by Christina Katz
1. Make note on your calendar of free days at museum and nature center to battle summer boredom.
2. Go to bed early, wake up with the larks, and go for a long day hike. Pack oranges and granola bars.
3. Can’t afford camp? Create your own neighborhood day camp. Choose a theme for the day or the week. Let older kids be the counselors.
4. Camp in the back yard. Use whatever camping gear you have or borrow what you need from friends and neighbors.
5. Tree swings cost a lot less than swing sets, and create lifelong memories. Here’s a great selection: treeswings.org.
6. Keep a bag of swim towels and bathing suits, binoculars, and hand-held pruners in the car, so you will be ready to get wet, bird watch, or collect an impromptu bouquet.
7. Scope out free, local spray playgounds. Arrive early to beat the rush on the hottest days.
8. Locate the closest community pool and head there on the hottest days. Don’t forget to check for free swim times.
9. Invest in a few inexpensive sprinkler heads. Turn on the sprinkler at set times every afternoon and encourage kids to invite friends over for a quick dash about, squirt fight, and bubble-blowing contest.
10. Teach kids that the best things in life are not always new. Shop garage sales, flea markets, and local thrift shops for summer and back-to-school clothes and shoes.
11. Have a family yard sale. Let kids sort, price, and sell for a couple of days in exchange for a percent of the profits. Or spend the money you make on a carnival or state fair.
12. Visit the library each week for a steady supply of reading materials and educational media. Remember, the library is cool on extremely hot days.
13. Use summer downtime to teach your kids about money. Encourage them to try a lemonade stand or help them make a piggy bank. Set goals for earning and saving.
14. Kids love to contribute. Offer to pay your kids for jobs that would otherwise cost you more. Take advantage of their skills like car washing, garage cleaning, window washing, lawn mowing, gardening and digital photo sorting.
15. Give each child $5 to spend at the farmer’s market. Eat breakfast at home, and look for free samples at the market for dessert.
16. Buy less lunchmeat and make more fresh egg, tuna, and meat salads. Try serving them on pocket bread, naan or burritos with lots of veggies.
17. Stock snacks weekly to keep them fresh. Instead of pre-packaged items, fill large jars with low-fat, crunchy snacks. Float cut veggies in a tub of water in the fridge for easy access.
18. Make sun tea. Buy bulk quantities of black tea bags, remove the tags from 10 to 12 bags, and leave a large glass jug in the sun until the water turns amber. Create your own tasty versions with flavors such as “Raspberry Zinger.”
19. Share music as a family. Instead of buying whole albums, let each child download five or six songs to make their own summer mix. Pick up inexpensive, used CDs to download.
20. Have a movie night with popcorn popped the old-fashioned way at pennies per serving. Check out films at the library or rent them at Red Box or through Netflix.