Summer camp alternatives: Summertime activities for kids and families
Summer camp is a nice idea, but not all families can afford that kind of activity. Here are some great alternatives!
When summertime rolls around and families prepare for their yearly vacation, or children are being prepped for their summer camp experience, what are the viable options for those who don’t have those kinds of choices available to them? With the cost of family entertainment on the rise, many families can no longer afford such luxuries – especially larger families with limited incomes.
Children need to express themselves through social interaction and play. During the school year, these opportunities present themselves on a daily basis within the classroom environment. In the summer, however, parents and guardians need to develop an activity plan for their children.
Many towns and cities offer a summer playground program that’s designed to meet the social needs of children who would, otherwise, remain at home, glued to the TV or video game player. These programs offer a daily play routine, at no cost to the participants, which parallel the same timeframe as the normal school day. Optional field trips may be available on a weekly or biweekly basis, at very little cost (often $2.00-$5.00). For those who choose not to sign up for a field trip, the regular playground program is normally in session.
To find out if such a program exists in your area, contact your local Parks and Recreation Department. If not, they’ll be able to provide you with a list of town (or city) sponsored summer activities that are within your budget.
Planning a day at the beach can also be expensive, if you happen to live within a reasonable distance of such a place. The cost of admission and/or parking and food from on-site snack bars can be very restrictive, making this another option that isn’t within everyone’s financial reach. For those of you who are interested in planning a day of water fun for the family, check to see if there’s a pond or lake nearby. Many of these offer free admission and parking. By bringing along your own picnic lunch and drinks, your family can enjoy the same benefits without the exorbitant costs. Relieved of that burden, this activity can be enjoyed on a regular basis throughout the summer.
Local libraries generally offer a wonderful assortment of programs during the summer months. Whether it’s a children’s movie, puppet show, magic show or story hour, there are a lot of opportunities for entertainment throughout the week. Monthly calendars are provided by these establishments, and the activities are listed by age group. Some require registration (at no cost), which needs to be addressed prior to the event. Others are open to the general public.
If you have access to a park with an open area and it’s a nice breezy day, take the children kite flying. These are very inexpensive toys – some folks even make their own – and can provide hours of no-cost fun. Here, too, is an opportunity to pack a picnic lunch and make a day of it. Parents can join in the fun, too, for a total family experience!
Since most parks (especially state parks) offer hiking trails or nature paths, plan a day of walking or hiking through woods. Other than the cost of any food or drink that you may choose to bring along, this is another no-cost activity that can be enjoyed by the entire family. It also provides the added benefits of fresh air, sunshine and exercise – other necessities in the daily lives of children!
On stay-at-home days – when there’s inclement weather or you just want a day to enjoy some quiet activities at home – there are lots of arts and crafts projects that you can share with your children. One very simple, yet highly entertaining, activity requires plain white drawing paper, crayons or markers and a healthy imagination.
Begin by seating everyone around the family table and giving each person a blank sheet of paper and a selection of crayons or markers. Instruct the participants to draw one item on the page in front of them (it can be anything at all – no restrictions). When everyone has completed their drawing, they should pass the paper to the person on their left and repeat the process. As the pages go around the table, everyone takes a turn adding an element to each picture. This should continue until everyone has his or her original paper back in their possession. Depending upon the amount of people who are participating and how much room is left on each page, the entire process can be repeated until everyone has their page back for the second time. When the papers are finally returned to the original artist, the pictures that have been created should be shared, by individually holding them up for everyone to view.
The hot summer doesn’t have to be boring, but also doesn’t have to cost a fortune. There are many activities that are available for the low-budget or no-budget family. With a little imagination, you can help your children make some great summertime memories!