Summer is here!
It’s that time of year again and it seems no matter how much a parent intends on planning for it, summer sneaks up on you. I’m a firm believer in kids keeping themselves somewhat occupied but I like to plan activities or have things to assist in their summer fun, because while I want them to have fun, I want our family on a whole to have a blast too!
Here are 25 free Summer activities for kids (or almost free), these are some things that we do as a family to have fun during the summer. Not only are they fun, these ideas won’t break the bank!
Fun at Home
Create a Kid Zone- We have a fairly large front porch where the kids can go when they want to be outside but it is way too hot to enjoy it. We have stocked the porch with chalk, bubbles, board games, a basket of toys (including some water guns), coloring books, a small cooler to enjoy drinks without the “in and out” and other odds and ends that would peak some interest. Whether they are playing, just hanging out listening to music or are on their tablets, they have a space to be outside and have some fun while entertaining themselves. Our kids also have an actual playroom in our finished attic, but during the summer the porch is the place to be during the down times!
Have Movie and/or Game Night- Maybe you already do this but studies show most families don’t, so why not commit to having a movie and/or game night, one night a week during the summer? If it is just too nice to be indoors, move the party outdoors! There are devices that will allow phones and tablets to be used as projectors for streaming movies…FUN!
Add Water- We don’t have a pool, but we did buy a very cheap sprinkler that has been one of our best purchases ever! It is easy to set out and pick up but gives lots of fun, especially during peak heat hours. Have bigger kids, try a slip and slide.
Plant a Garden- This can be a fun family activity that can bring nutritious snacks all summer and teach valuable lessons. Depending on where you live and what you plant, planting might need to begin prior to Summer vacation but planting on a weekend during the last few weeks of school will bring you something to tend for most of the summer. Where we live, zone 5, many plants like tomatoes, cucumbers and beans can be planted Memorial Day weekend, which is the first weekend of Summer for many children in our area.
Learn to Cook and/or Bake the Perfect…- Summer brings many rainy days too. Using that time to learn how to cook or bake something that you have always wanted to learn or to pass on a favorite family recipe to your kids, is a great opportunity. We are learning to bake cakes this Summer!
Have a Do Nothing Day- With the hustle of Summer sometimes we forget to relax. Having a day where the family just does nothing, maybe even stays in their pajamas, can be just what is needed!
Fun in the Outdoors
Take a Walk- During the summer months, we tend to walk more, we walk to piano lesson, we walk to Taekwondo, we walk to just have fun, but whether you have a final destination or not, taking walks are great ways to see new things, chat and exercise. We try to avoid the hottest hours and grabbing a popsicle is always a good idea!
Go to the Park- Seems simple, maybe walk there!
Take a Bike Ride- This is a great family activity and whether it is just around the block or to go grab some ice cream, riding a bike just makes the experience that much more fun. Summer is also a great time to teach children how to ride a bike or to remove the training wheels.
Stargaze- My kids love all that is space and really enjoy learning about planets and stars. Take some time out this summer and learn about constellations, planets and their positions in the sky. Set up a night picnic with some yummy snacks and just look up! Two of my children’s favorite books about space are Space! and Don’t Know Much About the Solar System.
Visit a State or National Park- Many people don’t realize what they have in their own backyards! Take a few minutes to google what parks you have in your area, you might be surprised to learn what is only a short drive from you. Many states offer free admission days to their parks!
Go Fishing- My kids love to fish and while you need a fishing pole and accessories, once bought, the cost of fishing is small. Check with your state as their are fishing rules and laws that vary. Some states require licenses at a certain age but many states also offer free fishing weekends or dates, where people can fish without a license.
Give Geocaching a Try- Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity, in which participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches”, anywhere in the world. Sometimes neat little trinkets are left for people to find. Visit www.geocaching.com for more information.
Take a Picnic- Whether going to the park, the beach, the pool or the backyard, having a picnic is loads of fun!
Feed the Ducks- We have a small lake in town and my children love to feed the ducks and ask to do it often. While most people bring bread and crackers, those items aren’t the best for birds. Visit here for more information on what is best to feed ducks and geese.
Fun Places to Visit
Go Bowling- My kids are all in a bowling league from about August until about March, but during the summer we take them in not only for practice but for fun as well. We are lucky enough to have a bowling alley near us (if you live near Fulton County, Indiana, check out www.bowlcountrylanes.com) that participates in the Kids Bowl Free program. This program is nation wide and is free to sign up. Signing up gives each of your children 2 free games, every day, during your local bowling alley’s open bowling times, all you need to pay for are shoe rentals, and they even have an option of parents and grandparents opting in for a small fee (under $25) that entitles them to also enjoy free games all summer long as well. Please Note: Your local bowling alley is paying to be part of this program and while yes they hope to gain year round customers, they also care about youth bowling…make sure to buy a few sodas and treats while you are there, it really will make a difference to a local business!
