When school is out, it can be a challenge to keep your kids occupied during the day without dropping them in front of a television or computer, as tempting as that might be. What once was a sign of freedom as a child has become a bit of a headache for parents -- what are you supposed to do with your kids when they're off school?
Fortunately, the weather is forgiving and you can find free or low-cost ways to keep them entertained, engaged and learning while still having a lot of fun at the same time. Here are a few ideas to keep your out of school kids out of trouble this summer.
Go fruit or vegetable picking. Want to have some fun and show your kids where their food comes from? Go pick your own fruits and vegetables. You can pick anything from blueberries and strawberries, to tomatoes and pumpkins, depending on the time of the year. If you pick more than you can use, this might be a good time to teach your children how to freeze or can your haul, which could be a fun learning activity for them as well.
You often won't save much in terms of the cost of the produce compared to the grocery store, but you will have a fun morning or afternoon, and your kids will learn that food doesn't always come in plastic containers at the store.
Visit a local national park. There are 401 national parks across the United States, and of those, only 133 charge an entrance fee. That means there are plenty of parks you can visit absolutely free. There are also free entrance days, when the entrance fee is waived. These often coincide with major holidays such as Presidents Day weekend or the National Park Service's birthday on Aug. 25.
So take the kids to get some exercise and see the beauty of our national park system. You can find a national park near you at NPS.gov.
See a drive-in movie. There aren't as many drive-in movie theaters as there used to be, but it can be a fun way to catch a movie. Drive-in theaters are often cheaper than regular movie theaters, and you can bring kids, especially those who are younger and noisier, and not worry about them distracting other people.
Catch a free summer movie. Many movie theaters offer free or discounted summer movies during slow periods in the week. Often, a theater will offer these during the day in the middle of the week. Theaters may also partner with a summer reading program to give free movie tickets as rewards. The best place to find information about these promotions is your local theater's website.
Attend a minor league baseball game. Does your family enjoy watching sports, but doesn't want to pay major league prices? Look for a minor league baseball team that plays nearby. The highest level of minor league baseball is Triple-A, followed by Double-A. Major league officials often use these teams to develop players, so you might see a future major league player rounding the bases.
Tickets and concessions are also often cheaper ($1 hot dog promotions are common), the ballpark is smaller and more intimate and the atmosphere is family friendly.
Visit a museum or science center. If baseball isn't your thing; consider a little culture or science. Museums and science centers are fantastic places to take your children because there as so many things to see and learn. They also often run workshops and programs that offer children a way to interact with history or science in a hands-on fashion.
Throughout the year, you can find promotions that offer free admission. For example, Bank of America has partnered with more than 150 museums nationwide to offer their cardholders free admittance during the first weekend of every month as part of their Museums on Us program. The Smithsonian Institution, which includes 19 museums and the National Zoo, offers free admission throughout the year.
Schedule your summer calendar with these activities, and before you know it, the season will be over and your kids will be heading back to school.
Jim Wang is an entrepreneur, who founded microblogger.com. For actionable advice on how to build your own business, join his free newsletter.
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