Create your own summer camp for less

Summer camp is a great way to keep your kids active and entertained. But not all of us can afford the luxury. The average sleep-away camp costs $690 a week per child, according to the American Camp Association, and some camps can exceed $2,000. Even a typical day camp runs $304 a week. So what do you do if you’re on a budget but want to prevent your kids from spending hours in front of the TV all summer? Kiplinger’s outlines tips to create your own summer camp for less.

The tips include:

  • Day 1: Learn survival skills—show kids how to use a compass and a map. Then send them on a scavenger hunt that requires them to use their new skills. If you have older children, teach them about animal tracking and head to the woods to see if they can find and identify tracks.

  • Day 2: Pick berries—take the kids to a pick-your-own berry patch early in the day before it gets hot. When you get home with your bounty, you can make jam, scones or muffins. Then celebrate your hard work with a tea party that includes what you and the kids made. You can either do this all in one day or spread the activities out over a week.

  • Day 3: Take a hike—an easy activity in your own yard, which makes it easy for younger children, is a bug hike. Use a magnifying glass, jars and paper to examine, collect or record the bugs you see. You can also take a wild edible hike, sampling the things in fields, forests or your backyard that can be eaten. Another option is a creek hike; many state parks have waterways that are accessible to the public. Hike upstream through a shallow creek, turning over rocks and discovering what lives under and around them.

  • Day 4: Create a wildlife habitat or garden—show kids that it’s ok to get their hands a little dirty by planting vegetables and herbs they can eat or flowers and native plants to attract wildlife. You can even do this in a few large pots if you don’t want to dig up your yard.

  • Day 5: Camp out—show your kids how to pitch a tent, either in your backyard or at a campground. Teach them how to build a fire and bring along food that you can cook over an open flame. When it gets dark, look up at the stars and try to identify constellations.

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