“Mom, I’m Bored!” :: 7 Inexpensive Ideas For a Throwback Summer


Only 1.5 days after the big yellow school bus chugged out of site for the last time until August, I heard the dreaded words : “Mom, I’m bored!”

Nope. That’s impossible. You have been counting down and anticipating the end of the school year for a month. Just a few short days ago you were bemoaning the early mornings, end-of-year testing, outfit selection dilemmas and field day friend drama. You, my darling child, may not utter those words … not yet.

I had barely worked out the kinks in my day camp spreadsheet. The key I made at the hardware store for the summer sitter still waited on my key ring. I had not created the summer chore chart, and the Venmo payments I set up for the homeroom moms to cover our portion of the teacher gifts had not even cleared the bank. You. Are. Not. Bored.

Is it just me, or have summers become a lot more complicated? Between researching economical yet magical options for that family vacation, shopping and packing for that vacation, filling out camp forms and watching your new swimmer like a hawk at the pool, summer can threaten to deplete you (and your wallet) rather than recharge you.

Travel with me for a moment to the summers of your youth. What memories are the sweetest? I bet they’re probably not the ones with the highest price tags. If you are old enough to remember weddings before wedding hashtags, you probably remember some of these. Here are seven simple summer activities sure to take you back without breaking the bank:

Plan a Water Balloon Battle

C’mon. No cheating by purchasing the kit that has the 300 water balloons that fill and self-tie in one minute flat. Keep your $29.95. The fun of it (and the beauty in the number of hours this took) was in the making: strategically attaching the balloon to the hose, turning it on just enough so that it would fill without coming loose in your face, setting up an assembly line so that the oldest child ties and the youngest child shuttles filled balloons to an old, dilapidated laundry basket. If you want to prolong this even further, try doing an egg toss-style competition with the filled balloons rather than a free-for-all. The only sticking point with this one is the clean up. Youngest child usually draws the short straw here, too. 

Decorate T-shirts

Looking for a craft other than making slime? Puffy paint was to an 80s kid what slime is to kids today. As 80s kids, we puffy painted t-shirts, headbands, hair clips, clip boards, notebooks, and much to our mothers’ dismay, sometimes the kitchen table. Then there’s tie dye, puffy paint’s cooler older cousin. It’s a little (OK a lot) messy but one of my favorite memories as a kid was strategically placing rubber bands all over an old white t-shirt and watching it emerge anew with spirals of vibrant color. 

Watch a Throwback Movie

After a long day outside, nothing felt better than to stretch out on the floor under the wash of the ceiling fan and be transported into another world through a movie. Depending on your kids’ ages, The Sandlot (PG, 1993), Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer (PG, 2011), Ramona and Beezus (PG, 2010), The Parent Trap (PG, 1998), The Goonies (PG, 1985) and The Little Mermaid (G, 1989) are some favorites that will bring back memories of summers past. 

Catch Lightning Bugs

Even thought the magical synchronization of the Congaree National Park fireflies is coming to a close this summer, there are still plenty of childhood’s favorite insects flickering in a backyard near you. Two plastic cups. Dusk. Yard. You sit on the porch steps and the the kids go nuts. Just make sure to release the little buggers before you call it a night, despite the pleas to keep them on the bedside table as (short-lived) pets. 

Take Them Out to the Ball Game

Baseball and summertime go hand in hand, and families in our neck of the woods have two options for nostalgia-inducing low-cost fun all summer long. The Columbia Fireflies’ home season runs through August 30, 2018, with games at award-winning Spirit Communications Park. The Lexington County Blowfish play at their own state-of-art Lexington County Baseball Stadium with home games through August 4, 2018. 

Tour the South Carolina State House

If you’re from Columbia or anywhere in South Carolina you probably did this guided tour as an elementary school field trip. If you haven’t experienced this tour, or if it’s been a while, it’s definitely one for the summer bucket list. Tours are free and are given Monday through Friday from 9:30-3:30 on the half hour (except 12:30). You can also take the free tour on Saturday at 10:30, 11:30, 1:30 and 2:30. There are no Sunday tours. Reservations are encouraged if your group size is larger than 10. Call 803-734-2430.

Plan a Meteor Shower Party

According to Space.com, the Perseid meteor shower will be visible the nights of August 11-12 and 12-13, 2018. Perhaps last year’s total solar eclipse produced some budding astronomers in your house. Grab a blanket, lawn chairs, snacks and bug spray. Plan to camp out for a couple of hours in your driveway or backyard after dark. Even if you don’t happen to see a meteor, looking at the night sky and naming the constellations with your kids in an activity you can do any clear night of the year. They’ll probably sleep pretty late the next day, too. 

You know, a little summertime boredom fosters creativity and ingenuity, and may lead to your kids developing some pretty sweet memories of their own. But it never hurts to have a few tricks up your sleeve just in case. Happy (throwback) summer! 

What throwback ideas would you add to the list?


  1. Great ideas, Kelly! I always loved tie dying a t-shirt, even if I never could quite get the colors right where I wanted them! This summer has been fun as my six year old has gotten into games like Battleship and Go Fish- two of my childhood favorites before Nintendo ruled the world.


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