8 Fun (and Inexpensive) Things to Do With Your Kids This Summer

I’ve been thinking about what to put in this blog for a few weeks now.  Summertime rolls around and as parents we want to pack in the most memorable fun-filled summer vacation EVER!  So I went on Pinterest to gather some ideas and I was somewhat frustrated and irritated.  There were lists and lists of 100+ Things to Do With Your Kids This Summer!!!

Please.  I don’t need  a list to tell me to get out the play dough.  (In fact, any mom in their right mind probably hates play dough. Or maybe that’s just my OCD that hates those dried up pieces of play dough that seem to collect into the corners of the kitchen until you get out your vacuum hose and manage to suck them all up.)

But I digress.  I want to create a really fun summer for my kids.  Not just things to do around the house everyday.  Being a working mom, that can sometimes be a challenge, so I just need to make sure that your days off are very intentional.  Do what works for you, but just do it.

This lists actually consists of things that our family does each summer.  (And not to brag, but we do them really well.)  The most important thing to remember is to have fun!  I hope you enjoy your summers as much as we do!

  1. SUMMER READING PROGRAMS.  Each and every library around the country has a summer reading program.  And it’s a safe bet to say that most of these programs have some incentives if your kiddos complete their goals!  Even my teenagers, who usually finish their goals in the first week, love the summer reading program.  And what’s great is when they complete one goal, they can work toward a second goal and more prizes. Check out your local library to find more information.  Cost: Free
  2. GO ON A DAY DRIVE AND HAVE A PICNIC.  This is another one of our favorites, because we love hopping in the car for adventures.  And kids love picnics.   You can find most picnic supplies fairly inexpensively at garage sales or thrift stores or search your garage.  All you really need is a table cloth or picnic blanket and a cooler.  Throw in some fun food (I try to pack things we wouldn’t normally eat at home like Uncrustables and potato chips) and a first aid kit, fill up your gas tank, and you’re good to go! Cost: About $50 (gas, food, etc.)
  3. DOLLAR STORE VISIT.  Seriously!  My kids, even my teenagers, LOVE going to the dollar store.  Give them each a couple of bucks, which I can usually find in the couch cushions or seats of my car, and let them have fun!  I love watching them figure out how they’re going to spend their money.  But my caveat is, whatever they purchase, they have to use once we get home. Cost: $1-$20 (Depending on how many kids you have and how much you give them.)
  4. DOLLAR MOVIES. Every summer, Regal Cinemas holds their Summer Movie Express two days per week at 10:00 am. Kids can choose from two movies each week.  The kids even get a passport that gets stamped every time they to to a movie. The nice part is, it’s early enough that you don’t need to spend money on popcorn or candy. Cost: $1/ticket
  5. VACATION BIBLE CAMP.  This is a big one for us since my husband is a Children’s Pastor and VBC is his Super Bowl. Most churches around the country offer a school or camp, that usually lasts a week, and some are even free!  A week of fun activities, friends, and more–and less expensive than hiring a babysitter each day!  Check your local churches for more details, but if you’re in the Seattle area, click here to find out how you can be involved in our church’s Doctor Who themed adventure! Cost: $0 – $50
  6. GO TO THE BEACH.  Again, this one is free and fun!  We try to get to our local beach before noon because I like a non-sandy place to stake our claim.  The kids love being able to come and go as they please and who doesn’t enjoy a relaxing day in the sun? Make sure to pack a high SPF sunscreen, lots of water, and baby powder to get the sand out of their toes easily.  Cost: $0 – $20
  7. SET UP A POOL.  When our kids were younger, every summer we purchased an inflatable pool.  They’re usually inexpensive if you get theme early enough so we didn’t feel bad throwing them away at the end of the summer. Last year we purchased an inflatable water slide and pool for them and we have easily gotten our money’s worth.  Obviously we won’t throw this one away until it’s full of holes, but this is another activity that doesn’t cost a lot of money and is so much fun for them.  Yes, it is work to set it up and take it down, but it’s so much fun!  And the memories that your kids will make will far outweighs the inconvenience of an end-of-the-day-deflate-session. We sometimes throw in some bubble bath or water toys to add to the fun, which again, you can get at the dollar store. Cost: $20-$100
  8. SET GOALS AND GUIDELINES FOR LAZY DAYS.  Since there are days when my kiddos are home  without me, I like to set schedules for them.  And they are scheduled down to the minute. Believe it or not, kids thrive on routine, so even though it is summer, there are things that are expected of them.  They have chores.  They still eat healthy and exercise. And they get rewarded when their daily goals are met!  It’s amazing how much mileage you can get out of them by putting an Otter Pop or pool time at the end of the morning. If you want my specific schedule for my kids, please leave comment and I will send it to you!  Cost: $0
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5 Ways to Make Every Minute of Your Day Count

Preparation is everything.  In fact, I save time, money, and excuses by being as prepared as possible every day.

I prep everything from laundry to dishes to dinner.  Everyone has their own way to prepare for what is coming their way, but I believe one of the best ways is a list.  The old-fashioned note pad and pencil kind of lists.  Tangible, where I can stick it on the fridge or leave it out on the desk so I don’t forget it.  Apps on the phone are good, but once you close it, you can forget what you made the list for in the first place. In nearly 18 years of marriage and managing the lives of two working parents and four kids–including two teenagers–lists of every kind have kept us organized, on budget, on time–and sane.  Here are the top 5 ways to prepare your lists and make every minute of your day count.

images-21.  MAKE LISTS.  What do you need to do?  Write it down.  I have a calendar. I have a menu planner.  I have a shopping list.  I have a budget tracker. I have a honey-do list (don’t freak out, hubby and I share this list). I actually keep a notepad in my desk for potential vacation dates.  (You have to have something to look forward to, right?)  By making lists, you know exactly what you need, when you need it, and it helps with mommy-brain.  It cuts down on your excuses and makes you feel more productive. (Chore lists help with the kids, too!)  The trick to so many lists is to THROW IT OUT as soon as you are done with it.  Clutter is a nightmare and if you don’t need it, out it goes. If you need help finding or planning lists, Pinterest is a great resource.

