summer

How to Make the Most of Your Summer Without Breaking the Bank

Every time I think of summer, I think of the summer of 2013. For me, it was the best summer ever!

It truly was.

I felt as though we took each and every day of our summer and squeezed as much fun and adventure out of it as we possibly could.

But, I could not have pulled it off alone.

As someone who loves being (and staying) at home, I needed help finding ways to get out with the kids to enjoy this season of lazy days, rainy afternoons, and looser schedules.

I discovered that our community was filled with opportunities for us to make memories together and individually by keeping my ears (and eyes thru Facebook) open for announcements. Here are some of the things we found here in our county that have worked really well for us over the last few summers.

summer

Library classes- Our library system does a series of classes throughout the entire summer. They are educational, entertaining, and the kids really had fun. We have brought home meal worms, planted seeds, learned about our local wildlife and participated in fun science experiments through some of the activities the library provided.

Our library also has a Summer Reading Program that encourages children to spend at least 24 hours worth of time throughout the entire summer reading. At the end, our children can earn a ticket to see the Tampa Bay Rays play. Our sports loving family really enjoyed this in years past and will continue to participate for years to come.

Check your local library system’s event calendar to find out the activities they have lined up for the summer.

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Arts and Crafts- We discovered that Michael’s Crafts Store has a program called Passport to Imagination which runs all summer long, three days a week. The cost of the 2 hour class is $4 per  child per day. It’s a great way for kids to explore their artistic side… without giving Mom a mess to clean up. That’s a win/win in my book!

Movies- Check into your local movie theater’s schedule to see what they are offering for children during the summer. We have a couple of theaters in our area that offer $1-$1.50 movies once or twice a week. We have taken advantage of these. It is a great way to get out of the house but still be in the air conditioning.

Season Passes- Do you have season passes to a local theme park? Summer is a great time to use them and get the most out of that pass. On evenings when you find yourself wondering what you could do, pull out that pass and enjoy your theme park for a couple of hours.

July 11th- Don’t forget that on 7/11 each year, 7 Eleven offers free Slurpees!

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Fruit Picking- Here in Florida we kick off our summer break with blueberry picking. It is always a great way to get us outside, and we bring home pounds of blueberries for a fraction of the cost of buying them in the stores. What fruit comes into season in the summer in your area? Look into where there may be a U-pick farm near you and have some fun!

VBS- Vacation Bible School is a free week long program that churches offer to their communities. Many times, the churches in an area or community stagger their VBS weeks so parents can utilize as many of these programs as possible.

Beaches and/or pools- Are you located near a beach? Are you a part of a community that gives you access to a pool? Do you have friends who invite you over to use their pool? Does your area have a sprayground? These are all great ways to get out into the summer sunshine, keep cool, and get that summer glow. Just be sure to keep the sunblock generously applied, hats on small heads, and lots of liquids on hand.

summer

Sporting Events- Baseball season is under way and football season is gearing up. Summer ballgames are almost an all-American must! Some ball fields will allow you to bring in your own food which helps to keep costs down to a minimum.

Football season is also gearing up. Our local team (the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) has a Fan Appreciation Day and open the gates (free of charge) for the fans to watch a practice. Check your local team to see if there are any free fan events happening in the summer.

Cow Appreciation Day- One day our children look forward to each summer is Chick-Fil-A’s Cow Appreciation Day. The idea is to dress like a cow (as much or as little as you want). For minimal participation you get a free chicken sandwich. For maximum participation you get a free meal! Each year, we haven’t paid a dime for our dinner.

American Girl Movie Premier- I don’t know how it is in your house, but in our house the summer television premiere of the American Girl Doll of the Year movie is a big event. It is a free night, we don’t have to leave the house, Addie gets to pick out her own fashionable outfit, and I give her a special hair style using my hair supplies. It’s a tradition.

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Make the Most of the Holidays- Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day are all considered summer holidays. Why not make the most of these with crafts, special snacks, and activities? My 4th of July Pinterest board was a huge help to me last year in coming up with a week’s worth of stay-at-home activities and fun.

