Q&A: Staying Sane Despite Soaring Gas Prices

Each week Michele Borba answers your parenting questions right here on her blog. If you have a parenting problem or question leave a comment on this post and you may have yours answered next week!

I have 3 little ones! 1 1/2, 4 and 6? I'm a stay at home mom and this summer I think is going to drive me crazy with gas going up! What are some ideas that we should do with out put a hole in my pocket? --Christina

I hear you! Gas prices have put a damper on families' summer plans, and right now is when those "I'm bored" kid comments can wear on our nerves. Here are a few ideas I have, and then I'd love to hear from other moms out there on summer sanity savers -- and many of these ideas are also ones to join forces with other moms as a momtourage to save you extra driving time:

1. Carpool.  Don't drive everywhere and anywhere. It's too costly. Instead find at least one other mom who can share the expenses and the time. Your kids do not have to be friends -- or even like each other -- all you're looking for is the same destination to get to.

2. Recyle. Put a bin somewhere and save toilet paper and paper towel tubes, envelopes, small boxes. Then give your kids masking tape, glue and marking pens and let them be creative. (Forts, towers, etc). Pipecleaners are fabulous as well. The trick is to look around your house for no-cost items to beat driving somewhere to give your kids something new. Find new things at home!

3. Rotate toys with the neighbors (or hide your kids' toys--for just two weeks). Not all, just a few. My girlfriend would do that and her kids always thought it was heaven to play with "new stuff." (Go figure). You can do the same with girlfriends: exchange videos, books, games, puzzles. Things that you won't be too upset over if you never get them back, but will seem like new things to your kids.

4. Picnics. You can have them in your living room or backyard. Just something different excites kids (for an hour anyway) and I'm not suggesting you be Martha Stewart here- peanut butter and jelly is fine. Or just a snack.

5. Drive-in movies. Move a TV with a DVD player outside (it's hot where I am... evenings are tough!) and you can look forward all day to going to a drive-in movie (outdoors). Consider renting those movies online. They are delivered to your home and actually can be cheaper by the month if you watch a lot (with your husband at night). Otherwise, use the library and check out those classics. But again, consider rotating them among girlfriends to save the cost.

6. Flashlights and sheets. Don't know why it works, but giving kids sheets and towels to cover anything seems to be magical. Turn off the lights (or if you have fear-of-the-dark critters, keep them on). They make forts and wonderful villages.

7. Internet. Your older child (SUPERVISED) can learn about a hobby. Choose any interest. Castles, dinosaurs, baseball. And each day print off one new thing your whole family can read and learn about.

8. Sand. Water. Mud. Kids love them. Moms hate the mud part, so you can eliminate the dirt. Look around your house for old spoons, cups, pots, etc. Your kids are the perfect age for a sandbox - or water. Add a bit of dishwasher soap and give them a pipe cleaner or a clothes hanger bent into a round shape and they can make bubbles forever.

9. Sidewalk Chalk. Keep those small pieces stored away. Sidewalk chalk and kids go hand-in-hand. It's rather inexpensive at the dollar stores. The smaller pieces are great to use on paper. Add a bit of starch on a piece of paper and it slips and slides as drawings.

10. Cook together.  Check out a cookbook at the library -- one for kids. And once a day or week have a cooking party. Ideally get another mom to join up with you and share the expenses.

11. Organize. I know. Terrible word, but if you make a list of things you can use (like sidewalk chalk and pipe cleaners) and then make one run to the store, you'll be supplied for a few weeks. The trick is to only bring out one thing at a time. Or pick up one great book on games and play you can teach your kids (I love Bobbi Conner's Unplugged Play because most games and activities don't cost a dime and involve things you already have around the house.

12. Hobbies.  Look around your house again and sort things into potential hobbies.. Take coloring books (the big pictures) and trace the shape with a big black marking pen on a sheet -- burlap is ideal -- big towels work as well. Give your kid a big plastic needle with a piece of yarn. You have to thread and tie it into a knot. But I've done this with 6 and 7-year-olds as a teacher. They love to sew. Then you take each square and eventually turn it into a quilt  Arts and crafts materials that you already have. Resort them into one box. Or towels, hats and clothes you want to get rid of? Put them into a bin. Dress up!

All I'm suggesting is to look around your house for things you already have that you can just tweak a bit for kids to play with (and beat that cost) and also save the price of going somewhere to pick things up. You're right. Gas prices are soaring and driving back and forth is anything but cost-effective.

Click here to read more of Michele Borba's Q&As, or leave a comment below with your own questions and it may be answered next week.

12Secrets_Borba.jpgDr. Michele Borba is the author of over 22 books including 12 Simple Secrets Real Moms Know .

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