When my kids are home during the summer, they act like ravenous little beasts wanting to eat more than the Incredible Hulk. In order to keep my sanity and my money, I have a few tricks up my sleeves.

The most important thing is to keep them busy. As many of us with a few extra pounds know, boredom can lead to eating. I have experienced the summer season both as a full-time worker and as a stay-at-homer and while being at work all day and sending your child to an all-day summer camp is easy, keeping them at home can be a little trickier.

I like to develop a schedule for my kids that help them stay occupied and decrease their opportunity and desire for unnecessary snacking.

You can find a schedule on Pinterest, the Holy Grail of everything for everything, or you can make one. I write mine with dry eraser on my refrigerator, but you can write it on paper and stick it in a place it is easily seen.

Here is a sample of one I wrote for my boys the other day:

Eat breakfast.

Work in your workbook (I buy the Summer Bridge Activity book for my kids that help their brains retain the information they learned in school. You can pick on up from Barnes & Noble for only $10!)

Play outside for 20 minutes (Make sure you have sidewalk chalk, bubbles, balls, sprinklers and any other fun outside activity they can dabble with.)

Pick a book (according to your child’s reading level) and read for 30 minutes.

Watch an approved TV show for 30 minutes.

Eat lunch.

Play outside for 20 minutes.

Read Psalms 3 and 4 (or whatever Bible verses you want them to read).

This list is a good way for children to learn some independence as well as staying busy.

Some other activities we like to do is to buy a season pass to a local pool or waterpark. On days that we just want some fun in the sun or if the kids seem to have a little cabin fever, a trip to the pool or waterpark can be just what the doctor, or mom, ordered.

There are great community programs that aren’t expensive that many people load their kids up and cart to, but I can never keep up with all of them. I have four children in several different age brackets and it is almost a full-time job knowing what activity is when and where.

I prefer to make my own summer reading lists, provide outdoor fun, encourage them to make minor and controlled messes, and learning, all in the comfort of my home.

As for summer meals? I shop at Sam’s to save money on some bulk items that make for totally kid-friendly food, such as individual bags of chips and hot pockets, but the most fun is guiding the kids to make their own snacks.

Throwing washed grapes in the freezer for a couple of hours makes a healthy and refreshingly fun treat. I always have a box of brownies and ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies, but one of our favorite things to make is homemade ice cream.

One of my personal faves is to stay up late watching a movie. The kids think they are living the kid’s dream by making it past midnight, and then they all sleep till 10 o’clock the next morning. It is a win-win for me.

Whatever your family situation, the summer season can be a ton of fun for both you and your little minions, without breaking the bank or your back.

Jennifer Watson is a Herald correspondent.

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