into the carrot… The crowd will shudder while you coolly pull it back out without a wince.
You can find plenty of other easy tricks online.
Even if your kid’s not a budding entrepreneur, she’ll love the thrill of the first paying customer. A lemonade stand is an easy proposition — mix up some powdered drink, set up a table on the sidewalk, and make a sign. No one gets rich this way, but it does introduce your child to the basics of sales and profit, and keeps her occupied for a few summer hours.
Scrap paper poetry
Rainy day? No problem. Before you let the kids park in front of the idiot box — I mean TV — engage them in a game of scrap paper poetry. Each player writes ten random words on slips of paper. All the slips go into a hat, and each player draws ten out. The players then arrange the words, and no other words, into simple free-form poems.
This may sound a little silly, but kids have an innate sense of language and find great humor in atypical arrangements of words. This game won’t cost you a penny but could keep the little minds and hands occupied for an hour.
Every kid likes to blow bubbles using those little wands. Do that traditional pastime one better by creating super bubble wands from old wire clothes hangers. Just bend them out into big circles or ovals, pour the bubble liquid (or dishwashing liquid) into a flat plate or pan, dip the wands in, and wave them in the air. Pennies spent, giant bubbles created!
If you have other ideas for frugal summer fun, please share them in the comments.