Keep Your Kids Busy Without Breaking the Bank This Summer

June 16, 2009

Summer is a fun time for kids, but it can be challenging for parents to keep them occupied and entertained while they’re home all day. There are many different programs and camps you can sign your kids up for but that can get expensive quickly.  If you don’t want your kid just hanging around with nothing to do and complaining about being bored all summer here some tips for keeping your kids busy without spending a lot of money.

Research Summer Camp Options

There are some good ones, but there are also some horrible ones that cost a lot of money. If you are thinking of a summer camp, don’t go for one that just trucks kids around town to the movie theater and arcade. Look for local, public camps like camps centered around sports or arts and crafts. There are also many public camps that take kids to the museum and other public attractions around town.

Public sports camps can be very cheap, and they are a good way to help your kid learn fundamentals of a sport and get some exercise. If you find your kid is great at one sport and really loves it, you can splurge for the privately run camps. These are much more expensive, but the quality of coaching is usually better. The point is to do your research, and look at all of your options before registering them for a summer camp.

Create Your Own Summer Camp

If there are enough stay-at-home parents in your neighborhood, you can create your own mini-camp for your kids. Assign each parent to one day of the week for the summer. Then, choose an activity that takes up a good chunk of the day like going to the lake/beach, a water park, the science museum, or a big pool party if someone in the neighborhood has a pool.

It will be more work but will certainly be cheaper than paying for a summer camp run by someone else. Plus, your kids will be with their friends, and the stay-at-home parents will get a break four days out of the work week!

Put Your Kids to Work

Aside from their daily chores, find some projects for your kids that are old enough to stay at home by themselves. Set up a compensation structure for these extra projects, and give them an incentive to do it. For instance, if they complete all of their tasks during the week, you’ll pay for them to do something fun with their friends over the weekend.

You can even pay them without it coming out of your own pocket. Have your older kids clean out the garage and attic, organize it, and pick out items to sell in a garage sale over the weekend. Let them keep whatever money they earn in the garage sale. This is a great way to teach kids the importance of working to earn money.

Help Them Start a Business

Another great idea for keeping older kids busy is helping them start a summer side business. Mowing lawns, running errands for elderly people, cleaning and organizing garages, pressure cleaning driveways, babysitting/house-sitting/pet-sitting, and landscaping are all great businesses for young teenagers to start during the summer. Teaching your children about entrepreneurship is one of the most valuable money and career lessons you can teach them as a young person.

Plan Out Your Child’s Summer

Your child won’t plan it out for themselves, so you need to make sure you have a game plan for every week of the summer. Sending them off to their grandparents or a favorite aunt and uncle’s house is a great way to save money and get some time to yourself!

I am so surprised that this has become such a less common thing for kids to do over the summer. My wife and her sister used to visit their grandparents in Michigan without their mom and dad for two, three, and even four weeks at a time.

Be creative this summer. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars each week to keep your kids busy while you are working. Again, planning ahead is the key. If you map out a plan for the next few months, you’ll spend much less money and you’ll know your kids aren’t sitting around bored and looking for trouble : )


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Erik Folgate is a husband and father living in Orlando who's been writing about money online for 6 years. Digging himself out of $20k of debt after college and his former experience in the insurance industry give him some useful insights into personal finance issues.

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One Response to Keep Your Kids Busy Without Breaking the Bank This Summer

  • Jerry

    These are great tips. My mom put me to work when I was little in the summer setting up a popsicle stand. I made a ton of money and she saved it for me. It started the entreprenurial mindset early on. I think the neighborhood summer camp is a really great idea. It leads to a fostership of community with your neighbors and it gives you a break! It’s a win-win. Parents need breaks as insurance for their sanity.