How is it possible that in just a few short weeks, you’ll be taking that first big step into the real world? Wasn’t it just yesterday that you learned to walk, with your short, chubby legs and toothless smile?
It just feels really sudden. Like someone should have warned me how quickly this would approach.
I mean, I know…they tell you it goes by so fast, but it’s like I blinked and suddenly here we are: off to Kindergarten.
I’ll put on the bravest face I can, but please don’t be embarrassed if I cry. Heck, I can barely see the keyboard right now and school doesn’t start for another 24 days.
24 days…I’m just not ready.
But you are.
To My Sweet Kindergartner
There’s no doubt in my mind that you are ready for this. You are so strong, so kind, and oh-so-smart.
I hope I’ve taught you to lead by example. To stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. To know when to speak your mind and when to listen.
I also hope that you’re treated with kindness. To be honest, it scares Mommy to think of you braving it without me.
But I know you can and you will.
We’re in for a whole new “normal” now.
Picking out school supplies. Packing school lunches. Setting alarm clocks (gross).
A whole new normal for me, too. No more being pestered for snacks every 90 minutes. No more brainstorming activities to keep you busy while I work. No more post-breakfast cuddles while we watch Daniel Tiger.
I pray you’ll remember those cuddles, though, when things aren’t going quite right at school. When you feel overwhelmed, anxious, or just plain scared, I hope you’ll think of me and know that I’m sending all sorts of love and strength your way. Always.
Know that when I look at you, my heart aches and shines all at the same time. Because while the trepidation I feel at sending you to school is oh-so-overwhelming, I also couldn’t be prouder of the person you’re becoming.
I’m not sure how I got so lucky to have you as my child, but I’m grateful for you every day…yes, even the days when we don’t get along all that well. Let’s face it – we’re an awful lot alike, you and I, and goodness knows we’ll butt heads many times in the future.
So while your stubborn attitude and unwarranted confidence irks me at times, know that I also secretly smile about it behind your back. It shows me that you are ready to stand on your own two feet. It helps me let go…even just a little bit.
You are ready, my sweet Kindergartner. And even though I’m not (yet), know that I’ll always be here for you.
The Universe has many great things in store for you. Celebrate that, make new friends, hold onto the fun that is learning…and I can’t wait to hear all about it after school.
If you’ve got an incoming freshman to college this fall, understand that you’ll be crying. You’ll miss them, sure, but college is also one of the most expensive endeavors we engage in. Between books, dorms, computers, food and everything else, your little scholar will rack up a tidy sum.
That’s why it helps to save money in every little nook and cranny you can find. From saving money on textbooks to utilizing student programs, we’ve got a list that will help save your sanity (and wallet).
Money Saving Tips For College Students
Never pay full price for textbooks
Textbooks are one of the most expensive parts of your college experience, after classes and housing of course. Who wants to buy a math book for $400 and sell it back to the bookstore for $25? Wouldn’t you rather get them at a drastically cheaper price and in turn help other students get them cheaply?
In addition to textbooks for college students, they also have books for K-12 students, college prep guides, and ACT/SAT study materials. Finally, as we’ll explain further along, students get massive discounts on signing up for Amazon Prime, which gives you free 2-day shipping on nearly anything.
Another popular place to buy and sell textbooks, eBay will often get you the best price. There’s no MSRP when you’re a student trying to recoup some of your costs, so books are often severely marked down. In addition, if you know what books you’ll need in advance, you can avoid competing on auctions with other students who waited to buy their books.
Textbooks are often enormous and heavy, so carrying around a bag full of them will destroy your posture AND your wallet. Digital copies are usually available for most books now, and are almost always cheaper. In fact, if you’re in say an English class and a lot of your textbooks are novels, you can often find digital novels for sale on the author’s website for a drastic markdown. Always looks for digital options first and save yourself a pain in the back later on.
