A cheap but great summer - Mothering Forums
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Organize & Declutter > A cheap but great summer
Dr.Worm's Avatar Dr.Worm 12:23 PM 06-06-2008
We are really trying to simplify and spend less(we are pretty poor right now anyway so not much choice) but I really want my dd, 8, to have a fun summer..we also have no car so we can only do local things like parks and store...I really want her to have a nice old-fashioned summer..I mean, we will still spend some money buying toys and going to a couple amusement parks or whatever but I really need ideas for cheap or free fun..anything you guys do with your kids or any books or websites that would help..and I also want to discourage tv...not ready to be tv-free yet(and I greatly admire you who are)but really want her to not always just want to watch dvd's and play video games..tia!!!

AngieB's Avatar AngieB 01:17 PM 06-06-2008
An old fashion summer to me is giving the kids large amounts of free time. Time to play with the neighborhood kids or explore on her own. Freedom is the best thing you could give her.
SAHDS's Avatar SAHDS 02:52 PM 06-06-2008

- running through the sprinkler, water fights

- picnics

- bug and butterfly catching

- leaf gathering, tree rubbings, stone collecting

- Frisbee at the park

If it's an option, check your local library. They should have a list of free summer activities.
Tradd's Avatar Tradd 03:05 PM 06-06-2008
Second the library. They will often have summer reading programs. If the kids read X number of books or pages, they get X prize. There might be weekly activities as a part of it (I still remember the Air Force fighter pilot that visited my library when I was growing up). And at the end of the program there might be a pizza party, small carnival, etc., that's free. The kids might get free books as part of the program.

You might also check if there are any used book stores near you for the two of you to visit.
flowmom's Avatar flowmom 03:12 PM 06-06-2008
I love summer
  • camping of course we love it - it's intimidating if you're not used to it, but borrow everything from friends and just do it
  • my children are obsessed with picking berries so we are constantly scouting around for whatever berries are in season - almost all summer hikes are focused around foraging
  • we also do organic Upicks of berries and freeze our bounty (not cheap/free, but it's a way of making money that we already spend into an experience)
  • endless park days with our homeschooling friends
  • water parks and wading pools
  • research whether your municipality has park recreation programs - our local ones are free and fun
  • painting with water on pavement using dollar store brushes
  • covering a fence or wall in cardboard or a thrift store sheet and painting with tempera paint
  • skip the junky sand toys and buy inexpensive gardening tools like trowels and buckets that really work and have a quality feel - find a ditch somewhere and let the kids hack away at the banks and divert the water flow -- you would not believe how much time my kids spend doing that
  • look for climbing trees
  • freeze seedless grapes for a great summer afternoon snack
  • arrange lots of time for kids to play for long, uninterrupted stretches
  • have a picnic dinner in a nature spot instead of at home

flowmom's Avatar flowmom 03:15 PM 06-06-2008
Originally Posted by Tradd View Post
If the kids read X number of books or pages, they get X prize. There might be weekly activities as a part of it (I still remember the Air Force fighter pilot that visited my library when I was growing up). And at the end of the program there might be a pizza party, small carnival, etc., that's free. The kids might get free books as part of the program.
I don't want to hijack this thread, but I did want to share that research has demonstrated that programs of that nature ultimately cause children to be less motivated to read. Punished by Rewards is a great book that challenges the effectiveness of rewards-based programs.
Dr.Worm's Avatar Dr.Worm 05:04 PM 06-06-2008
Thanks so much guys!!!
ollineeba's Avatar ollineeba 10:17 PM 06-06-2008
I always enjoyed the summer reading programs growing up.
Anyway, we like to plan picnics, go to the aquarium and zoo (have memberships, so that's free except for the gas to get there), swim at IL's pool and the beach.
There are always lots of free activities going on and as much as we try to plan for a very relaxing summer, we always end up on the go! This year I'm going to try really hard to have three *nothing* days a week- where we have absolutely nothing planned and we can just play in the yard and see where the day takes us.
lillydilly's Avatar lillydilly 10:24 PM 06-06-2008
A tent in the backyard was our absolute favourite as kids... It was just a huge old calico sheet that mum strung up for us from the clothesline every school holidays. It served as a castle for when I was in the princess stage, as a soldier's fort for my brothers, and when my little brothers hung around too much, DH and I used to hide out in there to do a bit of smooching in our "courting" days. That's how many years that old tent provided fun.

