It’s almost summer and that means the kids will want fun stuff to do.
Make this summer the not-bored-out-of-my-mind complaining summer (like last year).
Plan ahead now with these 10 Free and Cheap family fun ideas that will keep your kids thinking, learning, and ungluing their eyes from their screens.
10 Free and Cheap Ideas for Unplugged Summer Family Fun
Free Local Family Events
In every city or town I’ve lived in, the best way to find out about fun local events is through Facebook.
You can search for events by location on Facebook to find out what activities will be coming up soon.
You can also follow local museums, companies, churches, visitor’s bureaus, and your parks and recreation department on Facebook and look for events they host.
Thanks to Facebook, I’ve been able to learn about festivals, parades, farmers markets, craft fairs, jump house events, and holiday celebrations that I wouldn’t have ever known about otherwise. And most of them have had free or low cost admission.
Another great resource is to check out the Target Free Days site to see if there are any free museum days in your area.
Visit ALL the parks
Make a list of all the parks and playgrounds in your neighborhood or nearby towns and try them all out. You can even have your kids grade or rank the parks. Set up certain judging criteria and categories for each winner, such as “best park for a picnic” or “best park to walk the dog” or “best park to stay cool” and “best park overall.” Not only will you be having fun, but your kids will be practicing critical thinking by learning how to compare and analyze information.
Splash Pads and Pools
If you are lucky enough to have a community pool or splash pad, take advantage of it! They are typically free or cheap and are a great way to let your kids cool off and enjoy those sunny days. If you have the choice, splash pads are a lot safer and easier for the little ones.
I enrolled my four-year-old daughter in soccer last summer. It was only $15 to join through my local parks and recreation department. They met once a week for about 6 weeks to learn the basics of soccer and run around having a blast.
It really boosted her confidence to be a helper to her coach, learn to dribble, and wear some awesome neon pink soccer socks. After soccer practice we would play at the playground near the soccer field. It was something we all went together as a family for, and we met a lot of people and made new friends in the process.
Look for local sports teams your kids can enjoy. To stay on the frugal side, try to stick to sports that use less equipment- like track & field, basketball, soccer, and swimming.
You can also look for sports clinics held by your local college or university. Some have free programs for a limited number of kids.
Depending on the ages of your children, you may want to go out on adventures like hiking, hunting, fishing, or camping.
To find good hiking trails near you, visit trail link.
To keep camping costs low, try borrowing a tent and gear from a friend and stay at a state or national park. The national parks even have some free admission days.
If you have a big enough yard, you could also camp out back and cook some s’mores over a fire pit or grill.
If you have young kids and babies, you can still go out adventuring with them, it just takes a little more forethought and preparation.
A safer, easier alternative is to “camp out” in the living room together as a family. Be sure to have bedrolls or sleeping bags, snacks, flashlights, and “spooky” stories to complete the effect.
When we do this, we like to drive the next day to a more forested or mountainous area to play and explore.
Another great way to get outside is to take your kids geocaching. This is a worldwide treasure hunt that uses GPS to locate and stash caches of treasure. It is completely free, educational, and tons of fun for the whole family.
Summer Reading Program
Most libraries have a summer reading program. These are a fun way to get your kids interested in reading and exploring new books.
They usually have prizes for the number of pages or minutes a child has read and some even have fun group activities to get involved in.
My daughter, who was four at the time, participated in our reading program last summer. She was really excited to meet the challenge of reading a total of 800 minutes by the end of summer and winning a trophy.
Barnes and Noble also has a summer reading program for kids grades 1-6 that runs from May to September where they can earn a free book after meeting the requirements.
Or you can do as this family did, and create your own family summer reading program with fun and free rewards like “get out of washing dishes.”
Speaking of reading, most libraries have fun activities and programs all year long. My local library has events for all ages, including story time, STEAM projects, Lego building, and coloring. Sometimes they even host fun multicultural events. Ask your librarian or visit your local library’s website for a calendar of events.
Books to Big Screen
Find out which movies will be coming out this summer based on a book, and read the book together as a family. When the movie is released, you can treat yourselves to an outing at the theater.
To save money you can go see it at the matinee showing, or choose a movie based on a book that will be a new release to DVD and rent the movie at home.
Last year, my daughter and I did this with The BFG. It was so fun to share my love of the author Roald Dahl with her and take her out to her first movie theater experience. The best part was cuddling up together each afternoon to read a chapter. It is a memory I will cherish forever.
Celebrate Summer Holidays
Summer is full of fun holidays like memorial day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day. Celebrate them in style by creating fun family traditions. Kids love holidays and reasons to celebrate, especially when we take the time to make them special. It doesn’t have to be anything too elaborate, either. Making some fresh lemonade and having sparklers out on the lawn can be a simple memory-making experience.
Participating bowling alleys in the US and Canada are giving away 2 free games per day of bowling all summer long. Check if your local bowling alley is participating in Kids Bowl Free and sign up your kids. Shoe rental rates apply, but some bowling alleys offer a discount for purchasing an unlimited shoe rental pass.
Field Trips and Tours
Many places of business will accommodate group tours, all you need to do is ask. You can call a local business or factory and see if they would be willing to give a behind the scenes tour for your family.
Some great places to look are TV stations, radio stations, recycling centers, planetariums, libraries, movie theaters, grocery stores, newspapers, bakeries, post offices, hotels, zoos, fire stations, police stations, farms, farmer’s markets, museums, sporting events, pet shops, wildlife sanctuaries, aquariums, food and candy factories, or anything your children would find interesting. You never know, it just might inspire a new passion.
Don’t let the summer pass by without making family memories having fun and learning together.
Between local events, outdoor parks, splash pads and pools, sports teams, outdoor adventures, library outings, book challenges and movies, fun summery holidays, bowling, and field trips and tours you’re bound to find something great your kids can look forward to all summer long.