Keeping Your Kids (and Your Wallet) Cool This Summer

If your July was anything like mine, it was H-O-T!  With record-breaking temperatures and near-daily heat advisories, finding inexpensive, indoor ways to entertain your kids during the summer months can prove challenging.  As a mom of two little ones (four and two), I’ve tried to find economical and fun ways to keep my kids busy on those days when it’s just too hot to go outside.

Foster Creativity

With most schools out on summer break, it’s important to regularly provide your children with time to draw, color, paint, and create.  Give a child a crayon and the possibilities are endless!  August is a good time to buy art supplies because many discount retailers are running back-to-school specials.  Take advantage of the sales by stocking your home with many simple craft supplies that cost as little as $.25 to $1.00 each!  The basics?  Crayons, markers, colored pencils, a watercolor paint set, finger paint (look for poster paint, which is usually a few dollars cheaper), safety scissors, glue sticks/school glue, construction paper, a coloring book, and drawing paper.  For under $10, you can create an art kit that will keep your kids so entertained they’ll forget they are inside!

To supplement your store-bought supplies, look for items around the house to reuse and repurpose.  Save empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls, magazines, empty milk cartons, and soda bottles.  Find an old box to house your new art supplies, and let your kids’ first craft be to decorate it!  Collect old buttons, ribbons, and fabric.  Rinse and save your Popsicle sticks.  Got extra cotton balls in the bathroom?  Glue them to a piece of construction paper to make clouds (or better yet, let your kids make a winter snow scene on a hot summer day!).

Make TV-Time Special

Let’s be realistic… your kids will likely watch TV this summer (especially on those 100+ days when it’s too hot to even go swimming).  Limit TV-time and don’t let the television become your safety-net.  Whether you have digital cable or a digital antenna, you can find quality children’s programming on your local public broadcast stations both mid-morning and mid-afternoon.  We saved money for over a year and a half by nixing our pricey cable and using an antenna.  I’ve found that some of the most educational and entertaining children’s TV shows are free!

Also, try having a family movie day.  Together with your kids, choose a movie to watch as a family, and make it a big deal.  Rent a $1 movie from a local kiosk and pop popcorn or make special snacks.  Many local movie theaters also offer deals during the summer months, including earlier matinees, dollar movies, a discounted admission day (like “Movie Monday” where admission is half off), or even free children’s admission to scheduled showings.  Check with your local theater to learn more about the deals in your area.

Simple Summer Fun

Often, the most joyful memories can be created using little or no money at all.

  • Build a fort.  Grab some clean sheets, blankets, pillows, and kitchen chairs… and Presto!  You have a medieval castle, a cabin in the mountains, or a cave in the forest.
  • Become a chef.  Get out your cookie cutters and a couple of older pots and pans.  Using either store-bought or homemade play dough, let your kids host a pretend cooking show.  (Tip: Search for “homemade play dough recipes” in any online search engine.  Many use common ingredients like salt, flour, and water.)
  • Bounce away!  Kids bouncing off the walls?  Literally?  Channel that energy!  My kids love placing the couch cushions and pillows on the living room floor and jumping from one to another.  Or try creating a mock hopscotch board or an indoor obstacle course.
  • Backyard fun.  If your city doesn’t have drought/water restrictions, let your child run through the sprinkler the next time you’re watering your lawn in the evening.  Ten minutes, a garden hose, and a lawn sprinkler can turn any backyard into a children’s water playground!

Remember, you don’t have to spend big bucks to keep your kids cool and entertained this summer.  You can help your kids avoid cabin-fever without pricey splurges!

Written by: Nichole L. Huff, Ph.D, CFLE

This post originally appeared August 8, 2011 on America Saves http://www.americasaves.org/blog/249-keeping-kids-cool