Summer’s coming soon and it won’t be long before all the kids are out of school. As a parent, you want your children to have good, clean fun, but you know that’s easier said than done.

Some kids might get bored easily. Others may choose to spend summer doing indoor activities while others might know exactly what they want to do, but they don’t have the means to do it.

It’s a tough spot to be in as a parent. You want your child to enjoy their summer, but you also don’t want to outright spoil them. You definitely don’t want to just throw money at toys and activities until they’re happy either.

What options are there that are affordable, or even free, to help you and your kids enjoy the summer the right way?

Out and About

The best thing about summer is the great weather, so why not spend it in the world outside your doors?

First things first, take advantage of your local parks, playgrounds, and nature preserves. Not only are they free, but they exist solely for your enjoyment. You can go play, relax, have a picnic, or discover your own activities with your family at these places.

Of course, kids are kids, and they might want a little more structure in their fun. Not to worry; many municipalities have public pools at a low cost, and some even have small water parks. These pools often have discounted rates for residents of the city, and regardless, they’re much cheaper than going to a huge water park resort.

Also, geography permitting, there may be a beach or a lake in your area. Some will cost money, some will be free, but all of them will be a much more quintessential summer experience.

In and Around Town

It’s nice out, so why not go for a walk around town and see what you can discover? While you’re at it, perhaps give your child a disposable camera and let them see the world in a whole new way. This may occupy their mind for a few hours and it could instill a lifelong love of photography.

As you’re out exploring, you may realize there are many activities for kids, teens, and families being advertised. Everyone knows school’s out for summer, so they want to offer to help them find something they might enjoy doing.

Many of these activities are hosted by municipalities or park districts. They may include things like public fireworks shows, free movie screenings (both indoors, such as in a library, and outdoors, like in a park), and sports games.

Also, many public libraries host summer reading clubs and contests for kids of all ages. In many cities, museums often have days of reduced or free admission for youths. These aren’t just to encourage a love of learning and to prevent summer-break brain-drain, but also to give your kids something to do during those inevitable rainy days.

Sometimes businesses also host summer programs and workshops for kids, and often at low or no cost. Note, not every location will offer these, but tell the people at your local branch that you heard about these:

  • Barnes & Noble has its own reading program (with prizes!)
  • Whole Foods teaches a kids’ cooking class
  • Lowe’s, Michael’s, and The Home Depot all offer arts and crafts programs
  • Some Bass Pro Shops locations have family day camps
  • Apple Stores have “tech camps” for older kids to do things such as make their own movies

Speaking of camps, there are plenty of summer camp options ranging from free local day camps at the YMCA to low-cost sleepaway camps which may even offer financial aid. You just need to seek them and you can find them.

Your Own Back Yard (Or Front Yard, If That Works Better for You)

Of course, you and your children don’t have to go far to enjoy the summer.

You can do things in your own yard like gardening, which would not only be a great opportunity for quality time together, but would give your child the opportunity to see their hard work quite literally blossom and come into fruition.

You can also host a campfire or a bonfire where you roast marshmallows and make s’mores while teaching them how to make a fire – and how to be safe around one.

If you want your children to learn other practical life lessons, you could teach them about business. It may cost a bit to set up and supply, but if you can help your kids make a successful lemonade stand, it could very well pay for itself.

Good, Clean, American Fun

Wouldn’t it be nice to bring back the classic playtime activities that the Internet Age tried to do away with?

Would your child like to jump rope, draw with some sidewalk chalk (either for art or for hopscotch), throw a frisbee, roller skate (with pads and a helmet, of course), or even throw some water balloons?

Maybe they don’t know they’d like to play with them until you show them how fun it can be.

Actually, some of these items can be homemade as well. You could buy a kite at the store or make your own at home with everyday materials.

You could also invent your own distractions. One of the hottest new low-cost summer fun-enablers is the “water drop” – a large plastic sheet sealed with duct tape and filled with water. It’s like a waterbed mixed with a trampoline (minus the high risk of injury).

By the way, what ever happened to pickup games? Find an open field somewhere and play baseball, softball, soccer or field hockey, or find a basketball court at your local park.

Better yet, come up with your own idea for a game, like water-balloon baseball (all the fun of backyard baseball without the broken windows) or air-balloon tennis with paper plates on popsicle sticks for racquets.

Parenting is expensive enough. You don’t need to bankrupt yourself just to see your kids smile this year. It turns out all they need to enjoy their youth is a good attitude and a little imagination. Hopefully those are two things you won’t find to be in short supply!