Summer is here and the pressure is on to find cool ways to entertain the kiddos that don’t hurt the wallet or the planet. Leave mainstream summer vacation ideas in the dust and you will find that frugality, fun, education and environmentalism go hand in hand. You don’t need to spend a fortune on a wasteful water park or fly half way across the country to entertain your kids – mix nature with some creativity and you’ve got a winning solution for a blissed-out summer. I’ve outlined some exciting for green summer fun on the cheap to get your wheels spinning:
1. Nature Walks Meet Modern Treasure Hunting
Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunting game that uses GPS devices (such as smart phones) to find “treasure” boxes (aka tupperware and other sealed containers). As long as you have a GPS enabled device, you can login online, find some “caches” near you (you will be surprised how many caches are located in your neighborhood!), gather the kids and start your modern treasure hunting adventure. Once you find your treasure box, you leave a treasure behind and take a new one. Caches are everywhere – city streets, parks and hiking trails: geocaching is a terrific way to get the kids excited to be out in nature and looking at their world in an all new light.
2. Gaze At The Stars
Star gazing in the summer can be as simple as lying on a blanket in your back yard and looking up at the big night sky. You could get a little more fancy by adding telescopes to the mix – if you don’t have one , ask around at work and in your neighborhood – astronomy hobbyists will often be more than happy to help out and may even volunteer to attend your star gazing party and offer their expertise. Be sure to check your local paper as you may find a free star gazing night being hosted by a local astronomy club where you can check out the night sky in a park, looking through lots of different telescopes zoomed in on all sorts of outer space bling!
3. Make A Movie
If you have a smart phone or a video camera (pretty inexpensive these days), spend a day or a week making a movie. Have the kids write, direct, design, scout out locations and even film their own movie. Have a rule that you can’t spend any money on the movie to get the kids thinking outside the box (by reusing the box): repurpose trash into props and costumes and use nature as your stage. Learn about video editing together – lots of free apps and programs abound on the web – and when you are finally done – have a movie screening night in your home complete with a “red” carpet (that you repurpose, of course). You will always have your Summer of 2012 movie for your kids to keep and remember for years to come.
4. Start A Garden
You can garden if you have a huge backyard or just an old coffee canister with some dirt. Not only is gardening great for the planet – and a wonderful life-long hobby to introduce to your children – it can be great for your wallet as you can actually eat what you grow. You can use found dirt and seeds from vegetables you eat – or plant a garlic clove – you could even get fancy and start composting your food and give every kid a little area in your yard or their own window sill if you are an apartment dweller like me. Gardening is a great way to teach kids about how patience and work pays off big.
5. Have a Low Wallet & Carbon Footprint Summer Vacation
Camping is the perfect way to spend time as a family, have fun and learn about nature while having quite an adventure. Camping means going swimming, meeting other families, long hikes, camp fires and getting creative with camping cooking. Another frugal and green vacation idea is to swap homes – do you have a city place while friends live in the country? Bring up the idea of a week long or even weekend house swap and see what happens – it’s a great way to go somewhere different without paying a lot for not-so-green accommodations!
6. Construct A Backyard Obstacle Course
Get the kids out of the house and into the creativity zone : have the kids plan out an obstacle course adventure. Take old boxes, tires, ropes, coffee canisters, wood (anything goes just make sure to supervise, of course) and then let the crew construct their very own obstacle course – a fun group activity sure to give way to lifelong memories of summer fun from way back when.
The Cheapskate Mom is a mom-focused blog magazine all about surviving the recession in style with lots of eco-friendly and DIY ideas, crafts, giveaways, recipes and projects.