25 Free Summer Activities for Kids
Summer is Here!
It’s that time of year again and it seems no matter how much a parent intends on planning for it, summer sneaks up on you. I’m a firm believer in kids being able to keep themselves somewhat occupied but I like to plan activities or have things to assist in their summer fun, because while I want them to have fun, I want our family on a whole to have a blast too!
Here are 25 FREE Summer activities for kids (or almost free)! These are some things that we do as a family to have fun during the summer. You might notice that there are a few options that will have a cost associated, for instance free bowling though shoe rental is required, but many ideas are free or have free options. I have also given ways to extend or upgrade the fun of different options, but of course they aren’t required for fun to be had!
Bottom line, not only are these practical and fun activities, they won’t break the bank!
Fun at Home
1.Create a Kid Zone- We have a fairly large front porch where the kids can go when they want to be outside. In the summer we stock the porch with chalk, bubbles, board games, a basket of toys (including some water guns), coloring books, a small cooler to enjoy drinks (without the “in and out”), and other odds and ends that would peak some interest. These are often things you have already or once purchased can be used again.
One year, we bought a cheap tent (like $30) and the kids slept out on the porch for 4 or 5 nights straight… they had a blast! If you have a screened porch or already have a tent… letting the kiddos camp could be major fun!
Whether they are playing, just hanging out listening to music or are on their tablets, they have a space to be outside and have some fun while entertaining themselves. Our kids also have an actual playroom in our attic, but during the summer the porch is the place to be during the down times!
2.Have Movie and/or Game Night- Maybe you already do this but studies show most families don’t, so why not commit to having a movie and/or game night, one night a week during the summer? Most people have some games and some libraries now have games to check out too!
If it is just too nice to be indoors, move the party outdoors! There are devices that will allow phones and tablets to be used as projectors for streaming movies…FUN!
3.Add Water- We don’t have a pool, but we did buy a very cheap sprinkler that has been one of our best purchases ever! It is easy to set out and pick up but gives lots of fun, especially during peak heat hours. Have bigger kids, try a slip and slide, though last year during the lockdown, my kids, who were then 13, 12, and 10, still loved turning the sprinkler on for 15-20 minutes to cool off.
Don’t want to buy a sprinkler… no worries, uses a hose!
4.Plant a Garden- This can be a fun family activity that can bring nutritious snacks all summer and teach valuable lessons. Depending on where you live and what you plant, planting might need to begin prior to Summer vacation, but planting on a weekend during the last few weeks of school will bring you something to tend for most of the summer. Where we live, zone 5, many plants like tomatoes, cucumbers and beans can be planted Memorial Day weekend, which is the first weekend of summer for many children in our area.
Tomatoes and cucumbers are some of the easiest to grow. We use the square-foot gardening method and this could be a great summer activity for your family.
5.Learn to Cook and/or Bake the Perfect ____- Summer brings many hot days. Today it was 99 degrees F almost too hot to be outside unless you have to be. Summer brings rainy days too, so using these times to learn how to cook, bake, or make something that you have always wanted to try is a great opportunity. Maybe try popsicles!
6.Have a Do Nothing Day- With the hustle of Summer sometimes we forget to relax. Having a day where the family just does nothing, maybe even stays in their pajamas, can be just what is needed!
7.Take a Walk- During the summer months, we tend to walk more, we walk to piano lessons, we walk to Jiu Jitsu, we walk to just have fun, but whether you have a final destination or not, taking walks are great ways to see new things, chat and exercise. We try to avoid the hottest hours and grabbing a popsicle is always a good idea!
8.Go to the Park- Seems simple, maybe walk there!
9.Take a Bike Ride- This is a great family activity and whether it is just around the block or to go grab some ice cream, riding a bike just makes the experience that much more fun. Summer is also a great time to teach children how to ride a bike or to remove the training wheels.
10.Stargaze- My kids love all that is space and really enjoy learning about planets and stars. Take some time out this summer and learn about constellations, planets and their positions in the sky. Set up a night picnic with some yummy snacks and just look up! Some of my favorite nights in memory, are of us just laying on blankets and looking up.
Another thing that might come in handy while star gazing… binoculars. For Christmas my mother-in-law got the kids a pair of these astronomy binoculars and they have been so fun to use. They aren’t expensive and could double for learning about birds! If you do grab the binoculars, consider opting for the tripod, you will find it VERY useful.
To get kiddos excited about space, consider two of my children’s favorite books about space, Space! and Don’t Know Much About the Solar System.
11.Visit a State or National Park- Many people don’t realize what they have in their own backyards! Take a few minutes to google what parks you have in your area, you might be surprised to learn what is only a short drive from you. Many states offer free admission days to their parks!
12.Go Fishing- My kids love to fish and while you need a fishing pole and accessories, once bought, the cost of fishing is small. Check with your state as their are fishing rules and laws that vary. Some states require licenses at a certain age but many states also offer free fishing weekends or dates, where people can fish without a license.
13.Give Geocaching a Try- Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity, in which participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device (like cell phones) and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches”, anywhere in the world. Sometimes neat little trinkets are left for people to find. Visit geocaching.com for more information.
14.Take a Picnic- Whether going to the park, the beach, the pool or the backyard, having a picnic is loads of fun!
15.Feed the Ducks- We have a small lake in town and my children love to feed the ducks and ask to do it often. While most people bring bread and crackers (we did until we learned more), those items aren’t the best for birds. Visit here for more information on what is best to feed ducks and geese.
PS. This post has some affiliate links, read more about those here.
16.Go Bowling- My kids are all in a bowling league from about August until about March, but during the summer we take them in not only for practice but for fun as well.
