With summer right around the corner, you’ve probably already negotiated how long the kids are going to stay with you. Time to plan some summer activities for your clan.
Maybe they’re coming for several weeks, or maybe you’re sticking to the regular routine of weekends. Particularly if you’re sticking to a normal schedule, it’s easy to think that everything will stay the same. It won’t. When kids are on summer vacation they know it and they need to be entertained all the time. The problem is that entertainment can come with a hefty price tag.
The good news is that there are great summer activities you can plan with your kids that will be free (or at least very cheap) and will allow you to spend time together and create memories. Some of these take just a few hours while some could last a couple of days. Regardless of how much time you get to spend with your kids this summer, you don’t have to go bankrupt to have fun with them.
Go on a picnic.
Picnics are a summer classic. If you’ve got a few hours to spare then take a ball or a Frisbee with you and play some games after lunch. You can either make sandwiches at home beforehand, or go to the store on the way and pick up little snacks like fruit, cheese or chips. The beauty of a picnic is that you don’t all have to sit down for a set meal. Let the kids pick at the food as they’re running around. You’ll be surprised at how much they’ll eat once they’ve worked up an appetite! A little tip: if you’re running errands and the kids get hungry, you can always suggest a picnic instead of taking them to a restaurant or fast food joint. Run into the store, grab some food and you can feed them a healthier, cheaper and more fun lunch.
Have a family sports day.
While you’re in the park, why not get the extended family involved. Invite cousins or grandparents to join you for a family sports day. Multi-generational sports are great for the kids and it’s always funny to see how competitive the adults can get!
Camping is always a fun one for kids (even if it’s just in the backyard). If you get the kids involved in pitching the tent and assign them each a job for the trip, they’ll love it. Maybe they can be in charge of keeping the tent area litter-free or they can be in charge of the dishes. They’ll also love that they can “cook” dinner by emptying a can of beans into a pan!
Create a park obstacle course.
For younger kids, visiting the park is entertainment enough. For older kids, it’s just so last year to be seen playing on the slide. If you’ve got one of each, go to the park anyway. Let the younger ones run around but create an obstacle course for the older ones. Something like this: run under the slide, around the baby play area twice, up the climbing wall, down the fireman pole on the other side, then back to the front gate. As soon as they set off, start your stop watch. I guarantee that they’ll keep trying to beat their time, and any siblings watching will probably want to be timed too!
Create a scavenger hunt.
If the weather isn’t cooperating for the outdoor activities, try doing something special at home. Kids love a little intrigue so create a scavenger hunt for them. You don’t need to buy anything special as a prize. You could end it in the freezer and let them have some ice-cream, or give them each a homemade coupon for 30-minutes of video games with dad.
Kids love slime. Not all parents do, but kids adore it! Instead of driving to the toy store and buying some, why not make it at home? There are countless recipes for homemade slime and almost all use ingredients that you have at home anyway. Making your own is a great way to spend time with the kids and potentially spark an interest in science.
Bake or cook as a family.
Lots of kids enjoy baking or cooking. It’s fun for them to see how all the ingredients come together and react to make a cake or to be able to sit down for dinner and know that they were instrumental in making it happen. The key to cooking with kids is to let them take the lead. I’m not saying they should have access to sharp knives or anything, but they need to be allowed to take charge. If you’re a perfectionist, prepare for the fact that it will be messy and might go wrong. Your child might not understand how much is in a pinch of salt. That’s okay. If the meal turns out to be disgusting, laugh about it and try again the next day. This is one of those activities that’s more about the process than the result.
Write letters to out-of-town family or friends.
If you live away from the rest of your family, write them letters. Older kids will enjoy telling their grandparents, or uncles, all about how they’re spending their summer with you, and younger ones can draw pictures to be included. If you write to adults, you can bet they’re going to write back. Especially grandparents!
Attend free admission days in your city.
Most cities understand the plight of the summer-weary parent so they put on free admission days. If you google “free admission [your city]” you’ll be amazed at how many things are available. Sometimes the zoo or a local museum will offer free admission on a specific weekday, but sometimes they do special events on weekends too. It’s definitely worth spending a bit of time online before the kids arrive so you can get to grips with what’s out there. A word of caution: a lot of museums now make you exit through the gift shop. Before you go in, explain to your children that you won’t be buying anything in the gift shop, or give them a pre-determined limit of $5 to spend in there. Make your expectations clear before you enter the museum, so that you won’t have to deal with the begging and sad faces at the end.
Put on a play or make a video.
This is a great activity for a rainy day. If you’ve got more than one child, or your children have some friends over, encourage them to put on a play or create a dance routine. It’ll take them a good few hours to get it exactly the way they want it and when they come to present it to you, record them on your phone. You’ll have a keepsake of the day and the kids will love watching themselves.
Look up outdoor movies or festivals.
Most cities have some form of outdoor activity schedule for the summer. Sometimes it’s food or culture festivals on a Saturday afternoon, but it could be an outdoor movie in the park or a family friendly concert. Again, spend some time online researching what’s in your city so you can plan ahead. Many of these events are free, but you might have to get tickets so finding out about them early in the summer will help.
Put away your wallet and enjoy summer activities with your kids.
These are just a few ideas of free summer activities to get you started. The possibilities are endless. The key thing to remember is that you don’t have to break the bank to give your kids a fun, exciting experience this summer. If you’ve got other suggestions, leave us a comment below.
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- This article was written by Teresa Virani, Co-Founder of coparently – a scheduling and communication tool for divorced and separated parents to organize & manage shared custody. Adjusting to co-parenting after divorce or separation is often a huge transition for dads. And when you haven’t been the primary caregiver before,…