Visit the library
The library isn’t just for sleeping between classes – who knew? Not only can you check out books, but many libraries now offer downloadable digital copies of books. In addition, most college libraries rent out more than just books, from e-readers to basic dormlife things like blenders. Libraries have evolved with the times, proving they’re still a wonderful resource for a cash-strapped college student.
Renting textbooks from the bookstore has become far more commonplace in the last 5 years or so. Renting works in a way that you pay far less than cover price for a book. If you return it in reasonable condition, you don’t owe any more money. Sure you can’t resell it, but you don’t have to shell out hundreds for a new copy and renting can even be cheaper than buying secondhand in some cases.
Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and LetGo are all online marketplaces that allow you to buy and sell pretty much anything. Check often to see if anyone has books you need. These are also great places to resell your books when you’re done with them.
The wait-and-see method
Lastly, you can always wait until your classes start to see if you really will need EVERY book on your list. Sometimes professors include books that just aren’t used that much in the class. Other times, they’re ones that you can find cheap or free access to online. Why spend $30 dollars on a book if you can find the same information in your library for free?
Get Free Stuff
We’re not talking about getting free ice cream on your birthday. No, there is a wealth of free (or cheap), extremely useful products and services available for college students.
Again with Amazon and for good reason – Amazon provides free 2-day shipping on everything with their Prime program. In addition, it’s pretty cheap and you can find just about everything you need on Amazon. The problem is that Prime costs about $115/year, which can be hard to swing as a college student.
The Prime Student is a free 6-month trial period for college students. After the free trial is up, you’re given Prime at a discounted rate for the 4 years of your college career. There’s not much to say other than go sign up now!
There are few programs that are as necessary for a college student or professional as Microsoft Office. Unfortunately, it’s also a very expensive program, running upwards of $250 or more depending on what version you buy. Luckily, college students have the option of getting the basic version for free.
Once Microsoft verifies your status (through a college email), you can download Office completely for free. Check it out and use it to write a thank-you to us later.
Deep discounts on hardware
If you need a new computer and let’s face it, you probably do, a lot of online retailers offer discounts to students. Newegg.com has great prices on high quality refurbished and new laptops for students. Dell.com also has “Dell University” which offers highly competitive pricing, free delivery, and loyalty rewards for college students.
Use Lynda to learn
Many instructors are using Lynda.com (which apparently has been bought out by LinkedIn) for teaching specifics on programs like Photoshop or CAD. While in most cases your fees will include Lynda, they offer a deep discount and free trial for students. It’s worth mentioning because Lynda has courses on virtually everything, so you can learn everything from coding to cooking for free.
Flex that student ID muscle
You would be surprised at the sheer amount of discounts your student ID will get you. Check with your school and see, but in most cases nearly every restaurant near a college campus will offer deals, free drinks, and discounts for students.
Open a student account
Many banks will offer some manner of free checking with incentives for college students. Even if it means setting up a new account, it’s worth it in the long run. Often if you have a job that uses direct deposit while you’re taking classes, you can find a bank running a deal where they’ll pay you to switch.
The same goes with student credit cards. Student lines of credit through your bank are great for building credit and often offer incentives for signing up.
One last thing, never pay for a checking account. If the bank you’re working with wants to charge you a monthly or yearly fee, or they have lots of little fees for withdrawals, avoid them. There are so many places that want to pay you for your business; it’s not worth your time to pay even $5 for a student checking account.
Call your insurance agent
You should get renters insurance if you have anything of value, and while you’re talking to your insurer, get signed up with their student discount plan. Nearly all major insurers – Geico, Nationwide, Farmers, etc – all offer student discount programs for good grades. In some cases it can mean a drastic discount on your rate. It’s worth checking if yours offers it, and it’s worth switching if they don’t.