Cubby houses of any kind... we had blankets over the dining table, the cardboard box the new washing machine came in.

Big cardboard cartons acted as pirate boats, doll's houses, you name it we imagined it. Until the boxes fell apart, and then we even had fun jumping on them so Mum could put them in the re-cycle.

For our own 4 boys, DH would set up a plastic sheet with water and they slid around the backyard for hours.

We took cardboard sheets to the parks for easy toboggans down grassy banks.

Night time fun: Some torches, a dark back yard and we'd hear cries of "SPOTLIGHT! You're up" for hours.

Hidey seek... not boring when you have adults to help you. We've had games of hidey seek in our family that the adults ended up joining in to help the kids find spots. My mum used to help my little brother hide every holidays and we never ever could find him, and it wasn't till we were at her 80th birthday recently that she finally shared the secret with us. She stood him up on the window sill behind the curtain in the lounge room! Yes, it was re-inforced glass LOL.

Nature walks, where each person has to find 19 beautiful "things", and jot them down on a bit of paper, then when you get home, you share your findings, and see how many things each person saw that everyone else missed. Amazing what kids notice with this one. My DS wrote down that a magpie chased him, and when the other kids protested that it wasn't "beautiful" he said, "yes, it is. he was protecting his nest, so that counts as beautiful".

And nothing beats dress up..... a wooden sword and mum's metal colander was my brother's permanent holiday "armour". I used to prance around in mum's old silk skirt and heels as a princess, and mum went along with it, bowing and calling me your highness, and making "princess" sandwiches for lunch, by making them extra dainty.

Playing Shop.... this was a vital part of our childhood, the "shopbox". Mum always kept a box of little shop boxes for each holidays...she got rid of it at the end of each holiday, but just built it up again for next holidays, and I did the same for our kids. Toothpaste tube boxes, noodle boxes, perfume boxes, little cereal boxes.... any of those little clean packaging boxes. We'd set up our shop with them and get dressed up with Mum's handbags, and our dolls and the monopoly money and play all day. Yes, Mum would come shopping too, which tickled us no end.

Our kids used to have concerts and puppet shows, over an old blanket in the lounge room. Spent all day writing invitations to the adults, and setting up the audience, with snacks and programmes. Often the setting up lasted 5 hours, and the actual show was 5 minutes, but it was all fun.

Cooking... icey poles, chocolate crackles, health bars.
Make ginger beer.

Making masks with paper plates, and Monster outfits with paper bags and sheets.

My Mum gave me the best advice, both by word and by example. She said sometimes when kids are bored, they just need a "kickstart". Adults need to help them set up, or get their imagination fired up to start with, then let them go. I had friends who would complain that their kids didn't "play", that they just hung around them complaining they were bored. I used to say, "but have you got down and played with them?" One friend said, Huh? what do you mean? You shouldn't have to teach kids to play should you?" No, maybe not, but I just know my Mum always joined in or helped us, or provided the wherewithall to get us going.

Sorry, I've probably gotten a bit carried away down memory lane here, but it makes me sad when I see some of the kids nowadays, bored, yet surrounded by clever expensive toys that take away the gift of imagination and fantasy.

