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10 Creative (Some Even Free!) Ways to Keep Your Kids Busy This Summer

Updated on May 2, 2015

#1: Family Vacation Time! But Where?

This year, have the kids decide where the family should go (you get the final say-so still) on vacation. Give them a budget of how much money the family will have to spend and an estimate of what you usually spend on food each vacation day to get them started. Then, let them do the leg-work for you this year! After researching destinations, they'll need to stay within their budget to decide if the family should fly or drive, what kind of hotel to stay at, what activities are available there and how much it will all cost. Will they have money left for souvenirs or to buy other things they might want? How many days can you stay if Option A is chosen as opposed to Option B? You just might be surprised what they come up with!

#2: Local Summer/Day Camps

These might get a little bit pricey depending on what you have available in your area. Local youth groups, museums and even colleges and Universities offer a variety of programs every year. Costs vary and times could last anywhere from a day to a week to several weeks and may be only during the day or all day/all night. Whatever your kid or teenager is interested in, there's probably a program for that, from coding to baking to oceanography. Check it out in advance and see what discounts are available. Even if it starts the next day, there may be spots that need to be filled and a deeper discount may be offered. Give them something amazing to tell their new class and teacher about in the Fall!

#3: Cupcakes, Anyone?

Even if you can't afford a cooking class for your kid, if they're interested in cooking or baking or getting to the age where they'll have to start fending for themselves soon, there are always books at used book stores and the library to help. Let them learn the basics (including safety) and then move on to more difficult things. Why not have them make dinner for the family one night a week? Or a dessert for you to take into work to show off to your co-workers? Whether they decide they like cooking or baking and make a career of it or not, at least they'll know how to feed themselves when they're on their own.

Japanese Cherry Blossom Cake

Japanese Cherry Blossom Cake
Japanese Cherry Blossom Cake | Source

#4: Tutoring

Now is the time to make up for that one subject your kid always struggles with. A few tutoring sessions may be all he or she needs to succeed next year. If you can't afford regular tutoring programs or day camps for the help they need, look for local youth groups, college students in need of summer money or even that friend or neighbor you know who might make a good teacher and just hasn't tried it yet! (Safety Note: Make sure it's a person you know very well and that your child is not left alone with a stranger! Tutoring can always take place at the kitchen table while you make dinner or some other time when you can be around.)

#5: Music to My Ears (or Something Like It)

If you have a piano or other instrument, summer is a great time for your kid to start playing! If you don't have an instrument that excites them, look around locally for used ones. Even a used bookstore in my city has a small used instrument section. If music lessons are not an option, pick up a book (preferably with a CD or DVD) either from a book store or your local library. If your kid is actually interested in the instrument they selected, they should be able to follow along reasonably well and actually play some simple pieces of music by the end of the summer. Look online for free videos and even free simplified sheet music so they can play the same songs they listen to.

#6: Gardening

Depending on where you live, you might have to get a bit creative with this one. Some of you will live in areas where all you have to do is give the kid a few cheap seed packets and they'll have a bounty of produce in no time. I live in Phoenix. It's not so simple to get much of anything to grow, especially if you have desert landscaping. A large pot or two with some organic potting soil may be needed to get started, but never fret. Take a look at what I've got in a pot in my desert backyard below. That picture was from a week ago. Now, the tomato plant on the left is over 2 feet tall and flowering and I've trimmed the Basil 3 times to make dinner. I have Thyme, Rosemary and Sage also growing, but they're down a little lower. (The netting is to keep out the local bunnies. They love basil!)

Growing in Phoenix

Growing plants in pots in Phoenix, AZ
Growing plants in pots in Phoenix, AZ | Source

#7: Culture for Your Kids

During the summer, you may have a relative, friend or babysitter watching your kids during the day. This is an excellent time to go out to a local museum, symphony, play, etc. Culture happens all year, but hot summer days get great discounts and your kids will have a new experience to carry with them the rest of their lives.

#8: New Hobby

Let your kids pick out a new hobby to keep them busy and creative all summer long. Be it crocheting, scrap-booking, writing, photography, painting or whatever they find fun and interesting, they'll be excited to show you their latest masterpiece!

#9: Games, Games, Games

That's right! All those games you used to play as a kid are coming back into style! So dust off your favorites or have your kids see what their friends' parents have and start a weekly game night! It's a great (and free!) way to spend some quality time together.

#10: Take Your Kid to Work Day (or Week)

Depending on where you work and how kid-friendly the environment is, ask your boss about bringing your kid in for a day or even a whole week to see what you and other departments do. He might even volunteer to take your kid on a tour of the facility and answer any questions your kid has (because you know your kid asks about EVERYTHING). Other people may be able to have your kid spend part of the day with them. Just remember that not all work environments are good places for your kid and not all kids are good for all work environments. Know when enough is enough and maybe one of the other suggestions might be more appropriate.


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