Summer of Giving Project – Help Hungry Kids in Your Community

I participated in this program on behalf of Champions for Kids and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.

#SummerofGiving Project with Champions for Kids | MoneywiseMom
We’ve just started our summer vacation, and the kids and I are excited about doing a Summer of Giving. We’ve talked about ways to help others on a small scale (helping around the house), medium-sized (writing a nice note to someone or bringing a meal to a new mom), and some larger projects that help our whole community. For our first large project, we were inspired by Champions for Kids to help feed hungry kids through our local food bank. Champions for Kids believes:

All children should have: Someone who cares; a Place to belong; Hope for tomorrow and provisions for their journey. All children.

My kids have never experienced true hunger, but child hunger is happening in every community across the country. I shared this info with my kids:

  • 10% of US kids live in food-insecure homes, which means they don’t know when or if their next meal is coming.
  • With schools out for the summer, may children who rely on school breakfasts and lunches are in desperate need.

We talked about ways we could help, and how even small efforts can help a lot of people. Champions for Kids believes that helping others does not have to come in large doses.

Shopping for Food Donations for Summer of Giving program #SummerofGiving | MoneywiseMoms
Next, we went out to our local Walmart to shop for food donations. With the Summer of Giving Program, Walmart and Champions for Kids aim to help provide 5 million meals this summer. We helped with some of those meals! Each child had $50 to spend on food to donate to our local food bank. It was a great exercise for them to compare store brands with name brand prices, then keep track of what they had spent as we shopped the aisles. They did such a great job and were so thoughtful with their choices.

Summer of Giving Sponsors #SummerofGiving | MoneywiseMoms
In the Walmart freezer section, look for the sponsor brands–Tyson, Birds Eye and State Fair–because each time you purchase them, you’re helping support the Summer of Giving program alongside feeding your own family. Along with non-perishable foods, we also chose these frozen foods to donate. It took a little research to find a food bank that would accept frozen foods, but they really appreciated it.

Simple Service Project #SummerofGiving | MoneywiseMoms
Want to do even more? Do a SIMPLE Service Project. There are just four basic steps:

  1. GATHER your friends, family or co-workers.
  2. LEARN about the needs of children in your community.
  3. GIVE items to help kids enjoy happier and healthier lives.
  4. SHARE your story at Champions for Kids to inspire others to do the same!

Make your donations, then submit your project at Champions for Kids. You’ll be eligible to win $25,000 for your local school. Remember that every little bit helps. How can you help hungry kids in your community?

Champions for Kids Summer of Giving program #SummerofGiving | MoneywiseMoms

Free Kids Crafts, Classes & Workshops {Summer 2014}

Summer vacation can have some long days…need something new to do? Try one of these FREE Kids Crafts, Classes & Workshops at a nationwide store chain near you. Most of these run year-round, so keep them in mind for the rest of the year as well.

Free Kids Crafts Classes Workshops #summer | MoneywiseMoms
Bass Pro Shops
Bass is offering FREE Family Summer Camps with FREE Workshops every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Learn archery, birdwatching, kayaking, and more. Kids get a free lanyard to collect the pins they’ll earn at each workshop.

Some Cabela’s are offering FREE Summer Camp sessions for kids ages 8-12 on Saturdays and Sundays. Kids can learn panning for gold, identifying animals, and archery. Check your local store’s event calendar for details, since not all stores are participating.

Home Depot Kids Workshops
The first Saturday of each month, between 9am-Noon, kids can make a wooden project at Home Depot. Register ahead of time on their website. Kids receive a certificate of completion, an apron, and a pin.

Lakeshore Learning Stores
Lakeshore has an awesome lineup of summertime crafts every Saturday between 11-3, with all materials provided. For ages 3 and up.

Lego Store Mini Builds
At your local Lego Store, kids can do a Mini Build the first Tuesday of each month from 5:00pm until supplies run out. At our store, the line starts about an hour ahead of time, and they often run out of kits, so plan ahead for this one!

Lowe’s Free Build & Grow Clinics
Lowe’s offers these clinics on select Saturdays from 10-11am. You do need to register online ahead of time. Kids get an apron, goggles, and project patch. This summer’s projects are all movie-themed.

Michaels doesn’t offer as many FREE kids workshops during the summer as other months of the year, but they do have a Kids Club ($2/child) and a new program called Passport to Imagination. For $2 per two-hour-session, kids will learn about some of North America’s best museums through an imaginary road trip. Sessions are for ages 5-12 and are held Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday. Check your local store’s event calendar for more details.

Your Local Library
Many library systems run extensive summer programs for kids. Check your local library’s website for information about free kids crafts, classes and workshops.


Looking for more FREE summer activities for kids?


