Summer is in full swing, and if you have a house full of children, or even one kid, keeping them from saying how bored they are over and over can be difficult.
And unless your household makes enough money to put your children in daycare and still leave you money to pay the bills, daycare can be a financial loss during the summer.
I haven't done a cost analysis in years of daycare vs. having a kid at home, but since pre-school our daughter has been home with one of us. I work part-time from home and currently have this duty. It was done partly out of necessity when I was laid off from my job, but even before then my wife and I figured out that it would cost us less if one of us worked part time and was home with our daughter instead of working full-time and having her in daycare.
What do we do to keep our child busy? Many things that unfortunately aren't as cheap as the 50 outdoor summer activities listed by one blogger. Still, some of mine are relatively cheap and work better than others. Here are a few ways, with an explanation of how well they work:
Cash to read during the summer
For the month of June, my summer reading plan for my daughter has been a bust. But I'm still holding out hope and I'm working on improving it.
Here's how it works: I pay her $2 in cash for every chapter book she reads during the summer. The book has to be at least 300 pages and be a chapter book at her reading level or above that we approve of. Reading "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" for the 100th time doesn't count, and neither do most comic-type books.
So far she hasn't completed one chapter book, though she's close to it. I require her to read at least one hour per day, and so far she's mostly picking out short books during our visits to the library. I may have to increase the payout to $3 and require her to read more hours each day.
Fun with the iPad
Some parents give their child an iPad or other tablet to play with as long as they like — which could be all day. We have a Kindle Fire that the family shares, and I have an iPad.
My daughter gets rare access to the iPad after she's done some summer chores and read a book. Instead of playing mindless games on it, the Brainpop app seems to have some games that are educational.
She also uses it to make movie trailers through an app Apple provides on the iPad that includes music, captions and movie credits that can be customized. It's an easy and fun way to keep entertained for a few hours.
A spare iPad, iPod, iPhone or other "i" device with the voice-activated virtual assistant "Siri" can keep an inquisitive child entertained during the summer with some questions that Siri has some unique answers to.
Fourteen Easter-egg questions are in a Business Insider story, and I was curious when I heard my daughter ask some of them to Siri recently.
Ask it "What does the fox say?" or to divide zero by zero, and be prepared for some fun responses.
Joining a neighborhood pool can be a little pricey, along with the required volunteer time. But some days you just have to go to the pool during the summer.
We live near a city pool where admission is $5, which I think is reasonable for a few hours of splashing around. A water play structure that's an obstacle course was added this summer for kids to climb on in the pool, with an extra fee of $2.
We also live near a water park that's hugely popular in our area and draws people from around the Bay Area. It costs what you'd expect to pay to get into an amusement park, and a season pass pays for itself after two visits.
We're not getting season passes this year to the water park for a few reasons. The high cost is one — though it would be worth it if we used it often — but the main reason is that I'm tired of going and fighting the crowds there.
In a year or so my daughter will be old enough that I can drop her off at the water park with her friends, and then return at closing to pick them up. Until then, we're passing on buying the summer pass.
Classes, camps and other weeklong activities can get expensive, so we limit these to a few each summer. However, the costs can be worthwhile if I'm busy enough with work to make up for the expense. And more importantly, they can be a lot of fun for my daughter.
Finally, we're taking a vacation this summer for a few weeks. Nothing extravagant, but a worthwhile expense that should give us plenty of fun memories of this summer together.
What inexpensive summer activities do your children do? Let us know in the Comments section below.