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Home ยป The Frugal Life – Ideas for a Fun and Productive Summer With Your Children

The Frugal Life โ€“ Ideas for a Fun and Productive Summer With Your Children

Ideas for a Fun and Productive Summer With Your Children

by Lois Breneman

Go to the library and check out a bagful of books for each child and read to them every day.  This is a special time of closeness and it will help them to enjoy reading more themselves.  If your child struggles with reading, get a good phonics program, and help him develop good reading skills.  Give a small spiral notebook to each child to record each book (maybe just the thicker ones) he reads by himself, along with the date. He will be glad someday that he did.

Choose appropriate scripture verses for you children to learn during the summer.  If they are teens, let them choose their own.  Navigators has small folders especially for scripture memory verses or the verses can be written out on index cards to carry with you.  Now is a good time for your children (and you) to just review the many scriptures already learned from previous years.  I learned a lot of verses especially as a child, and to review them now (including the references) is very helpful.

 Another good way to brush up on scripture review is to record five to ten verses and play the recording every night before bedtime.  In the case of young children, this would be great to play just before nap time or a quiet time (as mentioned below).


Help your children to develop their abilities and find their talents. Ask each child to choose several creative skills (with your assistance) to learn this summer.  It may be sewing, cross-stitch, making mirrors, pillows or other crafts, wood working, wood carving (if old enough to handle a knife), drawing, painting, singing, playing a musical instrument, typing, writing poetry, writing short children’s stories, rubber stamping, or a variety of skills.  Help your child find books on the subject and read up on it.  Many skills can be learned simply by
following instructions in books. Or if you or your husband can teach that skill–great!  If not, find a teacher for him or even learn the skill with your child.  Another possibility is to swap skills with a friend—maybe she or her husband could teach your child how to do wood carving and you teach her child how to do cross-stitch.  If your children are very young, give them an art lesson at least one day each week, and possibly a simple cooking lesson another day (maybe with a friend).

Cooking is something everyone should learn, whether young or old, male or female.  I taught my children how to cook, as far back as when they had to stand on a chair to see the countertop.  Now our two grown sons both enjoy cooking, as well as our daughter, who is a registered dietitian, but it is never too late to start teaching this practical skill.  Check out some cookbooks specifically for children or use the ones you have, and give your children cooking lessons.  Start with the basics.  Give them a small notebook to list all the things they make during the summer. (It could be a section in the notebook mentioned above.)  After they learn some basics, teach them how to plan and cook a family meal.  A child of 10 – 12 should be able to make a complete simple meal, with a little help.  Start with scrambled eggs, baked potatoes, hamburgers, rice, cooked fresh vegetables, muffins, quick bread, cookies, simple sandwiches, grilled cheese sandwiches, deviled eggs, French toast, pizza, etc.  Then go to omelets, cakes with icing, casseroles, scalloped potatoes, waffles, yeast bread, and planning an entire meal.

If you enjoy crafts, cooking (and children), want to earn a little money for the summer and are able to handle it, pass the word around that you are going to give children’s craft or cooking lessons during the summer for a fee.  Many mothers would jump at the chance to have their child learn cooking by someone other than herself, which is a shame, but that would be better than not learning at all.  Keep the classes small.  If summer time is too busy, you may want to teach classes after school hours one day a week or just once a month.

Make up a chart for each child, and include a devotional quiet time, several jobs in the home, as well as reading, scripture memory/review, creative things, and a service for someone else.  Plan a reward system. If your child cannot read, draw a picture chart and give him stars or happy faces to paste when he does a job.  For making the bed, draw a bed, etc., and don’t expect a perfect job at an early age.

Have an hour of quiet for all of the children and for mom, possibly just after lunch, no matter what their ages.  This can be time spent reading the Bible and praying, as well as reading other books, doing cross-stitch, or napping, but everyone must be quiet.  Elisabeth Elliot’s daughter, Valerie Shepherd, said how she requires this of her eight children every day.  When our children gave up naps, I also required them to be quiet in their bedrooms reading or resting for an hour.  It was good for the children and it helped my sanity, if nothing else!

This summer is a good time to review manners with your children, teaching them conversational manners as well as telephone, mealtime, neighborhood, church, shopping, company and car manners and writing thank you notes.

