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Affordable activities for the single mom and her kids this summer

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Single moms and limited budgets can give their kids great summer activities with these simple ideas.

teacher reading at kids in a library

Photo credit: Yellow Dog Productions/Photodisc/Getty Images

Those three months are here. The three months that start full of excitement as the school schedule fades, the bedtimes vary and we feel like we get a real break from the stress of school. But in a week or so, my kids will be bored, I will be out of ideas and the summer will go from exciting to more stressful than the school year in a heartbeat.

As a single mom, my budget is limited. I don't have endless resources to send my kids to camps and paid activities all summer long. So I have spent some time trying to find things that they can do that I can afford that will also give me some "off" time to handle my job, which I do from home. Here are some I have found that have worked well for me, the kids and my budget.

Vacation Bible School

I know that a lot of people are not affiliated with churches nor identify with a religion. However, in the Vacation Bible Schools I have sent my girls to, playing, learning and fun are the main ingredient. Usually, at least in my area, Vacation Bible Schools (VBS) are in the first month of summer. The cost is amazingly cheap at around $20 per child for three hours. Some offer extended care at a higher price, but three hours a day for a week at that cost is totally manageable for me. You can put them in multiple ones at multiple churches. The church generally does not care if you are a member or not.

Camps through the school

Last year our school's art teacher had an art camp. She held it at her house, supplied snacks and lunch and had the kids from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. It cost me $100 per child for the week and they came home with their imagination on fire. They knew most of the kids there, which made it that much more fun, and they learned so much about many types of art. The projects ranged from T-shirt painting to chalk coloring and so much more. Another camp through the school that works for my older daughter is volleyball camp. For only $60 for the week, she can go to the local high school and learn the fine art of volleyball four hours a day. It is great exercise, includes a snack and gives her something new to try. Check your school folders or school websites for affordable school camps in your area.

The local library

Our local college library offers many free activities to kids during the day. Most last a few hours and give me a little break while the kids are learning something amazing. I take my computer and work while they are in an air-conditioned room watching a movie, doing story time or even completing a craft. Our library also has a kids' activity center, computers with educational kids' games and many reading nooks that my kids enjoy. We can spend an entire afternoon there once a week and not get bored.

Specialty camps: Ask for a discount

Because I work from home and it is impossible to get anything done with three little kids running around, I do need all-day camps sometimes. But to pay $900 for a week of horse camp is so far beyond my budget that no amount of discount will help. So I started calling around to a local church that does a summer program and even to regular after-school day cares that are open all summer. I found that if I booked ahead of time, booked for multiple camps or volunteered supplies or a few hours of time, I could get a good discount that made it affordable. One summer camp program I found offers 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. days, five days a week, includes a snack and lunch and a weekly field trip. It would normally cost me $175 per child per week. But by sending all three, booking three camps during the summer and preparing my kids lunches for them, I will save $50 per child. They will have fun and I won't go broke while trying to earn a living.

Mommy's helpers

As a single parent, it is all on us to entertain our kids during the summer. If we work from home or even take a chunk of time off to be with the kids, there is still the issue of 24/7 care that can be overwhelming at times. Every parent needs help sometimes. A Mommy's Helper can be so useful and very affordable. Many teens and young adults are looking to pick up extra money over the summer months and are available during the summer days. I have paid $10 or less an hour, or $30 a day booking multiple days, to have one accompany me to the children's museum, help me keep an eye on the kids for a movie and even take them to the pool or an activity while I get a break. You would be amazed how a little fee, another person and a new creative mind in the house can help with kids.

Museums and matinees

Let's face it, summer is hot. Any indoor activity is welcome. I discovered that most movie theaters offer a kids' movie for $1 or so per child in the heat of the afternoon. They also offer discounted concessions and double features. We usually make it through one movie and I can spend less than $20 for the four of us. The same offers are made at museums in town. Some have no entry fee on certain days and there are always discounted fares at my children's museum. Check your local community theaters for free kids' plays too. Our large theater district also offers discounted daytime shows that will introduce my kids to the theater. Find out about discounted events in your city in the back of your community newspaper and online.

Summer does not have to be expensive or boring. It can be a great blend of activity, family time and time for you to recharge as a single parent. What activities or tips do you have for saving money while entertaining your kids this summer?

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