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In the last few weeks of the school year, our whole family catches summer fever, eager for the day when the last school bell rings and we can enjoy the lazy days of June, July and August. That last day of school is cause for celebration, and we revel in it the whole weekend long.

And then Monday morning hits, and so does reality — because now there’s nothing to do.

Sure, there are camps and vacations to take in between the last day of one grade and the first day of the next. But camps and vacations cost money, and sometimes it’s not possible to load the kids up with paid-for activities to ward off the “I’m bored” blues. So to keep you from going crazy or broke this summer, I’ve put together a list of cheap activities your family can enjoy until school gets back in session.

Go on a backyard camping trip. Spend the day putting together all the things you’d need to go on a camping trip, then set up the tent in the backyard. Bring out the lanterns and sleeping bags, and don’t forget the s’mores! Then spend the evening telling stories underneath a starry sky before turning in for the night.

Pack a picnic. Fill a basket with numerous small bites, from crackers and cheese to grapes and apple cider. Let the kids help choose which kinds of foods would be best to pack up. Then take them on a hike in the hills, to a grassy knoll at the park, or to the beach to enjoy a delicious afternoon of play.

Stage your own play. Keep the brains of your vacationing kids working by having them think up and then perform a play for family and friends. Dive into the costume box or the back of your closet for imaginative disguises to help them get into character. Encourage them to create programs with the names of the actors and titles of each scene. Then serve popcorn and juice boxes for the neighborhood as they enjoy the performance.

Hunt for buried treasure. Go to the Dollar Store to find small trinkets to serve as pirate’s booty. Have the kids stay in the house and hide their eyes while you bury the booty in the backyard. Then let them loose to discover where X marks the spot on the map you’ve carefully drawn.

Go thrifting. Speaking of buried treasure … This is a fun way to search out eclectic items you just won’t find in a regular retail store. If your kids are the kind who love combing stores for various trinkets (my son is NOT), then they’ll love digging through other people’s tossed aside items to find their diamond in the rough.

Make a puzzle. If you’re anything like me, you have boxes of photos you despair of ever getting organized. Don’t let them go to waste! Get some Mod Podge and help the kids glue the photos to a piece of cardboard. Then carefully cut the mounted photos into puzzle-piece shapes for them so the kids can put them back together. These would also make cute gifts the kids can make for Grandma and Grandpa.

Plant a garden. Get the kids interested in spending time outdoors by giving them a small piece of the yard that’s just for them. Help them to plant seeds or seedlings, decorate it with colorful stones and small markers, and encourage them to tend to it daily by watering and keeping it free from weeds.

Throw a spontaneous dance party. Put on your favorite dance jams, turn the music way up, and then spend the afternoon bouncing around the living room with the kids. It doesn’t even matter if you’re a terrible dancer. In our house, we actually have contests to see who can dance the worst. I think I win every time.

Learn origami. My teenage stepson has challenged himself to fold 1,000 paper cranes by the end of 2013. The result is a room filled with cranes of various colors and sizes. Teach your child the art of paper folding, and watch as they spend the afternoon creating all sorts of tiny masterpieces.

Teach them to bake. Forget the diet for one afternoon and spend it making cupcakes! Or dig into the recipe books and bake bread from scratch. There’s an art to baking that should be passed down to our kids, and what better time to teach them than the dog days of summer? Of course, it’s best to bake in the morning before the day heats up too much.

Find more ideas for fun this summer over at SantaRosaMom.com.  What do you like to do in the summertime with your kids?

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1 Comment

  1. Shannon Wiseman

    We love the free swimming at Spring Lake swim lagoon so much were there several times a week. Though we always bring our own food, though their Lakeside Grill is reasonably priced, convenient and delicious!

    We also like geo caching! Its a great excuse to get out and explore areas looking for secret treasures. Don’t be a muggle though. Set up a free account at geocaching.com and download their app at Cgeo.com to get started!

    June 4th, 2013 11:17 am

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