How To Budget For Kids Summer Activities, Care and Meals

It’s summertime! That means kids are out of school and there’s lots of time to fill during the day. There also may be some new—or shifting— kid-related expenses, as they go from their school schedule to their summer schedule. We’re sharing tips on how to be more intentional with your summer spending plan for your kids – from keeping them entertained, to child care, to summer meals. 

Look at Your Summer Schedule  

  • Grab a calendar and begin to mark off the important dates. 
  • Look up opportunities for activities and/or work-day child care if needed. Write down the costs for each week of the activity or care.  
  • Think about how your food and meal costs may change now that the kiddos are home. Will you lose access to a free or reduced lunch or breakfast at school or a backpack supplement provided during the school year? Will you save money by having more time in your schedule to shop and plan for meals in advance?
  • Total up your activity, care, and meal costs by month and include these in your monthly budget where you plan your income earned and expenses paid out for each month.

Find Activities That Fit Your Family’s Interests and Needs

Which ones are a good fit for you, your child, and your budget will depend on a lot of factors, but here are some places to start:

  • Libraries are a go-to location for summer kids’ activities (and year-round, as well). Many offer free or very low-cost summer enrichment programs. Libraries have a summer book club reading program, usually around a set theme. These programs not only encourage your child to read—a vital life skill, but also educate on interesting topics, such as solar power or marine life. Libraries are also great places just to hang out, as many have book and play areas made with kids in mind. Join your free local library. 
  • Community colleges offer summer camps and classes. Classes vary from cooking to robotics. Check your local community college website for details. Some campuses have before and after camp care, which will span a parent’s work day. If cost is an issue, be sure to ask about available scholarship programs or need-based discounts. 
  • City or county recreation departments have children’s programming, which may be tailored to working parents who require full-day child care. They also have shorter programs.  There’s a lot of variety here, from sports and recreation to educational classes.
  • In addition to online classes, there are lots of free online opportunities for kids to learn new things or new skills. Please just be sure you’re comfortable with/monitor the sites and/or apps they’re using. 

Get Your Child Involved in Prioritizing Activities

If you find there’s not enough money or time for all the options, engage your child in prioritizing. Ask: If you can only do one camp/class this summer, which is the most important to you? Why did you choose that camp/class? Your child may need some time to think through the options. That’s OK. The time you spend helping them build this skill will benefit you both for years to come.

Make Summer Meals Fun & Budget-Friendly

Summertime is an opportunity to teach your child a couple of easy meals they can make, first, with you and then, by themselves. Check out a kid-friendly cookbook from the library and let the child pick what they want to make. Extend the learning with a trip to the grocery store to buy ingredients, which is an excellent opportunity to teach money lessons. How Early Should I Start Talking to My Kids About Money? | SaverLife

If your budget struggles to cover food costs during the summer, here are some options:

  • Ask your school if the school district will be providing free meals during the summer—sometimes this occurs at local parks, schools, or a mobile van.
  • Seek assistance from local food banks, which are operated by non-profits, churches, or others in your local area.
  • See the recommendations from Feeding America for finding a local food program. Free Summer Meals for Kids | Feeding America

Whatever you and your kids do this summer, enjoy the time. As a wise cousin of mine once shared, “The days are long, but the years are short.” Summer, and time, fly by.

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