Summer fun on a budget

As the summer months approach, many may already be contemplating what to do with the little ones while school is out.

We know that being cooped up in the house all day every day probably isn't the best option, but what choices do you have while trying to stick to your budget? Consider these options:

Stargazing in the backyard- Whether you pitch a tent, or build a blanket fort, throwing some sleeping bags on the ground and staring at the stars can be a fun outing for kiddos. Even better, there are apps that you can download that will allow you to point your device at the sky and find constellations. Not only is the night fun, but educational as well.

Squirt gun painting- You read that right...paint using squirt guns. Just throw up some watercolor paper on an easel (or use a thumbtack to a board), fill the guns with watercolor paint, and channel your inner van Gogh. This is such a fun idea I can't wait until we have my niece over for a visit!

Create a photo scavenger hunt- This can be arranged in a couple of different ways... First, create a list of various items you may find around your area. Much like the game "I spy", your list could have items like a red flower or a blue car. Provide the list to all of the participants, and let them go to town snapping digitals images of the items. The first one to complete the list and return to base camp wins. For older children consider snapping photos ahead of time and have them follow the trail to an end prize.  For example, in a park, you may have a photo of a slide. Once they find the slide, there will be a clue left they will need to find. After finding that clue, they move to the next photo for another clue. The clues at the end (cumulatively) may spell out "ice cream", where you can then head to the local Dairy Queen or FroYo for a sweet treat.

Play water balloon baseball- Fill a few balloons and use a plastic bat. Not only will it be fun, but will also cool the young ones off during hot days.

Balloon tennis- If getting soaked by water balloons doesn't appeal to you, consider the lesser wet sport of balloon tennis. Just tape a couple of paint stick to some paper plates and you're ready to bat around some balloons. Definitely a less messy and safer sport for the toddlers.

Outdoor movie night-  Whether you stick to the traditional treat of popcorn, or decide to up your game with hot dogs and burgers, this event can be as simple or extravagant as you want to make it. A sheet draped over a fence (or hanging over some PVC) and a projector, and you're ready to watch the big screen. If you have older kids and a swimming pool, consider having a pool movie night with Jaws on the screen!

Whatever you choose, just remember there are so many free or cheap options that provide a great amount of joy on a tight budget-

Michelle Kuehner is a Registered Investment Advisor Representative and President of Personal Money Planning. She is also a Certified Credit Counselor and Certified Financial Health Counselor, writes Fix Your Budget blog, and has over 25 years of experience in the financial industry.

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