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10 Inexpensive ways to create great summer memories with your kids

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A mother of 10 shares her secrets for making fun, affordable memories for the whole family.

With 10 kids, sometimes summer means I need to be something of a Julie McCoy, the cruise director from the old show, The Love Boat. Based on my years of experience, here are some of the more successful means of fighting off summer doldrums when you have more than one person to entertain and want to create some low-budget, high-impact summer memories …

Create a movie night

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Make it an experience. First, take everyone out of their “preference zone”… pick movies that are oldies but goodies, musicals, mysteries or foreign, but make sure they aren’t things the kids have already seen or can find on Netflix. Serve popcorn and oversized candies, and seat everyone.

Teach your kids how to cook

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A whole meal, from start to finish, appetizers to dessert. This works best with multiple ages, but if they’re in on the planning, shopping and preparing, you also might be able to sneak a few more vegetables into the menu and I promise, the dessert will rock.

Paint a room

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Every kid loves to paint, no matter the age. Painting a room — particularly if it’s one of the kids’ rooms — is a big deal. As a bonus, pitch a tent for the first night, so the kids don’t have to breathe in the fumes. They’ll love the coolness of flashlights and sleeping bags in the back yard, and you get the bonus of a painted room, camping without having to endure an air mattress yourself, and they’ll sit there with cards, a radio and comics and everyone comes away a winner.

Sign up for a 5K

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I hate running, but running a 5k with all our kids, that was fun. It’s not an everyday thing, but everyone felt proud when they finished.

Karaoke night

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If you have teens (and I do), one way to keep them in line is to prove you have no shame. Singing karaoke in public, and having your spouse video it, guarantees good behavior for fear you’ll share said performance on their social media. Singing karaoke with your teens means you’ve got better pipes than me (probably), and that your kids know you’d be willing to post it on social media.

Game day!

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We have Scrabble, Farkle, Monopoly, Clue, and heaven knows how many other games in the closet. Today, we are Game Masters of Triskelion. As a bonus, keep track of the stats, with a thousand quatloos (or ice cream if you prefer) to the winner.

Plan a picnic at a park

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Again, involving the kids in the process brings them into part of the joy, and it also makes the process itself less wearying because it isn’t one-person dependent. Someone will think about brining the bubbles, and you’ll remember to get the sunscreen. Another person will see you getting the sunscreen and be off to find the sunglasses. We use a dry erase board to write down all we need and check off as we go, and to add the flourishes that turn it from just a day at the park into something just a little bit more.

Water balloons and washing the cars

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It’s a perfect thing when it’s too much work to go to the pool, or there’s not enough time, and everyone’s a little on edge. Being legitimately able to pelt the car with exploding bags of water eliminates a lot of micro-aggression. Sometimes my teens miss the car and hit me, and sometimes, I’m a terrible shot and well, the teens get wet.

Book day

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Everyone gets a blanket, a stack of comics or books and a soda and/or ice cream. There are no screens, no phones, and you are only allowed to go inside to refill a water bottle, go the bathroom or get a new book. (It’s easier to sell if you’ve been to the library the day before, but if you hold firm and hand out the cold drinks, they actually come to love this day).

Skip rocks, hike day

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Most of my kids know how to skip rocks because we’ve gone to a park where there’s a creek and I’ve taught them, but it does need a good afternoon of finding and throwing rocks to get the knack of it, and honestly, it’s time well spent. Don’t dress them to get wet, let them roll up their pants and take off their shoes, it’s part of the fun.

Hope your summer is full of fun memories, both silly and sweet. Just make sure you’re part of them and not just the transportation and funding. Note to self: Need to pick up more water balloons.

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