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Time4Learning Demos

El Cheapo Summer

A Thrifty Summer

By Annette Berlin and Ann Zeise (links)

No money for camp? Not a penny for vacation? How will you and the kids ever survive the summer?

Very well actually, if you’re willing to get creative. You can treat your kids to a fun, educational and el cheapo summer if you learn to look first at the resources you already have access to before taking out your checkbook.

Start with your library. Libraries often have wonderful music, nature and reading programs running from June through August. Most of the programs are free but they do require you to reserve a place ahead of time, so call early to avoid a last minute disappointment.

Next, work your way over to the new book section. Harry Potter is on every library’s most wanted list but maybe you’ll be lucky enough to be the next to find a copy. If not, dig into some good mysteries, historical fiction and how-to books instead.

Then, see what’s available in the crafts section. Our local library has half a dozen books on making “treasure from trash.” Also search for titles on dough crafts, paper crafts and scrap fabric crafts.

Before you leave, be sure to read the “what’s happening” section of your local newspaper (Discounted newspaper subscriptions). Most big cities have free outdoor concerts, puppet shows and art fairs throughout the summer months. See what’s in your neck of the woods.

Here are some of the projects our family came up with to while away the summer. Use them as a starting point for your own creative ideas:


Keep a nature journal of your own backyard
Write to an email pen pal
Make nature crafts – painted rock, wreathes, dried flowers
Design a quiz-type game show on history
Study cartooning
Build from cardboard
Cook an authentic Chinese dinner
Keep a diary
Create a historically accurate diorama from scrap materials
Read, read, read
Arrange a neighborhood yard or garage sale
Get a job walking dogs, cleaning or doing errands for a neighbor
Learn where your food comes from
Learn to comparison shop for groceries
Plant a vegetable garden
Draw original mazes
Create a birthday card
Design a web page
Make a quilt from recycled materials
Invent something
Observe your pet and record your findings
Grow an indoor terrarium
Learn origami
Learn a foreign language
Build with scrap materials
Make your own holiday presents
Compose new, science-based lyrics for popular tunes
Participate in online projects
Write a script for a puppet show
Learn to use a word processor
Attend local museums on free days
Learn to sew
Design a variation on the game checkers
Instantly watch educational videos off of Amazon.
Participate in a nature scavenger hunt
Learn to paint with watercolors
Practice cake decorating
Obedience train your dog
Create paper mache bowls from old newspapers
Make handmade paper
Buy and learn to play the recorder or harmonica
Enter all kinds of contests
Solve word problems
Make and observe a bird feeder
Play scrabble and other board games
Do low cost science projects

By Annette Berlin

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