Summer on a Budget

I have two kids: a 3-year old and a 4-month old. We are together almost every day during the summer months.  I also have a budget of about $3 a week for “child entertainment”.

And let’s face it. Playing in your own yard with your own toys is fun for about 5 minutes. On a good day.

So what do I do to avoid the toddler meltdowns and to prove to my infant that there is a world outside our home?

We plan at least one “adventure” per week.

Once this summer that included shelling out over $25 to see a zoo (and that did not include snacks).  The zoo was underwhelming and I vowed not to spend money on “fun” with kids as young as mine again unless I knew it was worth it.

I know it sounds like we probably end up doing nothing, but that is far from the truth.  We have stayed super busy this summer so far! So what in the heck do we do that costs nothing?

Play dates
I know it sounds lame — if my son can play with other kids at their house?  He is MUCH happier.  One day a week this means he goes to daycare.  Another day of the week we are known to crash our friends’ houses for fun.  Swimming in an inflatable pool at home alone?  Lame.  With a friend at their house with their toys?  Most fun this child can have ever.

A walk for us means my son rides his bike while I push the baby in the stroller.  Sound boring?  Well, it is for me.  It definitely can’t count as exercise since we go so excruciatingly slow, but my son LOVES them.  He rides his bike about 3 feet then has to get off and inspect a drain grate or a manhole cover or a stick with a dead bug next to it.  Plus we have nice chats on our long, slow walks.

This year we have not hit the park as much as I have wanted to, but it’s always a win.  I can set the boy loose and he has plenty of choices of what to do, although most of the time in involves making pieces of bark talk to each other or lining up rocks on benches.  And the whole time the baby and I can sit in the shade, or I can wear the baby and follow the boy around, pushing him on swings and watching him go down slides. And a couple of our parks have free splash pads.  WIN.

The Beach
We live in Michigan only minutes from the most beautiful fresh water beaches in the country, and the ones we go to don’t cost a dime.  We either go to private beaches of people we know or we go to the state park which is free because everyone in the state pays a little extra for their tabs or something.  I don’t know, I just know I don’t need to pay to go.  It’s harder this year with the baby, but sand and water are always a win for the big kid.

The Pool
We have friends and family who have pools that we can show up to anytime we want.  This, however, is more of family fun.  I can’t safely have the baby and the big kid at the pool by myself.

Of course, with this heat wave, we have spent the past week trapped indoors.  I’d give you a post about how not to drive each other crazy inside, but I am not really sure of that yet.
Photo courtesy of Katie Sluiter of Sluiter Nation


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