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From Our Readers: Fun, Low-Cost Summer Activities

Our readers come up with creative ideas for fun, low-cost summer activities.

By GreatSchools Staff

Thanks to the many readers who shared their ideas for how to fill those long summer days without spending a fortune.

Here are some of their suggestions:

Backyard Fun

Welcome to Gnomeville

A mother of three girls writes, "This summer we are building a Gnome Village in our yard! We purchased 4" gnomes from Walgreen's for $1.00 each and built little homes for them. It was great fun gathering sticks, rocks, leaves, berries, etc., to make a magical village. We are all having so much fun coming up with great creative ideas! Our neighbors have contributed by adding little frogs, turtles and colorful pieces of paper. It is a wonderful imaginative activity which we add to on a daily basis as we play outdoors!"

Walk the plank

"I have a few beams in the garage and I give them to the kids to play with when they are on their bikes," writes one inspired dad. "They build small ramps, or just try to ride over the beam—they can spend hours playing. I have a short video about that on YouTube."

Bugs are always cheap

"My daughter loves gardening and collecting insects," says a mother of a 4-year-old. "She helps water plants, spread out mulch and even does a good job weeding. When we are done doing that, she takes a magnifying glass and sets out to find insects, which she puts in a homemade terrarium (a shoebox with dirt and rocks with holes punched in the top). It's a little gross, but she loves it and it definitely is a great way to spend a low-cost afternoon outdoors."

More Elaborate—and Still Low-Cost and Fun—Ideas

Create a "Summer Fun Bag"

"I save clippings from magazines on activities, crafts, things to do, fold them up and put them in a 'Summer Fun Bag'" says one mom, "and let my 6-year-old draw one out each morning. I also write a few simple ones to go in there, like having a picnic, sidewalk chalk, a neighborhood walk, the park. The bag is a big hit here. Every day she draws one out and cannot wait to do what she picks ... it is summer fun."

Create a Mommy Camp

Another inventive parent writes, "I create Mommy Camp over the summer and give the kids Mommy Money. Mommy Camp gets them excited that they always have something that they are part of - even when we have down time. Mommy Camp is our ongoing summer camp where the kids memorize small poems to help with memory, work on math, go outside and do science projects like dig holes in the ground, put things in and wait for six weeks to see what decomposes. Or we work on spelling and reading. Basically they get Mommy Money for the things that they accomplish - like two Mommy Moneys for memorizing a poem, etc.

"On a sheet of paper on the refrigerator I keep a list of activities and things they can 'buy' with Mommy Money, like a trip for ice cream, pizza party for three friends, pool, small toy or something larger like Build-a-Bear, which is what my oldest daughter wanted last summer. She had to collect 50 Mommy Moneys to get the Build-a-Bear, and it took her most of the summer. But she learned about the value of savings, because she could have chosen to spend on gum and other stuff. She learned the value of working and focusing, and it also helped keep a little bit of structure to our summers and keep the boredoms away. They are looking forward to starting Mommy Camp up again this year."

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

03/24/2011:
"I'm a Korean middle student. I search this site, It's very fun! Does your school wear uniform? Does your school have a gym?..."
06/5/2008:
"My 6 and 3 year old love playing 'I spy' it makes a great indoor or out door activity!!!!!!!"
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