5 Inexpensive, Summer Fun Ideas for Kids + a way to control screen time

Summer is in full swing in our house. We are loving the relaxed schedule, but with it come the need for some ideas to keep the kids busy. Since this site is about being thrifty, here are some of the ideas we have tried so far and most of them don’t require you to buy anything.

DIY Bird Feeder


This project is very inexpensive and my kids loved doing it. I suggest doing it outside because it can be pretty messy depending on the age of your kids. The only item I didn’t have was birdseed, but I was able to purchase a box of seed at Walmart for $1.97. You will also need toilet paper rolls, some peanut butter and something to hang it with. Yarn would work great, I used floral wire cause that was the first thing I found in the craft bin. Just spread the peanut butter on the toilet paper roll and sprinkle birdseed on top. (We put our wire in first so we weren’t trying to string it through the peanut butter and bird seed.)

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30 Day Lego Challenge

If you want to help your kids imagination, this one is for you. This 30 Day Lego Challenge forces kids to use their imaginations instead of the step by step directions that come with the Lego sets. My son ended up spending over an hour doing his first creation and hasn’t stopped playing Lego’s since. It has, all of a sudden, spurred his desire to create stuff.

Another Lego activity we loved was this Lego candy dispenser.


It was super easy to build and used pieces that were really common with most Lego sets. It only took us about 45 minutes, including trying to find the pieces in my sons massive box of Lego’s.

Creative Kid’s Cooking Challenge


If you have a kid who is interested in cooking, this would be a fun activity. John and I love watching the Food Network and they currently have a show called Chopped Junior running. John really wants to be on the show but I told him he will need a lot of practice to get ready. This is a fun way to get your young cooks in the kitchen by starting them off with simple tasks, while making it a fun game at the same time.

Hands Free Bubbles

If you follow Simple & Thrifty on Facebook, you’ve already seen this, but I thought it would go well in our list of cheap summer ideas. Bubble are a timeless activity that all kids seem to love. If you have children like mine, the bubble solution runs out very quickly. We have one child who is a bubble dumper and another one who bends over and accidentally spills all her bubbles. In order to remedy the problem, I taped the tall bubble wands to our deck stair rails and now it’s much easier for the kids to play bubbles. I’m sure this concept would also work with the small bottles of bubbles. They love not having to hold the bubble solution and I love that I don’t have spilled bubbles all over the place.

Summer Vacation Screen Time Rules

It’s hard to always have activities planned for your kids and you shouldn’t have too. It’s important that they can learn to entertain themselves for awhile so you are able to do the things you have to. It’s very easy to allow the TV and other electronics to take over during the summer when the kids start complaining that they are bored. I had a feeling this would happen in our house, so before school got out, I found this nifty chart on Pinterest to give John a list of things to do in order to earn screen time. What usually happens is he gets distracted by doing one of the activities and a long time goes by before he remembers to move on to the next item on the list. I have it posted on our fridge so I don’t have to keep telling him what to do, he knows that he just has to go look at the list. It makes my life much easier.

Stay tuned for more great inexpensive ideas to keep your kids busy this summer.




















Everyday is a Gift

I recently read a quote by Lysa TerKeurst, an author and public speaker, who had recently experienced what doctors called a medical miracle. The quote says, “When the baby is crying and the deadlines are pressing and the stress is mounting and the enemy whispers “just get through this crappy day.” Look up and shame the enemy back to hell by acknowledging today is a gift.”

We’ve all heard people say familiar quotes such as, “Life is Short” and “Everyday is a gift”, but it wasn’t until Lysa added the last part on there, that I realized that there are a lot of days that my goal is to just get through the hard, stressful and” crappy” days. To survive. In the past, those expression always seemed appropriate when someone close to me was injured or passed away too soon, but I never thought they applies to the stress of daily life.

You know the saying, “tomorrow is a new day”, but by always looking to tomorrow, I’ve missed so many precious opportunities and memories that could have been salvaged from the rest of the each day. I would mentally check out and allow the stress and frustration of the day to distract me from what was truly important and tell myself, that tomorrow would be better….just make it to tomorrow.

