In my article, Five Low Cost, Low Tech Summer Activities for Families and Kids, I shared some of the ways families can enjoy time together during the summer without spending a great deal of money. In the past few weeks I’ve been thinking of ways to entertain the little girl I nanny for and looking forward to her moving to a house with a big back yard. I let my mind wander, and my imagination take over as I planned some summer activities for us. Wow, did I recall some great childhood memories and some great memories of time with my own children when they were small!
Hula hoops come in all sizes these days and certainly fall into the low cost, low tech category. I’ve seen them for sale at the “Dollar Store” in my neighborhood. Teaching a child to hula hoop helps them develop coordination and encourages them to move. If you join in with your child it becomes a sure-fired giggle-fest competing to keep the hula hoops moving and off the ground. All kinds of contest ideas come to mind: See who can twirl the most hula hoops at one time, see who can twirl the hula hoop for the longest time-just use your imagination
Another low tech way to use hula hoops is to make them part of an obstacle course. They can be placed on the ground and with the child standing or sitting within the hula hoop, give them activities to do or instructions to follow. Jump five times, staying inside the hula hoop, or jump from outside the hula hoop to the inside are two easy to follow instructions. You could even have a picnic or snack sitting inside the hula hoop!
Declare the day “Hula Hoop” day and draw pictures or create art work using only circles and round objects for the ultimate low cost, low tech family activity.
I cannot endorse this low cost, low tech activity too highly! A couple of weeks ago I sat on the patio at the home of the family I work for over an hour, equipped with nothing but a bottle of bubbles. The little girl I care for had trouble actually blowing, so we opted for my blowing the bubbles and her chasing them. I actually had to stop to catch my breath a couple of times, because she kept insisting, “more bubbles, more bubbles.”
On a recent trip to the dollar store, what did I see? You guessed it: an entire bubbles activity display with everything from milk jug-sized refill bottles full of bubbles to plastic wands in various sizes and shapes. Actually, dipping the wand in the dish of soapy water saves your lungs and with a mere wave of the arm, “millions” of bubbles magically appear. Again, anything purchased at the dollar store qualifies for the low cost category.
Older children can easily master bubble blowing and they will love using the wands to create bubble art. A bubble blowing contest is great low cost, low tech way to keep kids entertained, too.
Fire Department Visit
What child isn’t fascinated by a fire truck? In our county, families are welcome to stop by the fire station, meet the firefighters, watch them wash and maintain the trucks and equipment, etc. This is a great low tech, low cost way to keep the kids entertained.
Even more exciting is to have a fire fighting party. My son opted for this birthday theme not once, but twice when he was young! Invite the fire department to come to your house.
In the case of our locality, the fire fighters attend birthday parties as a free service. Our local fire station sent a truck and two fire fighters to the house at the requested time (note: this is subject to availability, but we lucked out both times). The kids were allowed to sit in the cab of the truck and climb on the truck. I think they even got to try on some boots!
The firefighters did a great job of talking to the kids about fire safety. They also passed out fliers offering to conduct free fire safety home inspections for the kids to take home to their parents. (I guess that means this activity qualifies as a “double” low cost, low tech activity!)
We sent extra pizzas back to the fire station and made a donation to a particular charitable fund they endorse in lieu of direct payment for their time. Not only is this a great low cost, low tech party idea, it’s educational, too.
Party decorating is easy. Give each party guest a plastic fire-fighter hat. Balloons and plates and other decorations can be red, goodie bags can be plain red paper bags. Include stickers in the bags – fire theme, of course – and have the kids decorate their own bags as another low cost, low tech activity.
Spend Quiet Time Outside
This is the least expensive and most flexible low cost, low tech summer activity for families and kids. The options are endless and no supplies or equipment, or even prior planning, is required.
Spread out a blanket, or just lay in the grass on your back. Looking straight up at the sky, make “pictures” with the cloud shapes. See how many different shapes each family member can identify. Young children love this, because their imaginations take over and they can make up anything they want.
While you’re outside on that blanket, give your eyes a break. Close your eyes and just listen. See how many sounds you and your child can identify. Do you hear animal sounds? Are cars passing on the road? Can you hear a train whistle? Is the wind blowing through the trees? This is another low cost, low tech activity that is also educational!
A great low cost, low tech way to get some exercise and spend family time outside is to go for an “eye-spy” walk around the neighborhood. You and the kids can work together to make up a list of things to find ahead of time, or each of you take turns describing something you see and have the others keep guessing until they figure it out, based on their asking question.
Care for Some of God’s Creatures
This low cost, low tech summer activity really extends to the entire year! Humming bird feeders are fairly inexpensive and humming birds are just amazing to watch. In the late summer last year, we had a show almost every day outside our patio doors. Planting Butterfly Bushes and other plants attract butterflies, adding beauty to your yard.
Bird baths can be purchased or made and several can be installed in the yard. Bird feeders can also be made or purchased. Bird house kits are available at many craft stores. On a rainy day, you and the kids can assemble the kit and decorate it. When the sun comes out, hang up the bird house and then watch for the birds to move in. This is a great low cost, low tech way to teach children about caring for animals and develop an interest in nature.
Squirrels and chipmunks love corn and other seeds. There are quite a few contraptions that can be made or purchased so the squirrels and chipmunks can feed easily. Hopefully, they’ll stay out of the bird feeders if they have their own “dining areas.” During the winter, your back yard can be a sanctuary for area wildlife if you keep the bird feeders stocked and offer corn cobs and other food sources for the squirrels.
Even if you live in an apartment, you can hang a bird feeder outside the kitchen window or on the patio so the kids can watch the birds when they come to feed. Squirrels and chipmunks live in every park or area with even just a few trees. Any time you go to the playground or a local park take along bread cubes to feed the ducks, or nuts or seeds to feed the pigeons and squirrels. This is a great way to teach children about wildlife, and how to care for their world.
In this day and age everything is so loud, gasoline prices are at an all-time high and time seems to be at a premium. These low cost, low tech activities for families and children offer ways to maximize family time without spending your life savings. One-on-one time is so crucial to developing and maintaining a positive relationship with children. All of these low cost, low tech activities can be opportunities for discovery, learning, and most importantly time for conversation.