Summer is just around the corner and the kids will be on break. So what are you going to do with them all summer? Since a family vacation is very costly, this summer stay at home and take advantage of the freebies around town. Here is a handful of great, fun ideas that are completely free… or pretty darn close to it.


Go camping. All you need it a sleeping bag and a tent! Don’t have those? Ask friends and family if anyone can lend you camping gear before you spend any money. Pack a cooler of food, and bring along a small propane grill or stove. And don’t forget the marshmallows!

Check out National Parks. There are certain dates where you can get free entrance into parks around the country. If you plan a visit for one of these days, you can get free entrance and free transportation entrance.

And your local parks and recreation activities. For a last minute fun idea, noting beats heading to your closest public park. Beyond letting the kids loose on the playground equipment, check with your Parks and Recreation department to see what summer activities are planned at your park.

Go swimming. If you live near a beach or lake, take advantage of the free water fun. If not, visit the local community pool to give you an inexpensive way to cool down and have fun.

Make a homemade water park. A garden hose, a kiddie pool and a Slip’n Slide and you got yourself a homemade water park. Lay down an old tarp in place of the Slip’N Slide to save even more money.

Fine Arts

Look for museum arts and crafts programs. More museums are looking to inspire a whole new generation of artists and are hosting free kids’ art programs where kids get to create their own works of art. Check with your nearest art museum to see what programs they are hosting this summer.

Check out art festivals. Art Markets or Art Festivals are a great way to expose your kids to art and music. You can get outdoors, experience local musicians and artists and maybe even sample new local cuisine.

Sign up for summer reading programs.  Many libraries have summer reading programs that help encourage kids to read. Most entail signing up and reading at least one book each week for a small prize. Some locations may even hold a party for their star readers at the end of the summer!

Look for other activities at the library. While you are signing up for the summer reading program, check out the activities schedule for the summer. Look for story time, book readings, dress up time and even arts and crafts. Librarians often tie in book readings with other education activities so this is a good way to entertain and educate the kids for free.

Sign up for building workshops. Got a Home Depot or Lowe’s nearby? Sign up for some of their free workshops. Home Depot has DIY kid’s workshops on the first Saturday of each month, and Lowe’s offers weekly Build and Grow Kids Clinic. They are all free and kids are provided aprons, goggles and the required tools. Best of all, they get to build something cool and take it home with them.

Look for kid movie matinees. Many local theaters have free or very discounted kids movies on certain days. In most cases, they are older movies that you could probably buy on DVD, but you can take the kids to the theater and get the whole experience for little cost to you.

Visit the museum on free admission days. Museums often have free admissions on specific days of the month. Check with the museums local to you for more information. Fun, free and education? What a great way to spend the day!

Even More Ideas

Go bowling. Check out Kids Bowl Free to see if any bowling alleys near you are participating in this program. Register your little ones and they can get 2 free games a day, all summer long.

Set up a scavenger hunt. This activity will take a bit of effort on your part, but it can be a fun adventure for the whole family. Hide a treasure and write up the clues that will lead to one another, eventually getting to the final prize. You can have the kids go around the house, the back yard and even the entire neighborhood if they are old enough.

Sign the kids up for vacation bible school. If your family attends a church, you can sign the kids up for vacation bible school. It is usually a week long, and is a specialized educational event that focuses on children. Most are free, and others are run for a minimal fee.

Take a behind the scenes tour. Schedule a behind the scenes tour of the work places that interest your kids the most. If they are interested in learning how mail gets to their home, ask your local post office if you can schedule a tour for your kids. Like firefighters? Give the local fire station a call. You could also inquire about tours with a hospital, TV station, animal shelter or baseball stadium to name just a handful of ideas.

Do some good deeds. Volunteering is not only got the community, it can teach your kids a valuable lesson. Do some volunteer work with your kids so that they can start learning about the benefits of helping others. Pick up trash at the local park, visit nursing homes or help prepare meals for the homeless. Volunteer Match can help you find a place to volunteer in your city or town.

Summertime is fast approaching, and you need to be ready to entertain your kids all summer. Instead of taking an expensive vacation, stay at home and use these suggestions for free family fun.

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