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Spent Mama: Planning a summer of fun with the kids

Erin Guerrieri
by Erin Guerrieri , Dimespring 30 (@scoutingjoy)

To say I love schedules, routines and organization is an understatement, but as you might imagine (or know from experience), having four children is often like trying to build a toothpick house in an F5 tornado. I typically have grand plans that get blown to smithereens and I’ve been working on being better about “going with the flow,” but that doesn’t mean I’m going to let things get all willy nilly -- especially during the numerous unstructured weeks of summer.

READ: Spent Mama's first column about her own personal finance.

Keeping all of these kids entertained can be exhausting and expensive. After polling a lot of families and conducting a lot of internet-based research (hours of swooning on Pinterest), I developed a master summer calendar that looks like this:

Monday -- Arts -- Various age appropriate art projects, free music in the park, family movie night with popcorn, etc.

Tuesday -- Trip -- Take a trip somewhere: picnic at a nearby pond, zoo, aquarium, children’s museum, shopping (fortunately, my kids are young enough to think that a trip to Ikea is just about the best thing ever. Kids eat free on Tuesdays, they play in the kid areas, and I get to do some window shopping. Win/win.). Also, I signed up (free) for KidsBowlFree so kids can bowl for only the price of shoe rental all summer.

Wednesday -- Water -- Squirt gun games, water balloons, frozen water balloons, sponge fights, sprinkler, pool, etc.

Thursday -- Anything Goes -- Visits with friends, playdates and we almost always have a tea party, which I’ve learned is a fun way to learn/practice table manners.

Friday -- Food Fun -- Make a fun new snack or dessert, like S’mores, sand pudding, frozen hot chocolate, homemade popsicles, etc. Notes:

  • I compiled a lot of different ideas and did a lot of tweaking to make a schedule that is do-able for our family. Things I considered were: number of children, ages of children, family schedule and cost.
  • Most of these activities can be done for free or for very cheap. For places where we don’t have a membership, we hit up the discount days or “kids eat free” meals.

I know it’s important to be okay with spontaneity because with kids it’s inevitable. With a lot of unstructured free time, though, kids quickly find trouble so our summer schedule offers our days an outline. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy using my markers (the ones I don’t let the kids use so the caps match the colors), but it’s also really nice not having to think too hard about what’s on tap for the day.


Erin Guerrieri, aka Spent Mama, is a mother of four children (all under the age of 5) who blogs regularly about her journey as a mom on a budget. Erin is a member of the Dimespring 30, a community of bloggers sharing their thoughts, experiences and perspectives on personal finance.