Figure out your fees
College comes with lots of fees. Some of those fees, however, will benefit you and you might not even be aware. Most colleges have on-campus gyms that are included. In addition, most campuses follow a great wellness model, including things like:
– campus counseling and mental health
– nurse’s station or clinic
– career planning and job finding assistance
– tutoring assistance
– printing and copying plans
– computer lab access
Talk to your school and find out what you’re paying for and make the most of it. A gym membership alone will run you $20+ dollars a month, whereas your health fee on campus is probably $70/semester and will give you access to a far better health center than the random Planet Fitness or whatever is in your town.
Public transportation is your friend
The literal worst part of using the bus is paying – tokens suck and carrying around loose cash is annoying, too. Otherwise the bus is clean, convenient, and will take you all over your city. The biggest benefit as a student is the incredible discount for a transportation pass that is available to you.
Most large cities have a “ride as much as you want” pass for a flat rate. As a student, you can expect to pay a fraction of that rate and the pass is usually good for a whole semester. For instance in Chicago, a 30-day unlimited ride pass is $105 but Ventra passes through the various city colleges are often less than that per semester.
Get a degree in being money savvy
College is expensive, that’s a known fact. It doesn’t need to be more expensive than it is, though. Through proper application of the methods above, and simply asking around about local discounts and special offers for students, you can save literally thousands of dollars a year.
If you have a recurring subscription, check to see if they offer a discount. If you’re paying for cable, stop paying for cable and just use a streaming service on WiFi.
Every bill you pay, every subscription you have, every place you shop, check to see if there are student discounts. It might feel awkward at first but if college is nothing else, it’s awkward, so get used to it and save yourself some cash in the meantime.
Oh and for the parents reading this (because – duh!) don’t forget to use Raise.com to score some discounted gift cards for things like gas.
You know your “little ones” will be calling home and asking, might as well load up now so you don’t have to pay full price later! Plus if you sign up today, you can get an extra $10 back on your first order – $10 that can then be used to pick up some tissues for that hard goodbye.
Did you implement any of these when YOU were in college?
There are so many places that incentivize kids getting good grades, especially once school has ended. I don’t know about how summer is going at your place, but wow — did the days just get longer? Well, why not make the most of it by rewarding all their hard work this last school year?
There are probably plenty of hometown places that will reward kids for doing well in school and you should check them out! We’ve compiled a list of national chains that will reward your offspring for their reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic skills this summer.
While we have tried to make this list based on nationwide chains, you should still call before you go to ensure that your local chains are participating in these programs. Also, don’t forget the report cards!
Oh, and don’t forget the kids. Kids, report card, call ahead – that’s the list!
Places That Offer Report Card Rewards
Sweet treats for Straight As
Anyone who doesn’t like ice cream – assuming they can eat it of course – might be a spy or robot. Double your suspicions if they don’t like free ice cream. Participating Baskin Robbins stores will give your little scholar a little scoop for doing great in school. Check this website to find your local BR and give them a call to ensure they’re participating.
Breakfast is literally always delicious, and it’s even better when it’s free! Well, in this case, it’s a free kids meal, but it’s still delicious. Find your local Robert Evans here.
If your kids are like mine, nuggets are a food group. If you have a Chick-fil-A in your town, report card As can mean a free order of nuggets, which is a reasonable return on investment if you ask me.
Look up two spots and you’ll see that we really love breakfast. Bring your kids (and their report card) to your local IHOP and get a free kids meal. Nothing says “good job, buddy!” like a bread circle covered in sugar.
Pizza Hut has been bribing us to get good grades for decades and they’re not stopping yet. In addition to the Book-It program we were delighted to find out still exists, if your child has 3 As or more on their report card, they can get a personal pan pizza and a drink for free. Find your Pizza Hut and make sure they’re participating and then go eat pizza!
Applebees (sort of)
This one requires a little bit of work. The “A” is for Applebee’s program is one where your child’s teacher must apply to get these reward coupons to give out to students who excel. The nice thing is that they’re not necessarily just for good grades; the teacher can choose the criteria, so it can be improving social skills, artistic abilities, or really anything where the student has shown improvement. Still, it’s a great way to snag a free kids meal while mommy has a well-deserved margarita.
