Low-Cost Ways To Keep the Kids Occupied When School's Out

Low-Cost Ways To Keep the Kids Occupied When School's Out
Image: @freemanp via Twenty20

@freemanp via Twenty20
@freemanp via Twenty20

As soon as school's out, kids are so thrilled for the absolute freedom of an entire summer outside of a classroom. And we remember that feeling, right? Being so excited to run around with our friends, take time off from the stresses of school bullies and standardized tests, our only actual responsibility hitting the summer reading list ... and we definitely didn't have to start on those books right away. But we also know how totally different the story is for moms, right? 

Summer goes from being a fun break to actively parenting way more extra hours in the day, and with the kids unoccupied with stuff like homework and school sports, they're just so much more inventive about finding ways to get into trouble. But the truth is, there are some great ways to keep kids occupied for the summer -- and they don't even have to cost a ton. Most of these are free, and the rest are all inexpensive!

It's possible to keep the kids entertained all summer, even on a rainy summer afternoon when they have to stay inside. For moms who love lists, try making a summer family bucket list, and working through it the entire summer. When the weather heats up, turn to summertime hacks to survive the heat, which absolutely saves us on ridiculously hot days. And don't feel alone when mama starts to lose it and can't wait for summer to be over, because it's all of us. 

  • Sign Up For a Free Harry Potter Coding Summer Camp

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    Sign Up For A Free Harry Potter Creative Coding Summer Camp
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    This summer, kids can sign up for free creative camps through Microsoft, including the Harry Potter Creative Coding Workshop, Gaming Summer Camp, and a camp where kids can make their own video games!

  • Try the Apple Camp

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    Or Opt For Apple Camp
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    For families that are more Macbook-oriented, check out the free Apple Camp programs. Here, kids can learn how to create their own songs with GarageBand, design a dream park with iPad, learn how to code robots ... and more. 

  • Create Pool Noodle Ponies

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    pool noodle ponies
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    We love this idea of turning a regular pool noodle into a super special steed! Check out these ideas for DIY pool noodle stick horses, which are fun to make and totally inexpensive to craft. Bring them to the local community pool!

  • Hit the Library

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    Hit The Library
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    It's an oldie but a goodie -- on super hot summer days, our favorite location is always the local public library! Sometimes there are treats like guest readers, and other times, kids just get to be in a space where learning and is relaxed and encouraged. Plus, we get to sneak a chapter or two of our own books in. 

  • Create Bookmarks for Library Books

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    Create Special Bookmarks For The Library Books
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    After selecting some books at the library, make special bookmarks to use in the books. These tie dye bookmarks with sharpies and rubbing alcohol are low-cost, fun to make, and are a great way to distinguish the library books from others in the home!

  • Participate in the Ranger Rick Photo Contest

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    Have Kids Participate In The Ranger Rick Photo Contest
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    For kids who are into photography, they can participate in the Ranger Rick Photo Contest! We know one parent who gave their kid an old, broken iPhone to use as her camera, which has now taken on a new life of its own! 

  • Enroll Kids in the 'Kids Skate Free' Program

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    Enroll Kids In The
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    Enroll kids in the "Kids Skate Free" program -- which is available in most states -- and they'll get to burn calories, build muscle, increase coordination ... and do it all while having a ton of fun (and at no cost)!

  • Stop By Pottery Barn

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    Stop By Pottery Barn
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    Yes, normally we wouldn't think of Pottery Barn as a place for kids to hang out, either. But it turns out that its Weekly Story Time event is actually really awesome! We love getting the chance to take kids there (and maybe browse some items for ourselves). 

  • Good Table Manners Earn Points at Chuck E Cheese's

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    When Kids Show Good Table Manners, They Get Free Points At Chuck E Cheese's
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    Now this would have been motivating when we were kids! Kids go two whole weeks with good table manners, and they can get 10 free play points at Chuck E Cheese's. There's a free points system on the restaurant's site that can reward everything from being good at the doctor's office to reading, too!

  • Kids Can Earn Money for Reading

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    Kids Can Earn Money For Reading
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    This reading program from Cap Com Federal Credit Union can help reward kids by letting them earn up to $10 a season (at a rate of $2 a book) during summer, winter, and fall. They can earn up to $30 a year this way! 

  • Make Clothespin & Coffee Filter Butterflies

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    Make Clothespin and Coffee Filter Butterflies
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    Whether it's a day that's pouring rain or a day that's just plain too hot to go out and play, it's a great day for crafts! Show kids how to make these inexpensive, adorable coffee filter butterflies and they'll want to show their friends, too!

  • Start a Family Band

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    Start A Family Band
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    It doesn't matter whether anyone in the family currently plays an instrument. Learning something new is a good example for kids who can see us struggle and then get better at something -- and can play with them, too!

  • Make Edible Crafts

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    Make Edible Crafts
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    We love the idea of inspiring kids to enjoy cooking, and one of the best ways to get them loving spending time in the kitchen is to start off with crafts we can eat. We love this summer skies Jell-O snack, for instance, which replicates the color of the summer sky!

  • Hold a Paper Airplane Contest

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    Have A Paper Airplane Contest
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    Encourage kids to learn different ways to fold paper airplanes -- starting with this basic dart paper airplane -- and encourage them to innovate, and then host weekly contests which lead to a championship at the end of the month (with a pretty good prize at the end). 

  • Get Into a New Sport

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    Get Into A New Sport
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    Why not encourage kids to start a new athletic program in the off-season? There are plenty of local summer clinics for kids, including free meet-ups -- they're not all super-intensive, expensive summer camps -- we promise!

  • Teach Kids How to Tie Dye

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    Teach Kids How To Tie Dye
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    We love making stuff with kids in the summer, and we especially love it when something that's usually for older kids is made easier for younger children. Check out this article on how to tie dye with preschoolers for more.

  • Make Bird Feeders Together

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    Make Birdfeeders Together
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    Making bird feeders together helps encourage wildlife and can be really cost-effective, too. Check out these orange cup bird feeders, which recycle orange peels to use as the base. 

  • Rent Kayaks

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    Rent Kayaks
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    One of the best things to do in the summer is spend time on the water! We love kayaking in the summer, and it's an inexpensive way to spend time on the water, too. Of course, this is a better activity for older children.

  • Start a Garden

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    Start A Garden
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    Help kids learn about nature and save money in the long run by growing vegetables and herbs that can be used in cooking all summer -- and into the fall, too! Work in a garden with kids and give them a delicious, useful hobby for the rest of their lives. 

  • Paint Flowerpots & Grow Flowers

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    Paint Flower Pots And Grow Flowers
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    For families who don't have access to garden space, try painting pretty flowerpots and growing plants indoors or on a balcony in the summer. Check out this guide on painting clay pots, which can help with figuring out the right supplies to buy.

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