If you're a parent, then you know in a few short days, if it hasn't happened already, your children will be done with school for the summer. Unless their summer is filled with part-time work (for older children) or summer camp (for younger ones), then you're likely looking for ways to fill their days that won't cost a lot of money.
There are many ways to entertain your child during those long summer days, but the key is to make it something they'll enjoy. Following are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing about how to keep your kids from getting bored without busting your budget to do it.
Visit the library.
It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking your child's learning stops during summer break. Your child takes a break from school, but learning is a lifelong habit you want to help your child develop because doing so will help him or her become a successful adult. Beyond the obvious books for reading, many local libraries also offer a variety of programs geared towards encouraging children to learn, explore and discover during the summer months. Some of those programs might include story-telling hour, parties around popular books or characters, movie afternoons and craft activities. The beauty of many of these offerings is that most are free or very low cost.
Involve them around the house.
If you have an older child, it's likely you will be giving them tasks to do around the house to keep them busy. While many of these things might be expected of them, few of them will illicit excitement.
Instead of giving them the routine tasks of taking out the trash or picking up throughout the house and leaving it at that, involve them in things they enjoy. This will generally take some discovery, but you can have them do things like start or work in the family garden or help cook dinner for the family. Not only can this be done relatively cheaply, but it can also go back to the library bonus of giving them something new to enjoy.
Take them to the movies.
With the average price of movie tickets rising to an all-time high of $8.38 in 2013, it can be cost prohibitive to take the family to see a movie. But during the summer, many theaters will offer special movie days on a certain day each week, especially for older movies.
The prices and offerings will vary by location, of course, but it's not unheard of for a movie theater to show movies for $1 or $2 per ticket or some sort of discounted concession deals. If that's not enough, there is always the benefit of the air-conditioned theater to provide a break from the summer heat.
Go on an adventure.
What is an adventure, you ask? It's essentially anything you want it to be and costs no more than some gas in your car or maybe a sack lunch. What you can do will vary by location, but it can be as simple as going to the beach, going hiking or walking a nearby trail. Young children are happy just to spend time with their parents, even if that entails going for a 'treasure hunt' walk around the neighborhood on a route you haven't taken before. A simple trip to the playground or park can be transformed into an adventure by packing a lunch, making a 'treasure map' and bringing some trinkets to hide around the park.
You can match your adventure with things your child has learned at the library to make things come to life for them for no added cost.
Check out the museum.
Another great option to keep your child from getting bored this summer is see what local museums have to offer children. Some will provide free admission to special programs aimed at children. Better yet, if you have a children's museum nearby you can take advantage of those as most kids love them. Just watch out for any admission fees.
The summer months can be a long time for children if they're easily bored, but with a little creativity, you can fill up their summers with fun activities that will be light on the wallet.
John Schmoll is the founder of online finance community Frugal Rules. For plainspoken advice on how to budget, invest and find freedom through frugality, join his free newsletter.
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