Hurrah, summer vacation! Oh no, summer vacation! Why oh no? As much as we parents enjoy school holiday, it means entertaining children for three long months. And work-at-home parents have to juggle business and kids every day. Plus, time away from the books can sabotage learning retention. As a teacher, SAHM (stay at home mom), homeschooler, WAHM (work at home mom) and tightwad, I know how to productively occupy kids cheap! Here are free and low-cost summer enrichment activities for children from A-Z.
A–Airport. Watch planes. Let kids draw them and invent stories about passengers. Ask for a tour.
B–Bowling (free!) Kids Bowl Free offers free bowling for kids and teens all summer. Check the link to find your nearest participating bowling alley.
C–Camping. Set up a tent in the back yard. Teach fire-starting, forest fire prevention, ranger skills, like Boy Scouts.
D–Dog-walking, pet sitting, babysitting. Start a home business.
E–Encampments. Check out military or historical re-enactments.
F–Farmers market. Teach budgeting by letting kids shop for produce. Large markets like Detroit’s Eastern Market offer kids’ activities, cooking demos and buskers (street entertainers).
G–Garden. Start your own or join a local community garden. Look for organizations that teach gardening.
H–Home maintenance. Get kids started early helping with home repairs: painting, remodeling, plumbing, landscaping.
I–Ice Crea-ders. That was our family summer reading program. Kids read to each other. They illustrated stories and wrote personal book reflections in homemade Reader Response Journals (cheap 10-cent notebooks). Then, we had an ice cream party.
J–Join a Geocaching group. Geocaching is digital treasure hunting using smartphone GPS.
K–Kitchen. Cooking teaches valuable life skills. Teach safety and monitor. Here’s a free printable Iron Kids Chef Challenge guide to simulate Iron Chef activities.
L–Library. Enjoy book clubs, classes, events, parties, crafts, computer lab, free wifi.
M–Museum. Museums host free/cheap children’s events all summer.
N–Nature hikes. Visit interpretive centers. Take guided nature walks. Bring your field guide and binoculars. Collect specimens.
O–Organize a backyard fundraiser. Try Alex’s Lemonade Stand for ideas.
P–Pick fruit. Research local crops. Kids learn economics, social studies and science. Hunt up pick-your-own farms.
Q–quiet time. Insist everyone spend an hour resting, reading, drawing. No talking, TV or digital toys.
R–Recycling. Let kids gather recycled items. Teach them how to e-cycle–resell used electronics items. Make crafts from home recycling bin.
S–Sell. Kids purge toys, clothes and household items, have a yard sale and split proceeds with you.
T–Theater. Community theater groups have summer stock productions and workshops. Let kids create their own: writing scripts, sewing costumes, doing makeup and making props.
U–Unplug. Take a technology break (adults and kids). Have a picnic.
V–Volunteer. Find areas of need in the community.
W–Water! Swim at the beach. Buy a plastic backyard pool. Play in the hose or sprinkler. Go fishing.
X–Explore your region Act like a tourist. Take a bike ride, bus tour or walkabout.
Y–Yoga. Teach kids’ yoga poses using online videos.
Z–Zoo. Have kids create a backyard zoo or animal parade with stuffed animals. Children give tours.
Kids will return to school ready to learn with these summer enrichment activities.