You aimed to rent a beach house the Big Island this summer for your family, but alas, the economy has downsized your plans to include only cold showers at home.
That said, you and your kids can substitute a costly vacation with a smashing â€œstaycationâ€ here in Texas. All it takes is a little imagination and perhaps some phone calls. And just think: You'll have the luxury of your own washing machine, which, when enjoyed with a frosty margarita, is a beautiful thing.
Here are ten things you can do locally when the weather heats up.
Send your children to â€œMom Camp.â€ Invite four or five parents to form a co-op for a week-long â€œcamp.â€ Each adult takes one day then plans and oversees a themed play date for a four-hour block of time. Each day includes a craft using recycled household goods, traditional games like hide-and-seek, outdoor free play, a story borrowed from the library and a snack. Consider themes like â€œthe ocean,â€ â€œouter space,â€ â€œcircus,â€ or â€œsummer.â€ For inspiration on crafts and games, see www.familyfun.com. Budget: $30 per kid.
Spend a week rating ice cream parlors. Take your kids to sample the wares of our community's ice cream shops. Have your children draw up a chart then assign points to each shop for their store's variety, product quality, atmosphere, etc. Then, have your foodies write a review of the stores. (If they don't have the endurance to write yet, you can play secretary for them.) Budget: $25 per kid.
Host a spontaneous bike parade. Invite the neighborhood clan over to decorate their bikes and trikes then peddle the creations through the streets for their adoring fans (ie. parents). Use recycled Christmas ribbon, latex balloons, old toilet paper rolls, streamers and other craft box floatsome and jetsome to personalize every ride. Designate one child to carry the boom box to broadcast summer tunes. Non-riders can carry pom-poms, twirl batons or march. Budget: $1 per kid.
Design a puppet show. Put all those lonesome socks hanging out in the laundry room to use by making hand puppets. Use paper, pompoms, yard, etc. to decorate each character. No puppet stage? No worries: Have your children stand on the couch and raise their hands above their heads to display their puppets. Take the show further by making tickets and selling popcorn. Budget: Free.
Create an outdoor kids' museum. String an old sheet up on a laundry line and fill spray bottles with watered down tempra paint. Have your children spray the sheet to make innovative designs. Warning: The paint will sprinkle the kids, so be sure to have everyone wear old clothing. Bonus: When the project is done, have everyone run through the hose then leap into the swimming pool or a warm mid-day bath. Budget: $5 per kid.
Take advantage of free trials. Sample classes at local gyms like WinKids, Gymboree, the Little Gym and Excite as well as dance studios all of which offer complimentary trials. Your kids will get exercise in an air-conditioned environment, you'll get an hour off duty, the hosts will receive free publicity when you tell your pals how much fun you all had. Budget: Free.
Help lost animals. Many of the area's shelters welcome children who can gently pet wayward dogs and cats in an attempt to keep them socialized. This is a great opportunity to discuss the idea of â€œhomeâ€ with children, the concept of adoption and the importance of volunteering. Be careful, though. If you get too involved in the project you might bring home a beagle. Budget: Free, but donation recommended.
Strive for a strike. Even three-year-olds get a kick out of pushing a big, black bowling ball down the wooden lane if there are bumpers to help guide it. Older kids will enjoy putting their Wii skills to use in a real-world adventure. You will get a kick out of remembering high school as Belinda Carlisle and the Go-Gos sing â€œVacationâ€ while you slide across the floors in those killer sueded shoes. We like AMF in Lewisville for their less-expensive rates and retro feel. Budget: $10 per kid.
Roll with it. Once you've mastered bowling, your ready for roller skating. At Interskate Roller Rink in Lewisville, your little ones can get their sea legs atop four-wheeled skates in a special tyke rink that includes guard rails. This hidden gem even offers a live DJ who takes requests. They might even play â€œFruit Saladâ€ by The Wiggles if you bring your own CD. Budget: $3 per kid on Bargain Night plus skate rental. Check www.interskate.net for coupons and free skate nights.
Request a tour. It is amazing how many local businesses provide educational tours of their facilities if you simply ask nicely and/or beg. Pull together a group of five playmates and visit the city's recycling plant, the Great Harvest Bread Company, a local shoe cobbler, Grapevine's glass blowing studio or the DFW airport where gearheads will enjoy riding the trams from terminal to terminal. Most intriguing is a trip to Flower Mound's lone alpaca farm called Nana's Pacas where Nana and her husband will teach you about on the cousin of the llama. They'll let you pet the animals and show samples of the goodies that alpaca fur makes. Budget: Treasures or treats cost up to $20 per kid.
Julie Blair is a freelance journalist based in the Dallas area. She loves to roller skate with her four-year-old twins. Her personal blog can be found at: www.chocolatecoveredpajamas.blogspot.com.
What is YOUR favorite staycation activity?