Keeping kids busy can be costly

Many parents don’t realize just how active their children are all day until they have to keep them occupied during summer vacation. In addition to the adjustment you’ll have to make simply managing your time, summer vacation also means facing a greater challenge managing your money.

Most parents expect and are prepared for the big summertime expenses such as vacations, summer camps, and child care. However, summers also can get expensive in terms of finding day-to-day activities that keep children occupied. Trips to the movies, dollars for the arcade, swim toys, and meals-on-the-run can turn into budget breakers if you aren’t prepared. The good news is that there are a lot of activities oriented specifically to children that cost very little, if anything at all.

Check community resources. Some organizations, such as churches, the YMCA, and the Boys & Girls Clubs, provide programs that include regular activities for kids of all ages. And in addition to being inexpensive, they benefit the children by involving them in sports, swimming, crafts and reading. Speaking of reading, it should play an important role in your child’s life all year long, so don’t forget to visit your local library!

Spend time in the great outdoors. Many state parks offer such activities as hiking, canoeing, and swimming. These activities can be a healthy form of exercise and offer a great low cost great alternative to movies and video games.

Encourage their creativity. Many child development experts say that children learn the most when they are playing. Provide them with art supplies and put them in the backyard or garage, where it’s all right to get a little messy, and encourage their inner Van Gogh.

Share responsibilities. After spending day after day with their school mates, your children are used to constant companionship. Play dates can be a good way keep childhood friendships alive and to share parental responsibilities.  Or check out this video on how to start a babysitting co-op.

Explore your own backyard. With a little imagination, sprinklers can turn into water parks and wagons into amusement rides. Take a nature walk in your own neighborhood to notice of the amazing array of bugs, birds, and plants normally taken for granted.

Finally, don’t forget that there is a reason they are called “the lazy days of summer.” Summertime is designed for taking it easy, so don’t stress too much about planning every minute. Even active children need a break and should be allowed to learn the art of relaxation.

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.