Summer is almost here! It is finally time to get out into the sunshine and fresh air with the kids. However, activity expenses can add up quick, and it is hard to keep on budget while still having all the fun in the sun. Making quality memories doesn't have to break the bank! Here are a few ideas to make lasting memories while keeping costs to a minimum.
Water is essential for a fabulous summer for most kids. While the pool is a great option, the cost can add up, you can't go every day, and it's not always feasible to have one at home. Here are some fun water ideas!
For young children water balloons are not safe because they present a choking hazard. Instead, you can try sponge balls: take a sponge from the dollar store (you can often find six for a dollar!) and cut into 3-4 long pieces. Tie a string around the middle, and it creates a ball shape. Soak these in water and let the kids have fun throwing them around. They make fun splats on the sidewalk and driveway! Just make sure to watch the kids carefully while they play to make sure they aren't biting off pieces of sponge.
For the older children, while water balloons, sprinklers, and slip 'n slides may be fun - why not make the best of two worlds and put them to work having fun! Give them a sponge, a hose, and a bucket of soapy water, and ask them to wash the car - but it's only clean if they get soaking wet! You'd be surprised how much fun they can have getting a chore done!
Bubbles! Bubbles are a great low-cost activity for lots of summer fun. Kids can spend hours blowing, chasing, and creating games with just a bit of soap and water. A great investment is a battery-powered bubble machine, to keep the bubble juice flowing while cutting down on spills. Even the youngest of children can enjoy some outdoor tummy time, soaking up that vitamin D while watching the bubbles float by - and how relaxing for mom or dad to lay out and watch the clouds roll by!
Speaking of clouds, lay out a blanket on a sunny, puffy-cloud day and play the tried-and-true "What do you see?" game! It's so fun to see how creative children can be, and what they can see in the sky! This is also a great opportunity for learning - bring along a children's book about clouds, and teach them to identify different types of clouds, how clouds form, and so on.
Art is a fantastic way to encourage creativity and relaxation for children. Here are some great outdoor art ideas!
Chalk! This is one that is great for all ages. For younger children, you can use this as a learning opportunity as well. For example, you can draw several shapes in different colors, and play a game locating the different shapes and colors. Make sure to praise them when the find the right one - this reinforces their love of learning and makes it fun for them! Older children can help younger children learn games such at hopscotch, reinforcing cooperative play that is fun and not forced. It can be fun to give them an idea and see what they come up with together - you'd be amazed at what children can achieve together!
Nature art! Have your children collect bits of nature while out on a walk - rocks, leaves, sticks, flowers - and turn those bits into beautiful artwork! Rocks can be painted to look like creatures, flowers can be pressed, and sticks can turn into little dolls and action figures!
Exercise! We all need it, but when you make it fun, it's definitely more inviting and doesn't FEEL like exercise!
Austin has so many great parks to explore. The open spaces and equipment are great for exercise and engaging gross motor skills as well as stretching the imagination.
Family walks are a great way to spend time together and look at new things. You can play lots of games on a walk, like I Spy or Animal Walks - there's something about mom trying to walk like an elephant or dad like a ladybug that will have the giggles flowing!
The Nature Center can provide hours of fun every week! Whether you simply enjoy strolling the paths both near and far, playing in the Investigative Center, or renting a canoe and taking to the river, the Nature Center has something for everyone! Stop by the Center to check out a scavenger hunt list to enrich your walk, check out the wide variety of children's programming, or stop by to ask about Nature Play Afternoons! During the summer on some Thursdays from 1-4, the Nature Center offers many free activities for families, including free canoe rentals, pond scooping, butterfly netting, archery, and more. They also have a Saturday event on June 18th, 2022! Here's a link to their schedule:
Food - we can't forget that! One of the best activities to enjoy while the weather permits is to get out for a family picnic! Pack up some sandwiches, special treats, and drinks and head out to one of Austin's many parks for an easy, mess-free supper! If you set aside a nice-sized container ready with plastic plates, cups, and silverware, a vinyl tablecloth and cloth napkins, you will be ready at a moment's notice to throw together some food and head out with your family. Kids may be more adventurous and willing to try new foods in this special setting, as well - you can make a game out of it, like a blind taste-testing! You can also have them choose a new food to try from a few pre-approved items you've decided on. Another idea is to allow a favorite stuffed animal to come along as the guest of honor - just make sure to bring the guest home so there aren't any tears at bedtime!
(c) 2022 Jamie Riskedahl and Linda LaVallie