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Summer Fun on a Dime

Looking for affordable yet fun activities to fill up those long dog days of summer? Look no further. Homemade fun can be creative and economical.

1. Box play.
Give a child a cardboard box and watch their imaginations explode.


  • Cut out a window and hang curtains. Don’t forget to cut a ‘door’ and put out the welcoming mat.
  • Turn the box on its side for a fun car, attaching ‘wheels’ or making a train out of several boxes.
  • Sail the seven seas by hanging a plank and casting a sail.

2. Living room architect.
Who doesn’t remember the classic living room fort built from sheets and chairs?

  • Modernize your fort with skyscrapers made from stacked boxes.
  • Accessorize. Add an old cell phone and a ‘table for two’ made from overturned cushions.
  • Bring it outside for an old-fashioned tee-pee.

3. Bring it into the kitchen.
Children love to be invited into the kitchen to cook with adults. (Remember to incorporate math skills by allowing kids to measure and estimate.)

  • Homemade ice cream - Experiment with different flavors: lavender, peppermint and ginger. Try Custard ice cream, which uses egg yolks.
  • Homemade play dough - Easy, affordable and nontoxic! Mix with Kool-Aid and you’ve got some edible fun.
  • Homemade popsicles - Freeze juices to make custom designed popsicles. Frozen, clear sodas mixed with cookie sprinkles make fantastic, magical treats. Use a star-shaped ice cube tray, insert straws and you have an edible star-shaped fairy wand.

Homemade play dough Kool-Aid recipe

2 1/2 to 3 cups flour
2 cups boiling water with one package of Kool-Aid
3 Tbsp. corn oil
1/2 cup salt
1 Tbsp. alum
Mix ingredients and knead with flour. Makes very fragrant and flexible play dough.

Easy homemade ice cream recipe

One 10-ounce package frozen sliced strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream

Combine the frozen strawberries and sugar in a blender. Blend until the fruit is chopped. With the blender running, slowly pour in the heavy cream until mixed smoothly. Serve immediately, or freeze leftovers.

4. Scavenger hunts. Put a twist on this age-old classic game.

  • Jigsaw hunt - Hide puzzle pieces around a room to be gathered by the kids. Put the puzzle together to see if they have found all of the pieces.
  • Archaeologist hunt - Bury bones, bugs and dinosaurs in a sandbox or the beach. Have kids dig them up and report on their finds.
  • Nature scavenger hunt - Go for a walk in nature and look for things that crawl or fly.
  • ABC hunt - Look for one thing that belongs to each letter of the alphabet.

5. Recycle crafts.
Use items found around the home for crafting projects.

  • Make your own puzzle - Create a one-of-a-kind puzzle from old holiday cards or magazines.
  • Plan ahead for the holidays by creating your own wrapping paper. Use paper bags or plain white paper. Decorate with glitter, speckled, stamps or confetti.
  • Celebrate your bookworm. Make a simple bookmark using fabric, magazines, ribbon or photos. Unique bookmarks can be beaded or crocheted as well.

By focusing on projects that allow children to find the required resources rather than using something pre-packaged, we encourage ingenuity and enhance imaginations. It’s a great way to help with both summer savings and summer fun.

Michele is a former elementary school teacher who turned in her chalkboard to stay at home with her daughters. She spends much of her time negotiating tantrums, mastering the art of Play Doh and morphing into her alter ego, Mammatalk, on her quirky blog,


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