Summer on the Cheap!

Kimberly Pierce Carter is a stay-at-home mom of three children, ages 10, 6 and 3. “Being a stay at home mom is the best and the hardest job I’ve ever had,” said Kimberly, whose two daughters and young son keep her busy. “I learn something new about my children or myself almost every day!”

Having only one source of income, one thing Kimberly has also learned is how to seek out the best deals for her family, not just at the grocery store or mall, but to provide various activities and educational opportunities beyond the classroom, without spending a lot.

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“When summer approaches, one of the first things I do is check out our local library summer schedule,” she says. “Our library has a fantastic summer reading program and they give the kids little prizes along the way, which helps to keep my kids motivated to want to read.”

In most communities, libraries are an excellent place to find not just reading programs, but other activities geared for kids of all ages. Some places offer plays, live music, and even arts and crafts. “Our library has some fantastic programs all during the summer and they are free! From one-man puppet shows, to African rhythm instruments, to a wildlife exhibition, there is always something to see or do once or twice a week, in addition to story times.”

Another outlet that Kimberly takes advantage of during these long days of summer is Vacation Bible School (VBS) at her church. Most VBS programs are open to community kids, regardless of whether or not they are members of that church, and just like programs at the library, most VBSs are free. “One of the things I like about the VBS programs in our area is that the kids get to learn about God, make various crafts, play games, and meet new friends; kids who may not attend their school.”

Other activities that parents can get their kids involved in range from special free movies that Regal Cinemas (and other movie theaters) offers throughout the summer or heading to the local city or state parks for a picnic or nature hikes. “We pack our lunch, sunscreen, some sidewalk chalk, a container of bubbles, and a few outdoor games, and it makes for another great day in the outdoors.” Many parks offer free or minimal cost nature programs and special projects for kids to engage in as well.

Just like with parks, moms can also look for street festivals, community fairs, music programs, and other special events designed to attract families. “At least once a month our Farmers Market holds a family night with games, face painting, and other entertainment. And of course, going also gives us access to some great local produce.”

So just because your kids are out of school for the summer, doesn’t mean you have to spend hundreds of dollars sending them off to camp, or think that saving money means  having them sit in front of the television or playing computer games all day. There are a lot of free or inexpensive things to do with your kids that can be educational, entertaining, and fun experiences for the whole family.

Kimberly and the kids

Kimberly has been married to her husband Chance for over 16 years, and they live in the San Francisco East Bay area.

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