Many of the things we did were playing with other kids, or brothers and sisters, but we had just as much fun at home with Mum, on our own, doing them too. Good on you Dr. Worm. Your little DD will have wonderful memories and kids have so much they can teach us about how to live "in the moment", and to see the best in life. I'm now at the nice old grandmother stage of life, and I'll say to DH, let's go visit the kids. I'm ready for some "grandkid therapy".....because I find it such a tonic to have the excuse to play again... now with our grandkids.
I'm now hopping off my soap box. I think I'd better go and find some kids and ask if I can join in?
Tradd's Avatar Tradd 10:28 PM 06-06-2008
Originally Posted by Ksenia View Post
I don't want to hijack this thread, but I did want to share that research has demonstrated that programs of that nature ultimately cause children to be less motivated to read. Punished by Rewards is a great book that challenges the effectiveness of rewards-based programs.
Oh, for heaven's sake! OP was asking for free, fun things for her child to do this summer.
southhavenjen's Avatar southhavenjen 11:26 AM 06-07-2008
Have them do a lemonade stand! That kept us occupied for hours.

Playing marbles was a big hit in our neighborhood too.
henhao's Avatar henhao 10:15 PM 06-07-2008
Making food together. Popsicles come to mind. I make them out of bananas, yogurt or tofu and strawberries. Eating a popsicle on the front stoop on a hot day is a nice pastime.

Reading stories. Creating pictures with crayons on paper or chalk on the sidewalk. Cooking together.

A website with some fun activities is http://www.totville.com.

Oh, lemonade! I have a juicer and make lemonade by juicing 4 apples and one lemon. It is delicious and healthy!
monkey's mom's Avatar monkey's mom 11:04 PM 06-07-2008
old tire + some rope = tire swing

grab an old blanket or sheet and set up under a shady tree. Lay back and let it unfold.....

we live on a sort of busy road, so the kids love making the big trucks honk (I'm sure my neighbors love it!)

plant some seeds and water 'em

pinecone birdfeeders w/ p.butter

THE HOSE!! (not just your basic sprinkler, think mud pits, dams, rivers).

Soapy water in a big rubbermaid bin with lots of cups, pots and pans, etc.

move an easel outside and paint away

start a compost pile

camp in the back yard

we're allowed to have open fires, so we dug a fire pit....maybe something like that where you live? Logs for benches

catching fireflies in old jars

slug hunting with flashlights

hanging laundry out to dry

early morning and late evening walks

sidewalk chalk

"painting" with water

balance beam from an old board and two bricks

greet your mail carrier with a cold drink

make your own bubble mixture with dish detergent--come up with fun wands (coat hangers, straws?)

A HAMMOCK!! A hammock and a library card? Heaven!!

try to cook an egg on pavement?

build stuff out of sticks--tiny mock villages up to full size lean-tos depending on what you've got

Sometimes I'll just suggest we head out in the front yard and I'll plop a bunch of craft things on the steps with me: yarn, a box of toothpicks, craft sticks.....see what unfolds!

Oh! And trying to start fire w/ magnifying glass--so cool!

Check field guides out of the library (bugs, birds, flowers, etc.) and try to ID what's around you

Go fishing!!

Grab a towel and a big bowl of ice--head outside

Bury treasure in the backyard and exchange treasure maps

keep your lawn cut and your yard looking inviting. Put out chairs. Maybe a little table. Keep a pitcher of ice-cold water out. Bring out snacks on a tray. Plop down a few magazines, a deck of cards, and chill out! You're bound to have a wonderful time!
2 in August's Avatar 2 in August 01:40 AM 06-08-2008
I'm getting together with a few friends and their kids and doing some science stuff. The kids range in age from two 5yo boys to my almost 7yo dd and two 8yo girls. I'm going to do science projects, another mom is going to find books to go with each theme and another mom is going to do some songs/music, not sure what the 4th mom is doing yet (maybe snacks). We are planning on...

