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With vacations, day trips, amusement park visits, and more, summer can get seriously expensive, especially if you have kids. So what’s a family to do when they’re living on a budget?? These Fun + Free [or Super Cheap] Kid-Friendly Summer Activities will help you make the most of summer without breaking your bank account.
For more family-friendly ideas for summer fun, check out the following:
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Fun + Free Kid-Friendly Summer Activities for the Family
PLAY A BACKYARD GAME
Kids love when parents and other adults play games with them.
Help them burn some energy and get some fresh air with a backyard game like touch football, baseball, catch, kickball, lawn bowling, dodgeball, badminton, volleyball, lawn darts, corn hole, and more. Bonus: You can skip your workout!
For more fun summer outdoor activity ideas, check out Super Fun 4th of July Party Activities Both Kids + Adults Will Love.
START A NEW HOBBY
Start a new hobby with your kids or introduce them to one you already participate in.
Fun ideas include fishing, gardening, bike riding, hiking, kayaking, building, playing music and singing, collecting (e.g. coins, baseball cards, found artifacts, cool rocks and shells, old photos, etc.), exploring nature (e.g. bird watching, identifying plants and animals), scrapbooking, and camping.
DO A BIG PROJECT
My stepdad and I used to work on building projects together, and now, I’m a grown woman who knows how to do basic repairs around my home and built a great big (over six feet tall!) chicken coop almost exclusively by myself! Plus, we were spending amazing quality time that I will cherish forever.
Depending on your skill level, you can do a host of projects with older kids, including building projects (like a chicken coop!), DIY home repairs, local soap box derby competitions, model trains and airplanes, and more. Have a garden? Build or set up a compost bin. Seriously, the options are almost endless!
PRO TIP: Store bought compost bins can be pretty expensive. If you don’t want to spend the money, check out this frugal DIY tutorial, or contact your local county extension office – they sometimes offer free composting classes and give away compost tumblers!
BOWL FOR FREE
Sure, you can go bowling any time of year, but many bowling alleys participate in summer kids programs as a way to give back to their communities and keep kids out of trouble.
Get over $500 worth of bowling free with Kids Bowl Free, a summer program that allows children 15 years old and under to bowl two free games every day all summer long (during Kids Bowl Free hours). Check your state listings to see if there’s a participating bowling alley near you.
Family passes are also available for $30, allowing up to four adults to bowl two games per day with their kids. You’ll still need to pay to rent bowling shoes. Rules may vary by bowling alley, so check with your local alley for specific rules and hours.
If two games per day isn’t enough, or you don’t have a participating bowling alley near you, check out the AMF Season Pass. For more than 90% off (you pay per person), you can buy a season pass that allows you to bowl three games per day and pays for itself in just three visits!
PARTICIPATE IN SUMMER READING PROGRAMS
Don’t let their reading skills get rusty over summer – enroll them in a summer reading program!
You may already know about summer reading programs offered by national businesses like Barnes & Noble, Pizza Hut, Scholastic, Pottery Barn, Chuck E. Cheese, and more, but there are actually a lot more free reading programs available for kids to join.
Check out this definitive list for more information. Most local libraries offer reading programs, as well.
CHECK YOUR LOCAL LIBRARY
In addition to summer kids reading programs, many libraries also offer other fun free summertime activities like craft classes, reading sessions, and more. Some even participate in lending day passes that grant free admission to local attractions! Also, be sure to check their bulletin board, which often advertises a host of other fun local activities.
Don’t feel like driving to the library to borrow books? Now, you actually don’t need to! Borrow eBooks, audiobooks, and more from your library or school’s digital collection online any time with free apps like OverDrive.
All you need is an internet connection, a library card or student ID, and a compatible device, including iPhone®, iPad®, Android, Chromebook, Windows 8 & 10, and Kindle Fire HD.
ORGANIZE A SELF-GUIDED WALKING TOUR
Research interesting historical and cultural facts about your area, then take your family on a self-guided walking tour and recite what you found. If your kids are older, give them a topic to research themselves, so they can guide some, or even all, of the tour. Pack a lunch, and have a picnic – you can easily make a day of it if you live in an interesting place.
GO TO THE BEACH
Most kids love the beach – swimming in the water, splashing in the waves, and playing in the sand. Wherever you live, you probably live close to some sort of beach, be it the ocean, bay, river, or lake. Most beaches are free to access and are a perfect summer activity for families. Just be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen, bug spray, food, and drinks, and be sure to watch the undertow at the ocean.
