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Summer Fun on the Cheap

Summer's here, there's no doubt about it. And that means kids are trading their hum-drum school routines for exciting days of fun. They want summer camps, movies, and trips to the amusement park...all entertainment costs that weigh heavily on the family budget long before Labor Day. Here's how you can keep your kids entertained—without emptying your wallet.

Backyard Summer Camp

Most summer camps range from $100-299 per week (at the low end) and if you have more than one child to send, you might as well mortgage your house to afford it!  Instead get with three or four other families with kids around the same age and set up a summer camp in your backyard. Each family takes turns hosting the camp, but make sure you have a full day of activities planned so that the kids are kept busy. Include things like sports, arts and crafts, water activities, and cookies at lunch time. If part of the appeal of camp is getting the kids away from the house, take a look at some local day camps, which sometimes offer free attendance or reduced fees for families with financial needs.

Free Movie Day

Many local theaters offer free family-friendly films on certain days of the week, including chains like AMC
and Regal Entertainment. Call your local theater and find out if they offer any such program. If not, try seeking out a dollar theater or keep your eyes peeled for free movies around town—many cities host movie screenings for families in local parks or on rooftops during the summer months.

Adventure Day

What makes summer exciting for kids—besides not having to do homework—is the thrill of doing something unexpected. Create a treasure hunt or scavenger hunt for the kids. If they have a specific character they like (i.e. Batman or or Jack Sparrow), have the treasure hunt clues be "written" by that character. Get a neighbor or local actor to dress as the
character so that at the end of the treasure hunt, they get to "meet" the character and take pictures. It's good clean fun, and way cheaper than Disney World or Six Flags!

It's easy to entertain on the cheap with a little bit of creative thinking. Share your frugal summer fun ideas with us here! [Bankrate]

Posted: 5/23/08