My kids have looked forward to summer for months: a much lighter homeschool lesson schedule, warm days to play outside, more chances to hang out with friends as they get out of school, and all the fun activities! Many places have lots of free and inexpensive activities available in the summer for kids and families. They’re a great way to spend time together, let the kids stay in touch with friends (and make new ones), and keep them in enough of a routine that they don’t say they’re bored—while still allowing for plenty of unscheduled time for free and creative play. I have some ideas to get you started.
14 Ideas for Free or Inexpensive Summer Fun
- Summer reading program at the local library. Many libraries have reading clubs during the summer. Kids read a required number of hours, books, or pages, and they get rewarded with prizes or a party at the end of the summer. It’s win-win. Kids get added motivation to read, and there’s fun involved too.
- Splash pad or city pool. Our city used to have a community pool with a very small admission fee. That’s gone now, but local Rotary Clubs built a splash pad in that location a few years ago that is free to the public and open during the summer. It’s a lot easier on our water bill than running a sprinkler in the yard for hours on end!
- Movies in the Park. Our city shows a movie in the park every week for four or five weeks during the late spring and early summer. Other cities provide concerts, poetry readings, plays, and other community gatherings at little to no cost in their parks. Keep an eye out for newspaper announcements and flyers in local businesses announcing these events.
- Kids Bowl Free. Many areas have bowling alleys that participate in the Kids Bowl Free program, which allows kids (age 15 and under) two free games a day all summer long. All you have to do is pay for shoe rental each time, or buy a shoe pass for the summer. For a reasonable price, there’s a Family Pass available for parents, grandparents, older siblings, and babysitters to bowl two games a day too. Shoe rental is separate there too.
- Classes/workshops. Often, summer classes and workshops are offered through the public library (my girls are taking knitting again this summer), home improvement stores, craft stores, community colleges, and other organizations that use summer as an opportunity to invest in the community’s kids.
- Summer challenges. Last summer, BookGirl participated in the summer challenge offered by Clubhouse magazine, and she had a blast. We learned about this year’s Odyssey Adventure Club Summer Challenge last week when our magazine arrived, and we’re doing this year’s challenge as a family and are excited to start. (It’s open to everyone, not just subscribers.) Other children’s publications may offer a summer challenge as well. Check your child’s magazines!
- Neighborhood exploration. My husband and daughters are taking advantage of the nice weather to walk and/or ride bikes together. It gives them a chance to get some exercise, explore the neighborhood, and talk. We have also done some geocaching in our neighborhood as a family. This low-key time together can encourage kids to open up and give families the opportunity to share what’s on their hearts.
- Board games. Instead of turning on the TV or computer, some nights we enjoy turning off all our electronics and playing board games together. They provide learning opportunities as well as the chance for families to laugh with and talk to one another. My girls’ new favorite is checkers!
- Good old-fashioned fun. Sometimes simple is best, so bring out the bubbles, jump ropes, sidewalk chalk, hopscotch rock, and ball and jacks. There’s a lot of fun to be had in your own yard or driveway!
- Go to the park. Many areas have one or more public parks. We enjoy meeting friends at the park for picnic lunches and play time until the kids are so tired and dirty that they’re begging to leave. It’s great fun as well as great exercise.
- Day programs. If your area is anything like mine, there are lots of opportunities for kids to go to Vacation Bible School, and many churches or youth organizations also have day camps for a small fee.
- Memberships. I used to think memberships to zoos or children’s museums were too expensive until I did the math. Often a year’s membership is approximately equal to the cost of two visits. So if you’re planning to visit anyway, save up the money for a second visit before you go, and buy a membership. Then you get unlimited visits for a year as well as perks for members only (these include things like free parking, discounts on special exhibits, and reciprocal agreements between that zoo or museum and others all over the country). It’s worth the investment!
- State and national parks. Is there a state or national park near you? They often have free and inexpensive programs, including festival days, exhibits, reenactments, and other fun (and educational) events going on. (They will often have passes for sale too, and they’re really affordable. These will get you into the special events for a year for basically nothing!)
- Summer movie programs. Our local Cinemark theater participates in Summer Movie Clubhouse, showing ten movies each summer that are rated G or PG and are appealing to kids. Admission is just $1 per person, or you can buy a pass good for all ten movies for just $5 per person. We’ve been doing this for years, and my kids love it. (We rarely go to the movies any other time!) Check with your local movie theater to see if it has a similar program.
What’s your family’s favorite summer activity?