ENROLL IN CHURCH CAMPS
Many churches offer Free Vacation Bible School events throughout the summer offering fun activities like crafts, games, stories, snacks, and more. Contact local churches in your area to find out more.
TURN ON THE WATER SPRINKLER
Already have a water sprinkler for your lawn? Turn it on to help your kids cool down on a hot summer day, and watch them run and play for hours!
JOIN KIDS WORKSHOPS
Many businesses offer free or low cost kids programs, including FREE kid-friendly DIY projects at Home Depot. Check your local stores for details, and see Free [or Cheap] Business Sponsored Kids Programs for more fun ideas.
Lowe’s also used to offer weekly kids workshops, but stopped their program in December 2016. However, you can still purchase building kits for kids to assemble at home.
MAKE A TIME CAPSULE
Time capsules are an amazing way to capture memories to rediscover later on. Get a sturdy box (especially if you plan to bury it), and add whatever you want – preferably non-perishable items, of course.
If you have a big backyard, consider burying your time capsule for a traditional experience. Don’t have a backyard or just don’t want to dig it up? Hide your capsule deep in a closet, vowing not to touch it again until an agreed-upon date.
CHECK OUT LOCAL PARKS
Go to your local park or playground to let the kids run off some of that energy. Are your kids tired of their local park? Head to a different park in a neighboring town, and take a picnic lunch for a fun day!
Also, be sure to check out any local state and national parks. Local and state parks are usually free, but some national parks charge a fee for admission. However, if you have a fourth grader this year, check out the Every Kid in a Park program.
Fourth graders can earn free admission to national parks for them and their families. They just take a quick quiz on the program’s website and then print out their park pass. Current passes are valid for kids in fourth grade during the 2017-2018 school year and expire on August 31, 2018.
Did you know that fossils can be observed in over 245 National Park Service areas? There are a number of dedicated fossil parks around the U.S. where you can observe, collect, and (usually) even keep the fossils you find! Find a fossil park near you.
TRY REDDIT’S SUMMER SCAVENGER HUNT
Want an activity that’ll last all summer long? Reddit’s Scavenger Hunt is exactly what you’ve been looking for. Here’s 2017’s scavenger hunt list, and an update for 2018. In 2017, there were 362 tasks ranging from simple finds like “a tree stump” to insane achievements like “whittle a wooden chain with at least 3 links.” Make it even more fun and interesting by awarding a top prize to the child who finds and completes the most by the end of summer!
VISIT A SPLASH PAD OR POOL
Beat the heat this summer with a trip to your local pool! If your kids aren’t good swimmers, be sure to sign them up for a class at your local pool to teach them the basics and keep them safe this summer. You can also go to your local splash pad to cool off – and most splash pads are completely free!
Teach your kids the importance of giving back to your community by volunteering this summer! Pick up trash at your local park, or help out at your local library, hospital, museum, or animal shelter. Ask your friends and neighbors if they know of any great programs where you live, or search Volunteer Match for more great ideas.
Geocaching is a unique and fun way to spend time outdoors without spending money. This real-world treasure hunt involves looking for hidden boxes (known as Geocaches) using your smartphone or GPS unit and then documenting your experience online. With more than 2 million geocaching sites worldwide, your kids find hidden treasures in their own communities. Learn more here.
WATCH A MOVIE
Buy lots of popcorn and snacks (or raid the pantry), and have a movie night at home! Check out Amazon Prime movies, or stream movies for free on your Roku. Willing to spend a little dough on a super fun themed party? Check out 55 Harry Potter Party Ideas for the Ultimate HP Movie Night!
Want to get out of the house? Check your local city webpage to see if your city (or one close by) offers free movies or concerts in the park during the summer. Be sure to dress appropriately (e.g. bring a sweatshirts on cool nights), get there early, and bring a blanket, lawn chairs, bug spray, flashlight, snacks, and drinks.
For indoor movies, check out these free or cheap business sponsored programs.
Don’t let your kids spend another summer vegging in front of the TV or playing video games. Help them make the most of their time off school with these Genius FREE Kid-Friendly Summer Activities!
For cool family activities you can do any time of year, check out 16 Free Activities to Keep the Kids Entertained All Year Round.
Please let me know what you think of these Fun + Free Kid-Friendly Summer Activities, and be sure to share your favorite ways to spend summer with the kids!
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