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Cheap Entertainment - What to do in the summer with kids, that doesn’t cost a lot.

Updated on April 11, 2011

If you can afford one of these - go for it!


Summer is coming soon!

The time is drawing near when school is out and the kids are going to be running around driving you nuts wanting to do something, ANYTHING! As a parent, for the most part I just flew by the seat of my pants and did whatever my bank book allowed, knowing there would be more in the bank next week. With times as they are now, it’s just not that easy. Gas at $4.00 per gallon, just riding around is darned near impossible. The money might not be there next week, but the kids will.

Sure you can tell them to go outside to play, knowing kids as I do, if you don’t keep at least ½ an eye on them, there will be trouble. If you live in a crowded area, there is certainly going to be trouble, that’s just the way it is. Attempting to plan out an itinerary just might be beneficial for you.

Backyard Camping

If you happen to have even a small backyard, this is a great place to start!  For a few dollars, a couple tarps can be purchased at your local hardware or discount store.  Some poles or sticks and rope or twine (unless of course you happen to have a clothes line) with a little ingenuity on your part, you can make a usable tent for kids.  Check your weather report first to make sure there isn’t going to be rain.  A few pillows and blankets along with a good flashlight and your kids are in for a night of fun!  Don’t forget, even if you live in a large city with tons of people, there probably will be bears, tigers or even boogie men the first night out!!!  Try to do this on a night when you don’t need a lot of sleep, because you probably won’t get any with all the giggling and screaming that will be going on.    

If you can afford one - here are some tents to buy!

State Parks

In my State we have a lot of State Parks, all you have to do is flip open a map and point your finger.  Ok, well maybe not that many, but there are a lot.  We can usually be at one within an hour.  We also are able to purchase a State Park sticker, which will gain entry into any park in the State at no additional cost, for the day.  If you’ve renewed your license plate and didn’t add the sticker that isn’t a problem, stop in at the Park Ranger’s office and buy a yearly sticker.

If you are about to renew your license plate you can spend $20 and are good to go for the year.  A day pass runs around $7, the yearly pass is $23, so you can see by adding the sticker to your plate, there is money to be saved.  Even if you only go 3 times, you are saving a dollar.  Once purchased most people will use it more.  

In most State Parks there are picnic facilities, grills, lakes, some have boat rentals and most certainly, lots of areas to walk.  Bring a picnic lunch, some good sun block and bug spray for a day of fun in the sun!  This is definitely cheaper than any tanning package!  You’ll be spending time with the kids and everyone will be getting good exercise.

If you have a week off and want to go Rustic camping, most State parks have that available as well.  Some State Parks have camping areas for a little as $20 per week with electric hook up!  You can even bring the family pets, just call your local State Park to make sure pets are allowed!  Pack the car, pack the kids, grab your tent, put a leash on the dog and go!  A weeks vacation doesn’t get any cheaper than that!

Local City Parks

If you don’t want to go camping or even take that drive to the State Park, check within your area to see if there are local parks.  They usually don’t have swimming facilities but a pretty nice playground can be found!   It’s good exercise for the kids, you might even meet a few parents who are out doing the same thing and make a new friend! 


If you’re not an ‘outdoorsy’ type of family but would like to get in some good exercise there are other ways.  The local YMCA has family packages.  These are a little more expensive up front but are good for an entire year, not just summer.  There are swimming facilities, exercise facilities, weight training and exercise classes available.  Check with your local YMCA for their schedule and yearly costs.

Community Programs

Call your local Community Mental/Health Department to see if they have any programs designated for the summer!  If you live near a Zoo, they might offer you low to no cost tickets.  They, above all, know that parents need a break from time to time as well as defraying costs for entertainment.  

Call your local Community Action Agency to see if they are offering any programs for the summer.  If they aren’t they might know of a place that is.

Check your local paper to see what is happening!

Most cities even small ones have at the very least a weekly newspaper. Check in the ad section for classes that your family can take. There are child cooking classes, pottery classes, adult cooking classes, sewing classes, crafting classes as well. These usually come at a small price per person, to cover expenses.

Generally, every Saturday your local craft stores have classes of some sort, in crafting, check with them to see what is up and coming. Michaels and JoAnn fabrics are wonderful for helping to keep the young minds and hands busy.

Lowe’s usually has a ‘work shop’ going on at least once a month (depending on the area) but more likely once a week. Teaching young ones how to paint and make small crafts, taking home what has been made is a treat for the child as well. Most of the work shops are free, some coming with a small fee to cover costs. Generally they do not cost more than $10 per child.

Community College

Some of the Community Colleges also offer summer programs as well. These are generally a class that takes place once per week over a 6 week period. Yes, there is a higher cost to these classes, but in the long run your child might get bragging rights that ‘they went to college over the summer’. Going back to school in the fall and having to write that essay of ‘What I did last Summer’ might take on a whole new meaning!


