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Cheap Ways to Keep Your Kids Busy this Summer

By Joanna Crain

Budget-friendly ways to keep the kids busyI predict the world as I know it will be rocked by two earthquakes producing a magnitude of 7.5 or more on Monday, May 31, 2010. How do I know this? That is the first day my highly active (yet well-behaved) 7 year old son and 8 year old daughter are officially on summer vacation at HOME. I write from home full-time. Get the picture? Since we made the decision to keep them home this summer (when they aren’t with grandmother, at camp, or with their friends), I have been wracking my brain to figure out ways to keep them busy and having fun so I can get my work done and not have to stay up all night. I know there are others like me out there so I wanted to share some ideas I came up with and have started implementing. The ideas revolve around 2 lists described below, the “I’m Bored List” and the “Opportunities List.”

The “20-Things-To-Do-So-I-Never-Ever-Say-I’m-Bored-Again” List

I felt brilliant when I came up with this one off the cuff two weeks ago. My son came to me on a Sunday afternoon and said (you guessed it) “I’m bored.” I was jealous but of course I still had to help out his “problem.” I have an ever growing to-do list which I consult frequently, so I decided it was a good time to give my kiddos a to-do list of their own. The difference with their lists and mine was that theirs include way more fun stuff.

First, I had them sit down and come up with 20 activities they could do anytime they were (ugh) feeling on the verge of being bored.

Here are the List Rules I laid out for the kids:

  1. The activities on the list have to be something you can do on your own with little or no assistance.
  2. Include a balance of learning, playing and chores.
  3. List no less than 20 activities (for younger ones I would make a shorter list).
  4. Consult the list anytime you feel you need something to do.
  5. Pick a variety of activities instead of the same ones over and over.
  6. Get chores done first, then learning, then fun.
  7. Computer and movie time are limited.
  8. Pick a couple of outdoor activities daily.
  9. Keep a log of activities as they finish them.

Here is a segment from my daughter’s list:

  1. Read a book.
  2. Ride my bike. (We have an enclosed area where I view my kids playing).
  3. Chores
  4. Opportunities list (See below)
  5. Write a story.
  6. Arts and crafts (We keep supplies handy at all times).
  7. Learn about something…(She chose lizards, human anatomy, science and world cultures to start. We have books and they can hop on the computer to learn more).
  8. Play games on the computer. (Their computers are right beside mine and they are limited to certain games).
  9. Practice math.

Since we implemented the “List,” the kids are happier taking responsibility of their time and things are going more smoothly. I’ll let you know how it goes once the summer kicks in.

Opportunities List

The kids have their chores that must be done such as the usual suspects like dishes, making beds, keeping rooms clean, and setting the dinner table. They don’t get paid for any of these. I wanted to set up a Home Bank (see below) so they could learn about finances, budgeting and making money. I created the Opportunities list as a means to this end. It’s fairly simple to implement.

I created a list of things they could do around the house to make money. They choose an activity, I show them how to do it effectively, and then they are responsible for getting it done correctly. Each activity is worth a predetermined amount like 25 cents, 50 cents, $1 and up to $5 depending on the time and effort I predict will be involved. Activities include pulling weeds, watering the grass, sweeping the porch, cleaning the bathtub, wiping baseboards, vacuuming, helping with construction projects we have ongoing and many more of the same.

Payday is once a week and they get paid in cash. This is where the Home Bank comes into play.

I don’t know about you, but I was never taught about finances in school or at home and as an adult, I struggled for years trying to figure it out. I don’t want my children to go through this, so I am determined they are going to learn how to create and stick to a budget, have a healthy financial outlook and relationship with money, and know how to save and invest. So the Home Bank came into play.

The money they get from friends and relatives for birthdays and holidays and from the opportunities list all goes into the bank (I am the banker). They have a checking account where they can withdraw funds, a savings account they are growing, and an investment account (they get to pick from a list of pretend investment opportunities).

They are responsible for sticking to a budget for items they want, keeping track of all deposits and withdrawals and initiating making more money from the Opportunities list. We have a sit-down family financial lesson regularly where we teach them money principles and let them ask questions. They love it and get excited seeing their money grow.

That’s just a few of the ways I plan to keep them busy this summer while I work.¬† Of course, I plan on spending time with them too, but I have to resist the urge to hunt for snails with them during work hours, because if I don’t work, we don’t eat! These are definitely some budget-friendly ideas, but you might just want to put a cap on how much they can make from the opportunities list per pay period.

Please share your ideas and tips in the comments section, because I need all the help I can get and I’m sure our fellow readers do too!

(photo credit: laffy4k)

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  • http://www.castocreationsjewelry.blogspot.com megscole64

    So will their pretend investments ever lose money? :) I find that a really interesting idea to have a Home Bank. I have time to think about it since my son is 8 months old now.

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  • http://cheapsummerfun.info Jeanne Gibson

    I love the writing a story idea. Our kids have had a ball with setting up a stage using an old sheet on a rope for a curtain and presenting plays for the neighborhood kids. Simple fairy tales like “The Three Billy Goats Gruff,” and “Three Little Pigs,” are great favorites, especially for the smaller children. Popcorn is a great favorite with the kids who come to watch and many of them ask to be in the next production.

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  • ME

    “but you might just want to put a cap on how much they can make from the opportunities list per pay period.”

    Teaching your kids to not be ambitious… they are capped at a certain amount… you going to teach them about Communism at the same time?

  • Mom to 3 girls

    I am in the exact same position. I work from home full time in IT and this year for money reasons, I am keeping them home for the summer… 6 and 7 year old girls. I am leaving th 2 year old in preschool. I couldn’t do my job if she were home. School has been out for 5 days now and I am having mama’s summer camp. They do 1 hour of math and reading worksheets at 9am. They have assigned games on their tablets 30 min a day. 30 min. reading a book of their choice. 1 hour tablet free time…no videos. I have an afternoon craft project each day. Then 4:00 is some outing if they want to go. All they want for the outing is the pool so that’s fine. We pay for the membership so I want to use it. I have everything set up so they can do it on their own, just pop in for instructions if needed. I sound an alarm from my PC when i need them to come for the next assignment. The only thing that is not going great is the HUGE mess they make. Tomorrow I will implement hourly inspections for tidiness. I know this may sound rigid, but its really not. There is lots of time for playing with our kitten, free play with dollhouses and each other. Its working out so far…but need to add more variety I’m sure as the summer goes on. I know structure will be the key.

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