Thursday, July 1, 2010

Guest Blogger - Summer Fun For Families On A Budget

To kick off the summer season and to get this blog jumping again I've decided to feature a few guest bloggers*. Our first blogger is a good friend of mine Jenn from Monkey Butt Junction. She actually approached me with several ideas for a post and I jumped at the chance to have her share her infinite wisdom (yes, I'm laying it on thick, but I want her to come back some day!)

So without further ado, let's welcome Jenn as she shares some FANTASTIC Summer Fun for Families on a Budget.

*if you are interested in being a guest blogger, please feel free to email me!


There's no denying that a big destination family vacation is a great way to make memories. I know I cherish my childhood trips to Disneyland, the Grand Canyon, and Marriott's Great America. Sadly, the recession has hit a lot of families way too hard, and out of necessity "cheap" is the new in thing for a lot of us. I've made it my goal to plan a huge summer of free and inexpensive fun for my family this year and so far, our summer has been bursting at the seams. Each weekend leaves us breathless, tanned, exhausted and excited for more. Some of our low and zero cost adventures so far have included an air show, a military reenactment, a bike race, more live music than I can even remember, farmer's markets, swimming lessons, nature walks, library time, and playgrounds galore. I consider myself blessed to live in a neighborhood with a very active and family friendly downtown, but with a little effort, the world can be your free playground too.

Where do you begin?

1. Call your Parks and Recreation Department. One glance at my local Parks & Rec website introduced me to a whole world of beaches, trails, bike routes, canoeing, golfing, and camping that I never knew existed. My local nature center, which I didn't know about until I called Parks & Rec, has a near-daily calendar of events for children, from birdwatching hikes to nature exploration. Most had a nominal fee - $1.00 to $3.00 - but they also included a snack and a craft to take home. And incredible deal!

2. Call your YMCA. I was impressed by the availability of programs for children at the Y. Babes as young as six months can begin getting familiar with the water through their swim classes, and older children can enjoy all kinds of activities from swimming to gymnastics to camp and sports. The Y offers scholarships and even reduced rates for single-parent families.

3. Get this book: Puddles and Wings and Grapevine Swings is no longer in print, but fortunately it does not have the cult status that it should really enjoy so you can easily pick up a cheap used copy from Amazon or eBay. The book is filled with wonderful outdoor activities for children. Nature arts and crafts, exploration and education via fun are the name of the game with this book. I bought my copy long before my son was born because I remember the hours upon hours that my own childhood copy brought me. Why this book isn't wildly popular will always be a mystery to me.

4. Call the library. Sometimes summer brings bad weather, so we can't play outside all of the time. Many libraries have summer reading programs, book clubs, reading challenges, and more.

5. Call the museum. Art museums, natural history museums, county museums - many have programs for children that are a lot of fun and educational. My local county museum has museum sleepovers filled with flashlight tours, movies, scavenger hunts and more. If I was eight years old, I would just burst with excitement over the prospect of spending the night at our museum. Call yours and find out what they offer this summer.

Is that enough? No? Well, let's keep going.

6. Keep your eyes and ears open. Street festivals and fairs are wonderful outings for families. Check the local newspaper for upcoming local events that have kid-friendly components.

7. Call your local university. Think universities don't offer anything for children? Many do - my own alma mater had a wonderful program about local Indian lore for children of all ages. It included a wonderful nature walk with a lot of hands-on exploration.

Our family's motto for summer comes straight out of a Harvey Danger song: "If you're bored, then you're boring." A lack of funds just can't stand in the way when it comes to summertime fun with the family. The sky is the limit, and the days are long - let's play!

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