Wendy’s has offered a report card reward program in the past, and our local one still does, but it’s worth checking ahead. A little research online suggests some are offering kids meals and some don’t do the program at all. Always check first!
For little ones in kindergarten through 5th grade, a straight-A report card will nab them a free Happy Meal. Older kids (6-12th) get a value meal, so that’s pretty awesome. Call your local McDonald’s and see if you can McCashin on your kids’ McGoodGrades!
Ugh, that was awful.
A free one-topping pizza is your reward for solid school work at Marco’s Pizza. Check and see if yours is participating. If you live in an area where Marco’s is attached to Family Video, read on to see how you can get some free rentals while you’re there.
Obviously kids K-5th love ice cream because as established before, everyone but spies and robots love ice cream. Coldstone is offering free ice cream for good grades so now you don’t have any excuse; go get Coldstone right now and bring your kids!
While not exactly a report card scenario in the strictest sense, the Read to Succeed program rewards students who complete 6 hours of recreational reading with free admission. Check it out here.
If you recall from our segment on Marco’s Pizza, you were promised potentially free movies if you have a nearby Family Video. Fam Vid is offering up to 5 free rental vouchers for each A in a core subject (math, language, reading, history, geography, science, and spelling). They’ve had this program for years; I remember participating when I was a kid and it’s a great little reward.
Chuck E Cheese
Login to the Chuck E Cheese More Cheese rewards program here and you can get a coupon for your little scholar to get 10 free game tokens with a food purchase. The coolest part of Chuck’s programs here is that you can give these “rewards” to your kids for virtually anything. It’s a great way to praise their efforts and improvement in any category.
While not strictly something to do per se, if you have a child who likes to shop at Justice, they can get $5 off their purchase with a good report card.
The same thing as with Justice, a $5 off discount can be yours if you bring in your report card. Please note that this one appears to be limited to the first 30 days after your grades go out, so keep that in mind.
Rewards for bigger kids
Most of these types of report card rewards are great for little kids and a nice end-of-year treat. If you have a high school or college student, there are some pretty impressive incentives for keeping their grades up out there, too.
If your driving-aged student maintains a B average, they you can save 5-10% off your insurance bill. That’s a big deal.
Honestly, these are just a few of the different programs offered by various insurers for good students. The logic is that a kid getting good grades is probably more responsible, and so rates can be lowered. If you don’t have one of these companies, check with your insurance agent to see if your company offers a good student discount. Chances are good they probably do, and it really could save you a bundle.
Banks and credit unions
Getting an exhaustive list of participating financial institutions would be nearly impossible, but you can and should call yours to see if they have good student reward programs. What they amount to typically is:
You open a student savings or checking account with your child.
Over the academic year they will be rewarded with deposits from the bank for their good report card.
Sometimes it’s a dollar a semester for each A, and sometimes it’s a lump sum when report cards go out. Check with your institution to see what they offer.
Opening a bank account is a big responsibility step itself, and coupling it with incentives can be a big help for kids to see how being responsible in one area of their life can affect others as well. A student getting good grades is probably a safer driver, and might become a fiscally responsible person in general. It’s all connected and these programs can help make your children understand that.
Again, this list isn’t exhaustive and you should definitely check with local businesses to see what kinds of rewards they offer for your kids’ good grades.
Do you know of any big chains we missed that reward kids for good grades?
Kinetic sand and playdoh are two favorites in this house, but only one is allowed to be played with unsupervised…can you guess which?
Kinetic Sand VS Playdoh
If you’ve had experience with both, it’ll come as no surprise that my preference is definitely the kinetic sand. That’s not to say we’ve gone so far as to ban playdoh for the house, but it’s certainly tempting at times.
Both are great, though, for sensory play. Sensory play is any sort of play that stimulates the senses – be it taste, touch, smell, sight, and/or sound. What’s great about both kinetic sand and playdoh, though, is that they also bring in the opportunity to strengthen motor skills.