Summer Movie Programs 2014 {Nationwide FREE & $1 Movies}

Stay cool this summer by chilling with your kids in an air-conditioned theater with these FREE and Low-Cost Summer Movie Programs:

Summer 2014 Movie Programs | Free and low-cost movies for kids this #summer | MoneywiseMoms
BowTie Cinemas offers FREE movies every Tuesday and Wednesday morning at 10:00am starting June 24th.

Cinemark Theatres offers Summer Movie Clubhouse for $1.00/show or a $5.00 pass for the whole summer, purchased in advance. The start date varies depending on what part of the country you’re in (what date school gets out).

Classic Cinemas offers their Wednesday Morning Movie Series for $1.00/show at 9:00am every Wednesday, starting June 11th. You can go early and see costumed characters.

Cobb Theatres offers FREE Summer Kids Shows Tuesday-Thursday at 10:00am. Click through to your local theater to see their schedule, but most start June 17th.

Dickinson Theatres offers a Summer Vacation Movie Series with FREE movies Tuesday-Thursday at 10:00am and 12:30pm. Click on your local theater’s link to download the schedule.

Harkins Theatres has Summer Movie Fun every weekday at 9:45, and you can purchase Season Tickets for all 10 shows for just $7, or pay as you go for $2/person.

Malco Theatres offers $2.00 movies every Tuesday and Wednesday at 10:00am, starting June 3rd, with a portion of the proceeds going to local Children’s Hospitals.

National Amusements will offer their Bookworm Wednesdays program, starting July 9th. Kids receive FREE admission when they present a completed book report, which you can download from their site. Children under 6 do not need to complete the book report.

Phoenix Big Cinemas has FREE movies Tuesday-Thursday at 10:00am, with start dates varying per state.

Regal Theatres offers Summer Movie Express all summer on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10:00am for $1.00/person. Choose from a G or PG movie each morning, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Will Rogers Institute.

Ultrastar Cinemas offers their Kids Summer Series every day at 9:30am starting May 26th. Some theaters offer the movies FREE, others charge $5 for the 10-week pass.
Click through to your local theater chain to find the closest location. Have fun at the movies!


Original image from allisonmseward12 on Flickr

Keeping Kids #CyberSafe

I participated in an Influencer Activation Program on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for BGCA. I received a promotional item to thank me for participating. #Sponsored #MC #CyberTribe #CyberSafe

Keeping Kids #CyberSafe with the Cyber Safe Futures Initiative #CyberTribe #MC #Sponsored - MoneywiseMoms

Parenting comes with many challenges, but one that’s taken us a bit by surprise is how to keep up with our kids in regards to technology. We are kids of the ’80’s, for goodness sake! We grew up with computers, for the most part, and we always had the upper hand on our own parents. But now with every handheld device, tablet, etc. hooked up to the internet, kids having cellphones (with video cameras), and social media apps galore–we’re a little overwhelmed. With kids ages 10, 8, and 8, we’re thinking about how to keep the kids safe online. So far, we have a few rules:

  • Our family computer is in the living room, and the kids are only allowed to use it with permission.
  • No random searching/Googling is allowed; a parent needs to sit with you.
  • With games that connect online (on computer, XBox, etc.), we use the strictest settings, i.e. no “chat.”

I’m sure that very soon my son will be asking about an email account, so I’ve been watching what friends with older kids are doing, asking lots of questions, and learning from sites like the BGCA’s Cyber Safe Futures Initiative. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America, in a partnership with Sprint, are supporting parents and teens with this internet safety awareness campaign.

Keeping Kids #CyberSafe with the Cyber Safe Futures Initiative #CyberTribe #MC #Sponsored - MoneywiseMoms

I took the “Are you a Cyber Smart Parent?” quiz, and I didn’t do very well! Partly, it’s because some of the topics they mentioned haven’t come up with my younger kids, but it alerted me to where we’re headed (Facebook, sharing photos, possibility of cyberbullying), etc.

Learn how to protect kids online with the Cyber Safe Futures Initiative #CyberTribe #CyberSafe #MC #Sponsored - MoneywiseMoms

I really liked the Parent Resources section, where you’ll find specific tips for parents to help guide your kids to protect themselves. For example, our kids have asked about playing online versions of games with their friends, but we haven’t allowed it. We have talked a little about not using your real name online (even in a username) and not to share personal information. The “Online Privacy” guide has questions to help you determine limits and how to share them with your child(ren).

Keeping Kids #CyberSafe with the Cyber Safe Futures Initiative #CyberTribe #MC #Sponsored - MoneywiseMoms

Last, there’s a section of Q & A with actual teens, called the CyberTribe. They take questions from kids and parents and answer them weekly. Since teens are often more savvy than their parents, this is a great opportunity for you to have your internet safety questions answered. Plus, when you submit a question, you have the option to enter for a chance to win an iPad mini and $500 to the Boys & Girls Club of your choice.