The book of Proverbs, plus the rest of the Bible as well as good common sense and a good book on manners are good guides.  Get them involved with little skits, demonstrating the wrong way, as well as the right way for
various situations.  If you are doing this during family devotions, cover only one topic in a session.  Of course, parents need to be on their toes as they teach and model good manners all day long, not just in a sit-down session.  However, this has its place too, where both the mother and the father sit down with the children and talk about the proper way to act in specific situations.

from Kidsolutions with Samamtha

Kids love dirt and parents love free food, right? What better reason to plant a garden.   If gardening is introduced as "fun" (parents, weeding is NOT a good way to teach gardening to munchkins) then kids are more likely to stay interested. Tools don’t have to be an expense either. My favorite all purpose hand tool is an old silver serving spoon. It is great for digging, weeding, planting seeds and flowers and spooning fertilizer around plant bases. So, turn the T.V. off, put on a hat, grab some seeds and Let’s Garden!

HOMEMADE CATNIP MOUSE    >^;;^<     >^;;^<
Ever watch your cat go berserk over a new catnip toy? Well, now you can grow your own catnip and make your own cat toys. Your cat will be in heaven!

What you need:
* packet of catnip seeds or 3-4 catnip starts from your nursery 
* garden soil (either space in your garden or a pot filled with potting soil)
* an old sock (child’s) that has lost it’s mate  * felt or fabric scraps (pink preferably)
* plastic milk jug (cleaned) 
* needle and thread 
* black embroidery
* floss

First, plant your seeds or starts in a pot or garden spot. Make sure it gets lots of sun. Keep moist. Let the catnip grow until you see a tiny flower appear. Pull the entire plant out of the ground (you can plant more now) and tie bundles of catnip upside down with a rubber band until completely dried. Be sure to hang the catnip high or your cat will get it down!  Dry until crunchy. Break off the roots and discard. Now, cut the toe off of your lonely sock right where the heel starts. Cut a teardrop piece of plastic from your milk jug that fits into the toe of your sock. This will help shape your mouse. Stick the plastic teardrop into your sock, pointy end first. Fill your sock with the dried catnip. Pinch the end of your sock and sew shut with the black embroidery floss. It should be all scrunched up now. Tie your floss in a knot leaving about 3 inches of floss at the end. This is your tail. Sew little ears on the mouse with the pink fabric. Sew and knot the black embroidery thread into the nose, making whiskers. Now, give this sweet, little gift to your feline friend. It’s sure to  make them Purrrrrr.

Nothing says "summer" like fresh cucumbers from the garden. You can also grow them vertically in a pot if you live in an apartment. Let them climb up wooden poles or chicken wire. As your cucumbers start to grow, show the kids a time honored trick… the cuke in a bottle. 

What you’ll need:
* cucumber seeds or 3-4 cucumber starts 
* garden soil or pot and potting soil
* 12oz or plastic liter soda bottle with cap 
* vinegar

Plant your seeds or start in a sunny area and keep watered. When the tiny cucumbers appear, choose one at the base of the plant (it needs to be shadier so the cuke won’t cook in the sun). Carefully slip the baby cucumber into the plastic bottle. Save your bottle cap, don’t lose it! Keep your bottle partially shaded with newspaper or burlap. When the cucumber fills the bottle, snip the stem. Fill your bottle with vinegar (this will make it last longer) and put on the cap. Keep it in your fridge. Don’t try to eat it, it is just for show and tell.  Bring it out to amaze your friends and family and they’ll ask "How did you DO that?"

Remember how you used to love to find a quiet "secret spot" when you were a kid? A place to think or read or share time with a friend?  Bean pole teepees are a great way to grow  delicious green beans AND provide your child with a little, shady, summertime fort. 

What you’ll need:
*8 – 6 foot or longer wooden garden stakes 
*package of pole bean seeds
*(Kentucky Wonders work great) 
*garden twine 
*patch of ground

Take four of the garden stakes and pound into the ground in a large circle. Bring the tops of the stakes together and bind with twine. This should resemble a teepee. Plant bean seeds according to package directions but leave a portion between two of the stakes unplanted. This will leave a "door" into the teepee without crushing the beans. Repeat this with the other four stakes about 4 feet away. Keep the seeds moist until they germinate. Help train the beans to climb by wrapping them around the stakes. Soon you will have a cool, leafy and delicious place to visit on a hot, summer day.

Short on time and space? How about growing a salad in a pot?