While they’re both fun to build and mold with (and there’s no doubt the kids love both!) this mama is all about the kinetic sand!
What is Kinetic Sand?
Kinetic sand, also known as magic sand, is mostly what you’d expect – sand. But if you’ve ever actually touched it, there’s clearly something magical about it that seems to defy expectations. It’s able to be molded like clay, but feels silky. At times it almost seems magnetic!
This magic sand is sand that’s been coated in silicone oil. The oil is part of what makes kinetic sand so great – it’ll stick to itself but not to other things, like table tops or clothing!
Is Kinetic Sand Messy?
Not only is it not messy, but any clean up needed is an absolute breeze! Because it sticks to itself, you can use a wad of it to “grab” whatever tiny bits might be laying about.
This stuff really does seem to defy physics. You can mold it into a variety of shapes, but hold it up and let gravity take over to see it turn back into what appears to be regular sand.
Why Kinetic Sand is Better than Playdoh
Beyond the fact that it’s easy to clean up, there are many other benefits that make kinetic sand better than playdoh. For one, it’s gluten-free. Now to be honest I hadn’t even thought about this until I came across a mom selling a HUGE lot of playdoh at a garage sale. When I asked her about it, she mentioned her daughter had a gluten allergy; I was floored!
Another thing I love about kinetic sand vs playdoh? No shards. We’ve all seen the memes and jokes about stepping on legos, but let’s be real – NOTHING hurts like stepping on a shard of dried playdoh. Kinetic sand doesn’t dry out, even when forgotten!
Why God why?!
Kinetic sand is also incredibly relaxing. As weird as it seems, there’s something very chill about playing with this sand. I’m not sure if it’s due to the feel, the way it moves, or what, but it’s a lot of fun.
But if you are going to opt to have it over kinetic sand (or in addition to) I very much recommend the brand Kiddy Dough. It has a great cloudy feel to it and is far more affordable than actual Playdoh. It’s still not better than kinetic sand, but it is a lot of fun.
When it comes to kinetic sand vs playdoh, obviously that’s a choice each parent makes for their own littles. That said, if you’re debating on which to give as a gift to someone else’s child, go with kinetic sand. Always! It also makes for a great gift choice because of the variety offered. (*psst* in case you’re wondering, yes I will fully accept sparkly pink kinetic sand for my next birthday!)
Which do you prefer – kinetic sand or playdoh? Or neither?
In honor of Pride Month, I’d like to share with you our favorite LGBTQ-friendly books for children. We’re avid readers in this house and I love that the world of children’s book is far more diverse than it was when I was growing up.
Children’s Books to Read in Honor of Pride Month
Teaching Children about the LGBTQ Community
While we’ve always reaffirmed to our children that “love is love” it’s great to have these books to help them learn all the more about LGBTQ history and icons, breaking gender stereotypes, and what it means to be nonconforming. I’m by no means an expert on this myself, but I nevertheless want to use this space to encourage you to check out at least one of these books (if you haven’t yet!)
Now of course some of the links below are affiliate links – which means I may make a commission should you click through to purchase – but this in no way impacts my recommendation of said books. And of course if you have a book to recommend that didn’t make the list, please comment below and share with us!
LGBTQ Stories for Younger Children
Julián Is a Mermaid
Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love is an absolutely beautiful book, both through the story itself and the imagery. In this story, Julián dreams of being a mermaid and one day decides to dress up as one….only to be caught by his abuela. Curious what happens next? You’ll have to read it for yourself!
This book by Robb Pearlman breaks through the stereotype of pink vs blue and empowers kids to express themselves using any color of the rainbow they wish. It also reaffirms the idea that each person should feel free to enjoy doing whatever is they love!
Love is Love by Michael Genhart is a story about how love is what makes a family. I’ve written before about why we should ditch the step in step-child, but this book goes beyond that. When a boy is taunted for “not having a real family” he quickly learns what that actually means.
