Tuesday, July 22, 2014

5 Budget-Friendly Ways to Enjoy Summer "Stay"cations

Hi! I'm Ayn and I am a Ga. Pre-K teacher, serving 4 and 5 year olds in an inclusive setting. I share my classroom adventures on my blog, little illuminations

**Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.**

As I browse my facebook lately, I am seeing post after post from parents ready for summer to end. Parents are simply running out of ideas to keep kids busy without spending a bunch of money. Of course, parents want the kids to have fun and enjoy the break, but these days spending a ton of money on each outing is just not feasible. Today, I'm sharing 5 low-cost/free outings parents and children can enjoy together. Along with each outing suggestion, I'm recommending a great children's book correlating to the trip.

1. Visit the library. Most libraries have a storytime, and many provide puppet shows, plays or children's activities---all for FREE!!! 
I took a preschool aged group to our local library and we saw a fantastic puppet show after hearing a story. Our library has a playground, so after the show was over, we had a picnic and played on the playground for the afternoon. (The bonus was that on the way home, I overheard some of the kids talking about how this was one of the "best field trips EVER!!"

Two of my favorite books about visiting the library are "Library Lion" and "Lola At The Library".


2. Visit your home improvement store for craft day! Home Depot (and other home improvement stores, as well, I'm told) has a great Kids Workshop each month for a very nominal fee. They also give the kids a builder's apron with the craft project. The kids may make bird houses, tool boxes, bug catchers, etc. and learn some valuable lessons about tools and basic woodworking. Our kids got to make this really cool bug catcher!

"The House I'll Build For The Wrens" is a great rebus read-a-long that comes with instruction on how to build a birdhouse!

3. Visit your local state park. Many state parks offer free or low cost programs for kids. We went to Mistletoe State Park, here in Georgia and heard a nature talk, learned about what a forest ranger does, participated in a nature walk/scavenger hunt, made a craft with found items, had a picnic and played games. 

The Nature Center at Mistletoe State Park has displays that children are encouraged to touch and explore!

This baby rattler was one of many of the indigenous snakes on display.

The children learned about the beavers' anatomy and habitat.

Taking turns at the bird watching station.
There were several types of birds that were just right outside the viewing window!
The bird houses played the song of the type of bird that it housed.

A baby fawn.
One of many learning games in the center. The children pulled the pegs and revealed indigenous birds and tree-dwelling animals.
The habitat display, filled with taxidermied animals from the area. We were assured that all animals were found already dead and that none were killed for display.  
More birdwatching on one wall and local fish identification on the adjacent wall. 
A river otter and pelt.
A raccoon! We learned the raccoon mask is one of its adaptive traits. 
Wild rosemary growing along the path of our nature hike.
It was quite fragrant!
The box turtle is one of the types of turtles found in our area.
Our nature hike. We took along a little bag to pick up specimens.
This group made a fish windsock from recycled materials and sticks found on the walk. The younger group made a nature collage with their specimens (not pictured).
We played several games with water sponges and toys to help us cool down. 

There are tons of great books about nature, but one of my favorites is "We're Going On A Nature Hunt". It's told in the same way as "We're Going On A Bear Hunt" and kids easily pick up the rhyme and read along!

4. Visit a ceramics shop and paint pottery! We visited our local ceramics shop Artsy Me, and painted tiles that will be gifts for the parents. Most shops charge by the item you purchase and provide the paint and firing services at no extra charge. 

Tomie dePaola has a wonderful book about individuality in creating art called "The Art Lesson".

5. Visit a local history museum or historical spot. We visited the Augusta Canal and National Heritage Area. We took a Petersburg Boat tour of the canal and visited the Augusta Canal National Heritage Area Discovery Center to learn more about the history of our area and the important contributions of our area during the Civil War. The children were shocked to learn about hard work, long hours and poor conditions that many of the child laborers endured back then. For a virtual tour, click here. On the boat tour, we learned about how the canal actually works, its importance during the Civil War, as well as learning a lot about the local flora and fauna. We saw many birds, turtles, fish, insects and even some river otters! 
The children got a chance to try some of the work that the mill children did daily in very poor conditions for very little pay. They discovered that it was hard work!
Getting all the bobbins for weaving placed on the frame correctly was quite tricky, especially while racing the clock!

Getting a safety talk as we start the journey down the Augusta Canal on our Petersburg Boat. These boats are replicas of the boats used to transport goods up and down the Augusta Canal to the Savannah River.

This image from Wikipedia.com is an artists' rendering of the boats in action during the Civil War.

It's great fun to wave at folks in town along the Augusta Canal!
Augusta Confederate Powderworks manufactured and supplied gunpowder
to the Confederate Army during the Civil War.
Wood ducks out for a swim on the canal.
River otters play and swim as we pass by in the Petersburg boat.
The two recommendations for reading to kids about museum visits are "Franklin's Class Trip"and "Miss Malarkey's Field Trip".  "Franklin's Class Trip" is about the beloved turtle "Franklin"'s field trip to the museum. Zany Miss Malarkey takes her class on a museum adventure in "Miss Malarkey's Field Trip".

What is your favorite "go to" spot for free or low cost activities for kids? If you have a great free/low cost daytrip suggestion, I'd love for you to share it in the comments! 

Stop by and visit me anytime at littleilluminations.blogspot.com or visit the little illuminations fanpage on facebook! And be sure to check out PreK+K Sharing EEE!



  1. Ayn, I LOVE this idea! I'm sure it's going to help a lot of people find fun things to do during August! What a great idea!

    1. Thanks, Carolyn! Times are tough for so many but families still want to have a little fun. Hopefully this will give some frustrated folks (and their bored kids) some ideas! :)


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