1. Worm composting -- set up a mini-worm bin in a clear 2lt soda bottle (cut the top off). Put layers of light sand, dark dirt and leaf litter. Put a few veggie scraps on top for food. Add a few worms and cover sides with dark paper. Watch as the layers blend together as the worms work the soil. Dump in the garden when done. http://www.ciwmb.ca.gov/Schools/Curr...Activities.pdf http://www.hometrainingtools.com/art...a-wormery.html

2. Solar cookers -- Pizza box cookers to make mini pizzas. Shoe box cookers to make hot dogs and pringles can cookers to cook marshmellows and melt chocolate for smores. I also found directions to make a bigger solar cooker from a shiny car sunshield. http://www.solarcooking.org/zh/winds...ooker-zhcn.pdf http://www.energyquest.ca.gov/projects/solardogs.html http://tristate.apogee.net/kids/fes_ifrm.aspx

3. Pond jars -- wash out a spaghetti sauce jar, go to a local pond/small lake. Scoop about an inch of soil from the water's edge and gather some small water plants, maybe a tiny snail or two, fill with pond water. http://www.bpa.gov/Corporate/KR/ed/k...s/fishless.htm http://www.d.umn.edu/~tbates/ened3342-1/pondlife2.pdf

4. Balloon experiments -- http://pbskids.org/zoom/activities/s...nandstraw.html http://www.hometrainingtools.com/art...r-project.html http://www.questacon.edu.au/html/squ...on_bottle.html

Other things I want to do, but not with the group...
color changing flowers-- http://www.abc.net.au/spark/experiments/s1112186.htm
go to the farmers market and get at least one new food per trip
get tadpoles from the ditches by my aunt's house and raise them
participate in the urban bird count http://www.birds.cornell.edu/celebration
participate in counting bees in the great sunflower project http://www.greatsunflower.org/en/fou...ps-participate

plus just playing outside, hanging out with friends (we do a weekly park date with friends), library summer program, planting seeds, I'd be lying if I didn't say we also play on the computer and watch movies too.
LilMama23's Avatar LilMama23 11:11 AM 06-08-2008
One thing that I thought was just going to be an average thing but turned out awesome was picking our own produce. We have two local farms that are currently running pick-your-own strawberries, cherries, and peas, and as the summer goes on that will expand to more fruits and veggies. I took my daughter (who is much younger than yours, but I'm sure it would be the same) and we had SO much fun running up and down to see who could fill their basket faster, seeing who could find the biggest strawberry, etc. It was such a great experience for the two of us, and when we got home we spent the day freezing some, cooking with others, making smoothies, and using them up in any way we knew how. I was just looking to get some cheap produce out of it, but it turned out to be a really nice experience for us.
bunnybartlett's Avatar bunnybartlett 03:14 AM 06-09-2008
you just reinforced my plan to get rid of all the plastic junk cluttering my playroom!!'

the kids always are making games out of other stuff and these toys are just taking up our precious space.
Dr.Worm's Avatar Dr.Worm 12:24 PM 06-10-2008
I am LOVING these suggestions!!!! PLEASE keep them coming!!! My dd will have a great summer thanks to all of you wonderful and creative mommies!!!!
Carlyn's Avatar Carlyn 12:29 AM 06-11-2008
There are often free swim days at local pools. The library usually has some great resources...ask at the children's desk. They have library programs, and also local stuff.

Our local radio station has a website with lots of events going on. Also check your city or county website, you might be surprised what you find. Local concerts, free bbqs, etc.

Bike to different parks and enjoy discovering new fun places close by.

Set up the tent in the backyard. Great fun for sleeping in, or just for hanging out sometimes.

You could get birdwatching and wild flower books from the library and discover lots of beauty around you that you might not be noticing yet.

Scavenger hunts.

I remember bringing my dolls outside a lot in the summer. We'd set up houses and towns for them outside. The woodpile would be one place, under a bush another. Some boxes would be dragged out as needed.

Mostly, just PLAY, PLAY, PLAY! Summer is so great, for being outside and being imaginative.
UberMama's Avatar UberMama 05:39 AM 06-11-2008
Originally Posted by southhavenjen View Post
Have them do a lemonade stand! That kept us occupied for hours.

