Kids everywhere are counting the days until summer vacation. Unfortunately, by the end of the second week, those same kids will be complaining of boredom and whining for something to do.

In a slow economy, high priced outings and activities are not the answer–inexpensive activities are. We plan to provide some on this site that even the most cash-strapped parent can work into his or her budget.

Lots of people I know are not looking forward to summer this year because the downturn in the economy has put a dent in their plans for their summer vacation

Sure, it hurts to suddenly find that a trip you have looked forward to for months, maybe even for years, has to be put on the back burner, but it doesn’t have ruin your whole summer.

In fact, it could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Just think of all the money you will save by sticking close to home; gas money and unexpected car repairs on the road; high priced food at restaurants; laundromat fees; and over-priced admission tickets for every attraction along the way.

And, if you choose not to go on the road, just think of how much easier it will be to prepare meals, take showers, wash clothes, and take care of pets in your very own home instead of in a motel room in some strange town or worse yet, in a tent–even if the tent does happen to be pitched on the shores of a gorgeous lake.

Finally, and perhaps most important of all, just think of the stress you will avoid by choosing to stay at home this year rather than wasting countless days packing, frantically shoving kids and pets into the car, wondering as you head down the road just how many things you have overlooked and will have to purchase along the way, and counting noses each time you stop for the night to make sure one of the little ones has not managed to escape at a pit stop on the journey.

Let’s face it. Most vacations are geared around something the adults think would be nice. We may plan a trip to Disney World for the kids, but, given a real choice, how many kids really want to be crammed in the back seat of a car for hours–maybe even days depending on how far you have to travel – just to get there? Wouldn’t it be healthier to just stick around home and do less expensive, less stressful, and maybe even more fun things for a change?

I remember a trip to Canada one year that resulted in so much arguing from the back seat that I, the supposed Mom in charge, was ready to get out and walk the rest of the way home. I’d rather have a nice quiet afternoon in the backyard any day.

Not that every afternoon has to be quiet this summer. There are tons of things to do right in your own neighborhood, and, if you, “put on your thinking cap,” as my Mother used to say, you can find plenty of fun things to do in your very own backyard.

How about checking a book of kid’s one or two-act plays out of the library and letting your kids put on a production for the neighborhood? I guarantee that this one activity could keep them busy for days.

They could make simple paper costumes, construct a set from cardboard boxes, make a sign for the front yard, set up chairs for the guests, and distribute tickets to nearby neighbors.
One of the older kids could print out a program listing all the participants and the roles they will be playing. Mom could provide some cookies, or offer to sing a special that fits into the production.
The neighbors – and your kids will be talking about it for weeks.

To find lots more ideas like this, see my Kindle Book at Amazon by clicking the book cover below:


or continue reading below for some great summer fun ideas for your family.



Do you remember a summer vacation your family gave a title to?  Perhaps you called it the “summer we hiked to the lake,” or the “summer we took horse-back riding lessons,” or…….  You fill in the blank.

In my own family, it was the “summer we played Monopoly.”  At least the kids did.  They still talk about it today even though it happened more than 30 years ago.  That year, as soon as breakfast was over, a couple of card tables were hastily set up on our patio and neighborhood kids began to arrive for the daily battle of Monopoly.

To get a child to go home for chores, or even a trip to town for a movie, the neighborhood moms had to practically hire help to physically drag their child away.  Promises of a soda after the movie didn’t hold a candle to those games, and when a child’s turn ended, instead of leaving, he usually wrestled with a friend in the back yard, or played for a while on our swing set, and then came back to cheer his favorite player on.

We didn’t take a regular vacation that year.  The magic of Monopoly was enough for our 3 kids, and for most of their friends.   It didn’t cost us much since we already had 3 Monopoly games and the card tables.  With Kool Aid at only ten cents a pack in those days, our major expense for the summer was a few pounds of sugar and a bunch of cookies.  Some of the mothers, glad to have their kids occupied for several hours a day, happily sent cookies several times a week so even the cookies didn’t cost us much.

If money is short in your household this year, why not make this  year a  “year of……..” that your kids will remember for years to come.  Your “year of” might not be Monopoly, or any kind of board game.  It could be the “Year we walked 100 miles around the high school track,” the “Year we all learned to play a Ukelele,” the “Year we dribbled our basketballs a mile a day all summer long,” or the “Year we planted 1000 trees on the hillside just outside of town.”

The list of what you could do is endless.  Put your imagination to work, and see if you don’t come up with the perfect idea for your “at home” family vacation–the one they will always remember, and maybe even repeat with their own kids.


Unless you live in a town that is one of those fabled “wide spots in the road,” your area probably has more things for kids to do there than you can imagine. I once told a new acquaintance that I had visited a dog museum in her home town. She gave me a strange look and said, ”There isn’t any dog museum in my town, is there?”

