Okay, many of you are really, really looking forward to your child’s summer vacation right? Long, endless days of unhindered play-time combined with little Bobby’s creative mind, young Suzy’s flair for drama, plus infinite stores of energy is the perfect recipe for crazy stew.
They act crazy. And you stew…
You simply simmer with dismay, as you can’t believe he broke the lamp AGAIN! And who decided your freshly painted walls needed a “bootiful moorul”?
But don’t despair, with a little creativity and effort you can spice up children’s summer for free. That’s right, FREE. Forget pricey summer camps if you’re operating on a limited budget. YOU ARE THE SUMMER PROGRAM.
Here are a few strategies sure to save your sanity
Develop a schedule of structured activities
Every Summer Camp does it, why shouldn’t you? It works and children actually like it. They know what to expect and it eliminates the dreaded repetitive question…”Now what can I do?” and it’s delightful cousin… “I’m b-o-o-o-r-e-d!”
Begin the day early (as close to their normal school year schedule as possible). Don’t forget to serve breakfast, snacks and lunch around the same each day. Then include activities like prayer time, craft time, play/exercise time, story time and praise & worship. Before you know it, the most important part of the day will arrive–NAP TIME! Older children can use this time for quiet activities like computer games or a movie of their choice.
Create a Theme.
Try incorporating themes like “Space Week” or “Animals” to give your craft projects, field trips and activity time at home some pizzazz. For instance, you can tie in a trip to the local planetarium to view the stars with story time on books about outer space; then craft time could be something as simple as cutting out paper stars and hanging them from the ceiling in their room for a little atmosphere.
Toss in a field trip.
No matter how many fun activities you plan at home, cute little Suzy and Bobby may be ready to bounce off the walls after a couple of hours. Children love a little variety and change of scenery just as much as adults do. So, it’s time to hit the road. Try these mom-tested standbys:
- Visit your local library. Most local libraries offer free story times and/or crafts for children at least once a week. Find a few libraries near you. Usually they each offer these sessions on different days, so your child could attend story time at a different library every day. Don’t forget to check out books and DvDs to use for activities at home.
- Rediscover the local parks, zoos, museums and movie theatres. Many of them offer free or very affordable activities, like scavenger hunts, fun educational presentations, or nature hikes for young children. Local movie theatres often offer free kids movies during the summer morning hours including snacks at reduced prices.
- Have “Art Lessons” at the local craft or school supply store. These stores often offer weekly craft classes for children at no charge.
- Turn your errands into an educational experience. The Post Office, bank, and grocery store are great places to teach your child practical life skills such as budgeting, writing letters, manners, et cetera. Give them envelopes, stickers, play money and a calculator to “pretend” with along the way.You would be surprised what conclusions children reach without guidance. My 3-year-old son once believed the Drive-Thru-Teller was a lollipop machine! Every time we drove through, I would money put money in the tray and the teller would send a lollipop back. Makes perfect sense unless someone explains what’s happening.
- Keep a Fun Bag in your car. Be prepared for spontaneous trips to the park, beach, pool, you name it. Pack a tote bag or box full of items like beach towels, sunscreen, bubbles, balloons, balls, non-perishable snacks, swim suits, et cetera. Surprises are the spice of life.