How are you keeping your kids cybersafe?

original image from John Watson at Flickr

Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Disclosure: As a Busch Gardens Ambassador through MomCentral, I was given free admission passes for our family but was not otherwise compensated. All opinions are 100% mine.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg #familytravel #BuschGardens | MoneywiseMoms
We just returned from our first-ever trip to Busch Gardens Williamsburg. It was a little over two-hour drive from DC, and my kids managed to stay from opening till closing, so it was a long day! As much as we like thrill rides, I was very eager to see the other parts of the park I’d heard about–the food, the animals, and the non-ride attractions–and we really enjoyed it.

Eagles and Parrots at Busch Gardens Williamsburg #familytravel #buschgardens | MoneywiseMoms
My girls were so excited to see the animals at Busch Gardens since they feature the four animals they’re currently obsessed with: horses, eagles, dogs and wolves. There are a few others, but we spent the most time at the Wolf Haven area. We watched a training session between the keepers and the wolves, and every trainer we encountered in each area was friendly with the kids and happy to answer questions.

Treehouse Climbing at Busch Gardens Williamsburg #familytravel #buschgardens | MoneywiseMoms
The giant treehouse was also a hit, with lots of maze-like bridges and places to climb. Mom and Dad got to sit in the shade for a break while the kids played here for a while.

Rides at Busch Gardens Willamsburg #familytravel #buschgardens | MoneywiseMoms
My kids love rides, the scarier, the better! We rode everything they were tall enough to enjoy, some of them twice. My girls’ favorite was Europe in the Air, an indoor flight simulator. My son and I rode a few coasters that the girls were not tall enough to ride, like the Griffon. He didn’t want to go alone, so we spent the whole time in line with him telling me how great I was to go with him. Turned out it was favorite ride of the day! It was so smooth, not jerky at all, and super scary in a fun way. We had a great time together and it was our favorite part of our visit.

Griffon Roller Coaster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg #familytravel #BuschGardens | MoneywiseMoms

Busch Gardens VA had plenty of family fun, and because my kids are older, we didn’t visit Sesame Street Forest of Fun, which I know is a highlight for those with little ones. I wanted to see a few shows, because they look great, but the kids wanted to do rides instead. Maybe next time! There’s also a big water park called Water Country USA, so there’s plenty to do.

If you plan to visit more than once, buy a 2-Park Fun Card for just $97, which will give you unlimited visits to both Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Water Country USA through September 1st.

Connect with Busch Gardens VA this summer to hear about concerts, the Food & Wine Festival, and more during their 99 Days of Summer:

        Facebook    |     Twitter     |     Instagram


Kids Skate Free {Summer 2014}

Kids Skate Free 2014 | Go retro and take the kids roller skating this #summer | MoneywiseMoms

Hit the rink this summer with the kids for a fun & fit activity: roller skating. It’s great for the kids to improve balance and flexibility, and as a mom, you can burn up to 500 calories per hour. I’ll take that! I have fond memories of skating with my sisters to that good ol’ ’80s music. Take your kids for a memory-making session with the Kids Skate Free program.

Get FREE passes to a participating roller skating rink near you. Here’s how:

  • Find a participating center near you by clicking on the map at Kids Skate Free.
  • Register directly on your closest skate center’s website. The passes will only be good at the center you’ve chosen and for the days and times you’ll see listed (in most cases, evenings and weekends). Check with your local center–the one closest to me runs this program year-round, not just in the summer, so you can skate FREE all year!
  • Each Sunday night, you’ll receive an email with that week’s passes for up to four children (age 12 and under) to skate for FREE. You will have to pay for skate rental unless you bring your own.
  • The Kids Skate Free program runs through September 30th (for most locations). You’ll see the information and age requirements (most define “child” as age 12 and under) when you click on your local skating center.

Keep an eye out at yard sales and Craigslist for used skates, helmets and pads, or buy your kids their own equipment:


Original image from Chad Kainz on Flickr
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Rent Lego Sets from Pley {plus a FREE Trial} lets you rent Lego sets every month - Sign up for a FREE Trial - MoneywiseMoms
Rent Lego sets? What the what? I’m so excited to share this service that’s basically Lego + Netflix. is a subscription service for Lego. You set up a Pleylist (a list of the sets you’d like), then rent Lego sets, one at a time, and send them back, for a low monthly fee. Brilliant!