Playing marbles was a big hit in our neighborhood too.
Ditto the lemonade stand. I remember doing that. It was a lot of fun. Very little startup costs.
Boobs's Avatar Boobs 10:48 AM 06-11-2008
becoming's Avatar becoming 10:05 PM 06-11-2008
This is an awesome thread! Thanks for all the great ideas!
loitering's Avatar loitering 11:43 PM 06-11-2008
These are such nice ideas! They make me think of my own childhood summers.
kennedy444's Avatar kennedy444 11:52 PM 06-11-2008
Swim lessons at local pond or pool. Here they are pretty cheap. Rec Dept offers them for $45/twice a week for 6 or 7 weeks!

Camping and bonfires and s'mores right in the backyard.

Take public transportation to someplace you haven't been to before.

Any musuems have "free" days or nights? Take advantage.

Local libraries have lots of free events for kids including summer bookclubs, etc.

Playing with OOBLECK - cookie sheets filled with corn starch and water. Amazing consistency.
Dr.Worm's Avatar Dr.Worm 03:54 PM 06-12-2008
Bumping for even more ideas for my dd and I and to inspire others..this is the BEST thread ever!!!
MelanieMC's Avatar MelanieMC 05:09 PM 06-12-2008
all of the above ideas are wonderful! I know that I had the best summers growing up b/c my parents just let us outside and allowed us to explore and be creative. My best memories as a child are of me and my sister camping in the back yard for days at a time, and of me sitting under shade trees with a huge stack of library books and a picnic lunch! Oh, and btw, I still love to do half of the above mentioned activities!
Ravin's Avatar Ravin 06:11 PM 06-12-2008
Library summer reading programs often have extra story times, puppet shows, etc. that are fun free entertainment.

Check around for free concerts and shakespeare in the park.

Many museums have a weekly or monthly free admission day. Find out when they are and go!

Turn her loose in the backyard (if you have one) daily.

Here the heat makes summer fun either indoor or water oriented. We know where several parks with water features for splash play are located. Find out how much a summer pool pass at your city pool is. Or Get a wading pool and sprinkler if you have a yard, for water play on the cheap.
tuck's Avatar tuck 11:57 PM 06-12-2008
Maybe you could teach her to play jacks. that is one of my favorite memories as a kid, we played for hours. Also that game ( 7-up?) where you take a playground ball and bounce it off the side of the house 7 times, then 6 times you throw it off the house and let it bounce once, etc.
Make puppets with some simple sewing/felt.
Tye dye some t-shirts.
Sleep in the backyard or on the porch.
Discover adventures in your home town that you never take the time to do, like visiting a new bakery once a week or traveling to a different playground.
Play cards. There are so many games, and I have such happy memories of our family playing together ever since I can remember.
Start a baking day once a week. Peanut butter cookies or coffee cake, it doesn't matter what it is but the time together will be precious.
And okay- I have to say this because it is my new favorite thing.....consider investing in a Flip Video camera. It is without a doubt, the best investment we have ever made for our family and I plan to record our whole summer! We have an expensive video camera that we never really used, and the flip is used constantly. Your daughter could do it easily, and for a little over a hundred dollars you would have your awesome summer for always. Record your baking, local travels, and everyday joys. I know this is a little ( ok, a lot) ot but these are great ideas, and it seems like a perfect time to capture your daughter's childhood.
bunman'smama's Avatar bunman'smama 04:06 AM 06-13-2008
These suggestions are so great.....I'm adding a couple from our summer fun list. Make homemade ice-cream (without electric ice cream maker) and butter. My four year old also wants to make watermelon rind pickles - we just read Farmer Boy!
Graceoc's Avatar Graceoc 10:31 PM 06-13-2008
great ideas!
tresleo's Avatar tresleo 10:45 PM 06-13-2008
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