School just ended for my 2 oldest (though my homeschoolers will continue to work through the summer on a flexible schedule). The kids are more than ready to put this school year behind them, and my husband and I are ready to embrace sleeping in a little!
Summer, while highly anticipated, can be a challenge mentally and financially. Camps and activities are expensive and sibling spats seem to increase as the temperature does. Here are some ways that we have managed to keep the kids busy without breaking the bank.
Camps: Three of our girls are Girl Scouts and have enjoyed our local council’s day camp. Two of them will again be attending camp for a week this summer. Girl Scouts offers leader discounts, early bird discounts, sibling discounts, etc. which help bring the already reasonable cost down quite a bit. In addition, there is funding available to families that struggle financially to help cover the cost for camp. We have done longer multi week sessions of camp, but have found for our kids they get burnt out a bit if it is too long of a session.
Other camp options are the YMCA camps (that also have financial assistance if needed), township run summer recreation camps (which I hear not all states/towns have), park system run camps, and 4h camps.
Libraries: Libraries have some great resources year round. Unfortunately our local library does not participate in the program where they loan out passes to local museums and gardens, but luckily Folkdaddy works at a library that does. Last summer we borrowed the passes for a local sculpture garden and a museum. Each of those trips would have cost over $100 if we were to pay out of pocket, so it was a huge savings.
Vacation Bible School: We are secular homeschoolers, but our children receive religious education through the Sunday school program at our church. One of their favorite parts of summer is the Vacation Bible School program. They have been attending since my oldest was 3 years old! Now my oldest two volunteer to help run the program while my younger participate in the program. I facilitate the music portion of the program, so it is a very busy week. Many VBS programs are low cost and are very fun experiences for kids.
Season Passes/Memberships: If you are planning to go to an amusement park or museum, a membership or season pass may work out to be a better deal. We live close to a Six Flags, so it makes sense for us to spring for the season pass so we can go to the park throughout the summer. We also have done memberships to museums because it equaled the cost of one visit, with the bonus we could return as many times as we liked for the next year.
Backyard Fun: If you are lucky enough to have a pool then you have a huge source of summer entertainment right there. We put up an Intex frame pool, and though it is small it is used daily. Anything involving water is a huge hit with my kids! They love bunch o balloons, water squirters (we usually load up on the cheap $1 pencil type ones at the dollar store), slip and slides, and sprinklers. I also stock up on bubbles and sidewalk chalk. We use our fire pit quite a bit in the summer and try all different variations of s’mores. While we love the traditional s’more, we like using stripe cookies in place of the graham cracker and chocolate; we sandwich the roasted marshmallow between 2 stripe cookies. We have also used chocolate covered graham cookies in the same way.
Let the kids be bored: When I was a kid, I was not shuffled from activity to activity. I did do a week of day camp a few summers, but other than that I was pretty much on my own to occupy myself. I played with my dolls in elaborate dramatic scenarios, I made artwork to create an art museum at home, I played in the dirt in the yard and swung as high as I could on my swing set without it completely lifting off the ground. When my neighbors were available, we created plays, put on concerts, made mud pies, made forts and dressed up. Other times we would camp in front of the TV and watch a movie and have popcorn. Though I had very few structured activities over the summer as a child, I still had a blast. I have to remind myself it is ok to let the kids be bored. It is at these times, that they have some of their most creative moments.