With school out for summer, we've been brainstorming ways to get our kids to expand their minds over summer vacation without shrinking our limited cash reserves. Here's what we came up with.
1. Make Something
Whether it's chocolate chip cookies or DIY goo, kids can get a sense of accomplishment by making things happen in the kitchen. Beginners may need only a spoon and a mixing bowl, while older kids may surprise you by getting dinner (or at least a snack) on the table.
2. Grow Something
One of my earliest memories is growing pumpkins with my family. From planting the seeds to eating them, there's nothing like the feeling of accomplishment you get from knowing the food on your table was of your own making.
3. Take Something Apart
I really enjoyed this recent TED talk about letting kids do dangerous things. Though childless, the speaker makes some good points. Broken stuff comes right after taxes on the list of Sure Things. From desk fans to refrigerators, examine broken items for safety, cut the cords off, and let them dig in.
4. Improve the Home
There's always at least one room that needs to be cleaned, re-arranged, painted or otherwise spruced up. What feels like a chore to you might look more exciting to children than you realize, particularly if it gives them a sense of ownership, achievement or contribution.
5. Sell Something
Let them inventory clothing, shoes, housewares, electronics, toys, or whatever's taking up that space you need. They can select items of their own to sell, or be assigned some by you. They can research pricing online or in stores and see how much they can earn online or via garage sale, or they can just set up a classic lemonade stand.
6. Help Someone
Skip the eBay middleman and have them take the extra stuff straight to charity or someone who can use it. And find out what volunteer opportunities are available in your area, too, in your kids' areas of interest.
7. Buy Something
Give them list of general homegoods or food. Tell them they can keep the money they save if they can find it cheaper than the price you paid last time. Bonus if they help you order it, pick it up or put it away.
8. Learn Something
If this year's class trip to the museum, zoo or local scenic vista was boring, now is the time for kids to go back and see the things the way they want. Check summer schedules for any free hours, days or exhibits. Try googling "forest preserve" and your zip code to find lesser-known nearby hiking or camping opportunities.
9. Join a Team
I was delighted to find out that my local park district offers soccer for kids as young as 2. Basically, the toddlers learn how to kick straight and move the ball without using their hands, and older kids have team and league play. Park district programs usually cost a fraction of what you'd pay at a gym or kids' activity center, but they also fill up fast, so plan ahead.
How do you keep your kids occupied during the summer months?
This article first appeared in Brad's Deals.