What you need:
* large plastic or clay pot with drainage holes 
* potting soil 
* lettuce seeds or starts 
* tomato starts 
*cucumber seeds or starts 
* 2 – 4 foot garden stakes 
* twine

Put your pot in a sunny spot and fill with soil. Pound both of your garden stakes into the back portion of the pot. Plant your cucumber seeds or starts at the base of one stake and your tomato plant at the base of the other. They will climb them vertically if you help them with a bit of twine. Plant your lettuce seeds or plants in the rest of the soil. Go ahead and crowd them in, it will look really neat and give you more lettuce to work with. The cucumber and tomato will continue to produce all summer. When your lettuce is gone, plant more and keep it going. Keep your pot nice and moist. Don’t let it dry out. Now you will have fresh salad fixin’s whenever you want. (Planting herbs in a pot works well too. Try herbs like sweet basil, chives, thyme and parsley.)

We all love to watch butterflies flutter by.  Did you know that these beautiful insects have favorite flowers from which to sip? It’s true. Here are a list of favorite flowers a butterfly would list if they could…

*Butterfly Flowers:  Aster~Butterfly Bush ~ Butterfly Weed ~ Black-eyed Susans ~ Carrot ~ Coreopsis ~ Daylily ~ Dill ~ Goldenrod ~ Hibiscus ~ Lavendar ~ Lilac ~ Marigold ~ Milkweed ~ Purple Coneflower ~ Rosemary ~ Verbena ~ Yarrow    

You can easily turn this into an educational way to teach the family about the different types of butterflies. Just get a butterfly identification book, plant your flowers and watch the magic.

*The Butterfly Book : An Easy Guide to Butterfly Gardening, Identification, and Behavior (or find others in the library).         

W A T E R   W O N D E R S   F O R   C H I L D R E N

Make a beautiful picture with a paper towel by dunking it into colored water?

What you’ll need:
*4 jar lids or small custard cups 
* 1 large bowl 
* food coloring 
*white paper towel or paper dinner napkin 
* 1 large paper sack

1.  Pour some water into each of the 4 jar lids.  Add about 10 drops of food coloring to each lid of water.

2.  Fold the paper towel into several layers.  Thoroughly dampen the folded paper towel into the large bowl with the clear water.  Squeeze out most of the water.  Flatten the towel, keeping it folded.

3.. Dip 1 corner into 1 of the colors.  Watch as the colored water soaks into the paper towel.  Repeat with the 3 remaining corners and 3 colors. Carefully unfold the wet paper towel.  Lay it on the paper sack.  Let dry.

You can create paper towel masterpieces with any colors you like.  Then, when your artwork dries, hang it in a window.  It also makes pretty wrapping paper for a small present.  Or use the artwork to fix popcorn bundles for a party.  Place popped corn in the middle of the paper towel, bring ends up and tie the top.

What you’ll need:
*small glass jar with tight lid 
*cooking oil 
*food coloring

Add water to the jar until it is half full.  Pour in enough cooking oil to almost fill the jar.  Add several drops of food coloring.  Screw the lid on tightly and let your children shake the jar.  Be careful of the glass jar, that it doesn’t break.  A clear plastic jar should also work. Notice how the oil and water separate into colorful squiggly designs. Now have them move the jar slowly back and forth. 

Make a bubble machine out of an empty margarine container.
What you’ll need:

*paring knife 
*1 empty margarine tub container 
* drinking straw 
*12 cup water 
*1 tblsp. dishwashing liquid

1. With adult help, cut a small round hole in one side of the margarine lid for the bubbles to come out.  Then cut a small X on the opposite side for the straw to fit into.

2. Add the water and liquid soap to the margarine tub.  With straw, stir to mix well.  Put the lid on.  Place the straw into the X.  Blow through the straw to make bubbles.

3.  Always remember to BLOW through the straw.  Do not suck, or you will taste the bubble solution!

What you’ll need:
*1 empty half-pint milk or juice carton 
*One 2 1/2 x 12 inch piece of construction paper 
*Crayons or markers 
*Potting soil
*Parakeet or budgie seed 

1. Thoroughly rinse out carton.  Open unopened flap of carton.  With adult help and working from the opened end of carton, use scissors to cut down 2 opposite corners just to the ridge.  Then, 1 side at a time, fold top inside the carton.  Cover the outside of carton with piece of construction paper.  Fasten with tape.

2. Use crayons to draw a face on the side of your paper-covered carton.

3. Fill the carton with potting soil.  Add enough water to make thick mud.  Sprinkle the seed on the top of the soil.

4. Place your garden near a sunny window.  Water garden when it is almost dry.  In a few days, your seeds will sprout.  Within 2 – 3 weeks, your garden will need a haircut.  Use your scissors to snip the green "hair" straight across the top.  Or trim it into a point.  Each time your
garden’s "hair" grows back, you can give it a new look with a different haircut.