Go Roller Skating- Much like the bowling program, the Kids Skate Free program allows kids 2 free skating passes every week during the Summer, skate rental is required if your child doesn’t have skates. Visit here to see if your skating rink participates in this program. Much like the bowling alleys, these businesses are hoping to gain customers by participating in this program but they are open because of their love for skating. Many are small businesses in the “video game” age… Please buy some snacks at the concessions, that’s where they profit!
Go to the Movies- Movies can be expensive but check some of your local theaters to see if they offer free or discounted movies over the summer. Near us a theater provides free summer movies for kids on Wed-Fri at 10 am and they discount the kids combo for the kids (if you live near Logansport, Indiana, check out http://marymaxcinemas.com). Drive-in movies are a great way to stretch your dollar. Depending on the theater, you pay about what you would at a normal theater, sometimes even less, but you get at least 2 movies. When our kids were small we could take them to a kid’s movie and after they fell asleep, we could cover them up and move to the screen playing the newest “grown-up” movie! Remember: All movie theaters are being charged an arm and a leg to rent the movies they bring you, they make next to nothing on the ticket sales, it is at the concession stands where they make profit. We have a few drive-ins by us and they all allow outside food in but ask for a fee to recoup some of the concession stand loss. I know this bothers some people but knowing that the “cooler” fee and concession stand money are helping to keep an awesome summer family tradition alive, it really is a small price to pay.
Go to a Museum- Museums are fun trips and ways to keep the educational wheels turning during the summer. We are lucky enough to live in the middle of some great museums that are just a short ride from us. Check with the museums in your area to see if they offer free or discounted days. In Chicago, every museum offers free days and not just to Illinois residents, Indianapolis also offers free days as well and both offer lots of choices. Another way to stretch your dollar is to buy a pass and if you do some research you might find the price of a pass allows you to use that same pass at another location, making it a reciprocal pass. Visit the North American Reciprocal Association for more information and here for the 2016 participating museum list. Also check out the Association of Children’s Museums for information on passes that allow discounted visitation to other children’s museums.
Go to the Library- Libraries usually offer Summer Reading Programs and many children can earn prizes for their reading. We are so lucky to have a great library system where we live and they really do alot for the children during the summer. This summer they are planning pool parties at the local city pool, a petting zoo to visit the library, game days, ice cream days and much more… All FREE! We pick a day a week to visit the library and attend as many activity days as we can. These programs are a lifesaver for days when mom needs a break!
Go to the Zoo or Aquarium– Like many places, zoos and aquariums offer free days and discounts during the summer and other times of the year. Most kids LOVE animals so this is a time to view whether a pass might be the best choice, and like many museums, some zoo/aquarium passes offer discounts or free admission at other zoos, which is perfect is you are going on vacation or visiting family. Visit the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for more information and to see the 2016 list of zoos and aquariums that are participating, click here.
Go to the Pool/Beach- Swimming is always a great Summer activity! We have a city pool that offers a family pass, which is convenient and often beach access is free. Just remember that the pass only saves money if you use it. We use the pool at least once a week but I have a girlfriend who literally goes to the pool with her kids 5-6 days a week. Her pass cost her $120 ($30 a person) but without that pass and at $4 per person, per day, she would spend between $880-$1,056 over the summer. Passes aren’t free but the savings are so significant, if used, that they have to put in the category.
Fun While Learning
Visit Lowes and Home Depot’s Workshops– Lowes and Home Depot both offer workshops for kids showing them basic tool use while building fun items. Lowes often offers free patches of accomplishment and other items as well. Over the next month Lowes is partnering with Marvel and Home Depot is building items with an Ice Age theme!
Start Learning a New Language- Summer is a great time to learn something new. My kids are learning Spanish but they continue this through the Summer. Try borrowing a language course from the library, learn a new word everyday, or flip the language on their favorite cartoon (Netflix offers that option on many cartoons and Hulu has shows like Caillou and Teenage Mutant Nijna Turtles, in other languages). Maybe this will awaken a passion to learn all year long!
Train for a Marathon- This is a great activity to do with your kids and can even be done for a cause. There are many methods to train for a marathon, pick one suited to your family and make it a family goal for the Summer.
Fun While Giving Back
Much like the marathon training above (for a cause), there are many ways to have fun and give back. Having a lemonade stand to help the local animal shelter and putting together a bake sale for your favorite cause are just a couple, but doing an activity over the Summer break that not only brings the family together but is for a good cause, is a great choice and little money is required. Ask your kids for their ideas, make signs, and maybe get the community involved. Children are very charitable and their charity is infectious!
Enjoy your Summer!
Bet + fam 🙂