One of the hardest parts of becoming a single mom was having to tell my kids that we could no longer afford things that had always been part of our life. That first summer seemed like one endless “No!” that came one after another. By our second summer, I learned to not only be more creative about making fun memories but also to cherish the time I did have with our split custody schedule.
Here are 10 of our favorite low and no-cost ways to make new summer memories.
1. Pajama Days. Spend the whole day in your pajamas, read bedtime stories when you wake up and make breakfast for dinner.
2. Find a Local Swimming Hole. Forget expensive water parks & find a local swimming hole. State parks generally charge a small admission fee for an adult. Not only will you save money on just getting in, but without concession stands and souvenir shops around every corner, there are far fewer things to say no about. Pack a special picnic, grab a quilt, and you’ll have much more fun than if you had spent the day standing in line.
3. Camp Mama. Swap days off with another single mom. You can reduce your childcare costs dramatically by finding another single mom who you can swap childcare with. You keep her kids on your day off or vacation day and she does the same on hers. A small splurge on craft supplies or a dollar movie is far less than a day of camp. You take one day off and get childcare for two days and help a friend in the process.
4. Cook Together. Making homemade bread figures, decorating cookies, or making ice cream only cost a few dollars and keeps kids busy for hours. If you feel the sink with extra bubbles, younger kids love being allowed to wash the dishes, too.
5. Read a Chapter Book Out Loud. Bedtimes are later and extra TV time seems to just happen. Take advantage of the extra time to read a family adventure book. If your kids are too young to take a turn reading, check out the audiobook at the library. If the book you chose has been made into a movie, celebrate by watching it together when you are done.
6. Living Room Camp Out. Nothing thrills my kids more than for us to drag our mattresses out into the living room and for me to sleep with them. Sometimes we watch a movie, play a game or make flashlight finger puppets. They also love for me to tell them stories about themselves when they were younger.
7. Stargazing. Check out a book on constellations or do a quick search online. Just before bedtime, grab a blanket and head for the edge of town. There is nothing quite as memorable as laying on your back together in a field looking for pictures in the star. Cloud watching can just as much fun!
8. Brown Bag Dinner. On nights when I was too exhausted to cook for dinner, I found that letting the kids pack dinner in their lunch box and heading for the playground made the whole thing an adventure. If you stay till dark, you’ll have won their hearts forever.
9. House Swap. This summer we are swapping houses with another single mom in a town just a few hours away. ( I bet you have a Facebook friend or two you could ask.) Without the cost of a hotel at peak rates and having to eat out, I can give my kids a fun vacation. Lay out expectations before you go and this is a great way for two families to help each other.
10. Play together. Chances are your house has been tense and less peaceful recently than you would have wished for your kids. Nothing lifts my own spirit like the sound of my kid’s laughter and nothing breaks my kids out of a funk like Mama having fun. Break out some water guns, play flashlight tag, or teach them your favorite card game and just enjoy your kids.