5 Free (or Cheap) Ways to Entertain Your Kids This Summer

  1. Forts – Growing up, my brother and sister and I had a Fisher Price tent that we practically LIVED in most summers.  Whether we were camping, playing house, or pretending to be stranded on a deserted island, there were 4 walls, it was our own space, and we loved it.  Don’t have a tent or tee-pee?  Great, because the only thing better than a tent is an old fashioned fort.  Bust out some blankets, pillows, and couch cushions and let your kids build their dream fort.  Don’t have a ton of extra blankets?  No problem, take a large sheet and drape it over your dining table – instant fort.
  2. Sticks – Collect them, pile them, build things with them, or have a good old sword fight (and no, I’m not suggesting you let your children cane each other in the backyard).  Once you’re done with them, throw a marshmallow on one end and teach them how to make s’mores.  I love a summer night spent by a backyard fire while I make Sandlot jokes my kids don’t quite understand (FOR-EV-ER).
  3. Monsters – Growing up, my mom played a game with us called “monster in the hall,” which was similar to hide-and-go-seek, except it involved her jumping out, roaring, and scaring the shit out of us when we did find her- and we loved it.  We would creep down the hallway, holding each others sweaty hands, as we checked every closet and cupboard, knowing that at any moment, she could pop out.  She would scare us, we would scream, and then we would laugh uncontrollably and beg her to do it again.  I now play this game with my children, and they love it just as much as I did.  My neighbors probably don’t know what to think about the random screaming they hear coming from my house, but they have yet to call the police and the fun is worth the funny looks the next morning while getting my newspaper.
  4. Water – Lather them up in sunscreen and let them loose.  A sprinkler and a $12 pool from Walmart will keep my kids entertained for months in the summer.  My young boys typically ditch their swimsuits within the first 20 minutes, preferring to skinny dip in the frigid hose water, and I don’t mind my backyard looking like a hippy commune complete with nudists.  I’m planning on potty training my youngest this summer, so I’m sure we’ll be adding “peeing on trees” to the list of backyard fun.  Once their done with the pool, give them cups and have them water your plants or garden boxes.  The kids love it, and you don’t have to water that day- win win.
  5. Adventure – My boys are obsessed with exploring and love to go on adventures.  When the kids are bouncing off the walls and driving me crazy, I throw them in the car and we take off for an adventure.  All you need to do is take your kids to a park, a trail, or the woods and give them a mission.  My kids don’t dig “hiking” (because that sounds oh-so-boring), so I take full advantage of them being of the ages where they believe in everything and have crazy wild imaginations.  They love to hunt for Bigfoot (or the Grufallo), find hidden treasures, look for fairies or their hidden homes in the trees, and collect things like leaves, sticks, and rocks.  Slap a backpack on each kid and give them a pair of binoculars (or make a DIY pair by taping 2 toilet paper rolls together) and let them explore.  By the end of the summer, you will have a large collection of wilted leaves, dried flowers, and amazing dinosaur teeth (that are really pointy rocks) and wild tales of that time they almost caught Bigfoot.