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10 low-cost ways to entertain your kids this summer

Wondering what to do with your children this summer? Here are some fun activities that are simple and quick. They won't bust your budget, either.

By MSN Money Partner May 1, 2014 2:11PM

This post comes from Kimberly Winkowitsch at partner site Money Talks News.

Money Talks News on MSN MoneySummer is coming quickly, and with it comes school vacation. If you need some ideas to keep your kids busy this summer, we have some fun and educational suggestions that don't cost a lot.

Family © Jacqueline Veissid, Photodisc, Getty Images1. Giant yard Twister

This one is really fun and works for all ages. Instructables has a tutorial with photographs on how to put it together, but basically you're spray painting circles onto your yard. One reader suggested you instead paint the circles on a big sheet of builder plastic so that the game is portable (plus you've spared your grass).

After they dry, turn the kids loose. You can spin the board if you have one, or just call out random combinations of hands and feet on the circles.

2. ABC scavenger hunt

What a fun and educational one this is for preschoolers. Choose a letter such as B. Place things around the room or yard that begin with that letter, like a balloon, baseball, bucket, baby doll, blanket. Then have your child find them.

You can even customize the container to place them in, like using a basket to collect all of the B items. You could even have the child color a large picture of the letter and keep that on the refrigerator all week.

3. Make homemade Play-Doh

I have a favorite homemade Play-Doh recipe that I've been using for years. It's fast, simple, and better than any of the other ones out there, in my humble opinion. Luckily for you, I'm willing to share.

Mix together:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar

After you've mixed those together, slowly add:

  • ½ cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon food coloring
  • 2 teaspoons flavoring (My favorite combination is mint flavoring with green food coloring.)

Cook together over medium heat until the mixture pulls away from the side of the pan. Allow to cool, and then use cookie cutters, rolling pins, or whatever else you have on hand to play with it.

4. Play baseball with pool noodles and balloons

This one is really fun because the noodles and balloons are so much bigger than a bat and ball. Preschoolers should love the giant size that they can still handle.

5. Make homemade Orange Julius

As much as I like to make green smoothies (camouflaged with berries to turn them purple), I thought I'd include a recipe for a homemade Orange Julius. They're so simple.

  • 1 6-ounce container of orange juice
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of milk
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla flavoring
  • 10 to 12 ice cubes

Mix together in the blender and voila -- you have homemade Orange Julius. Next time you can use frozen berries, spinach, vanilla, a little honey, and milk or water. The kids may never know how sneaky and health conscious you are.

6. Catch and observe insects

When my daughter was younger, she had the coolest little container that would hold insects. It was clear plastic and had a magnifying viewer.

I found a similar one, the Creature Peeper, that I think is really nifty and great for those of us who never want to touch a bug. Of course, if you really want to go crazy, you could give them an ant farm.

All you really need to do, though, is to walk outside and look around.

7. Make bark rubbings

Go out into your yard or a nearby park with some paper and crayons. Find a great tree with nice bark. Peel off the paper from the side of the crayon. Place the big paper on the bark of the tree and rub with the side of the crayon.

Art projects don't get much simpler than this, and it's great for nature lovers. Identifying the tree can add more educational value to this, but I recommend keeping it fun and pressure-free.

8. Make a model

Model cars and airplanes are fun. If you are looking for something different, Dover Publications has some great model castles, buildings and trains that require little more than a glue stick and some time. This really should be a fun experience.

9. Draw a life-sized self portrait

Get some freezer paper and cut a piece that is longer than your child. Lay it on the floor and have them lie on top of it. Trace around your child.

Let them draw in their own hair, eyes, mouth, clothing, etc. These are great and fun to hang on a door or wall.

10. Download a free classic audiobook to take on road trips

My favorite place to download free audiobooks is LibriVox. They have many classic children's books in their catalog. They're older books that are in the public domain, but they have stood the test of time.

All of these are free, and the readers who record the books are volunteers. This means you may like some readers better than others, but there really are some good ones who have donated their time.

More from Money Talks News

May 9, 2014 6:29PM

Put them to work in the yard. I had to.

May 9, 2014 6:59PM
No cost at all to entertain a child, just a parents who involve their child in activities that they themselves learned and enjoyed as a kid. Love works and its free. Money well that's a spoil.
May 9, 2014 7:38PM
There are some good ideas here, some of which (like the homemade play-doh) my children thoroughly enjoy at young ages.

The only problem here is that my kids are up by 7 in the morning no matter when they fell asleep the night before, and they are always bored, so by 3 pm I have already exhausted this entire list.  Twice.

Except for the model.  If you have extreme patience as a parent with young children this can be broken into hour or 2 hour long sessions over the course of several days.

May 26, 2014 11:37AM
I would add that in many locations there are free attractions or amusement parks with good rides that charge no parking and admission - just per ride - and you can bring your own food. Compare that with $15/parking, $41 per kid's ticket, $15 for burger and fries, $5 for soda we just spent at King's Dominion.

Additionally, in the Baltimore-Washington Area a couple examples are the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Visitor's Center which is free and the National Zoo in D.C. which is free admission, a max. of $20 for parking, and you can bring your own food.  There are also interesting, free playgrounds like the Observation Park just past the end of the main runway at BWI Airport.

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