This board book is absolutely phenomenal and one that the whole family is sure to love. It’s full of pictures, sound words, and a cute cat on every page for the little ones to find. Not only will this story help your child learn his ABCs but it’s sure to inspire and delight everyone!
When Errol finds his best friend Thomas feeling sad, he soon discovers why – Thomas wishes to be Tilly. How will Errol handle this unexpected change? Buy the book and share this “gentle story about gender and friendship” with your little ones today!
While the title may make it sound like this is a story is for little ones, it’s actually an in-depth book on sexuality and gender. It also includes a dictionary/glossary to help readers understand the various terms used. It’s a great book for older children and adults!
This story by Barbara Dee is absolutely brilliant. In it, Mattie finds herself crushing on Gemma during their school’s production of Romeo and Juliet. Oh but wait – she’s also really into Elijah, a boy she’s liked for “like forever!” What will happen when Mattie suddenly has to step in as Gemma’s Romeo? Only one way to find out…
As if being twelve wasn’t hard enough, Shane (our story’s main character) has a secret that he feels he can’t tell anyone, even his family or best friend Josh. While I don’t want to give too much away, I will say that Shane’s assigned gender at birth doesn’t quite match up with who he really is…
George by Alex Gino is another story about a trans child who yearns for acceptance…well that and to play the role of Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web. Luckily George has her friend Kelly to help her make the world see her for who she truly is!
As if suffering through the destruction of a tornado wasn’t enough, our main character Ivy realizes her journal has gone missing…a journal filled with drawings of girls holding hands. Suddenly, though, the drawings start to reappear in her locker along with notes encouraging her to come out. The thing is, though, Ivy’s sister blew up over her best friend coming out…will she do the same when she finds out her sister likes girls?
This book by Mary Hoffman does such a beautiful job of featuring all kinds of families and their lives together. It’s not only great to help children better recognize that everyone’s family is different, but it’d make for a great classroom addition as well!
If you can’t guess from the title, this story by Stacy B. Davids is about how much Annie loves wearing her plaid shirt. Then one day she’s told she’ll have to wear a dress to her uncle’s wedding and she’s anything but excited. Annie doesn’t understand why her mom doesn’t get that she feels weird in dresses! Then Annie has an idea…
Entertaining yet insightful, Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall is about a blue crayon being mistakenly labeled as red. No matter what his teacher, friends, or mother says about being red, this crayon knows who he really is. It’s a great book to teach children about self awareness!
I’m not sure if I’m just a sap for sweet stories or if it’s because this one is based on a true story, but I LOVE this book. When two male penguins became inseparable and formed a bond unlike any other, the zookeepers at Central Park Zoo gave them a motherless egg. Then (much to everyone’s surprise!) the pair hatched the baby!
It’s hard not to know who Jazz Jennings is, but have you shared her story with the kids? From the age of two, Jazz always knew she was a girl born in a boy’s body. Through this book, the author shares how important it is to respect each other’s differences and recognize that everyone has the right to be who they are.
Oook so maybe this one isn’t actually a true story, but the idea certainly stems from one! When I heard about this book from John Oliver, I didn’t hesitate for a moment to pre-order it. It is by far and away one of our family’s favorite books…even if it has led to my children calling a certain man a “stink bug” (hehehe)
Last but certainly not least, This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman is a beautifully done reflection of the LGBTQ community and what it means to celebrate pride. What I love most about this it that it includes a reading guide full of facts surrounding LGBTQ history/culture as well as a guide on how parents can talk to children about sexual orientation and gender identity.
Narrowing in on this list of LGBTQ books to read to children wasn’t an easy task. There are so many great books out there to not only help you celebrate Pride Month, but to teach about diversity and acceptance all year long. While we still have an incredibly long way to go toward a more peaceful and accepting world, reading books like these to our children is a great place to start.
Are there any books you think I missed that are an absolute must for this list?
