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Ford column: Summer starts soon

You have three days.
Summer vacation starts Thursday, and it arrives with some pressure for parents. We want our kids to have a summer they will remember, with the right mix of relaxation, excitement and enrichment.
But with gas prices rising and incomes falling, many families need free or nearly free activities to keep the kids busy, happy and away from the TV this summer.
My three gold standards for free summertime fun ó parks, vacation Bible school and the library ó never disappoint.
If your kids haven’t participated in the summer reading program at the Rowan Public Library yet, they’re missing out. Songs, activities and performers keep the kids coming back every week, starting June 15.
Here are some other ideas to stretch your summertime fun budget:
– Go to the movies. Village Park in Kannapolis will screen free movies at dusk, around 8:45 p.m., June 12 and 26, July 10 and 24 and Aug. 7 and 21.
For just $1, see a movie at the Gem Theatre in Kannapolis every Tuesday, starting June 16. Show times are 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
– Do a project. A quick Google search for “free summer activities for kids” turned up projects on fossils, rockets launchers, ancient Egypt, dinosaurs, pioneers and space, just to name a few.
Make your own bubbles, papier-mache and silly slime. Send your kids on a treasure hunt or help them start a journal.
Tackling projects encourages kids to think creatively, an important life skill. If you don’t have all the materials for a certain project, what else could they substitute? If they encounter an obstacle, how can they go around it instead of giving up?
– Buy a season pass. If you like amusement parks, museums or zoos, consider buying a family membership instead of individual tickets.
Often, just two visits will recoup this expense.
For $59, you can buy a family membership to the N.C. Zoological Park in Asheboro. By comparison, one visit by a family of four costs $32.
Buy a zoo membership on the day of your visit at the ticket booth marked “express.” This membership also gives you free admission to dozens of zoos and aquariums across the country, including six in North Carolina and two in South Dakota!
– Join a neighborhood pool. While a trip to the beach can easily run $1,000, joining a pool costs a couple hundred bucks and you can go every day and bring your own food.
– Act like a tourist. Go to the Rowan County Visitors Bureau at 204 E. Innes St. and pick up brochures about attractions right here that you may not even know existed. You can also request a free Official Visitors Packet online at www.visitsalisburync. com.
– Watch family videos. Transfer your old tapes to DVD and let the fun begin. Kids love to see themselves as babies and toddlers, and watching these old videos just might bring a tear to Mom or Dad’s eye.
Do you have an idea for free or cheap summertime fun? Send it to eford@salisburypost and we’ll publish the best or post them online.
Emily Ford covers the N.C. Research Campus.

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