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Children cool down in the fountain at Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver, BC, July 2, 2009. The warm dry weather is expected to last through the weekend. Lyle Stafford for the Globe and Mail (Lyle Stafford)
Children cool down in the fountain at Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver, BC, July 2, 2009. The warm dry weather is expected to last through the weekend. Lyle Stafford for the Globe and Mail (Lyle Stafford)

Personal Finance Tips

Keep the kids busy on a budget Add to ...

The end of the school year is approaching, but Jo-Anne Schneeweiss is not panicking.

The founder of KidsAroundCanada.com, a website dedicated to helping Canadian families find affordable outings, has a bevy of ideas at her fingertips - from local attractions to festivals to hiking trails. And she knows that she doesn't need to spend a lot of money to keep her two daughters, aged 6 and 8, entertained.

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"I find that my children can have as much fun kicking a soccer ball around as doing something much more elaborate, as long as we're together," she says.

One of her favourite summer activities is visiting local splash pads around her home town of Vaughan, Ont.

"Even if it's late in the day, we'll pack a picnic and go to a splash pad and they'll run around and we'll eat dinner there or a snack, and they love it. And it's a very laid back, enjoyable way to spend an afternoon or an early evening."

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For others trying to keep a lid on the entertainment money jar, Ms. Schneeweiss shares some of her best tips.

1 Free summer festivals and concerts

The summer season means numerous free outdoor festivals and concerts to enjoy with your family. Browse resources including KidsAroundCanada.com, your newspaper or city website to stay in the know about what is happening in your community.

2 The great outdoors

Explore your local parks and bring a Frisbee, ball, kite or bicycle to create a memorable outing. Search government or municipal websites to find hiking trails. Cool off on hot summer days with friends at outdoor splash pads.

3 Annual family memberships

An annual membership to a local attraction makes it very affordable to visit a favourite destination often. The cost is generally no more than the admission price of your family attending two-and-a-half times. Your membership may also include free admission to similar attractions in other cities for travel savings.

4 Attractions for less

Determine whether your local attractions have special days of the week or times when admission prices are free or reduced. Also, check the attraction's special events page online for holiday savings offers.

5 Theatre for less

Subscribe to receive the Ticketmaster.ca, Travelzoo.ca and local theatre e-newsletters for special promotions to upcoming and long-running productions. Inquire whether your local theatre has special pay-what-you-can dates.

6 Libraries

Libraries offer free indoor programming for children throughout the year. Kids and their parents can browse through books and DVDs, and can select as many to take home as their library card permits.

7 Coupons and promotional codes

Search the Internet for coupons or promotional codes before attending any paid event or attraction. Even small savings can add up when they relate to several members of a family. You may also obtain exclusive social media discounts from your favourite attractions and theatres on Twitter or Facebook.

8 Bring your own snacks

Pack your own drinks, snacks or picnic meal when preparing for your outing. You will save money and can ensure that your children have something nutritious that they like to eat.

9 Quality time

The best part of any family outing for your children is spending time with you, not what it costs. If they are having fun, you will be having fun as well.

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