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Monday, June 1, 2015

Summer Family Fun on a Budget

By Laura Perdue, Extension Educator — Health and Nutrition

Are you thinking about ways to keep your kids busy and active this summer? According to a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study, youth ages 8–18 spend an average of more than 7½ hours a day, seven days a week, engaging with media, including television, cell phones, computers, and video games. This far exceeds the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics to limit media use to no more than one to two hours per day.

Instead of using media, kids should be encouraged to spend time on outdoor play, reading, hobbies, and using their imagination in free play.

If you limit the amount of time your children are allowed to use media this summer, undoubtedly you’ll hear the familiar complaint, “I’m bored!” at some point. How can you help your kids avoid boredom without spending a fortune on activities this summer? Here are a few ideas:

  • Be a tourist in your own town. Look into tours of local attractions, special events, and other activities happening in your town or the surrounding area. You don’t have to travel in order to act like you’re on vacation.
  • Make an activity jar. Download and print the “Let’s Move” activity cards from the Extension website: Let's Move activity cards in English ¡Vamos a movernos! activity cards in Spanish. Put them in a jar, and pull out a card any time your kids need an idea for something to do.
  • Gather free or low-cost playthings. Encourage kids to use their imagination by playing with safe objects from around your house. (This is especially good advice for younger children.) Empty boxes and bed sheets are great for making forts, and empty milk or laundry-soap jugs can be used for indoor bowling or bean bag targets. Or cut jugs to make scoops for digging in a sandbox. For more ideas, check out this Extension handout: Nearly Free Family Fun (PDF)
  • Go to the park. Parks offer something for everyone. Playground equipment, sports fields, pools, lakes, and trails are just some of the things you can find at a park. Local city parks are usually free to use. If you need a change of scenery, check out a state park. In Minnesota, a one-day vehicle pass is just $5, or you can get a full-year pass for only $25. With more than 75 state parks and recreation areas in Minnesota, there are plenty to explore. Find the state parks near you with the State Parks ParkFinder.

Wherever you live, there are many more free or low-cost activities you can do with your family this summer. Do you have any favorites? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Goals for this Month

  1. Keep track of how much time you and your children spend using media. Each week, try to decrease that time by one hour a day until you meet the recommendation of less than two hours per day.
  2. Plan at least one activity for your family to do each week to keep kids from getting bored. Check your local paper for events happening in your town.

Rideout, V. J., Foehr, U. G., & Roberts, D. F. (2010). Generation M2: Media in the lives of 8- to 18-year-olds. Retrieved from

American Academy of Pediatrics. (n.d.). Media and children. Retrieved from

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Thanks for the great ideas Laura!

For military families ... here are a few additional ideas:

* "Blue Star" museums across the nation provide free admission for Service members & their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Find participating museums near you @

* contact your local Family Assistance Center for a listing of free or low cost youth/family activities/opportunities

Sara Croymans

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