Summer activities for kids on a budget

June 27, 2013

By Sheryl Smolkin


Planning economical summer activities for children can be a challenge, particularly for working parents. Daycares typically close for a week or two during the summer months.

Community classes and summer camps fill up fast and private programs can be very costly.

Parents often cobble together a series of informal solutions including calling on grandparents, hiring responsible older teenagers and taking accrued vacation together or separately during the summer months.

But whoever is taking care of the kids, without the structure imposed by the school year, it doesn’t take long before boredom sets in. Here are some ideas for cheap things you or your children’s caregivers can do to take advantage of the beautiful weather and create special memories.

  1.  Staycation: Regardless of where you live, there are many places you may never have visited or have not visited recently. Zoos, science centres, museums, art galleries and historical sites can all make great family outings. Coupon books often sold by charitable groups may offer discounts, particularly if you visit during the week instead of on weekends.
  2. Fitness challenge: Challenge yourself and your children to be active every day. Chart your progress on a blackboard or a calendar posted on the fridge. Give small treats or outings as a reward for meeting milestones. Even if both parents work during the day, long bright evenings mean more time to walk, swim and bike.
  3. Local library: Your community library is a treasure trove of books, DVDs and even toys that can be borrowed. Children’s programs include story time, puppet shows and movies. There may also be special programs with children’s authors and illustrators.
  4. Parks tour: Public parks in your city or town often have different resources and equipment. Find out where the best wading pools, splash pads and climbing equipment are. Plan outings to different parks and conservation areas, and pack a lunch to take with you.
  5. Public transit: If the family car is your primary means of transportation, take a day trip using another mode of transportation like bus, train or even a ferry. Kids will enjoy learning about public transportation, planning the route and seeing new sites along the way.
  6. Pajama party: If the weather report calls for rain, have an all day pajama party. Stay in pjs all day, make breakfast food like pancakes for lunch and watch classic children’s movies available from Netflix or the library.
  7. Water play: Beaches and pools beckon in sizzling weather. If neither are available, then improvise. Turn on the sprinklers and let your children have fun while you water the lawn. You can also pick up a few plastic water guns so kids can soak each other in the backyard.
  8. Local produce: The fruit and vegetables grown and picked locally are entirely different from the pallid tomatoes and tasteless berries available off season in supermarkets. A visit to a farm where you can pick your own produce will educate your children about where their food comes from and how it should really taste.
  9. Board games: Remember playing Monopoly, Scrabble and Clue? Turn off the TV, unplug the computer and introduce your children to a family games night. Board games are enjoying a renaissance even among adults because instead of staring at a screen, the eyes of board gamers are on each other.
  10. Backyard camping: If you can’t get away, set up a campsite in the back yard. A tent, a flashlight and a sleeping bag can be fun for kids even if their own room is only a few steps away. And marshmallows taste just as good when they are made over the barbecue as when they are cooked over an open campfire.

Do you have ideas about cheap summer activities for you and your children? Send an email to so*********@sa*********.com and share your ideas with us. If your story is posted, your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.

If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:

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