Enjoy fun in the sun without breaking the bank

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Summer is just around the corner, and soon the kids will be out of school and ready to enjoy all the things that summer has to offer-like sunny skies, trips to the beach, and homework-free nights. Unlike the kids, most parents don't get a summer break. Instead, you get to take on a "second job" during the summer months -- keeping the kids entertained. In addition to the adjustment you'l l have to make managing your time, summer vacation also means facing a greater challenge: managing your budget.

In today's uncertain economy, many families may have already changed some summer plans. Although there may not be any big plans for a family get-away, there is still the cost of summer camps and childcare along with day-to-day activities to keep children occupied. Trips to the movies, a few dollars for the ice cream man, and meals-on-the-run add up quickly and can turn into budget breakers if you aren't prepared.

The tips below from the experts at Money Management International (MMI) are entertaining, educational, and creative ways to maximize fun on a limited budget.

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Check out what the community has to offer. Some organizations, such as churches, the YMCA, and the Boys & Girls Clubs, provide programs that include regular activities for kids of all ages. Not only are these programs inexpensive, but they offer children a wide variety of entertaining options, such as sports, swimming, art and crafts, and reading.

Spend time in the great outdoors. Many state parks offer hike and bike trails, canoe rentals, and swimming. These activities can be a healthy form of exercise and offer a great low-cost alternative to movies and video games.

Encourage creativity. Many child development experts say children learn the most when they are playing. Provide them with art supplies and set up an area where it's okay to get a little messy and encourage their inner Van Gogh!

Meet up with other parents. After spending day after day with their classmates, children are used to constant companionship. Play dates can be a great, low-cost way to keep childhood friendships alive and to share parental responsibilities.

Explore your own backyard. With a little imagination, sprinklers become water parks and little red wagons become giant roller coasters. Take a nature walk in your own neighborhood and stop to notice the amazing array of bugs, birds and plants normally taken for granted.

Finally, don't forget that there is a reason they are called " the lazy days of summer." Summertime is designed for taking it easy, so don't stress about planning elaborate entertainment for every minute of the day. Even active children need a break and should be allowed to learn the art of relaxation.