My 10-year-old son thinks this is a great idea. He’s already offered to spend his own money for a month to borrow the Lego Star Wars Death Star. That’s a $400 set that he would never spend the money on (and we would never buy). But with, he can build it, play with it and enjoy it (and marvel that he put together a 3800-piece set), then send it back for less than 1/10th of the cost. Love this! lets you rent Lego sets every month - Sign up for a FREE Trial - MoneywiseMoms
Each set is sanitized in between rentals, and you get free shipping both ways. In each box, you’ll find your set plus a few freebies and giveaways, so there’s something for your child to keep. There are three plans to choose from, depending on the size of the sets you want to borrow: $15/month, $25/month, or $39/month. Need a gift idea next time the grandparents ask? This is perfect!

Want to try it out before you commit? Sign up for a FREE Trial and you’ll get one free LEGO set shipped to your home. If it’s not your thing, just return the set within 15 days and cancel your account so you won’t be charged.

Pley - Rent LEGO Sets!

Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link. Thanks for supporting MoneywiseMoms at no cost to you!

Adventure Aquarium {Camden, NJ – Philadelphia}

Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ (next to Philadelphia) | Fabulous #familytravel destination | MoneywiseMoms
Over spring break, we took a surprise trip to Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ. It’s just over the river from Philadelphia, so it was an easy 10-minute drive from the downtown area when we couldn’t get into the museum we had planned to visit. We ended up having a wonderful afternoon learning about aquatic animals, and it was my kids’ first visit to a large aquarium. They just loved it!

Petting Rays at Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ (next to Philadelphia) | Fabulous #familytravel destination| MoneywiseMoms
One of the things we liked most was that every area in the aquarium had a hands-on area, like petting the sharks and rays. We were also able to touch sea stars, urchins, lobsters, and much more. I was the only squeamish one, but I did it anyway. Each area had docents talking about the animals and answering questions. While we enjoyed touching, we also spent a lot of time just looking–in amazement–at sharks in the 40-foot Shark Tunnel and at sea turtles and more in the huge Ocean Realm. With a floor-to-ceiling window, we just sat on benches and watched everything swim by. It was fascinating!

Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ (next to Philadelphia) | Fabulous family destination #familytravel | MoneywiseMoms
Outdoors, we saw the African Penguins in the Penguin Island exhibit. We spent quite a while out there watching them swim, clean themselves, and play. Back inside, my girls really liked the Kid Zone, where you could stick your head inside an aquarium and be part of the action and climb on statues of frogs, sea turtles, and inside a shark. Unfortunately, the Hippo Haven was under construction when we visited, but it looks like it will be an amazing exhibit. The kids (and I!) would love to go back to see that.

Penguins at Adventure Aquarium in Camden, NJ (next to Philadelphia) | Fabulous family destination #familytravel | MoneywiseMoms
The aquarium was pricey, but we had an absolutely fabulous visit and I highly recommend it. Regular admission is $25.95/adults and $18.95/children ages 2-12. Children under 2 are free, and the 4D Theater experience is additional (just like the IMAX Theater at a science museum).

The best deal for tickets is through Goldstar. Pay just $15.45 for kids and $19.19 for adults, through May 2015, though there is a service fee. This weekend only (Memorial Day weekend), military families can get up to 4 tickets for just $10 each.


If you’re going to be in the Philadelphia area, you may also like:

And be sure and follow my Mid-Atlantic Family Trips board on Pinterest.

Free Museum Admission {Summer 2014}

It’s hard to find time during the year to visit museums with your family, so plan a visit or two this summer–for FREE. With a family of five, museum outings can be expensive, so I always have my eyes open for programs like these that offer low-cost or free museum admission:

Free Museum Admission this #summer 2014 | MoneywiseMoms

Museums on Us by Bank of America

Bank of America’s Museums on Us program offers FREE visit days all over the country to B of A cardholders (just show your card at the admission window). Most museums are participating on the first weekend of the month, like the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The fine print says only the “cardholders” are FREE, so it looks like adults get in free but kids have to pay.

Target’s Community Events

Target offers FREE or $1 museum days at many locations across the country, including the Franklin Institute and Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia, the Children’s Museum of Richmond, and the Chicago Children’s Museum. Check the Target Community page for your city. You’ll also find free theater programs and other cultural events.

Local Museums’ Free Days

In your city, the local museums may offer certain days for FREE. Some museums, like the Detroit Institute of Arts or the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, offer FREE admission to visitors with proof of local residence. Check your favorite museum’s website for more information.

Blue Star Program for Military Families

The Blue Star Museums Program offers military families FREE admission all summer to participating museums like the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. All active duty service members and their immediate family (up to 5 family members, including spouse, child or sibling) can participate. Check the FAQ for identification requirements and a list of participating museums.


Original image from TonytheMisfit on Flickr