School's Out! Beat Boredom with Inexpensive Fun

The last day of school is cause for celebration, and day one of summer vacation is pure joy: sleeping in, no homework! It doesn't take long, however, until you begin to hear that familiar refrain: "I'm bored!" When the kids are convinced that "there's nothing to do!", rely on a few of these easy ideas, all guaranteed fun with little or no impact on your summer budget.

1. It's a no-brainer for these warm sunny days: get in touch with nature.

Start a mini garden in a small patch of backyard or a container or two. Old reliables like marigolds and sunflowers are good bets for beginning gardeners. Visit a local pick-your-own farm for some fresh produce. Bring your stash home and prep a healthy meal. Enjoy a short hike at a State Park, or explore a nearby wildlife refuge.

2. Beat the heat.

Cool off with a run through the lawn sprinklers. Challenge the kids to a water balloon fight, or fill up a few spray bottles. Enlist the garden hose for double duty: cool off and wash the car. All you need is a bucket, a sponge and some dish soap.

3. Head to the dollar store for cheap supplies.

Pool noodles make great lightsabers or your little Luke Skywalkers and Darth Vaders. Toddlers especially love bubbles…a dollar store purchase that will buy hours of entertainment. Sidewalk chalk is great for a DIY outdoor art fest.

4. Forget video games.

Introduce the gang to the fun of low tech pursuits like hopscotch, jump rope, and Frisbee. Who doesn't love a good game of hide-and-seek or Simon Says? For a rainy day, teach them old school card games like War and Go Fish. All you need is paper and pencils for a few rounds of tic-tac-toe. Rediscover the fun of board games. Candy Land is a favorite for the little ones, while old standards like Monopoly or Clue are great for older kids.

5. Go camping.

Set up a tent for a backyard campout, or an indoor hideaway constructed from a sheet and a couple of chairs.

6. Build a fort.

Those sofa pillows make a great fort. Ball up some old socks and you have all the makings of an indoor snowball fight.

7. Upcycle items for cheap arts and crafts projects.

Design paper airplanes. Paint rocks for the garden. Turn brown paper lunch bags into hand puppets. With a little imagination and some crayons, a large cardboard box is a race car, a cozy house or a train car.

8. DIY instant fun.

Play your favorite tunes for an instant dance party. Set up an obstacle course in the backyard. DIY a scavenger hunt in the backyard or at the park.

9. Take advantage of free kids' classes.

Craft stores such as Michaels offer free arts and crafts classes, and Home Depot sponsors free kids DIY workshops.

10. Bowl for free.

Sign up for Kids Bowl Free. Participating bowling centers offer two free games per day all summer long. An optional Family Pass starts at $29.95 and covers up to four adults for the whole summer, up to two games a day.

11. Watch a movie.

Check your local movie theater for discount matinees like Regal Summer Movie Express. $1.00 movies in 2018 included faves like Captain Underpants, Despicable Me 3 and Paddington 2. Or hold your own family movie night, complete with popcorn.

12. Read.

Look for free story times at bookstores like Barnes and Noble, the local public library, or even retailers like Pottery Barn. Encourage summer reading with a fun incentive program; past offerings included tokens from Chuck E. Cheese, a free book from Barnes & Noble, free admission to a Six Flags park, even a $10 cash incentive from TD Bank.