We are lucky enough to have a bowling alley near us that participates in the Kids Bowl Free program. This program is nation wide and is free to sign up. Signing up gives each of your children 2 free games, every day, during your local bowling alley’s open bowling times, all you need to pay for are shoe rentals, and they even have an option of parents and grandparents opting in for a small fee.
Please Note: Your local bowling alley is paying to be part of this program and while yes they hope to gain year round customers, they also care about youth bowling…make sure to buy a few sodas and treats while you are there, it really will make a difference to a local business!
17.Go Roller Skating- Much like the bowling program, the Kids Skate Free program allows kids 2 free skating passes every week during the Summer, skate rental is required if your child doesn’t have skates. Much like the bowling alleys, these businesses are hoping to gain customers by participating in this program but they are open because of their love for skating. Many are small businesses in the “video game” age… Please buy some snacks at the concessions, that’s where they profit!
18.Go to the Movies- Movies can be expensive but check some of your local theaters to see if they offer free or discounted movies over the summer. Near us a theater provides free summer movies for kids on Wed-Fri at 10 am and they discount the kids combo for the kids. Drive-in movies are a great way to stretch your dollar. Depending on the theater, you pay about what you would at a normal theater, sometimes even less, but you get at least 2 movies. When our kids were small we could take them to a kid’s movie and after they fell asleep, we could cover them up and move to the screen playing the newest “grown-up” movie!
Remember: All movie theaters are being charged an arm and a leg to rent the movies they bring you, they make next to nothing on the ticket sales, it is at the concession stands where they make profit. We have a few drive-ins by us and they all allow outside food in but ask for a fee to recoup some of the concession stand loss. I know this bothers some people but knowing that the “cooler” fee and concession stand money are helping to keep an awesome summer family tradition alive, it really is a small price to pay.
19.Go to a Museum- Museums are fun trips and ways to keep the educational wheels turning during the summer. We are lucky enough to live in the middle of some great museums that are just a short ride from us. Check with the museums in your area to see if they offer free or discounted days.
In Chicago, every museum offers free days and not just to Illinois residents, Indianapolis also offers free days as well and both offer lots of choices. Another way to stretch your dollar is to buy a pass and if you do some research you might find the price of a pass allows you to use that same pass at another location, making it a reciprocal pass. Visit the North American Reciprocal Association for more information. Also, check out the Association of Children’s Museums for information on passes that allow discounted visitation to other children’s museums.
20.Go to the Library- Libraries usually offer Summer Reading Programs and many children can earn prizes for their reading. We are so lucky to have a great library system where we live and they really do a lot for the children during the summer.
This summer they are planning pool parties at the local city pool, a petting zoo to visit the library, game days, ice cream days and much more… All FREE! We pick a day a week to visit the library and attend as many activity days as we can. These programs are a lifesaver for days when mom needs a break!
21.Go to the Zoo or Aquarium– Like many places, zoos and aquariums offer free days and discounts during the summer and other times of the year. Most kids LOVE animals so this is a time to view whether a pass might be the best choice, and like many museums, some zoo/aquarium passes offer discounts or free admission at other zoos, which is perfect is you are going on vacation or visiting family. Visit the Association of Zoos and Aquariums for more information and to see a list of zoos and aquariums that are participating, click here.
22.Go to the Pool/Beach- Swimming is always a great Summer activity! We have a city pool that offers a pass, which is convenient, and often beach access is free. We use the pool at least once a week and often we head to the lake for free, but I have a girlfriend who literally goes to the pool with her kids 5-6 days a week.
Her pool pass cost her $120 ($30 a person) but without that pass and at $4 per person, per day, she would spend between $880-$1,056 over the summer. Obviously, if she hadn’t had a pass, she wouldn’t have gone to the pool as much, but they definitely paid for themselves!
Passes aren’t free but the savings are so significant that they have to put in the category. Just remember, passes only save you money if you use them, so make sure you do!
Fun While Learning
23.Visit Home Improvement Stores for Workshops– Home Depot offers workshops for kids showing them basic tool use while building fun items. The kits are not free, they are around $5, but that is a small cost learning how to use tools from a guide. Lowes has workshops too and also offers some virtual workshops. The workshops at Lowes also offer kits, and from the appearance of their website, the kits seem free… though you do need to reserve a kit, so check out the link above.
24.Start Learning a New Language- Summer is a great time to learn something new. Try borrowing a language course from the library, learn a new word everyday, or flip the language on their favorite cartoon (Netflix offers that option on many cartoons and Hulu has shows like Caillou and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, in other languages). Download an app like Duolingo (which can be done on the computer as well), set up free accounts for everyone, and have fun learning together! Maybe this will awaken a passion to learn all year long!
25.Train for a Marathon- This is a great activity to do with your kids and can even be done for a cause. There are many methods to train for a marathon, pick one suited to your family and make it a family goal for the summer.
26. Fun While Giving Back- Much like the marathon training above (for a cause), there are many ways to have fun and give back. Having a lemonade stand to help the local animal shelter and putting together a bake sale for your favorite cause are just a couple, but doing an activity over the summer break, that not only brings the family together but is for a good cause, is a great choice and little money is required, as most of us have baking supplies on hand and volunteering is free. Ask your kids for their ideas, make signs, and maybe get the community involved. Children are very charitable and their charity is infectious!
Enjoy Your Summer
After you have figured out what you’d like to do as a family, learned what dates your library is doing different activities, discovered when your bowling alley is open, and when the museums, zoos, and aquariums are having their free or discount days… grab this free fill-in Summer Calendar and plan out your summer… or trust me, summer will fly by and you’ll find yourself missing many events!
Whatever you find yourselves doing this summer, enjoy it! Don’t forget to comment below or head over to Instagram or Facebook and share with our community… tag me @bemandfam, let me know which of these free summer activities for kids your family loved!
BEM+ fam 🙂