Ideas for frugal summer fun activities for kids have to go beyond just browsing on Pinterest and setting yourself up for failure.
When you actually start that first week of summer break, the reality sets in that there are many days between June 1st and August 30th. How do you keep your kids occupied and not tearing down your house or terrorizing your neighborhood?
More importantly, how do you keep them occupied without spending your vacation money on activities? Luckily there are so many ways to entertain kids during the summer, and a sympathetic society has made many of them cheap. We’re going to take a look at the top ways you can keep your kid having fun and maybe learning over summer break without breaking your bank.
Frugal Summer Fun Activities for Kids
Head to the library
Libraries are not just places for princesses to spend time in-between not talking to their beast-captors. They have books, sure, but now libraries have so much more. You can check out movies, magazines, and even in some cases equipment.
Many libraries have something called a “library of things” where you can borrow appliances, sports gear, and more. Beyond that though, books are hugely important to neural development in kids. In fact, even adult brains show better ability to create new pathways when they read even 15 minutes a day.
Going to the library and picking up some books, reading them and returning the next week to get more was a HUGE part of my childhood and I still look back fondly on sitting in a quiet room reading, especially when it was raining outside. Your kids will benefit from it immensely.
Summer reading programs
Keeping in the vein of reading over the summer, there are tons of summer reading programs out there to encourage kids to read in various ways. As a kid there was the Book-It program that got you little pizzas and books and it was GLORIOUS and it STILL EXISTS!.
Now there are far more from many different companies and groups:
Chuck E Cheese Behavior Rewards – I have to admit, the mouse has some great motivators. Basically you track the behavior you want your kids to engage in – reading is just one – then you can print off coupons that they sign their name to and they get free play points with a food purchase. Pavlov’s mouse, amirite?
Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Challenge – Your kids download a journal and record the books they’ve read, and then once they’re done they can choose 1 free book from a curated selection at your local Barnes and Noble!
Six Flags Read To Succeed – When kids K-6 complete 6 hours of reading over the summer, they get a free ticket to Six Flags! Considering you might already be thinking about a Six Flags trip during summer break, this is a good way to encourage your kids to read before they get their brains jumbled up on a roller coaster.
Amazon Retail Stores Book Challenge – This one is less accessible, simply because there aren’t that many retail Amazon stores yet. However, it’s a great program that encourages kids to read at least 8 books. When they’re done, you come back for a free book from a curated list.
Though this list isn’t exhaustive, these are some of the ones that are not regionally locked. There are plenty more and in fact, if you inquire at your local library they will likely have a list of all the programs in your area over the summer.
Investigate your local museum or zoo
Often a city museum or zoo isn’t very expensive to begin with, but most will offer discounts for groups. Call ahead to your local zoo and see if you can get a group rate for a bunch of mom’s and kids all going at the same time. Our local museum and zoo both offer free admission for kids 4 and under during the summer months.
I can’t guarantee yours will have free admission, but the admission will be cheap. With a lot of interesting exhibits and animals, it should keep your kids occupied for an afternoon. Bonus points if your zoo like ours has a picnic area and you can bring food in; spend the whole day getting to know wallabies and penguins!
Home Depot DIY Workshops
Home Depot has a schedule of workshops where they teach kids how to build various things. Your littles will need adult supervision, but the projects are completely free! What’s best is that your kids can keep their crafts. The link above has a spot to put your zip code in to find your nearest Home Depot. You’ll be given a schedule of events once you click through to your local store.
Bike and Hike Days
All of the parks in our city have these days when cars are not allowed. It makes for a near party atmosphere with people grilling, picnicking, and simply enjoying the park. Contact your local park district to find out when they’re having them. They should also have a schedule of events for the summer as well for all sorts of fun things.
Head to the big screen
Pretty much every movie theater has deeply discounted summer rates for kids. Some are as low as .50c, and especially if you have a local cinema, they probably have a summer movie program. These allow you to pay one flat rate for basically unlimited admission to movies all summer long.
