The countdown has begun and parents all over the United States are tackling the age old question: How on earth do I keep my kids busy during the summer without breaking the bank? Vacations and overnight summer camps can be expensive...believe me, I've checked! Here's my list of cheap and money-saving activities for kids this summer.
1. Free Bowling
Yes, that's right FREE bowling through the summer, two games per child per day. That's over $500 in savings per child. Kids Bowl Free is a program that community bowling centers participate in during the summer months as a way to give back to their communities and provide a safe and fun environment for local children. Sign up your family at KidsBowlFree.com and bring on the free strikes!
2. Rainy Day Crafts
Follow my board on Pinterest this summer where I'll continue posting cheap and easy kids crafts. Create a rainy day craft jar and put the name of each craft on a slip of paper. When the rain starts to pour, let your kids pick a craft from the jar and spend the day inside letting the creativity flow.
3. Grocery Hunt
Save Sunday newspaper ads to your local grocery store or check out Coupon Sherpa's grocery coupon page. Clip coupons with images of products or use a grocery store ad insert and bring your kids to the grocery store. Instruct your kids to be on the look out for the products on your coupons or store ad. This is a great way to keep them occupied while in the grocery store, but also an opportunity to teach your kids about saving money with coupons.
4. Cheap Summer Movies
Many movie theaters offer a summer movie lineup that are both kid- and wallet-friendly. Cinemark is hosting a Summer Movie Clubhouse where you can buy 10 movie tickets for $5 or just $1 per movie at the ticket window. AMC is offering baby mammas a guilt-free way to catch "What to Expect When You're Expecting" through their Bring Your Baby Day program. Select AMC theaters will feature dim lights and lower volume where breastfeeding, strollers and crying babies are permitted. What a genius idea!
5. Local Deals and Activities
If your city has a parks and recreation program, look into activities they offer for your children's age group. My city offers everything from dance and swimming to basket weaving (yes, I'm serious), all at an affordable price. Subscribe to group-buying sites like Living Social, Groupon and Seize the Deal where you can often find deeply discounted activities for children. Also check your local Entertainment Book for coupons to area museums, zoos and sporting events.
6. Kids Eat Free
Take your kids out to eat, but make sure to look at this list of 101 restaurants where kids eat free. If you have more than one child, take full advantage of a kids-eat-free deal by ordering one meal for each kid and saving any leftovers for later meals.
This summer, teach your kiddos that it's better to give than to receive. Spend some time volunteering together. Ask your local soup kitchen what their need is and check nursing homes or senior center for visiting hours. Visit VolunteerMatch.com where you can find a comprehensive list of opportunities that are age appropriate. There's nothing better than seeing your kids put a smile on someone's face.
Maisie Knowles is a working mother of two with three-year's experience writing on parenting and partner issues. She received a B.A. in Communications from the University of Colorado and co-founded Kinoli Inc., site manager for a family of money-saving websites, with her husband. Maisie currently spends most of her time at home with her two young girls.