I had been on a business trip alone several years earlier and had wondered what to do with myself during some free time so I checked out the front of the local phone book in my motel room. It had a wealth of information, including a short paragraph about their nationally known (but apparently not locally known) dog museum, along with data about the hours of operation and the fact that there was a small fee for visting the establishment.

I dropped by the museum and it was one of the highlights of my trip.

Now you may not have a dog museum in your town, but check out the phone book to see what you do have. I just checked mine and found a gold mining museum 20 miles from town and a Raptor center with 33 native birds in residence locally. Each destination would make a great inexpensive day trip for kids.


If you decided to stick around home this summer instead of heading out for an expensive vacation, the kids are probably driving you crazy by now wanting something to do. Why not spice up that last month of no school with one of the following activities?

1. King (or Queen) for a Week

Assign one week during the month for each of the kids to be King or Queen of the family. During that week, they get to choose an activity for the whole family to do–within reason, of course. You could post a list of suggestions for them to choose from such as, dinner at the local mall followed by a movie. Or a picnic coupled with a fishing trip at a nearby lake or river. Or a visit to a local attraction such as a bowling ally, a swimming pool, a paintball palace, a skating rink, etc. with a stop at McDonald’s on the way home.

Or how about a visit to a local fair, or visiting circus, or similar event in your town? The point is that each King or Queen of the week gets to choose something special for the whole family to do together.

The King or Queen is also absolved of regular chores that week. Other family members make their bed for them, clean up their room, and do other regular chores they may have been assigned. They can also plan what will be served for dinner, one night of their reign.

For small children, a glittering crown made of paper and fancy stickers, sprinkled with sparkles (or one purchased from the local dollar store) adds to the excitement of being the King or Queen and gives them a keepsake to remember it by.

 2. Sign Up For a Class of Some Kind.

The activities for kids in your town may be different than in mine, but look for things your family doesn’t normally do, as well as the usual basketball or baseball team sports.

Not that those aren’t great activities, but a vacation is usually viewed as doing something you wouldn’t ordinarily be doing so look for something that fits that description.

Maybe you can take a language class together, go to an interpretive center and learn how the early settlers in your area preserved food, made clothing from wool, washed on a washboard, etc.

3. Make a “Day Trip" Once a Week During That Last Month of Summer.

A trip to a fish hatchery is always exciting, or perhaps to a wildlife sanctuary.

Our area has one where they take care of birds that have been injured or orphaned. (Not only is a trip like this interesting, but it is also educational, but you don’t have to mention that to the kids.)

A little further from my home is a place called Wildlife Safari. For a fairly low price, you can drive through in your car and see lions, elephants, hippos, giraffes, etc. wandering about in the wild. Sometimes the animals come very close to your car. I don’t know what I would do if an elephant decided to get too friendly. (Thank goodness for cell phones.)

When you get to the end of the drive, you can park and buy refreshments and souvenirs at a building located next to their free petting zoo. In the petting zoo, the children can play with less threatening animals such as baby lambs, goats, chickens, etc. Check your area for similar adventures.

Maybe you are lucky enough to have a National Park in your area. My state of Oregon has Crater Lake National Park, a place not only beautiful to visit but one crammed full of historical information for a family to absorb while enjoying an unforgettable outing at the same time.

Above are 3 ideas for spicing up the rest of your summer vacation at home. If you put your mind to it, you can probably come up with a dozen more so don’t despair if you are short of cash this year. Just find fun things to do that don’t cost a lot and that are close to home. You may end up enjoying it more than any vacation you’ve ever had.


Check out your local library for ideas on inexpensive things to do with your kids this summer. When our 10-year-old granddaughter spends a few days with us, I try to have one specific activity planned for each day. They don’t have to cost a lot. The idea is to do something together.

Our granddaughter often greets us at breakfast with, “Hi. What project are we going to do today?”

Sometimes we sew a 10-year-old type sewing project, or bake some cookies, or go on a nature hike. We might even pack a picnic lunch and go fishing. Some of our most memorable fishing trips are the ones where we didn’t catch a fish at all—but we took off our shoes and waded in the water, or made a little dam out of rocks at the edge of the river, or looked for crawdads under a rock.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time on each project, but make the project or activity fun so that the kids will feel like they have done something a little bit different that usual. That way, they can play with friends or entertain themselves the rest of the day, and still remember all the fun things they did on vacation this year.

Start now and make a list of every little thing you could do that a child might enjoy. Add to the list when new ideas occur to you.


Are the kids already getting bored with summer? Here’s a project that is not only inexpensive educational, and fun, but one that may give your kids a head-start on a school assignment when school opens again this Fall.

Do an in-depth study of your own particular state.

Every state has its own history, and every state has its own flag, flower, gemstone, song and a myriad of interesting things that have happened there.