2.  PLAN YOUR MENU. Menu planning can save you money, time, and those annoying “What’s for dinners” as soon as the kids get home from school. Plan your menus based on seasonal selections.  We eat a ton of salad in the summer because almost every single vegetable is in season and it’s inexpensive. But be careful to just plan out a week in advance.  Sometimes schedules change and if you plan too far in advance, you may have just thrown away some good money at the grocery store not to mention the planning that went in to your menu for 4th of July weekend. Just to get an idea of how our week looks, we eat at home 6 nights per week.  One night is a dine-out night. And we always have at least one night a week for leftovers.  Not my kids’ favorite, but it needs to be done.

3.  SHOP FROM YOUR GROCERY LIST. I plan all of our family meals, all the way down to snacks, for the week and shop from my list. Believe it or not, I can feed our family of six on an average $100 per week of groceries. And it’s because I shop from a list. Shopping from lists also helps cut down on those “Oh crap, I forgot lettuce at the store and tonight is chicken caesar salad night,” which also result in spontaneous purchases. Believe me, I’m the queen of spontaneity, so I know it happens. You just need to stay diligent and use your shopping lists. Keep a tally on your calculator (I use the one on my phone) and be honest. Use coupons or check grocery websites for sales. If you plan your menu based on what’s on sale and in season, you will save loads of money. Then use that extra money for a splurge. I try to get in one splurge a week. It’s a challenge and sometimes not fun, but once you start figuring out how to shop and save, it gets to be more fun than challenging.

4.  USE A CALENDAR.  This isn’t a new concept for most people, but I tried to get away without using one for about a year after I went back to work.  It didn’t work very well for me. Now I use a couple of different calendars.  I keep a family calendar right next to my desk.  It is 100% just for keeping schedules straight.  I write down my work schedule, my daughter’s work schedule, family appointments, and anything I need to remember on a daily basis. I only update my desk calendar a month in advance, so it is the most current and up-to-date.  I also keep a calendar on my iPhone.  This calendar links my schedule, my husband’s schedule, kids’ schedules, and anything else that I need to  remember from the near and far future.

5.  MAKE EVERY MOMENT COUNT. More important than lists is time (it’s a big thing with our family). This is a tough one for me because I am a procrastinater at heart. I love to meander.  And the more I have to do, the longer the meandering becomes.  So, how do you snap out of it and just do it?  GET OUT THAT LIST OF STUFF TO DO–AND DO IT!  I save my luxury time for when I’m done with my to-do’s. Don’t wait to do your 3 loads of laundry until you’re 30 minutes away from picking your kids up at school. Don’t wait until the rain clouds come in to get your run in.  Do it now.  Don’t wait. Then relax and bask in the fact that your do to’s are done.

If you have any tips or ideas that work great for you, share them!  I love to hear how other mommies (and daddies) are making their time work for them.

Balancing Kids

We have two big milestones in our family this week.  Today, our oldest daughter, Audrey, turns 17.  Tomorrow our youngest son, August, goes in for surgery.  Trying to make sure they both get all the attention they deserve or need has proven to be challenging.  So, how do you make it all work?  I don’t have a good answer.  But I can tell you what I have done to make sure they feel like they are mom and dad’s #1 priority when they need it most.

Most importantly, I want my kids to know that they are loved.  Not just on their special day, but every day. When I kiss them as they walk out the door for school or when I tuck them in at night, they know that their mommy thinks they are the center of her world.  By doing that, you are solidifying the fact that even though they may not get 100% of your attention on their special day, you still love them.  I want my kids to know, without a doubt in their minds, how much they truly mean to me.

balancingkidsI like to set aside some time in my day and week to create special moments and memories. Today, on Audrey’s birthday, we had a whole slew of events planned. We start planning her birthday in March because Audrey LOVES her birthday.  But with August’s surgery tomorrow, she’s not going to get an entire day from us like she normally would.  We have a bit of prepping to do for Gus’ surgery. But by creating extra special moments today, we will have created memories for her.  And that’s more important than an entire day spent doing nothing.

I love to let them help with the planning or prepping of their big day.  I ask them what is important to them.  I let them choose dinner on their day.  Take them shopping for what they think will make their day special.  Like I said before, Audrey starts thinking about her birthday as soon as New Year’s has come and gone. August was excited when we he got to choose a toy to play with after his surgery.  By including them in the preparations, you are helping them realize that this is their day and that their opinion matters.

By helping your kiddos know that they are your center of your attention on their one big day you will have created those moments and memories that they, and you, will cherish forever.  Balancing kids is tough work.  But by letting your kids help with the balancing and prioritizing, you will find it’s more fun than challenging. You may not get it right all the time, but that’s OK.  We all have wins and losses.  I’m not even sure how today or tomorrow  will go, but I’m hopeful that I’ve done just enough to make two of my kiddos feel special. But I will be adding in a few extra hugs, kisses, and “I LOVE YOU’s” for good measure!