For many parents, summer is a challenge because they need to keep their small children busy all day for the next 12 weeks or so without breaking the bank. Here are some suggestions.

1 – Free or Cheap Summer Camp

Summer camp is often the best option for working parents. Most camps run by the Y, or perhaps a local school, are affordable. There will usually be a small additional fee per week for early drop-off and late pick-up, but it will be a lot cheaper than hiring a childminder.

The Y also offers scholarships. Parents need to apply early. Summer camp is usually a balance of physical activities, and arts and crafts. It’s a great chance for children to make new friends and learn new things.

2 – Staying with Relatives

Working parents might consider having the children visit grandparents, or aunts and uncles, for example. Or one of those relatives might be willing to stay to help out.

Going to visit will usually mean them getting to explore a whole new area, while a staycation at home can mean making a list of all the local things to do that are cheap but fun. This includes the park, country walks, and other things that get kids out of the house and away from the TV and/or computer.

3 – Camping

Camping is always great fun and teaches children a lot of different skills. You don’t even have to buy a lot of equipment or go very far. Camping is available at state and national parks; some parks are more equipped than others, so you might only have to bring food.

In large cities, there is also often overnight camping that comes complete with tents and food, including s’mores. Reserve ahead of time and check the weather before you go.

If you have a back yard, let the kids camp out there. Or let them turn the living room into a fort. Get in some snacks and tell stories.

4 – Outdoor Games

Egg and spoon races, sack races, tag, tug of war, and so on, can all be great fun. Come up with a little prize for each winner. Invite your children’s friends to join you for the day, but do make sure parents stay to supervise their own little ones.

5 – Indoor Games

Hide and seek, treasure hunt, tea party, dress up, creating your own play, a talent show, and so on can also help keep children occupied and let them use their imaginations.

6 – A Board Game Tournament

Get out all the family board games and take turns playing them. Keep a tally of who wins what and award prizes.

7 – A Card Game Tournament

Get out the cards for go fish, rummy and more, to see who comes out the winner. Keep a tally and award prizes.

8 – Cheap Movies

See free or cheap kids’ movies. Many movie theater chains show them early on weekday mornings in the summer. Also, check out your local listings to see what is on offer. Some public parks show movies in the evenings. You can bring along a picnic. Your local library may also show kids’ DVDs.

9 – Make the Most of the Library this Summer

Speaking of libraries, it’s good for all children to keep up with their reading over the summer. Teachers will often give a reading list and expect a brief book report on each book that the child has read. If not, ask your child’s teacher for some recommendations and head to the library.

Also borrow DVDs. See if there are any visiting authors scheduled to give talks, or any other special events that are age-appropriate for your child.

Try these ideas to help keep your little ones busy this summer.