Summer Boredom And An Empty Wallet? Look No Further Than The Backyard

School is out, the kids are home, and they’re probably already complaining of boredom.

Are you looking for fun but inexpensive ideas to keep the family entertained this summer?

Look no further than your own backyard for a day the kids can help plan and one the whole family will want to make an annual tradition.

Summer activities can be expensive.  From amusement parks to the county fair, parents can be faced with a couple-hundred-dollar price tag just for one afternoon.

And the movies?  Well, seeing one family film with enormous and ridiculously expensive snacks and drinks can set you back another hundred or so.  (Remember when you could buy some gummy bears and hide them in your purse?  No longer – movie theaters have caught on and most now check bags.  Yeah, we know.)

Have no fear.  We’ve got the perfect idea to fill a summer evening, and the more creative you are, the less expensive it will be.  Or it may not cost you a thing depending on what you have on hand at home.

It’s family movie night!  But this isn’t just planting everyone in front of the TV to keep them quiet.  This is an activity the kids will be excited about as they help plan it.

You can turn your backyard into a movie theater with ease.  You just need a projector, an old sheet, and some treats the kids can make.

Most of us either have, or know someone who has, an old projector in the attic with those old home movies laying around.  If you plan ahead of time, you’re sure to find someone who will lend you one, and many libraries also offer them for rental, along with some old-timey films.

Or if you’re in the mood for something a little more modern, many retailers sell projectors for smartphones for a reasonable price.  (Usually under a hundred dollars, but well worth the investment since once you try this activity, the kids are sure to ask to do it on a regular basis!)  And with a projector for your iPhone or other smartphone, any of the kids’ favorite movies can be streamed online and become the feature of the night.

No movie is complete without lots of fun snacks and drinks, and there are plenty of easy treats the kids can help make, or make themselves.

First, you’ve got to have popcorn, right?  Forget about those chemical-laden bags of microwave popcorn.  Just grab a paper lunch bag, throw in a cup of kernels and microwave until popped.  Or, popcorn can be made (by Mom or Dad) the old-fashioned way on the grill or firepit by placing kernels and oil in a lidded pot, shaking them around until done.

How about some good old-fashioned ice cream cones – but this time, the kids can make the ice cream themselves! No need for an ice cream machine, either.  (See, we told you this wouldn’t be an expensive activity!)

You’ll need a cup of half-and-half, two tablespoons of sugar, some vanilla extract, ice and salt.  Place everything except the ice and salt in a zippered sandwich-sized bag.  In a gallon-sized zipper bag, place about a half-cup of kosher or rock salt and three cups of ice.  Put the smaller bag inside the larger one and have the kids take turns shaking the mixture until it reaches the consistency of ice cream.

This can be scooped into cones or you can make a sundae bar on the picnic table and let the kids pick their favorite toppings.  This can even be a healthy treat when topped with berries, pine nuts, or homemade granola.

And movie-time treats like smoothies or milkshakes can be even more fun by making a game out of it.  The kids can write or draw pictures on sticky notes with different flavor combinations.  They can be placed in a hat and mom or dad can pick, or you can take an old board game spinner and cover the game’s original choices with the sticky note options.  Let someone spin and then make that flavor!

This method can also be used to choose the movie in the first place because, of course, the kids will be fighting on what movie they want to see!

Grab some blankets and pillows, or even an old tent the kids can sit in while they watch the movie and start the adventure.

Want to take movie night up a notch?  Grab some old cardboard boxes of a good size the kids can comfortably sit in (many stores will give them to you free if you ask).  Cut off one of the long ends and let the kids make their own “car” with paints or markers earlier in the day.  Fill the car with pillows and they can sit back in their homemade “drive-in” to watch the movie.

After the movie, have your kids write a “movie review” about what you watched.  What were their favorite parts of the film?  Would they recommend it to a friend?  Older kids can keep their writing skills sharp during summer break and little ones can draw pictures of their favorite movie characters.

Sit around the firepit or on some old blankets and pillows and let the kids read their movie reviews to you.  They’ll love being the center of attention – and they can try to mimic the voices of the characters or act out their favorite parts of the movie as well.

And if you want to get extra creative and keep the kids busy for a few days, have them write their own movie, complete with plans for scenery and their own script.  Mom or Dad can film a bit at a time throughout the week, and then it’s time for the backyard premier!

If you’ve searched high and low and no one has a projector you can borrow, and if the cost of a smartphone projector is just not a luxury you can afford, you can still create memories with these ideas.  But instead of a movie, have the kids put on their own play in full costume for mom and dad, or they can make puppets and put on a shadow play.

Using that old sheet, the kids can decorate background scenery for their play.  Or grab a flashlight or lantern and let them use the sheet for their shadow play or nighttime puppet show.

After your movie or performance – and with tummies full of homemade treats – lay back on your blankets and looks at the stars.  Catch fireflies and let the kids release them after giving them names.  Take turns planning your next backyard “staycation” before the kids go off to bed.

Summertime activities don’t have to be expensive.  Most of the time, we spend hundreds of dollars on the amusement park or other day trip with the kids and we have little to show for it but cranky kids with stomachaches and an empty wallet.

Planning and implementing a family fun day at home will reap much larger rewards, like teaching the kids to make due with what’s on hand and to enjoy simply being together as a family.

And the more, the merrier, when you invite some friends and neighbors to take part in the big show.  Young or old, this will create special memories everyone will cherish.

Have you ever had a backyard movie night or had your kids put on a performance on a summer evening?  Leave us your ideas in the comments.

 

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