My six grandkids are my pride and joy. But make no mistake about it--they are an expensive joy. They all live at least two hours from my home, and each expects to spend a week with Grandma this summer, where they expect to be wined and dined and entertained. Fortunately, apple juice and picnics qualify as wining and dining. Entertainment takes more thought, and this year, I am determined to keep the costs of entertainment down.
I take my grandkids in pairs. First to come will be the 4 year old grandson and his 5 year old sister. The following week, they will return home and I'll have their two older sisters, ages 9 and 10. The third week, I'll have my 14 year old grandson. He has an 18 year old sister who is headed for college and considers herself too old to come with him, though she will probably come for one week-end while her brother is here.
I've been exploring what is available for free in and around my city. It helps that this is the major urban area in the state.
Back in March, when I got my tax return, I invested $250 in a family + grandchildren pass at both the local science museum and the local zoo. While I got the passes to use with my grandkids, I've already recovered the value of each just for myself and my daughter along with various visitors I've had the last few months.
The great thing about a pass is that I don't feel guilty spending only an hour or two at the museum or the zoo because I know I can always come back without spending more money.
For my youngest grandchildren, the local library promises to be a major resource. All the branches have twice-weekly readings and storytelling for toddlers. They also have arts & crafts on Saturday mornings.
The city parks department has free children's programs plus lunch on weekdays. I live within walking distance of two different city parks featuring these programs. One of the parks has a sophisticated, monitored waterworks that will be particularly useful if, as I suspect it will be, it is hot outdoors. I can use the city parks programs not only for the toddlers, but for the two older girls as well.
The nearby wetlands park has a free parent/child guided walk every Friday morning.
The neighborhood association sponsers Friday evening concerts. I wonder if two picnics a day will be overkill?
Entertainment for the 14 year old may be tougher, since his taste runs more toward video arcades and first-run movies. But I now have a secret weapon for the movies--one of my daughters is a manager at a local mall multi-plex. I may still have to buy price-inflated popcorn, but admission will be free. And another daughter lives in a complex with a swimming pool, which I think my grandson will enjoy.
While there will be a cost to having my grandkids this summer, I am surprised at the number of ways I should be able to hold down expense without cutting down on their fun.