Summers Can Be Long for Parents, Try These Tips to Ease the Pain
Let me preface this by saying I’m a big supporter of giving kids free time. Unscheduled, undirected freedom to use their imagination and run and jump and play without instruction is the best thing you can give your kids. However, when you are facing spending every day with them, all day, all summer, you need to have at least a small bag of tricks as back up. Here’s a solid list of ideas that cost little to nothing to keep your little ones occupied.
Library Events – Libraries are a wonderful resource for free summer activities. They often do story times, music classes, and crafts, and most are free or have a nominal charge.
Discounted Movie Schedules – Most major movie houses show discounted movies mid-day for kids. Both Regal and Cinemark list their summer clubs on their websites and they are only $1 for a ticket. It’s a good way to kill some time and to cool off on the really hot days.
City Sponsored Events – Check your local chamber of commerce and city council websites for summer events like ice cream socials, movies in the park, parades, and more.
Factory Tours – Check your area for manufacturing companies that offer tours. Seeing how things are made was always magical on Mr. Rogers, seeing it live is even cooler. Maybe you’ll even inspire an interest in engineering!
Minor League Sporting Events – Minor league hockey and baseball are arguably more fun than professional. The fans are a little rowdier and it’s a real hoot. They sell tickets cheap, under $10 each. They want to get people to the games so they tend to add a lot of fun bonus stuff like fireworks, theme nights, and live music too.
Bowling – There is a great organization called Kids Bowl Free. Sign up your kid on their site and you can get up to two free games PER DAY all summer long! It’s valid at most bowling alleys, look for yours on the site. It’s seriously that easy.
Story Time – For smaller kids, the major book chains offer free story time where they read popular books to groups of kids.
Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt – If you got several kids in your neighborhood, they’re all probably “bored”. Why not try a good, old fashioned scavenger hunt? Use the whole block as the playing field. One parent can hide a series of clues to follow and you could put a piece of candy or a small toy at each one for incentive. You could even hide puzzle pieces and then they have to assemble them at the end to win a prize (like a popsicle – not anything huge).
Volunteer / Give Back – Take your kids to the park and have them help pick up trash before they earn playtime. Do a neighborhood collection for canned goods for a homeless shelter or even old blankets and towels for an animal shelter. Let them make and distribute flyers and do the collections (under your supervision). You help people get rid of things they don’t want, help an organization in need, and teach your young ones a little civic responsibility. They’ll feel good knowing they helped.
Museum Scavenger Hunt – Art and History museums aren’t always so interesting to little ones. But, they’re a good way to expose them to culture and our past so it’s worth trying to engage them. Make up a scavenger hunt sheet and be museum detectives. Have them look for things like a mustache, an airplane, a brown dog, a milk man – depending on the type of museum you will need to customize it. Then if they complete the hunt, they get a prize. It’s like tricking them into appreciating culture, I know. But, let’s be honest, we all tell them things that aren’t true just to get them through the door. Most of the time, once they get started doing a thing, they’ll find it’s not so bad after all.
Cooking Lesson – This one takes a little more work, but kids love to cook. Find a recipe that they like to eat, like spaghetti and meatballs, that has a fair amount of ingredients but takes little skill. Let them measure and mix ingredients, and in the case of meatballs, let them mold them. After they cook, set the table a little fancy (in my house that means placemats), and cheers their fine skills. It’s free to do, you get to spend time “playing” with them, and it gets dinner cooked!
Enjoy this time with your kids.
It’s something we all hear – “It goes so fast”. Despite my complete loathing of people telling me this as my boys were babies, they weren’t wrong. Spending time engaged with your kids is really all they want from you. These ideas cost little to nothing and are actually fun! A lot of them will also be memorable for you and your kids and teach some valuable lessons, without too much helicoptering. If you were to do each one of those activities only once this summer, you’d already have a plan for 11 of your summer days. Sprinkle these into your summer routine every couple of days, and you’ve got plans for half of the summer in the bag. That’s a win for you and your kids!