Cheap, chic (and free) summer fun for kids

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Can you believe it? Only one month left until school starts again. Many of us are wondering: where did summer go?

Now’s the time to maximize what precious blissful days of summer are left. And here are some great ways to do that with your kids.

Even if your kids are in day camps during the week, there are still weekend activities to look forward to so why not plan ahead.

How to do it cheap, chic (and free)

Cheap and free are obvious. But making your activities chic is about turning them into lasting, unique and bonding memories.

Here’s how:

Get back to nature

Put down the technology. As easy of a ‘babysitter’ as the TV, video game or iPad can be, it’s a waste of time and energy. A friend of mine only lets her young daughters (ages 6 and 8) use their iPads when they’re getting ready in the morning and again for about an hour after dinner. The rest of the time they’re playing outside or, if it’s raining, using their imaginations and playing indoors.

While the weather is so lovely, incorporate being outside into your day – every day. Many towns offer free concerts or movies in their park system – this can also be a great place for a dinner picnic where you can meet other families, too. If your kids aren’t in any kind of camp, your community may offer low-cost day camps for kids that incorporate swimming, arts and crafts, or nature and farm programs. Many YMCAs, for example, also have outdoor sports leagues for young children. For weekends, consider packing up the tent, the gorp and the family truckster to head out to camp at your local, state and national parks. The best family memories are built on bugspray and s’mores after all.

Get cooking

Even if your schedule allows for more flexibility once school ends, there’s always a dinner to make. But that can also bring more opportunities for family bonding time. Let your kids help pick a menu, and if they’re old enough, they can help shop and prepare the meal.

You can even start their food interest from the ground up – many urban areas have community farms that families can rent to grow their own food.

Get creative

Arts and crafts stores – like Michaels, for example, frequently offer drop-in classes for kids which are often free or require only a small daily fee. Other stores are marketed specifically for child activities – at some places, kids can make pottery that they create and take home. You can often get good deals – and plenty of supervision – by holding birthday parties at such sites.

Art and science projects can also be fun – and cheaper – at home. A slew of online sites exist that have great ideas for something to take on at home. Here’s one from the PBS website or check out Pinterest (practically endless DIY project inspiration exists here that your kids – and you – might just LOVE).

Explore your own backyard

Expand your horizons by re-discovering the cultural centers of your community. Most places offer reduced rates for children – some even have free days or half-days for families. Stay flexible to take advantage of off-hour or weekday deals.

For a completely new adventure, get out a map with your kids and randomly pick out a nearby town to explore. Most places have a convention or visitor’s bureau that can alert you to festivals, concerts or other free attractions. Take pictures and make a slideshow for family members who couldn’t make the trip.

Neighbor Night

Chances are, other families on your block are also interested in cheap, yet fulfilling, summer options. Why not join forces? Consider a weekly pot luck dinner with each family bringing a dish. You can continue the festivities by having a multifamily competition like kickball, cornhole or capture the flag. Mix up the teams every week.

Consider expanding your social circle by signing up for alerts from groups that organize kids’ events in your town. Local parenting blogs often have good intel on upcoming activities.

Have fun

As simple as it sounds, keep in mind that the overall goal is to have fun and enjoy what’s left of summer 2017 with your kids. Make it uniquely yours: cheap, chic and free (whenever possible!).

Your kids will love you for being so thoughtful and creative. It’s always less about the gadgets and the gifts and much more about the time spent.

Years from now, your kids will remember the silly things that happened, the new things you discovered together and the memories you made more than anything else.

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