This week, Daniel and I decided to cut out all sugar and any other junk that we would occasionally eat and by the end of the first day I had a massive headache. I survived and got through the day by looking forward to the next day. Day 2 was not much better and I found myself dragging through the day and for the first time ever, I yelled at one of my kids. I’m not a yeller…I tend to say “please” and “no thank you” when I am correcting them and pretty much always talk to them calmly even when they probably could use a slightly raised voice of correction.

Well, Joshua would not stop going in the fridge, Abigail had just spilled her cereal all over her lap and the floor and I was already currently cleaning up Joshua’s spilled cereal. I yelled very loudly, “Stop It” to him to get him to leave the fridge alone. He stopped immediately and started crying. I felt like the worst mom ever. I had clearly scared him. (although I did note that maybe a slight raise in my normal voice might produce a little bit of healthy fear in him, maybe even enough to get him to listen better.)

I was tempted to throw in the towel on the rest of the day. I quickly swore off dieting because it makes me grouchy and made me yell at my kids. I told myself that tomorrow would run smoother and maybe I wouldn’t be so grouchy from sugar deprivation but then I remembered that quote and realized that I had 8 more hours to spend with these kids. Was I going to waste those 8 precious hours and not poor my heart and soul into all the moments we had for the rest of the day and salvage what was left, even if it wasn’t any better than the start of the day? Was I going to be grouchy to them for the rest of the day because the day was” worthless” now that I had messed up?

Now, when I complain about just wanting a moment to sit down or wish my kids would just play quietly and not need me to play with them all the time, I remind myself that every day is a gift. What if tomorrow never comes? What would my kids remember of our last days together? Did I mentally check out when things got overwhelming? Or, did they know that I loved them and gave my all to showing them that, regardless of the circumstances of the day or their behavior? Did I show them that they are more important than all the struggles of the day? Did I grab my phone to mentally check out or grab them and hug them and tell them how much they mean to me?


Everyday will not be perfect, I am sure I will fail miserably most days, but by having this phrase visible in my house, it will be a moment by moment reminder that each day is a gift. A gift I get to spend with 3 beautiful children and an amazing husband, all who love me. We have a home and a job which is more than a lot of other people. No matter how hard life gets, being alive is a gift we should celebrate every day.




Schools Out for Summer!



Summer vacation is here!

In the past I have always dreaded these almost three months of no school, but this year I have my bucket list of ideas ready to go and am so excited to enjoy this summer vacation with my family. We picked activities that would be possible to do with Joshua, but that everyone would enjoy doing.

To celebrate the last day of school, we made homemade pizza, had a water fight and made s’mores on our new fire pit that was built just in time for the special occasion. We ended the evening by watching Zootopia as a family. It was such a fun way to end the school year and a great way to usher in vacation.


We bought these balloons special for this occasion, plus a few extra packs to use over the summer. I got them really cheap, so I couldn’t be too disappointed when they weren’t as awesome as I had hoped, (see all the random balloons that are floating in the water, those were the duds) but the kids still loved them. (The duds are still far better than filling them all by hand!)




Then the fun part, the opportunity to throw things at John, while he ran away laughing hysterically…..he finally got smart and starting using the sandbox cover as a shield, but not before he got totally soaked. So fun!


The kids were super excited to use our new fire pit. They had helped their dad build it the night before and were looking forward to roasting marshmallows and making s’mores all day.

Since we will be away celebrating our 10th Anniversary next weekend, I bought Daniel two Adirondack chairs to use around the fire pit for an early Father’s Day present from the kids. The 2 smaller kids already had Adirondack chairs and John got one as a gift from his grandparents for finishing 3rd Grade, so everyone had a place to sit. It was fun to see the kids get so excited over roasting marshmallows. This was such a fun activity to do as a family and I’m sure we are going to be getting a lot of use out of our fire pit this summer.



I don’t know why we waited so long to make a fire pit! The moment I sat in one of those Adirondack chairs and put my feet up, I honestly did not want to get back up (until the kids started yelling about needing something lol). I know where I’ll be sitting this summer while I watch the kids play outside.


This boy was so focused on making perfect s’mores for everyone. I think this was the highlight of the evening for him.


I’m excited to write about all of our summer plans as we do them. I’d really love to hear what fun things are on your bucket list to do with your kids this summer.