Summer break is rapidly approaching! While the financial pundits insist that the economy is getting better, you know that things are still tight. The kids are going to be home for Summer and you can't afford to send them camp or day care. What do you do?
If you are a stay at home mom or dad, here are some affordable alternatives to Summer Camp:
Start by identifying free and discounted days held during the summer. For example the Dallas Museum of Art has free first Tuesday admission. Often, corporate sponsors will offer coupons for special exhibits. I am not just talking about the big museums. Hunt out small private museums too. One summer I took our youngest son to a local airport museum and at the Texas Rangers ballpark (unfortunately it has closed). Most museums have interactive exhibits for the children.
Most local libraries have all sorts of activities going on for children throughout the year. For starters, if your children don't have library cards, I would make that a week one activity. In addition to getting the card, you can invest time showing your child how to use the library computers and how to find books. In addition to being a source for borrowing books and other media, the library conducts various activities. These range from arts and crafts to story telling. I recommend visiting the library calendar of upcoming events and then schedule the ones you and your child will enjoy.
One day out of the week we designated as dollar movie day. Some theaters even designate a half price show. Often you will find a group from a day care attending these. Personally, I would avoid them and fork out the additional money. This is also a great way to catch up on a movie you missed when it was first released. If you want to get creative or educational, you can do a tie to a library book. This may seem like it's obvious, but check the listings before you go. Most will carry a few kid friendly shows. Our local dollar theatre currently has four shows that are kid friendly.
When it Rains
One summer, I had all sorts of outdoor activities planned for Alec. Unfortunately, we experienced the rainiest June ever. We had to get creative. The two favorite activities we did were arts and crafts and indoor miniature golf. For the arts and crafts we went to Hobby Lobby and picked up large bags of inexpensive plastic beads. Those coupled with a few other supplies (yarn, etc) and a library book of crafts led to hours of fun. The indoor putt putt course was the all time favorite. Alec is graduating high school this year and he still talks about it. We set up a nine hole course throughout the house. We used plastic cups as the holes. We marked the start of the each hole with masking tape (it wouldn't hurt the carpet). We used Pringles cans for some of the obstacles. We used whatever we could find around the house to "trick up" the course. I created score cards and we pre-determined the par for each hole. I wasn't an avid golfer so I had to buy two putters and balls at Goodwill.
This of course is not an exhaustive list. It's a start. I hope you get the idea. Be creative. One idea I didn't address is exploring your own city. I am surprised at the number of people in Dallas who have never been to the 6th Floor museum. There really is no limit to what you can do. The important thing is to get the kids involved. One year, Alec and I made "camp t-shirts." Have fun with it and don't forget to drink lots of water!