Summer is upon us, and while visions of lazy days at the beach or weeks with nothing to do may be the stuff of our kids' dreams, they can be parental nightmares. The wallet seems to get hit a bit harder this time of year, with more mouths to feed more times per day, and fewer working hours for the adults. Here's a list of a few budget-friendly activities every family can make room for on their summertime to-do list:

1. Hold a popsicle party. For less than $10 you can buy several boxes of frozen treats and invite the neighborhood kids over for a lickfest. See who can make theirs last the longest, who can turn their tongue the darkest color, and who can get the messiest. Hand out baby wipes or a wet towel and call it good.

2. Sprinklers! Summer just isn't summer until you've watched the kids run and jump and tumble through the spraying mist on a hot July day. Turn on the hose and let them have at it. Make your own water guns with squirt bottles, or just have an ice cube fight.

3. Summer reading programs. Most libraries and major bookstores have summer reading programs where kids can earn prizes (usually reading-related) by completing a certain number of pages, books, or hours. Typically free to participate.

4. Neighborhood block party. I'm a big believer in building community, and what better way to get to know your neighbors than firing up the grill and asking everyone over! Everyone can bring their own main dish and contribute a salad or dessert to share. Circulate and swap snow removal recommendations and summer vacation plans. You may even find a dog-sitter or a babysitter (that's how we found our summer nanny).

5. Movie night. Summer isn't summer until you've stayed up way past everyone's bedtimes and watched at least two, preferably three, movies in a row. Whip up the popcorn, roll out the sleeping bags, and cuddle up for some cheap summer entertainment (libraries have scads of DVDs and VHS tapes for borrowing).

What's your favorite form of low-cost summer entertainment?

This post was included in The Homesteading Carnival #154.