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

    Sign Up For A Free Harry Potter Creative Coding Summer Camp

    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

    Or Opt For Apple Camp

    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

    pool noodle ponies

    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

    Hit The Library

    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

    Create Special Bookmarks For The Library Books

    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

    Have Kids Participate In The Ranger Rick Photo Contest

    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

    Enroll Kids In The

    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

    Stop By Pottery Barn

    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

    When Kids Show Good Table Manners, They Get Free Points At Chuck E Cheese's

    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

    Kids Can Earn Money For Reading

    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

    Make Clothespin and Coffee Filter Butterflies

    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

    Start A Family Band

    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

    Make Edible Crafts

    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

    Have A Paper Airplane Contest

    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

    Get Into A New Sport

    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

    Teach Kids How To Tie Dye

    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

    Make Birdfeeders Together

    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

    Rent Kayaks

    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

    Start A Garden

    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

    Paint Flower Pots And Grow Flowers

    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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