Eleven fun and cheap (or free) summer activities for kids

Summer is here! For kids that means entire mornings of cartoons, lazy afternoons and the beginning of the school year so far away it seems like it will never arrive. For adults it means trying to find a way to keep the kids entertained. Unfortunately, entertainment doesn’t come cheap. In fact its taxin’.

So as a college student/aunt/not millionaire I’ve found 11 things to do with kids this summer that won’t break the piggy bank. (Spoiler: Most are free.)

Take them Bowling – Free


The “Kids Bowl Free” program gives registered children two free bowling games at a participating alley every day throughout the summer. Brunswick bowling centers are also giving out two free games to kids 18 and under through August. All they have to do is join their Bonus Zone.

Building Workshops – Free

The Home Depot offers monthly building workshops for kids completely free of cost. The workshops take place the first Saturday of every month and kids get to take home whatever they built and a little apron. Lowe’s also offers free workshops once a month but you must register in advance to attend.

Michaels’ and Lego Stores also have fun and free activities for kids. For more information on those and other participating stores check out this list.

Go out for Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner – Free

Kids are like a bad date (an adorable bad date) they never pay the bill and don’t even offer to go dutch. Thankfully many restaurants have kids eat free days and specials.

To find participating restaurants in your area visit MyKidsEatFree. A list of participating chain restaurants can be found at Money Saving Mom and one organized by weekdays can be found at Coupon Divas.

Visit a Museum – Free

My niece and nephew love visiting museums so this is definitely something we will be doing this summer. (Photo by Mikel Ortega – Flickr CC)

Many local history museums are free of charge and most major museums offer a free day. To find free museum days in Los Angeles and other metropolitan cities visit freemuseumday.org. For a exhaustive list of museums in California click here.

Movie Time – $5 of less

Harkins, Cinemark, Regal Entertainment Group and Bow Tie Cinemas are all offering summer movie programs for kids. I love movies, the kids love movies and the theaters are nice and cool: this is an all around win.

For $5 you can watch up to 10 different movies at Harkins or Cinemark theaters. Regal Entertainment theaters will be showing movies for kids at 10am on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for $1. And at Bow Tie Cinemas you can watch nine different movies for zero dollars.

Go to a Skating Rink – Free

Similar to the bowling program, Kids Skate Free lets kids enter a skating rink for free throughout the summer.

Reading – Free

I am not going to lie I love books with pictures (Photo by John Morgan - Flickr CC)

I am not going to lie I love books with pictures (Photo by John Morgan – Flickr CC)

I know I know reading is always free, but it is still worth mentioning. Especially since it is so chock-full of benefits.

Many local libraries have summer reading programs for kids, visit your local library’s website to see if they are hosting one. Barnes & Noble also has a reading program of sorts. Kids could earn a free book by reading any eight books, filling out the provided book journal and taking it to a Barnes and Noble between May 20 and Sept. 2.

Movies or Concerts at the Park – Free

Summer time provides the perfect weather to be outside at night. For that reason many cities hold concerts and movie viewings at local parks. To find one in your area visit your city’s page. Little kids love anything that happens outdoors in the dark.

Visit a State Park – Free

With lots of long summer days ahead, visiting a state park is a good way to spend one of them. Most parks are free to enter; of course gas isn’t but still it is a worth while experience and good way to get out. Find a state park near you over here.

Pick fruit – Cost Varies

Mmmm pounds and pounds of strawberries. That’s the dream. (Photo by Julie Margo – Flickr CC)

I’ve never been to a Pick-Your-Own (a.k.a. U-pick) farm but I’ve heard they are lots of fun. Plus, you get to take yummy produce home.

To find a farm near you visit PickYourOwn.

Volunteering – +Positive Karma

Like reading volunteering is always free, but over the summer it is a great way to keep kids busy and encourage them to give back. Some great ideas for the summer are cleaning a local beach, planting a tree, sorting food at a food bank and making greeting cards for hospital patients.

For more tips on volunteering with kids go here.

Well, I hope some of these are useful. What are some ways you have inexpensive fun throughout the summer?

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