Here are 50 free activities you can do with your kids this summer! (Yes, I understand, some of them require food or gasoline, but these are all activities that don’t require admission fees or expensive supplies.)
Special thanks to my readers for supplying many of these ideas!
1. Homemade water play. This doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Set up the sprinkler, use dollar store squirt guns, or when I was a kid my brothers and I used any old spray bottle we could find around the house to douse each other (outside of course!).
2. Dress up day – challenge each other to see who can come up with the best costume for the day using things you have around the house.
3. Reading programs – check with your local library or bookstore to see what kind of summer reading programs they offer. Most offer prizes when a goal is met. If you can’t find any programs in your area, create your own! Reward them with ice cream, a trip to the toy store, or whatever they will like best!
4. Library activities – besides summer reading programs, many libraries also offer additional activities for kids like storytimes, crafts, and classes on various skills.
5. Home-made videos – Let them try their hand at creating a script, designing costumes, and directing and recording their own video. When they’re done, the whole family can enjoy the home-made entertainment.
6. Craft time – Use Pinterest to prepare a specific craft, or just turn them loose with all the supplies and see what they come up with!
7. Backyard obstacle course – use sticks, ropes, old tires, boxes, and anything else you can find to create an obstacle course in the back yard.
8. Free In-store activities for kids – many stores offer free activities and classes for kids. A few that I can think of off the top of my head are Lowe’s, Michael’s, Pottery Barn Kids, Toys R Us, A.C. Moore, American Girl stores, and Bass Pro Shop. Check in-store or at the store’s website to find out the schedule.
9. Outdoor art – sidewalk chalk and other products made by Crayola are perfect for creating art on the driveway.
10. Outdoor games – jump-rope, hopscotch, four-square, kickball, Red Rover, freeze tag, a game of catch, badminton – all of these can be set up easily and quickly. Gather the neighborhood kids for some friendly competition.
11. Visit parks and playgrounds – most cities have at least one park, and many have a good number of them. Explore parks you’ve never visited before. You may find a new favorite.
12. Feed the ducks. Grab some bread and head to the nearest pond to become the ducks’ new best friend.
13. Picnics – Enjoy lunch together in the great outdoors. You can go to a park or just step into the backyard.
14. Scavenger hunt – make a list of items that can be found in the backyard or around the neighborhood and see how many they can find.
15. Build a fort – ask the appliance store to save a large box for you. Cut out windows and a door and let them decorate it however they want.
16. City-sponsored activities – many cities offer free concerts, festivals, and other activities. Check the city’s website for a schedule.
17. Bowling – Find a location near you that participates in the Kids Bowl Free program.
18. Treasure hunt – Create a treasure map that will lead them to a prize you have hidden.
19. Fun food themes – Let each child choose a theme for dinner one night a week. It could be something crazy like eating the meal in backwards order or eating all red colored foods, or something simple like an Italian or breakfast-for-dinner theme.
20. Take a walk or ride – Get out the stroller or bikes and enjoy some fresh air and exercise together.
21. Visit the pet store and spend time petting the animals.
22. Wash the car. They have fun getting wet; you get a clean car!
23. Cook. Pick up a kids’ cookbook or find some recipes online and let them prepare a meal (with help if needed).
24. Vacation Bible School – most churches have a Vacation Bible School during the summer. If you have other churches in your area of like faith, let them go to the other churches’ VBS’s too.
25. Fast food restaurant playgrounds. Since these are in an enclosed area, you can relax your watchful eye a bit more than at an outdoor park. Bring a book or a friend to chat with.
26. Garden – plant something together and help them learn to take care of it and reap the benefits of their harvest!
27. Water pistol target range – stack up paper cups into a pyramid and see how quickly they can shoot them all down
28. Lemonade stand – this doesn’t have to be elaborate. Just a table, some lemonade, and some cups, and they’ve got all they need!
29. Mud pies – Let them use some old kitchen utensils, put them in some old clothes, and “cook” to their heart’s content!
30. Visit the local fire station. Take along some treats for the firemen.
31. Go camping in the backyard. If you’re not the outdoorsy type, go camping in the living room instead. (Bonus points if you do the campfire outside, though!)
32. Go fishing.
33. Free visits to National Parks – 401 national parks don’t charge an admission fee. You can get free admission to the ones that charge on certain days of the year. Check here for the schedule.
34. Free Museum Visits – Bank of America card-holders can get free admission to 150 museums nationwide on the first weekend of every month. Check here for a list of participating museums.
35. Make homemade popsicles – pour yogurt and fruit juice into a popsicle mold and freeze. If you don’t have a popsicle mold, use a dixie cup and a popsicle stick.
36. Collect bugs.
39. Visit a local farm. Pet the animals, ask questions, and explore.
40. Play an old-fashioned board game.
41. Make tents out of sheets and blankets. This makes a fun reading nook as well.
42. Look at the stars. Check out a book from the library and find constellations together.
43. Serve others. Visit a nursing home, help a neighbor or friend with yard work, bake cookies for the neighbors, etc.
44. Practice new hobbies. For girls, it could be sewing, crocheting, or making hair bows. For boys, woodworking or tinkering with mechanical devices. Find out what their interests are and help them learn.
45. Invent something. Give them odds and ends from around the house and see what they can build with it.
46. Build ice castles. Freeze water in plastic containers of various sizes then let the kids take the ice blocks outside and create castles with them.
47. Splatter painting.
48. Nature parks. Some offer free educational programs for kids.
49. Earn some money. If they are older, they can work for other people; if they’re young, give them some bigger jobs around the house and pay them for their work. Ideas include, washing cars, mowing grass, working in the garden, washing windows, etc.
50. Tours. Ask a local business if they will give you a tour and show your kids how things work behind the scenes.
What else? Can you think of any other fun and free summer activities for kids?
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