40 Free (Or Nearly Free) Summer Activities for Kids

{UPDATE: Visit our 2013 list of 50 Free (or nearly free) Summer Activities for Kids. This post is from 2012, so programs not valid for this year have been updated with new links or links have been removed.}

Today I realized that my kids only have 12 more days left in the school year. In realizing that my children get out of school in mid-May, which is NOT summer, I am finally forced to start thinking about  how to entertain my kids in other ways than my lovely chore chart that I bring out every time I hear the words, “I’m bored.” But more importantly I am thinking about how to entertain my kids this summer without breaking, smashing, or destroying my budget. In doing my research I have created a list of 40 free or nearly free summer activities for kids (other than the chore chart which you could easily make #41). I hope that you can use this list of activities as well.

40 Free or Nearly Free Summer Activities for Kids

Go Bowling

1.  Kids Bowl Free.com  If you sign up for this service, every week this site sends you free bowling passes for your kids to enjoy.

2.  Free Bowling from AMF

Enjoy Reading

3. Local Library Summer Reading Programs: Our library has programs for kids of all ages. In fact last year one of my kids graduated to the teen programs at my local library, and I’ve never seen a kid more motivated to get his reading on. I think it was the idea of winning a free XBox that really motivated him.

4. Earn a free book from Barnes and Noble.

5.  Free Story On-Line Story Time at Barnes and Noble

Go Outside

6. Camp in your own backyard.

7.  Free National Park Days

8. Use Trail Link to find local trails to go hiking, biking, etc.

9. Check out your local park and recreation organization to find a park you’ve never visited.

10. Go play in the sprinklers.

11. Try Geocaching. Per Geocaching.com, geochaching is a “real-world treasure hunting outdoor game. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocashes, using GPS enabled devices”such as your smart phone “and then share their experiences online.”

12. Check out hyper-local bloggers and local websites to find local nature attractions. In Oklahoma temperatures are often wickedly hot (in the 100′s) during the summer. We love to visit a place called Blue Hole, a natural cold water spring, that I discovered on a random search looking for fun things to do in Oklahoma. It only cost us gas money, a picnic meal, and $5 per car.

13. Train for a sport such as running & have a final goal or goal race picked.

Go to Camp or Class

14.  Apple Retail Store Camp  -    Last year my kids learned how to make a movie at camp, and they loved it.

15.  Free Family Workshops at Bass Pro Shops

16.  Free Lowe’s Build & Grow Kids Clinics

17.  Home Depot’s Free Kids Workshops find more info at Homedepot.com

18. Free Kids Activities at  Pottery Barn Kids Stores

Learn Something

19. Google “find a pen pal“learn write actual letters with paper and stamps to friends all over the world.

20. Use Local Harvest.org to find local Farmer’s Markets to visit.

21. Go on a Factory/Plant tour: Many local restaurants, factories, etc. offer tours to groups. All you have to do is call around to find them. I personally have had success at donut shops, pizza shops, and the Blue Bell Factory.

22. Teach your kids to cook. Family Fun has a great article telling you where to start.

23. Teach your kid a special skill. More and more my kids are needing word processing for school. This summer we’ll be learning how to use my Mac for word processing.

Get Some Culture

24. Free Museum Entry from Bank of America Credit or Debit Card

25.  Free or Reduced Entry Fee to the Arts from Target  

26. Try new restaurants. Make a lisiting of all of the places kids in your area can eat for free using  Kids Eat For.com  or  Kids Meal Deals.com  and create a fun eating out adventure for the summer.


Save or Make or Give Some Money

27. Have your kids check off items on their “earn extra money” list created by a you.

28. Organize a Summer Camp exchange with other parents. Have each parent take a day to take on the kids in their homes. You get a day off, and your kids get to experience other people’s homes and what they like to do.

29. Use  Volunteer Match.org  to find volunteer opportunities for you and your kids.

30. Start a small business whether it be washing cars, mowing the lawn, washing the neighbors windows, having a one day garage sale, or starting a lemonade stand.

Go to the Movies

31.  Bookworm Wednesdays with National Amusements: Write a book report, get a free movie!

32.  Clearview Cinema’s Kids: Free movies starting in July for New York and New Jersey!

33.  Summer Kidfest at Cinema World: 7 days a week free movies at 10am for kids.

34.  Classic Cinemas  - $1 Wednesdays showing PG or G rated films in June through August.

35.  Dickenson Theaters Summer Vacation Movie Series: 8 shows for $13 or $2.50 each in June through the beginning of August. Each location has a different schedule.

36.  Harkins Summer Movie Fun: At less than $1 per ticket Harkins is offering a great deal for young movie goers this summer.

37.  Marcus Theatres’ Kids’ Dream Summer Film Series  - $2 movies from June through August.

38.  The Great Escape’s Summer Kids’ Movies: Discounted tickets from May through August depending upon the theater.

39.  Malco Kid’s Summer Film Fest  - $2 tickets June through August

40. Movie theaters that have summer movie series:

What will you be doing with your kids this summer?

Kelly K

More Resources

Looking for even more ideas? We’ve got ‘em!
50 Activities to do with Kids when they are off school-many apply to the summertime as well.

Last year’s list of 14 frugal and fun activities to do when it’s hot outside, and  7 Ways to Entertain your kids when you are sick.

About Kelly Kinkaid


Kelly Kinkaid, professional blogger and freelance writer, enjoys writing about such topics as stretching a dollar, personal finance, diet and fitness, and living a life well lived. She spends all of her spare time in her many roles including but not limited to soccer, basketball, swimmer, band, and piano mom, runner and wife. You may also contact her on Twitter as @Kellyology, or on Facebook.

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