Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cheap Summer Fun

Bike Parade

Post signs around the neighborhood encouraging kids to decorate their rides with streamers, stickers, flags, and more -- then let them cruise while all the parents applaud.

Thank Local Heroes

Take a tour of your police or fire station. Since most locations don't have set visiting hours, call ahead to arrange an appointment.

Start Fishing

Click on Little Lunkers at, where your young angler can learn the basics of the sport and find places to cast off in your area.

Find out more about Little Lunkers

Learn from Masters

Watching artisans paint, pot, and blow glass is captivating for kids. Most cities host regular open-house art events; call your Chamber of Commerce for information.

Image Source

Creating Obstacle Courses

Build a backyard obstacle course with hula hoops, jump ropes, even a hose, then time the kids.

Petting Zoos

Nothing piques kids' curiosity more than baby animals, so a visit to a petting zoo (or even a pet store) is a surefire hit. Find everything from pony rides to farm tours in your state at

Petting zoo information

Indoor Parks

When summer storms render the jungle gym too wet to climb, take a trip to a sheltered playspace, like the indoor court at a nearby public elementary school or, better still, Småland at your local Ikea. The home retail giant's supervised playspace offers up to 90 minutes of parent-free fun for little ones who are out of diapers and between 37" and 54" tall. Visit for store locations.

Click for more on Ikea

Online Crafts

Nurture your little one's creativity with pretty art projects. For free inspiration and detailed how-to instructions, check out these kid-oriented sites: You'll find classroom-tested activities from an elementary school art teacher at Art Projects for Kids; for weekly craft roundups that you can have delivered directly to your inbox as an e-mail newsletter, visit Kids Craft Weekly; for a slew of sweet seasonal crafts categorized by children's ages at The Crafty Crow; and for an eclectic mix of art, baking, and science fun for kids, visit The Artful Parent.

For classroom-tested activities, visit Art Projects for Kids.

For weekly craft roundups, check out Kids Craft Weekly.

For seasonal crafts, visit The Crafty

Neighborhood Game Night

Designate one evening a week for some friendly multifamily competition (think kickball, softball, and capture the flag). Keep things fair by designating a different parent to ref (get rules for dozens of sports at and dividing into new teams each time, like dads and daughters versus moms and sons.

See ref rules for games

Factory Tours

Many factories offer tours so kids can see their favorite products created from start to finish. Get info on visiting more than 500 factories across the nation from

Find factory tours

Community Park Activities

Community parks offer an endless array of free and low-cost day camps and activities, including swimming, improv, arts and crafts, music, archery, tennis lessons -- even nature and farm programs. Kids ages 5 and up can also participate in team sports leagues. For dozens of programs, call your city parks department or check out the National Recreation and Park Association Website,

Check out NRPA

Kate Powers

Make Some Goop

Mix up a bowl of Oobleck, a mysterious matter that kids can shape into balls or let ooze from their fingers. Here's how:

  • Pour one cup water into a large mixing bowl.
  • Add a few drops of food coloring (any color).
  • Slowly stir in two cups of cornstarch (use a spoon at first, but you may eventually find it's easier with your hands).

Start a Crafts Class

Most crafts stores -- including chains like Michaels, A. C. Moore, and Hobby Lobby -- offer hands-on activities just for kids (think scrapbooking, box decorating, bead stringing, as well as projects using clay, pipe cleaners, and more). Some classes are free; others require a nominal fee -- typically $5 or less. Find class info at and, or call your local A. C. Moore store.

Check out Michaels for craft activities

See what activities Hobby Lobby offers

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