“Mom, I’m bored.” How many times have parents heard that one? As a rule, bored kids aren’t happy kids. Long summer days are more enjoyable for the whole family if kids spend their free time in meaningful ways. And keeping your children entertained doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Here are some cheap summer activities for kids:
Beaches, lakes, parks, and pools
Local parks and recs departments have websites with lots of ideas. Many offer free or reduced swimming and safety lessons. Public gathering places have picnic tables and grills to use for formal or informal gatherings. Get to the beach or lake early in the morning to score the best parking spots. Also, at that hour, you’ll deal with fewer people, bugs and the heat isn’t nearly as oppressive. Hours of fun in the sun. So don’t forget plenty of sunblock!
Libraries offer books for every imaginable interest, age and reading ability. Also check out audiobooks, magazines, new movies, classics or documentaries. All free to card-carrying library members. Participate in their programs, too. Libraries boast free community interest gatherings, reading groups, and story-time hours for younger children. They are also meeting places for clubs interested in everything from learning foreign languages to arts and crafts.
Call and ask about tours. Many farmers love to show off their animals, produce and crops for interested families and children. Don’t be surprised if you leave with some free veggies, eggs or milk samples. All local and fresh!
Ride a bike
You don’t need to own a bike in order to ride one. From small towns to big cities, most have bike tours and rentals. Join an organized group for guided rides around riverfronts or public squares. Call local bike shops to blaze your own trail. Shops even have free classes on bike maintenance and fixing flat tires.
If you live near mountains, or even really big hills, great! Find some trails to explore. Those living in low-lying areas have options, too. Click here for off-the-beaten-paths in your area. Don’t forget a hat and sunscreen.
Buses and subways usually offer free or reduced student passes during the summer. Visit local points of interest or catch up with friends. Head to an air-conditioned movie theater or shopping mall for fun people-watching.
Where are some popular fishing holes in your town? If you aren’t licensed and live near large bodies of water, often you can find groups that offer daylong fishing excursions.
Does your family have favorite recipes that go back generations? Teach your kids to recreate those favorite dishes. Children practice math skills measuring or mixing ingredients. They practice writing skills by creating recipe books. Books are also great legacy projects for older and younger generations to do together.
Cable or streaming services
During the heat of the day, taking an hour or two to relax in front of the television can be a nice break. Check out these programming guides for educational and entertaining kids’ shows. Don’t forget microwavable popcorn!
A favorite rite of passage for kids is a lemonade stand. Mix together lemons, water and sugar. Set up a table and chairs. Write out some signs with prices. You’re in business! On weekends, give neighbors a break while they’re gardening or mowing the lawn. Or surprise folks on their way home from work during the week.
Learn how to take care of your car
For a nominal fee, many mechanics will show driving teenagers how to maintain their cars. Older kids learn the best gas to use, safety features and how to change their own oil and tires. Click here for a teen driver car guide.
Visit local service orgs or businesses
Exploring your hometown is one of the best cheap summer activities for kids. Many businesses or factories offer tours of their facilities. They explain their history and community presence, sending everyone home with information and samples. Grocery stories, hospitals, police stations and fire departments offer weekly tours as well.
Every area has unique birds, critters and plant life. Check out your local wildlife service, pick up some guides and explore. Your family can even create a nature scavenger hunt or print one of these free samples. See how many plants and animals you can find in one afternoon.
Zoos, museums, galleries, aquariums, and historical societies
Local zoos not only boast exhibits filled with different kinds of animals, they offer free or cheap classes where kids can learn more about them. Many local landmarks and tourist attractions offer “family free days” or student passes for the summer. Find a zoo or aquarium near you.
Arts and crafts
Go to the dollar store and purchase inexpensive tape, glue, painting supplies, chalk, and paper. Then head to the grocery store for free cardboard boxes. Art supply stores have sales and great deals all summer long. Let your creativity guide you!
At local parks or even in your own backyard, camping is an adventure. Build a bonfire, toast marshmallows or hot dogs, and tell stories. Warm summer nights bring out fireflies, beautiful stars and a chance to unplug for a while. Click here for some campsites near you.
If your child has a story to tell, encourage them to write it down. This can lead to a self-published book, neighborhood play or homemade movie for friends and family. Cheap summer activities like these can include cultivating a lifelong passion or talent.
What’s your favorite charity? Call and ask if they could use some help each week. Many high schools require volunteer hours and helping non-profits looks great on a resume. Click here to find other opportunities and get started!
Cards and Board Games
Most thrift shops offer cheap prices on donated cards and board games. Kids can set up tournaments with other neighborhood kids. They can also learn their older relatives’ favorite card games online and then play with them at family events.
Any local sports teams in your area? Check out ticket prices and ask about student discounts for professional and minor league teams. Smaller kids enjoy watching practice games at high schools and colleges.
Once restrictions are lifted, movie theaters will normally set aside mornings each week for free movies. These are usually classics or films just a few years old. Entertainment the whole family can enjoy.
Start your own business
Cheap summer activities can also bring in some money! Older kids can provide a variety of services. Neighbors need help washing cars, walking their dogs, or simply doing odd chores around the house. Older folks might want some company where kids can read books or play cards with them.
Inquisitive minds? Future engineers? Cheap summer activities can also be free and educational. Take apart an old toaster or broken appliance and put it back together again. Don’t forget to unplug them first! Click here for a guide to help you get started.
Take Your Kids to Work Day
If you’re back in the office, taking the kids in to show them what you do is a lot of fun. Have them meet your coworkers and enjoy lunch together.
Drop-in or Half-day camps
Summer camps don’t have to be overnight or even daylong experiences. KidzToPros offers weekly half-day camps and single day sessions for kids ages 4-6 and 6-8 and all sports camps.
Summertime is a great chance to find meaningful, fun and enriching ways for kids to spend their time off from school. But you won’t have to spend much. These free and cheap summer activities for kids will make long summer days more enjoyable – for everyone.