Why not have each child, according to his or her age and ability, work on digging up information on one of the items above about your particular state? Even a five-year-old can color an outline map of the state, while a child of high school age might go online to dig up more complicated information.

Here are just a few activities you might include.

Find a list of 10, 20, or 30 unusual facts about your state.
Who was the first governor?
Who is the governor now?
How many rivers does your state have?
How was the name of your largest city chosen?
What is the population of your state?
What is the state flower and how was it selected.
Find the words to the state song.
Can you find a copy of your state’s constitution?
Where is the capitol of your state?
What is the tallest mountain in your state?
What is the average rainfall in your state?
What is the deepest lake in your state?
Is there a national park located in your state?
What is your state gemstone and in what part of the state are you most likely to find it?
Do you have an Indian reservation in your state?
What are some interesting festivals in the cities of your state?
Do you have a state fair? If so, when and where is it held?
Who takes over as governor if your regular governor becomes ill or unable to serve?
Make a copy of your state flag and explain its colors or symbols.
Does your state have a nickname?
Name several well-know colleges and universities in your state and their locations.
Is your state noted for anything special?
Has a U.S. President ever been born in your state?
What is the major highway running through your state?
Who are the 2 U.S. Senators from your state?
What is your state’s unemployment rate?
Is your state known for a particular type of recreation?
Can you find something unusual in the history of your state that would make a good book?

You could probably add dozens of other things that pertain to your particular state, but these should be a good start.

After they once get started, you’ll be amazed at how the kids will begin to dig deeper and deeper into learning about their state. They may come up with stories of early massacres, gold rushes, snake oil peddlers, and crooked politicians so be prepared.

You might want to have some age-appropriate books on a convenient table so they can pursue any new interests they develop along the way.

My state of Oregon has a numerous books about “lost” gold mines, the trials of traveling the Oregon Trail, and the early lumber industry that are fascinating to read. Your state no doubt has similar ones.

A nice culmination to this activity is to visit several of the most interesting places that your children have uncovered during this project and let them see first-hand an ice-cave, or a beetle-infested forest, or perhaps try their hand at mining for agates in a commercial agate bed.

Now for the added benefits I mentioned in the title of this article.

First of all, your primary goal of giving them something to do beyond watching TV or playing video games for 8 hours a day will be met.

Secondly, they will become more aware of what their state is all about, and hopefully proud to be one of its citizens.

And finally, just imagine how useful all this material will be when adapted to reports your kids will be writing when they get back to school this fall.

You might want to make several copies of all the material gathered, and bind them into a nice little handbook with a cover, designed, of course, by one of the children, so that each child can have his own little state reference book of his own to keep.


Today, my ten-year-old granddaughter, who was barefoot, asked me if our family was known for having “monkey” toes. She pointed out her short toes, and we had quite a discussion as we each shed our shoes and tried to pick up various items from the floor with our toes. Her 7-year-old sister joined us in the game.

Since I had no idea whether there was even such a thing as human “monkey” toes, I changed the subject to real family traits. During the discussion, the girls mentioned a particular relative who was extremely tall. To illustrate what they meant, the 7-year-old jumped onto a chair, stretched her hands way above her head, and said, “Even bigger than this, Grandma.”

This, in turn, led to more discussion about traits that were physical and traits that were learned. That caused the girls to make up a game they called “Pretending.”

Pretending is taking turns pretending to be someone else. You can only show the nice things about the person you are pretending to be, and it had to be someone we all knew. The 10-year-old was first.

Both girls chose the family cat, Nibbles, as their subject the first time around, complete with lots of paw licking and a few loud meows.

To describe my husband, a man who reads constantly, the oldest girl sat down in a chair, made believe she was reading a book and kept silent for about 3 minutes. Anyone who knows my husband would have recognized him from her rendition.

Next, the other grandfather was shown swinging a golf club. He, too, was easy to recognize.

Both girls portrayed their mother as a person walking quickly about the room talking on a cell phone and making business appointments. “Yes, 1 o’clock works for me,” one of the daughters said as she pretended to mark the date in an imaginary notebook.

As their dad, a truck driver, the younger granddaughter hugged each of us and said, “Have a good day as she walked out of the room. Seconds later, she returned and performed obvious motions meant to show him behind the wheel of his truck.

After a quick lunch of peanut butter sandwiches, we took a couple of balloons the girls had in their rooms and went out into the back yard to play, balloon volleyball. At least that’s what the girls called it. We didn’t have a net, but we certainly had fun. The point of the game was to keep the ball off the ground. If you were the person who let it touch the ground, the other two scored.

My point in sharing the activities above is to remind you that you don’t need a lot of money to have a good time together. Cheap summer fun is all around you if you just open your eyes and look.

Next time you end up doing baby sitting duty, or are looking for something to beat the summer doldrums for your tribe, reign in those kid’s imaginations and see what they can come up with on their own. They may surprise you with their ingenuity.