Summer Planning for Kids Without Summer Camp!
Summer Planning for Kids who don’t go to Summer Camp!
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I know it seems early to start planning your summer, but trust me -- START NOW!
My husband and I are lucky that our work schedules don’t require that we find full-time childcare for the entire summer. But we also simply don’t have the budget to send our children to weekly summer camps.
The average cost of summer camps in our area tends to be between $125-$150 PER CHILD per week!
At that price, I’d rather spend the money on a vacation. But then what do you do with the kids for the rest of summer to encourage creativity, reading, social activities, independent play, etc. without losing your mind?
The good news is there are a lot of options if you get creative and plan early. There are so many possibilities that starting to plan can be overwhelming. But the key is to just start -- nothing will be set in stone and you can always revise your plan later. You just have to start somewhere.
Step One - SET A BUDGET
If you don't know me by now you'll learn quickly that EVERYTHING starts with creating a budget.
Like with anything, use the budget as your guide to help you plan realistically. This should be between the adults in the household who are responsible for the everyday budget. The summer is an easy time to blow your budget and make you feel like you are sinking financially.
Having a line item on your monthly household budget can help you plan over the year to save for summer activities and not have you scrambling at the last minute to find the money. I've been there often and it's not fun. Seeing all of the fun activities pop up and not having money set aside for it is a bummer.
Know that you cannot do everything. But also know it’s ok to not do everything. I know there is a lot of downtime in the summer, but doing activity after activity is not something my family is able to budget for. Even the cheap activities add up if you do 2-3 each week!
Set a realistic budget and stick to it!
Share the budget with your children so they are aware of any limits and so they can adjust their expectations. No matter the age of your children, giving them a peek on the summer budgeting process now will help give them the skills to be fiscally responsible as adults.
Step Two - CONSULT THE KIDS
If your kids are like my kids, they will ask to go to the trampoline park or inflatable jump place. And while that’s fine great activity for getting out lots of energy, we have to help them understand the reality of paying for all that fun.
Just one hour at our local trampoline park costs $14.
It’s an hour -- ONE hour.
If they decide that a single hour of trampoline play is worth it and that, in return, we may have to hang around the house more that week, then so be it
We try to help them understand there might be better options that we can use the same money for.
A phrase I always liked from my business school days is opportunity cost. Ever heard of that term? Basically it means that if you choose one thing, you are not choosing something else. And that’s OK! Everyone has a limited budget for summer fun. Our budget is on the very limited side, but I take comfort in knowing just how much money we have to spend because it’s a starting point to helping me plan.
Look at this as an opportunity to brainstorm with your kids! Let everyone make suggestions and write them down to refer to later.
Step Three - RESEARCH
(you can do this step on your own or with your kids, depending on their age)
Take all the suggestions from all your family members, and start investigating -- determine how long the activity will take and what the cost will be. Then call a family meeting and discuss.
If your children are old enough, assign each one at least one activity/idea and give them a deadline when they have to have the information back to you. This teaches pre-planning and researching. It also gives them a lesson on deadlines and allows them to practice their handwriting!
Step Four - FAMILY MEETING
This is where clear expectations are set. Clear communication is a must. Plans and expectations are set and AGREED upon and then you stick to them. It’s a concept that can be hard for kids but this is a great way to teach and guide them in understanding that it’s generally the way the world works.
Show the kids what you’ve come up with and how you’ll need to work together as a family to decide what activities are priority and which activities need to be eliminated based on budget.
Ask each child for input. Remind them that they have a voice and they have to exercise the right to use their voice (lessons all around!).
Step Five - PRINT OUT THE PLAN … and then stick to it!
Be sure to print out the agreement you’ve decided on. Post it where everyone in the family can access it easily.
You can have the “must do” activities list - along with the cost and any other details you may need. You should also consider printing out the budget and letting the children keep track of how much money has been spent and how much you have left!
Planning ahead for a whole summer of activities can seem daunting. But with enough preparation, it can lead to a whole lot of fun - and all without breaking the bank!
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