Summertime Fun Without Breaking the Bank

Low Cost Ideas That Will Keep Your Kids Engaged

School is out, now what? Taking a day or two to decompress and relax is the first thing kids probably need. Once boredom kicks in, your children will probably be begging for something to do. Most budgets are stretched thin these days with rising food and gas costs, so adding expensive vacations into the mix, can just create more stress.  It is always good to look for the free, or low cost ideas close to where you live or a few hours from home. 

When we were growing up, our mother would often fix a jar of ice tea, some crackers and peanut butter or sandwiches. She would pack them up, and we would head outdoors to our favorite picnic spot. These memories are sweet reminders of my childhood now.  There are ways that you can help your child have the best summer ever, by taking advantage of what is around you. Sometimes just going to your local park, with a sandwich and chip meal is all you need to brighten your day! 

But if you are looking for something more, I have a few ideas. First, if you are in the South a church near you is probably putting on a great Vacation Bible School program.  I remember going to VBS when I was little, and I took my son as well.  Check the pages of your neighborhood church, even if you don’t attend often. They love to teach about Jesus and would welcome your child. 

Pictured below is writer Mary’s nieces enjoying Otter Creek.  Their names are Elin and Harper. 

Another suggestion is to check your local library’s website for information on Summer Reading and Programs.  Libraries are key in keeping students reading over the summer.  It is important for elementary age students to spend a little time reading so that they don’t experience the summer slide and forget some of what was learned in the school year.  Children need lots of practice to become more proficient in Reading.  Make the summer reading experience fun by letting them pick what they read, and don’t put pressure on them to do it right, just let them have fun with it.  For reluctant readers who just want to play video games all the time, have a set time for video games, limit games to about an hour a day.  Then, when they become bored, suggest they read, write, draw or color.  These are all good ways to activate the brain. 

 We are blessed to live in an area with so many parks, lakes, and venues for entertainment. Here are a few ideas of places that would be great outings with children.

  • Waterparks!  Greenville County has some of the best waterparks around. Check their website for tickets and rates for each of their three great parks.
  • Anderson has Lake Hartwell that provides multiple opportunities to explore water fun. The Shores of Asbury is a unique water park that you might want to check out. Their Aqua Zone which features an inflatable water obstacle course. Check out the website. While this looks like fun, I think you would have to be a great swimmer and use caution here. I noticed they do offer camping here as well. 
  • Don’t forget to check with your Parks and Recreation Departments wherever you live. There are probably events including summer concerts and movies throughout the summer.  Here are a few links that might help!
  • Get outdoors!  We have Three big lakes in our area, Keowee, Jocassee and Hartwell! Each of those lakes have beaches and sites to enjoy.  Some of the ones we have visited are:
    • High Falls county Park in Oconee
    • Mile Creek County Park in Pickens.
    • Devils Fork State Park in Oconee.
    • Table Rock State Park in Pickens.

All of the parks have websites that you can google and see what is offered. In the past, you could swim, boat, fish, and some of them may even rent kayaks for the day.  Take a picnic and enjoy! 

South Carolina has some of the best state parks in the country. Many of them offer camping and small lakes for swimming and fishing. Some offer pedal boating.  Go online, find a new park to explore. Involve your children in using google maps to find the park. Then visit for the day, and see which one you like best. Encourage your child to keep a park journal where they write about and take pictures of what they see and do. 

For the steamy and hottest days, take in a show or visit an area museum.  Some of my favorites are the Children’s Museum of the Upstate, and the Upcountry History Museum Don’t forget about the smaller towns that also have some interesting museums.  

One Dollar Movies!  Don’t forget that many theaters offer low cost or even free movies for summer.  Go online to check the listings near you. In Anderson, Regal has the Summer Movie Express.  I see several that I haven’t seen before on this list, so even though my child is grown, I might just have to go!

Summer is for slowing down to enjoy life. That doesn’t mean you must stay home and wish for something to do.  Do your research and plan a day trip or even a camping or week long stay at a favorite park. Have a great Summer!