Kids Bowl Free- Although the Kids Bowl Free program has been around for a while, we plan on taking advantage of it for the first time this year. Through this program, children receive two free games per day throughout the summer (cost of shoes is not included). There are also discounted rates for parents to play throughout the summer, too. It’s a great way to get out as a family for some fun. (Check your local bowling alley for restrictions)

I hope I have given you some ideas on how to make this summer your best one yet. I think the most important lesson I learned during the summer of 2013 was to make a big deal of the little moments.

Those are the moments that our children will always remember.

summer

Celebrate the Ordinary Days

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Making ordinary days special for my family has always been a goal for me.  In fact, one of my goals when I first became a mom was to make life wonderful for my family. Not just the big days, but more importantly, the little days- the days that no one else but us would see and know about.

Then I began noticing that there were “special” days everywhere. National Popcorn Day. National Donut Day. National Hot Dog Day. And my personal favorite, National Coffee Day!

special-days

I like that  there are special days because it makes ordinary days just a bit more special. I am the mom who makes the popcorn, gets the free donuts (with the purchase of a beverage…. and then my donut is not so free anymore), makes hot dogs on that particular night, and takes her kids out in the pouring rain to get the coffee (because coffee makes my world go around).

Yet, those were not the only special days that I wanted to create for my family.

I wanted to make the ordinary days special- the special days that do not show up on the calendar.

I wanted to purposefully plan to make a regular Tuesday special by planning ahead a simple but memorable activity for my kids to look back on.

I wanted to plan ahead for a special time for my husband and I to enjoy after the kids had gone to bed.

So I did.

I began thinking about ways to make some of our ordinary days special. These are just a few ideas to get you started on making ordinary days special for your family.

  • Donut Day- Get your donut and then read your littles the book If You Give a Dog a Donut while you eat your donuts.
  • Chick-Fil-A Cow Appreciation Day- It is so much fun to dress up for your lunch or dinner! Pull out the paint, the old t-shirts, and some construction paper and make an event of going to your local Chick-Fil-A. special-days
  • American Girl Girl of the Year movie premier- If your little girl is a fan of AG like mine is, the date of the movie premier can turn an ordinary day into something special. We tend to make a girly afternoon of it. I pull out my nail polishes, curlers, hair straightener, curling iron, and then I paint my daughter’s nails and do her hair. She picks out a cute outfit complete with as many accessories as she wants, and we watch the movie together.
  • Beach Day- One benefit of living in Florida is the nearness and accessibility to beaches. The surf and sand have a way of making any ordinary day special. Pack a light lunch such as fruits, cheese sticks, pretzels, trail mix, plenty of water, and sunscreen and let them play. Sometimes we bring beach toys, sometimes we don’t.  ordinary-days
  • National Puppy Day- Do you have a dog? We don’t. But we can still celebrate National Puppy Day by going to a pet store and playing with the puppies.
  • Ring in the Olympics- There are so many ways to make the Olympics a special time for our families. We make our own torch, and, during the opening ceremonies, we have our very own torch relay. This time around, we have also chosen a particular sport to follow (gymnastics) and particular athlete to root for (Gabby Douglas). special-days
  • Cookie Day- As a little girl, every year, our mom would take one day around Christmas to do nothing but bake cookies. One year, we baked 500 cookies. Then we gave those cookies to others in our church as gifts.
  • First Day of Each Season- It doesn’t have to be anything special, but commemorating the first day of each season can make that day special. For the first day of spring, we love going to Rita’s for a free ice. On the first day of fall, we decorate our home for fall- adding autumn colored leaves to our arrangements and decorative greenery, pulling out our previously made fall crafts, and even some of our Thanksgiving items. For the first day of summer we enjoy going to the beach, and on the first day of winter, we typically celebrate Snowman Day (mentioned below).
  • Snowman Day- Here in Florida, my kids can only dream of snow, so snowmen are an impossibility for us…. or are they? We made an entire day based on snowmen, complete with homemade snowman shirts, snowman shaped pizza, have a “snowball fight” made of crumpled paper towels, and then collecting all of our paper owls on white garbage bags to build a snowman. You can see more of our first Snowman Day in this Smilebox slideshow.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to make an ordinary day more than just a day.

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