Free Summer Activities for Kids

With summer just around the corner, it’s easy to wonder what to do to keep the kids entertained while they are out of school. For many, lavish vacations and trips to exciting places just aren’t options these days. Instead, many are trying to come up with summer activities for kids that are free, or at least don’t cost a lot of money. If you’re looking for some things to do this summer, here are some great ideas that won’t cost you hardly anything.

Good in Tent by makelessnoise on Flickr

1. Visit Your Local Library

If you haven’t stopped by your local library in a while, summer is the perfect time to do so. You may be quite surprised at what the library has to offer children of all ages throughout the summer. Not only do many libraries offer summer reading programs, many which involve prizes and parties, but many libraries also have other special events planned throughout the summer. Extremely hot days or rainy days can be well spent at the library, whether it’s just looking at books, or attending a scheduled event.

2. Check Out Your Local Movie Theater

Many movie theaters offer summer movie programs that are free (or maybe cost $1.00). The movies are often on weekday mornings, and typically are movies that are a bit older, perhaps last year’s hits. However, there are usually movies offered some days for small children, and other days for older children. Popcorn and soda may even be discounted during these special showings (our local theater offers popcorn for a dollar and drinks for a dollar). You won’t even have to resort to sneaking in candy at the movies! Not all theaters participate, but it’s definitely worth looking into in your area!

3. Camp Out In Your Backyard

Do you have a tent? Why not put it up in your backyard and go backyard camping one evening? Try building a fire in a fire pit and roasting marshmallows or making s’mores. Catch fireflies at dusk and grill hotdogs. You don’t have to drive far to have a rustic experience. If you feel like you don’t have the place in your own yard to do these things, consider asking a friend who may have a better area if you can use their yard to camp out. They may even want to join you, making the experience all the more fun.

4. Create Crafts

Maybe your children enjoy art projects. There are countless ideas on the Internet that can be found for neat craft projects that are easy to do with your children. Many ideas use items that you would already have around the home to create fun, beautiful projects. Make a game out of cleaning up the mess too, so that you don’t get stuck doing all the messy work.

5. Enjoy The Outdoors

Go for a bike ride together, draw with sidewalk chalk, play in the garden hose, plant flowers, go fishing and take advantage of the beautiful weather. Kids love playing outside, and it can be fun for the whole family. Just make sure to use sunscreen, and take along some bug spray.

There are so many summer fun ideas available that don’t cost a thing. Check with your local museums and zoos for summer specials as well. They may offer discounts on certain days or weeks of the summer. Keep your kids busy with things to do this summer so they stay active and enjoy their time away from school. It is possible to plan summer activities for kids that cost very little, yet will still make it a summer they will never forget!


  1. FD,
    After reading about your trip to Disney World, I was wondering how you’d follow it up with frugality.
    Great job by the way. Could also add blowing bubbles to the list. Not technically ‘free’, but very cheap. If your kids are young enough, they can be entertained for quite some time.

    • That is a good one. And there are a few recipes floating around the Web for making your own bubble solution, rather than paying retail (although it isn’t really that expensive). My dog gets a kick out of it too – chasing and trying to bite the bubbles. Entertainment for the whole family!

      • If you already have squirt guns you can have a blast shooting down all those bubbles! Works great with over-sized bubble makers and those pool tube-syringe squirters. More fun than a day at the amusement park!

  2. Another great thing to do as a family is volunteer, check out an animal shelter, soup kitchen, community center. It’s free and you can feel great making a difference in someone else’s life. It also sparks great conversations no matter what age your children are.

  3. As a kid, I could have lived in the library and been very happy indeed. I also played with the kids down the street as much as possible – shadow tag was the best. Oh, and dogs make great playmates (but they’re expensive…so this only works as a frugal option if you already had one or plans to have one). Lastly, I remember a ton of picnics and outings to free local nature preserves (like Brazos Bend Park would have free days once in a while).

  4. While I am in college and do not have to worry about kids just yet, I think these ideas are good for adults too for saving money.

  5. I love when our local parks have bands or picnic & a movie playing. Its so much fun to bring a blanket, a basket of yummy food, and knowing the kids can run around the park while the parents relax & enjoy!

  6. The two most used things (especially in winter months) were our pool and museum memberships. Many children’s museums are part of a consortium so you can get into others for free with your local id card. Same with the Y.

    Some of these are not that frugal but were great to do the year we didn’t take a vacation. Going on our little “adventures” made the summer memorable.

    -day trip to local zoo or particularly fun park.
    -research special events coming to your region. Tulip festivals, carnivals, free music in the park, etc.
    -we love children’s museums
    -trip to a lake beach or real beach if you live close enough
    -fort building is always a favorite
    -I hate this option but have used it..Chuck E Cheese or arcade
    -pool membership at the YMCA was $40/kid/year and they must be supervised by adult, so you get in free.

  7. One thing we do is buy an annual pass to our science museum. That pass is good at many science museums around the country. So, we spend a lot of time at museums and pack a picnic and check out the parks and such in the area. There are probably 5 science museums within an hours drive of our house that the pass is valid at. So I pay 35 dollars for a years worth of museums for a family of 5.

  8. Go to a u pick farm and pick some fruit or vegetables.

    Go to free outdoor concerts or even Shakespeare in the park. My kids started enjoying Shakespeare at a surprisingly young age when it was outside in the park.

    Stay up late and watch meteor showers or learn about astronomy and look for constellations.

    Make a bird feeder out of a pine cone covered in shortening and then rolled in birdseed. Tie a string to this and hang in a tree.

    Do summer reading programs. Barnes and Noble, local libraries, and other local bookstores usually have them.

  9. I am really pleased that I came across your site Jason, it is really well laid out and the information you have supplied is top notch.

    These free activities for kids are really helpful and will help many parents I am sure,