Centsible Mom: Inexpensive ways to keep kids occupied in summer

2013-04-28T00:00:00Z 2013-04-28T20:10:56Z Centsible Mom: Inexpensive ways to keep kids occupied in summerAngela Pittenger Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 28, 2013 12:00 am  • 

I can't believe the school year is just about over. Wasn't it just last week we stood there, tears in our eyes, as our little man marched off to his first day of kindergarten?

Remember how exciting it was to look forward to summer vacation?

Now, it's a whole different ballgame. Instead of dreaming of lazy days off, I'm trying to figure out what my son is going to do for summer break while we work. Fun things that won't cost a lot.

I'm fortunate that my mother-in-law lives nearby, and that she loves to have her grandson. So, we don't have to worry about finding an all-day program.

For those who do need an all-day program, Tucson Parks and Recreation offers KIDCO at various locations. It costs $125 for four weeks, which is super cheap. A lot of day camps and programs cost at least that much per week. They do all kinds of activities, like sports and arts and crafts.

I learned about it from my friend and coworker Rosita Gonzalez. She said her kids really enjoy it and it's affordable.

You have to register by May 19 for the summer session. Find more information online at www.tucsonaz.gov/parksandrec .

If you don't need an all-day program, but want the kids to take some classes, Parks and Recreation has lots of great options in various categories like arts and crafts, dance and health and fitness.

They don't cost much, either. I'm enrolling my son in the hip-hop dance class. It's a weekly class that lasts about two months, and it costs $48.

Pima County Public Library offers a summer reading program, which gives kids incentive to keep reading even though they're out of school.

Candy Douglas, a full-time student and mother of three, takes advantage of this program.

"The kids love it," Douglas said. "And it keeps them reading through the entire summer since they have to read so many hours to get their prizes."

Once you sign up, you get a tracker to mark your progress. Kids can either set their own goal or use the library's set goals of reading a certain number of books or reading a certain amount of time.

When they reach that goal, they go to the library and get a sticker and an activity card. Sometimes they also get free books.

"They're working their way to a Breakers Water Park pass," said Kenya Johnson, community relations manager for Pima County Public Library. Another reward is a zoo party hosted by Reid Park Zoo with activities and giveaways. "It's a good way to recognize their achievements," Johnson said.

Sign up for the reading program at any library on May 24. The program runs through July 20.

Shelly Tucker, who has two young children at home, likes to keep her kids busy during the summer. She tries to find indoor activities during the heat of the day.

Tucker's kids participate in the "kids bowl free" program, which allows them two free games of bowling every day during the summer. All you have to do is register at kidsbowlfree.com

"That's a really good one," Tucker said. "It's free, except for the $2 shoe rental, which is nothing ... and if I have other kids at the house, we can go and not spend a lot of money.

"That's a big deal."

Once you sign your kids up, you'll get coupons emailed to you every week. For $24.95, you can register up to four adults to get two games a day as well. So, if your kids are with grandma or a baby sitter during the summer, they'd be able to play too.

Participating bowling alleys locally are Cactus Bowl, Fiesta Lanes, Lucky Strike, Santa Cruz and Tucson Bowl. The program runs from May 15 to Aug. 31.

Did you know you can find free movies this summer, as well?

Discount theaters Crossroads, 4811 E. Grant Road, and Oracle View, 4690 N. Oracle Road, offer free movies for kids ages 10 and under Mondays through Fridays. Tickets are $2 for everyone else. It starts May 28 and runs for 10 weeks. Movies start at 10 a.m. at Crossroads and 11 a.m. at Oracle View.

A different movie is featured each week.

Cinemark Theaters also offers discounted movies for kids during the summer. If you get your tickets in advance, it's 10 films for $5. If you get them the day of the movie, they're $1 each. Movies are on Tuesday mornings. See Cinemark.com for a schedule.

Don't forget the city's public swimming pools. Adults get in for $2 and kids get in for $1.

If you have little kids, the malls all have air-conditioned play areas. Bring a book for you and let them run around for free.

More stuff to do

• Children's Museum Tucson, 200 S. Sixth Ave., has free admission the second Saturday of every month.

• Volunteer at an animal shelter, such as Pima Animal Care Center or the Humane Society of Southern Arizona.

• Water balloons cost about $1.

• Create an alphabet journal. Get the camera and a notebook. Go to different locations and take pictures of things that start with letters of the alphabet. Get photos printed and paste them in.

• You can get a Summer Fun Pass at Skate Country, 7980 E. 22nd St. They're $50, but you can go every day from 1 to 4 p.m. May 28 through Aug. 4.

• Have the kids wash your car. Cools them off, and you get your car cleaned.

• Let the kids design T-shirts using thrift store finds and fabric paint.

• Invite the kids to make scrapbook pages for the family album.

• Go camping at home. Pitch a tent in the yard, grill some food and enjoy the night air.

• If you have a simple point-and-shoot digital camera, give your kids photo assignments and see what they come up with.

• Get a plastic boat at the dollar store and go to Reid Park. On the east side of the park is a stream they can float the boat down. Just grab it before it hits the duck pond.

• Bookmans has free family-friendly events. See bookmans.com for a schedule.

• The Pima County Public Library has tons of free events for kids and teens. See www.library.pima.gov for a full calendar.

"Centsible Mom" Angela Pittenger shares ideas, tips and news stories about how Tucsonans can stretch their budgets. Send your ideas to her at apitteng@azstarnet.com or call 573-4137.

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