summer recession, affordable summer activities

Summer in the Recession: Affordable Options for Kids

July 07, 2009
by Sarah Amandolare
Recession or not, teaching kids to appreciate simple, inexpensive activities is a worthwhile endeavor. This summer, if camp isn’t within your family budget, consider the creative tips and fun ideas suggested by experts on the Web sites below.

Keep Summer Activities Simple

Joyce Hesselberth of the insightful blog Kid Baltimore offers thoughtful and feasible tips for parents scrambling to keep kids entertained and engaged during the summer months.

Hesselberth has found ways to appreciate the pared-down approach of recession-era living. “I think it’s a good thing,” she wrote. “Less waste, more time soaking in the summer.” Among her Baltimore-centric tips are quiet beach time and exploring the woods followed by writing in a nature journal. Spending a few hours in the garden is also fun for kids, particularly if they’re taught to plant their own mini-plots of fruits, vegetables and flowers.

Hesselberth gave findingDulcinea additional suggestions for families living almost anywhere, such as visiting the local pick-your-own farm. “Why not turn it into a kid activity” by taking a tractor ride and talking to kids about where their food comes from, for instance? A trip to the orchard also allows busy parents to get some grocery shopping done.

Another great idea is to “expand on everyday trips,” says Hesselberth. When you visit your nearby nursery to pick up gardening items, find out whether there is a koi pond or aquatic section on the premises. “Sometimes if we time it just right, the kids get to hold a tadpole, or watch some new fish being added to the tanks,” she explained.

Finally, be sure to “take advantage of what your tax dollars fund.” For example, public libraries and government-funded attractions can often be found in your city’s recreation and parks listings. Hesselberth says she recently discovered “a fantastic turn-of-the century conservatory, a nature center with an insect zoo, a park with a recycled tire playground and a beach” by taking this investigative approach.

Personalized Summer Camp

Joanne Kimes of the blog She Knows suggests ways to get around the often pricey summer camp experience: Start your own modified version. “I joined forces with four of my friends with kids my daughter’s age and started our own camp … one day a week, each of us would be in charge of all the kids (a total of 6),” she writes. Kimes offers ideas for customizing your camp and setting standards that meet various needs and interests. She also doles out advice for creating a successful camp.

Family Travel on the Cheap

Erik Torkells of Budget Travel magazine suggests five great ideas for penny-pinching families in need of a summer getaway, including farm-stays, state park lodges, family camps, off-season ski resorts and hot weather destinations where prices drop. There are ways to make these options workable for your family. If you’d prefer to get outdoors and teach kids about a life unlike their own, a farm-stay can be just as effective as a trip to a foreign country. If it’s relaxation you’re craving, try a ski resort or steamy locale like Palm Springs where there are plenty of pools and deals.

Home exchanges are also a viable, low-cost option. Consider swapping living situations with friends in another state (or country), or check sites like or Craigslist (look under “Housing” and select “Housing Swap”).

Most Recent Features