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Summer Fun With the Kids for Pennies

Updated on July 13, 2016

Schools Out for Summer!

Schools only been out a few weeks and already here comes that all too familiar sound, "Mom I am bored. What's there to do?". All parents have heard it from time to time and I am no different. Raising a large family has its blessings, but an abundance of money isn't usually one of them. My grown children said it and now my seven year old says it from time to time. Finding things to keep them happy can be a challenge when your on a tight budget.

I have always looked for ways to save money and for them to still have fun. I always preferred my children to play at home, so I tried to create activities that the neighborhood kids would want to play too. It may seem crazy when you are on a overstretched budget to want to add even more kids into the equation.

The Challenge

The real challenge is finding activities that cost virtually nothing to do. One of the best places to start is too look at what resources you have available to use already. Do you have old clothes they could be used for dress up? What sports equipment do you already have on hand? What toys do they have and how could you use those to invent a new way to use them? What kind of outdoor space do you have available for them to play in? If they have to play inside what kind of space do you have inside? These questions often lead to ideas that you can use to find creative ways to try to entertain them.

The real key is to show them how to entertain themselves. As parents we need to find ways to get them to look for fun and innovative ways to enjoy themselves. It may have to start with you pretending to go on a space journey or play like your having tea. Once you get the imagination ball rolling you may be surprised how original they can be.

Cardboard Boxes

Cardboard boxes make great props for fun and imagination. A refrigerator box or other large box can be transformed into a spaceship. You can probably get an appliance store to save you one. Then cut out windows and have your child draw pictures and color them so that they look like it might if they were in space looking out towards earth or the other planets. Next try to decorate the box so it resembles a spaceship. This can be done either by painting it or by coloring it. If neither of these options work for you what about old wrapping paper? Be sure to remember to give some attention inside the box to a control panel to operate the ship from. Do you have any thing that will make them look like an astronaut? I took a costume pattern for the tin man from the Wizard of Oz and made a space suit for my son. Then I took a bike helmet and made his helmet for his space suit. a small box can be made to look like a air tank for moon walking and a old vacuum cleaner hose can attach the air tank to his suit for air.

Boxes can also be made into cars to pretend to drive around in. A paper plate or Frisbee can be used for the steering wheel. Don't forget to help you child paint the car and make sure it has headlights and tail lights drawn on and painted too. If you have more than one child and they all made one let them have races. They can also pretend to run errands while playing house.

I recently used a cardboard box and made a cave for a outdoor pirate adventure. I took plastic spiders and snakes and made cobwebs out of yarn for the kids to crawl through. At one end I set up a water hose and made it look like a waterfall for them to cross through. Then I set up the slip and slide by that like they slid down a mountain side.

As you can probably tell by now the possibilities are endless using cardboard boxes. Just use you imagination and enjoy creating things with your children. You will create memories that they will never forget.

The Backyard

If you are fortunate enough to have a backyard then you will have several more options for creating fun there. If you have old golf clubs you may be able to sink some old coffee cans or some large vegetable cans in the ground for the golf ball to roll into. Be sure to make the can edges as safe as possible to prevent your child from getting cut. Then take pieces of dowel stick and some kind of material that will not ruin and fall apart in the weather to mark the holes like flags at a real golf course.

An old net and a soccer ball can be transformed into a goal for practice kicking goals. Tie the net between two trees or poles and then just let your child practice kicking the soccer ball into the net. Cones are great for dribbling around with the soccer ball. Remember in soccer the goalie is the only one that can touch the ball with his hands.

You might look around for things to make a obstacle course. The level of difficulty depends on your child's age. If you have hula hoops or tires to let your child run through. I prefer hula hoops for my sons because where we live we have snakes and I didn't want one to get in the tire and bite him. A four by four or landscape timber can be used as a balance beam. As your child gets older you can gradually move it higher off the ground. A rope wrapped around a tree branch can be used to swing from one side across to another. Any thing that you can think of to make a obstacle course task will work. Try to make it fun yet challenging.

Sand boxes and tree swings are two more great additions to the backyard and neither has to be expensive. A old board with a hole drill through it and a rope makes a great tree swing. Just be sure to tie the rope firmly so your child doesn't fall. A wading pool makes an excellent sand box. Sand boxes can provide hours of creativity as they build castle and roads for trucks and so much more.

For older children you might want to set up a badminton net or volleyball set for them to play with their friends. My son particularly likes running, so he has a place to run in the backyard. The main thing is to give them a safe and active place to play where they can get some exercise and fresh air.

Art Projects

At the beginning of the school year I buy extra glue, crayons, manila paper, construction paper, water color paints, and any other art supplies I can while they are marked way down for the beginning of school. Then anytime throughout the year that we have an afternoon when its raining or we cannot seem to find anything interesting to do outside I bring them out for a afternoon of fun. I keep old shirts for them to paint in, so their clothes don't get messed up. I store the supplies in a tote with drawers for easy access and organization.

Learning Playtime

I keep pretend money ready for a quick game of store or restaurant. I save boxes from pudding, mac and cheese and other things that can be used in the store. Then we work on his math skills while we play store together. I mark each item a price like 99 cents or 49 cents. Then we practice adding them up and counting money to pay and the change out.

Board games are excellent ways to have fun and practice counting and other skills together. If you cannot afford a manufactured game from the store try getting a piece of poster board or cardboard and making your own game. One easy way is to just draw circles or squares going all the way around and use a dice and some kind of small toy for the place markers. Throw the dice and go around the board. You can add index cards with more directions if you want too. I often do this for special games to teach various things.

Cooking a cake or cookies also is not only fun to do with your children, but helps them to develop their math skills. Measuring helps with fractions. Reading recipes is good to help them later with word problems. My son loves cooking with me and does a great job helping measure things out.

In Conclusion

As you can see most of these ideas cost nothing or very little. You can be as creative as you want, or just keep it simple. The memories you make together will last a lifetime. Having a tight budget does not have to keep you from doing fun things with your children. Your only as limited as you allow yourself to be. There is a whole world of imagination out there just waiting to be tapped into all we have to do is try.


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    • Rebecca Reagan profile image

      Rebecca Reagan 3 years ago from Texas

      Thank you! Jan. I appreciate the feed back.

    • Jan Wiese profile image

      Jan Wiese 3 years ago from Odessa, Texas

      Another article by this author written in common sense style that gives useful tips and ideas for taking care of children. I want to read more of these. Although I find other articles interesting, this is what I'm drawn to.