Summer is upon us, which means time spent with the family enjoying the outdoors and soaking in the sun.
But as you search for summer fun, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you have to spend money on big vacations and recreational activities. This can leave frugal families wondering how they’ll make it through the season with a budget intact.
The good news is, you don’t need to spend crazy amounts of money to have fun this summer. In fact, there are plenty of fun activities that will cost you next to nothing to take advantage of. If you’re ready to get your family together for some quality time, try these 25 free, or almost free, activities that will help make this summer one to remember.
1. Enjoy the library
Sick of paying for video rentals and buying books online? Your local public library offers all that and more when you sign up for a free card. During the summer, libraries often run special contests and hold activities for kids to help get them in the spirit of reading.
2. Story time at some of your favorite stores
Some retail stores, like Pottery Barn Kids, offer a free weekly story time Tuesday’s at 11 am. Just show up to enjoy the tale, and expect activities and other surprises to unfold.
3. Visit local cultural institutions
Depending on where you live, your local library may offer special passes to enter a selection of museums, zoos, and other institutions for free or at a discounted rate.
4. Get techy (Part 1)
Apple offers a three-session Apple Camp program that’s free for kids between the ages of 8-12. Sign up at your nearest store, then let your kids teach you about all the new tricks they’ve learned!
5. Get techy (Part 2)
If Apple isn’t close by, Microsoft also hosts a number of in-store events at its retail locations geared towards kids of all ages, with various interests ranging from free YouthSpark programs to gaming tournaments.
6. Play with LEGOs
Live near a LEGO retail store? Children ages 6-14 can sign up for the Monthly Mini Model Build. Kids will learn how to build a mini model with LEGOs and will be able to take theirs home with them at no cost.
7. Bowling with the kids
Some websites and businesses offer free bowling passes for children during the summer months. It’s something worth looking into if you’re interested in family-friendly activities!
8. Dust off those board games
The current retro trend includes a newfound re-appreciation for board games, so those old ones on your shelf may find new life. Modern versions of older games may also be available via apps on mobile devices, making your favorite board games fun, convenient, and pocket-sized.
9. Use an amusement park discount
Heading to an amusement park with the family in the middle of summer sounds expensive, and it can be. But with certain memberships or qualifications, you may find that entry costs can be significantly reduced. Members of the military receive discounts at many amusement parks around the country, so your day of thrills might end up being cheaper than you thought.
10. Set up camp at home
Camping is a whole new way of enjoying the outdoors, from cooking over a fire to laying back to see the stars. Just head to your backyard with the kids and a tent for an easy, and free, way to go camping.
11. Summer camp swap
Camps can be expensive, so try and create a camp-like experience for your children by teaming up with your neighbors, friends or family! Rotate where the kids go to hang out each day. The kids will get fresh experiences while the adults enjoy a nice little break.
12. Head to a national park
Is there a national park nearby? Take advantage of nature’s beauty with trails and sightseeing on a local national park’s free entrance day. If your child is in fourth grade, you can receive a year’s worth of family access to parks, waterways and other national areas through the Every Kid In A Park program.
13. Visit different parks around the area
Shake up your summer routine a bit by taking the kids to the next town or neighborhood over to play in an entirely new park. The change in scenery will feel like a treat, and the kids won’t be stuck doing the same things day-in and day-out.
14. Learn about flowers
Botanical gardens can be another alternative to traditional parks. You’ll have opportunities to learn about different types of plants, and many of these gardens offer free or low-cost activities and camps for children.
15. Watch movies under the stars
Summer is the prime time for watching movies outdoors and many municipalities have picked up this trend, organizing free events for local residents. To see if there’s one near you, look at calendars for parks, schools and other areas that host local events.
16. Host your own outdoor movie screening
If there are no outdoor movie showings available nearby, make your own version right at home! You’ll need a projector, but if a friend or family has one you can borrow, you’ll just need to hang a white sheet to have your own private big-screen. Invite friends over and make sure you have enough popcorn to go around!
17. Find a concert
Keep an eye out for free or low-cost concerts that you can enjoy with the family. They tend to spring up at various venues, including parks, piers, and other high-traffic areas around town.
18. Volunteer together
Volunteering your time is a rewarding way to help others out. Teach your kids the value of helping others by volunteering together at a place of your choice. Check out VolunteerMatch to find a local opportunity you and your kids can support.
19. Stay cool
What’s better on a hot day than feeling a spray of cold water? Find local playgrounds that offer sprinklers and other water features, or help the kids fill up some water balloons for fun closer to home.
20. Bring the family to a farmer’s market
Visiting a farmer’s market with the family can be a great way to pick up local foods at a lower cost than stores. Plus, during the summer many farmer’s markets tend to offer family-friendly activities, hosting everything from small concerts to face-painting.
21. Create in the kitchen
Kids watch you cook all the time, and love being involved, especially with the fun stuff. Run your own “cooking camp” by having your kids help choose and prepare food items for at least one meal a day. Teach the kids about the importance of a balanced diet as you spend quality time with them and prepare healthy meals for the family.
22. Have a picnic
Whether you’re packing up a lunch for the park or simply turning one night’s dinner into a backyard “picnic”—you’ll be spending time outside and doing things differently than you usually would, which can be exciting for kids.
23. Learn to do-it-yourself
At Home Depot, you or your kids can take workshops to learn how to build simple projects and make common repairs.
24. Get crafty
Michaels craft stores run an ongoing summer program for kids during June and July. These aren’t free, but it’ll only cost you $2 for a one-hour session for ages three and up, and $5 per one-hour session for ages six and up. Supplies are included in the cost of admission, and you don’t have to commit to attending daily.
25. Learn something new together
Have you always wanted to learn how to knit? Maybe you and your children could learn this skill together this summer. Whether it’s collecting something of interest or learning a skill you’ve always wanted to, doing it together will make the process fun and productive.
Not only will these options help you spend more time with your family this summer, but you’ll also save some money in the process.
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