Help! I’m Broke and It’s Summer!
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Low- to no-cost ways to entertain kids on summer break
For Solo Moms, summertime can come with an all-out sense of relief from our children and all-out panic for us. Of course we’re happy to see our children’s delight at the end of the school year, but it can be daunting to think about how you’ll entertain your kiddos for two months on a tight budget. We are also well aware of the boredom that can set in when you haven’t lined up a summer full of activities and vacations that you simply cannot afford.
Fear not, Solo Moms. We are here to support you. All it takes is a little creativity and a can-do attitude. Below is a list of low- to no-cost activities that you can do with your kiddos this summer.
Local park districts
Is there a park district in your neighborhood offering day camps, summer programs, and activities such as sports, dance, art, and swimming? Chances are if you can register early, you can get a discount on these programs or even a scholarship if you qualify.
Even if you can’t do the entire camp, perhaps even a few days can be a great experience for your child. Also, park districts are known for having summertime performances, festivals, and concerts that are free to attend. You can always pack up a lunch and a blanket and soak in some summer sun while enjoying free entertainment.
Pretty much every city I’ve ever visited has a forest preserve, park, or scenic nature conservatory that is always open and free to the public for walking and exploring. If you and yours are the outdoorsy types, this will be easy and fun. My children would build forts and climb trees while I read nearby, took time to take it all in, or just watched them enjoy themselves. The bonus here is that it is totally free and really encourages active imagination, especially if you’ve got The Chronicles of Narnia types who love to pretend they’re battling for the justice of the greater good.
Movies in the park
It is highly likely that wherever you live, you have seen or heard about movies in the park. If you haven’t, pay attention to local billboards or public postings that offer an unforgettable evening of free cinema under the stars! You can always google this if you’re unfamiliar.
This is a great way to catch up on movies that you and the kids didn’t get to see during the school year. Some parks even offer free popcorn, face painting, and other family activities along with a free screening of the kids’ favorite movies. In addition to recently released movies, there may be Disney favorites and old classics such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or even Star Wars offered. Check out the local listings and head on out. Kids usually love the chance to lay out on a blanket, munch on snacks, and enjoy a show. You seriously cannot go wrong here.
Libraries are known for having a calendar of summer events to keep children entertained (and well read) for the summer. Visit your local library to see if it is offering special events or even just to stock up on great books to read for the summer! It also may have movies to rent, games to explore, and kids’ club activities on deck. And perhaps it offers free or reduced-price passes to the museums in your area.
Museums and zoos
A trip to a museum can be thrilling—and even better when the cost to visit it is minimal. Chances are there is a museum or zoo in your city that either has free admission days or heavily discounted admission for children. Either way, it’s worth looking into. If neither of those work, check your library for passes (as mentioned above) or try Groupon or LivingSocial for huge discounts on tickets.
Summer is a time when many free community events are happening and are usually free and open to the public. Arts-and-crafts fairs, street-food fairs, open-air markets, and family-friendly events are usually happening regularly. Check your local newspaper or online, or ask around and see what events are of interest to you. You’d be surprised how easy and accessible these events are.
Create your own DIY events
Last but not least, remember that at your fingertips is the ability to create fun things to do with your kiddos right from the comfort of your own home. Break out the paints, and create masterpieces together. Board games, Lego building, and even a few games of UNO can keep kids’ minds occupied, and they get to spend quality time with you.
Make fun meals together, bake cakes, and rent Redbox movies and have marathon movie nights. Maybe it’s a fine time to catch up on The Hunger Games, Divergent, or The Matrix movie series. Host a sleepover with other kids, and maybe even partner up with some other Solo Moms in the neighborhood for trade-off nights or to collaborate on fun activities. Grab some fondue and have a chocolate-tasting party.
The opportunities can be infinite if you do a little exploration with an open mind. Don’t fret over not having a bunch of money—our children are much more concerned with spending quality time with us than they are with going on expensive vacations. Remember, summer is about family, and your kids will likely appreciate your efforts toward making sure they have fun.
Former Solo Mom VersAnnette Blackman-Bosia, ESME’s Resource Guide for Domestic Violence, is a painter, published poet, speaker, and facilitator. Through her business, Soul Revival Healing Arts, she offers original paintings and products, and teaches workshops. Her first poetry collection, Butterfly Spirit, was published in 2015. VersAnnette is passionate about empowering women, eating great food, and traveling the world. She and her family currently reside near Chicago.
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