This colorful gelatin mixture makes a great homemade rainbow.  It’s quick and easy to make and your children will enjoy squishing the cold brightly colored unflavored gelatin together.  For an additional activity, take the Rainbow Goop out of the plastic bag and use it as finger-painting material. 

What you’ll need:
*One 1-quart heavy duty ziploc plastic bag 
*Rainbow Goop
*Masking tape

Rainbow Goop
3/4 cup water
1 package unflavored gelatin
3 custard cups or bowls
Food coloring — red, yellow and blue

1. In a small saucepan stir together water and gelatin.  Let stand for 5 minutes to soften gelatin.

2. Cook and stir over low heat about 3 minutes or until gelatin dissolves.  Remove from heat.

3. Divide the mixture evenly among 3 custard cups (about 1/4 cup each). Add 3 – 5 drops red food coloring to 1 of the custard cups.  Stir well to mix.

4. Repeat with remaining gelatin with the yellow and blue food coloring.

5. Chill in the refrigerator 5 minutes or until partially set, stirring mixture during chilling.

6. Open plastic bag.  Use a spoon to put all 3 colors of Rainbow Goop inside the plastic bag in rows.

7. Close the bag.  Now open it just a little and push out all the air. CLose the bag again.  Seal the top with masking tape.  Now squeeze the bag gently with both hands to mix the colors into a beautiful rainbow. Watch how the pretty colors mix together and new colors appear.  Yellow and red make orange.  Yellow and blue make green.  Blue and red make purple.  What are the colors in your bag?

Have you ever made a mud pie and baked it in the sun?  Your grandparents may have done that, but why not try mud pies the old fashioned way yourself sometime?  This "mud pie" bakes in the oven though. 
What you’ll need:

*1-cup liquid measuring cup 
*dry measuring cups 
*measuring spoons
*1-gallon heavy duty ziploc bag 
*table fork  *8x8x2 inch baking pan
*hot pads 
*1 1/2 cups flour 
*1 cup sugar 
*1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
*1 teaspoon baking soda 
*1/2 teaspoon salt 
*1/3 cup cooking oil
*1 tablespoon vinegar 
*1 teaspoon vanilla 
*1 cup water

1. Wash hands.  With adult help, get out all the things you will need. In the plastic bag, place the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, soda and salt. Seal the bag and shake to mix.  Put the flour into the ungreased 8 inch square baking pan. 

2. Use a table fork to make a hole in the middle of the flour mixture. In the 1-cup liquid measuring cup, measure the oil.  Add the vinegar and vanilla.  Pour the oil mixture into the hole.  In the same measuring cup, measure the water and pour into the hole.

3. Use a table fork to stir together all ingredients.  With adult help, bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes.  Use hot pads to remove pan from oven.  Cool in the pan.  If desired, top a piece of cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup and a maraschino cherry. Serves 12.

by Terri Wilson

I found several 10×13 picture mats on clearance at a craft store. I couldn’t resist but didn’t know what to do with them. I ended up sponge painting one of them to match my kitchen colors and stenciled "Artwork by Hannah" (my four-year-old) at the top of one of them. I glued a magnet in each of the four inside corners on the back. Now when my daughter draws a new masterpiece we stick it up on the fridge and it’s easily changed when the next one comes along. We also made these as gifts for the grandparents and we try to mail them new pictures at least once a month.

Tip #2 for artwork… because I don’t have room to store every piece of my children’s artwork I needed a way to save the memory without the paper. I homeschool and my older daughter has a lot of artwork she’d like to save. I used bulletin board border strips and created a large bulletin board area on our schoolroom wall. All of my daughter’s artwork (that is capable of being hung up) is hung up on this board. At the end of the month I have my daughter stand by the board and I take her picture. I’ve got 9 pictures from the last school year where I can not only see her artistic progress, but also her physical growth as she gets taller. I can save the important pieces (like the first time she wrote her name by herself), but I no longer have to save everything.

You could save the most special works of art in a covered box or in notebooks, with the child’s name and date on each piece.  I have a box of each child’s drawings and artwork, stored under the living room sofa — it’s amazing how a skirted sofa can expand your storage space!  A small round table with a long tablecloth is another hidden storage spot.  The coat closet shelves are a good place to store baby books and photo albums.  You might want to think of having your photos and certain things readily accessible in case of a fire, so they could be grabbed on your way out the door, if are in immediate danger.  A small chair or bench nearby would be helpful in reaching the higher shelves in your coat closet.  If your closet has only one shelf, most likely another one can be added to use all of the empty space and expand your storage
efficiency. ~~  Lois

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