Summer is almost here, and there will be plenty of things to do and places to go. Here are some ideas for FREE (or almost-free) fun. You can still keep a busy schedule with doing and seeing things, but you can save money as well.
Check your town/city website for free festivals and concerts. Our town sends out a flyer with the summer months’ events. There are festivals and concerts and activities June, July and August, and they all have free things to do at them. Most are family-oriented as well, so that’s a bonus.
Look online for free days at museums. Though we usually want to be outdoors all summer, there are going to be rain days. Keep a list/calendar of the free days for the museums, aquariums, and other indoor kid-friendly places; you can pull the list out whenever the weather isn’t cooperating with your outdoor activities and head over to an indoor activity. If the rainy days don’t coincide with a free day at any favorite indoor places, check out a nearby mall’s play area (for those of you with young children). The kids can play off some of that energy, and you might be able to find some adult conversation at the same time!
Plant a garden. This will probably only take a few days at most, so don’t expect to schedule this more than once this summer. BUT, this is a great bonding opportunity for you and your kids. Wal-Mart has cute and safe kid gardening tools for a few dollars each; I bought my daughter gloves, a trowel, and a shovel for a total of about $4. You can find sales on plant bulbs, full-size plants, or seedlings almost all Spring and Summer. Dig up a spot in the yard and plant away! Kids like it because it’s like you’re giving them permission to get dirty. Adults like it because it’s outdoors and gets the kids away from the TV! We planted vegetables in a few planters as well as herbs and flowers. It only took us two afternoons to complete, but we spend a little time each week checking the growing progress each one’s made. So far, only the tomato plants didn’t make it!
Head to the lake front! Chicago has miles and miles of lake front for you and your family to enjoy for FREE. You can drive in and park for free (though that is supposedly changing come this Fall) or take the train in for a small fee. Regardless of how you get there, the water, beach and bike path is all free for the taking! Pack a cooler for lunch, bring some outdoor toys and make a day of it. Not only will you get to play all day for free, you get a free tan out of it. 🙂
Have a potluck BBQ. This will require some time if you’re going to make sure and save on the food part of this. Plan it in with your grocery list around the sale items at the grocery store. Call up a few friends/families and ask each to bring a dish and something to drink. Fire up the grill and enjoy the company and a great meal for minimal cost.
Take the kids to the park. This was an obvious one, but it’s also a good fall-back plan. If plans to go elsewhere don’t work out, just go to the park. Find a new one in your area and try it out. Drive a few towns over if you have to, but find a new park or play area. My kids love the parks around here, even if we visit the same one several times in one week they don’t care. They just like to get out with other kids and play. It not only works them physically but also mentally. Most times, I hear them pretending to be somewhere else (on a boat, running from the bad guys, or in the jungle for example); they’re using their imaginations, which is an added bonus. Moms and Dads can sit and watch or get out and play too. The jungle gym is a good workout for anyone!
Whatever you plan to do this summer, make it fun and don’t stress about the money. Plan to go a few places each month, cost or no cost. Your kids will appreciate and enjoy the time with Mom and Dad, and you will probably find you enjoy being able to act like a child with your children! Don’t forget these few necessities wherever you decide to go: sunblock, water, change of clothes (potty-trained or not!), money for parking when applicable, hats, sweater, snacks. I find that those items are the most forgotten in our household and the most needed. If nothing else, at least just grab the sunblock and lots of water. There’s nothing worse than having a wonderful day outside followed by a painfully sun burnt day.