A few of the more prominent chains offering summer kids’ pricing are:
Some are deeply discounted while some offer free movies for kids in a certain age range. AMC and Marcus actually include snacks with the admission price – $4 in the case of AMC! That’s a really good deal.
Not a fan of the theater? Set up a sheet and projector out back and have a family movie night under the stars. Check out what we recommend as the best movies for preschoolers (that the whole will love!)
Take your kids bowling
Bowling is still around in cities everywhere and thanks to Kidsbowlfree.com, you can introduce the game to your kids. Not all alleys are signed up with the program, but the ones that are offer 2 free games per day for kids all summer long. In addition to this program, most bowling alleys offer big discounts or free kids’ admission with an adult during the summer.
It’s air conditioned, it’s fun, and you get to wear fun shoes. Go see if your local alley offers the program and get to rolling balls towards pins!
Get crafty with Michael’s
Michael’s stores offer a workshop, teaching your kids to make some fun and creative crafts. It’s $3 per kid per session, and it runs from June 10 – July 26th, every Monday/Wednesday/Friday. Each day is a different theme, from whimsical craft tube unicorns to glittery slime that kids adore. Entertainment, learning, and a craft to take home is a steal at $3.
Paint some rocks
Okay so you’ll need tempura paint for this but rocks are free! Painting and hiding rocks is a fun way for kids to express their creativity and be part of a popular community, too. You can take your kids on a walk and look for rocks painted by other people. It’s always a good time finding them and swapping them out with your own.
A literal treasure hunt, geocaching is a popular activity that doesn’t really cost any money. The gist is that people hide boxes filled with knick-knacks and you use your GPS to find them. You’ll sign the log book you find, take something, leave something, and go on your next adventure.
There will be a list of known caches around your coordinates, and you simply hike to find them. Some will be difficult and well-hidden but others might be easier for little kids to get to. No matter what, it’s a good time.
There’s never a bad time to teach your kids about the importance of volunteering. It makes them better, stronger people with a greater connection to their cities and environment. There is also no time like summer to find plenty of volunteer activities.
These can be as simple as helping serve food at the local soup kitchen or making blessing bags for the homeless. Our city’s downtown is thriving during the summer and they’re always looking for help with events. There are dozens of ways to volunteer with children, and it’s such an important (and fun!) family activity.
While most summer camps cost money, many park districts have “day camps” that do not. Call your local district office and see what is offered at the parks around your house. You’d be surprised at what your kids can learn over the summer like archery, wood working, or gardening.
With that said…
Gardening on a budget is a favorite discussion topic, but it gets even better when you do it with others!
The idea of community gardens is taking over vacant, gross lots across the country. By transforming bare areas into thriving gardens, neighborhoods end up with a beautiful, green space. They also have a ton of fresh, delicious produce to share with the people who contributed.
Co-ops or CSAs are great, too. Usually a farmer will have a spot dedicated to people who either pay or volunteer their time. They then get a share of the harvest each week.
It’s like a subscription service that you have to kind of get dirty for!
Bonus: set up a worm farm and use their casings to better ensure a bountiful harvest. If your kids are like mine, this project is one they’ll love to help with!
Check out your local vacation Bible schools
Most churches offer free VBS over the summer to kids in the community. These are great places to learn crafts, play games, and spend some time with other kids. You can contact your local churches but I guarantee they will all have fliers and signs up right when school ends.
Call your local universities for kids’ summer events
Nearly all public universities will offer free or very low cost events for kids during the summer months. These are a great way to get your kids introduced to higher education, even if they’re a while from that.
They say “idle hands are the devil’s plaything” but have you ever seen a kid bored in the middle of July? Avoid that horror show by keeping them engaged and learning! Exercising your kids’ minds and bodies will make them better in the long run.
Being able to keep them entertained without having to spend a thousand dollars is a big perk, too.
What do you like to do during the summer with your kiddos?