If you have relatives ie; Sisters, brothers, cousins, Aunts or Uncles who also have children within the same age range as yours, you might consider doing a ‘child swap’. You take their child/children for a week or two then they reciprocate. Everyone wins! You get some time off, your relatives get some time off. Everyone gets a break. The children get to be closer to extended family, making for a tighter knit family.

Take time to enjoy them!

Summer is not a time to dread with children, it is a time to rejoice! If you see your children as small people who need things to do and are willing to give them a great time, the time they will give you will also be great! Enjoy them now, because one day they will be all grown up. Teach them young to do fun things and when they have children of their own they will more than likely share their memories and create their own brand of fun.


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    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Michigan

      Wow you guys!! 4 in one day - Thanks! Kids are so much fun, I like to see where their imagination will lead.

    • Don Bobbitt profile image

      Don Bobbitt 

      5 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      Sweetsusieg- Great Hub. I wrote one a couple of months ago about having your grandchildren coming to visit for several weeks. We now live in Florida, so \I had to do some serious research and planning to entertain them as well as not send a fortune.

      One thing that we did with our kids (years ago, sic) was to set a day that we took them to the library. It turns out that Libraries have a lot of activities as well as programs that encourage reading for kids.

      Our kids got to the point that this trip was a highlight of their summers, and they always walked away happy and with a backpack full of interesting things to read.

      Again, Good Hub.

    • newusedcarssacram profile image


      5 years ago from Sacramento, CA, U.S.A

      Awesome summer tips you have shared. Summer time means excitement, fun, enjoyment for kids. I believe camping is the best thing that can be done in summer period. This will engage kids into some physical activities. Nice hub...voted up!

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Terrific Suggestions! Great hub. Might I add one of my children's favorites: playing in the yard with the water sprinkler turned on. Pool's are great, but a cheap water-sprinkler is good for about three hours fun (then they are tired and quiet for awhile), you didn't burn any gas, and your lawn has been watered. :)

    • Wesley Meacham profile image

      Wesley Meacham 

      5 years ago from Wuhan, China

      I think this is a good list of things you can do with your children. I especially like the camping ideas. I think that camping is something that everyone would benefit from. Also I like that you mentioned classes at community colleges. There are things like art classes that many kids would enjoy. When I was a child I remember taking a class in drawing cartoons at a community college. I learned a lot from it and found it to be a lot of fun. Voting up and sharing.

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      LOL, sounds like fun!! Leave the jungle, it's great for pretend!! Just think of the Safari they could go on hunting Tigers, Lions, Monkey's etc.... Make sure to pack a lunch cause exploring will work up an appetite!!

    • Mr. Smith profile image

      Mr. Smith 

      7 years ago from California

      I think it's time to start this all over again. This time with the grandkids. I'd better mow the backyard first, though. I'm sure to lose at least a couple in that jungle.

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      LOL, That sounds great!! Tell your husband to let down his hair and get into his jammies!! Get some 'fixens' for s'mores and have a blast!!

    • laddriggers profile image


      7 years ago

      These are some great ideas! Now if only I had kids to try them with... my husband thinks I'm weird when I ask him to camp with me in the backyard...

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      Awesome!! Our local schools used to have free lunch for the kids during the summer. It wasn't lots of food but the kids got to play together and hang out without getting into trouble!!

    • Healing Touch profile image

      Laura Arne 

      7 years ago from Minnetonka, MN


      Great job on the summer tips. I have a activity calendar that I put together with all the local stuff on it including free meals for kids. Fun.

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      It would be beneficial for the economy if gas prices drop for sure!!!

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 

      7 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      We have season tickets this year to Knotts Berry Farm and of course the beach, which is free, is only about an hour drive. Since we just moved this will be a summer full of adventures and exploring. I can't wait. I just hope that gas prices job so we can do a little more exploring :)

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      When my kids were in school, I got just as excited for summer as they did. It meant fun times for us!

      Cheers to you as summer is heading this way!! Hope you have fun!

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 

      7 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      I love the summer... it is a great opportunity to do many new things. We are always looking for something new and different to do with the kids. It makes us so busy by the time Fall gets here we are exhausted! Great hub... thanks for the suggestions!

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks!! Hope you get to use them for your family!!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      great ideas to enjoy summer!

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      Yes, I had the best time when I was a kids hanging out with my parents!! We didn't have tons of money, but that didn't matter, we spent time together.

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 

      7 years ago from Oklahoma City

      These are great bonding experiences for parents and kids and the subject of many fond memories for all.

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks!! No it doesn't cost a ton of money to have a great time with kids.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 

      7 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Fantastic suggestions. Having fun does not have to cost a lot.

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      Very good idea Dave... Mowing lawns or raking to earn some extra money to go to a water park, or amusement park!!

    • Dave Mathews profile image

      Dave Mathews 

      7 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

      Those are all great ideas for activities for the summer. You also might want to get them thinking a little about doing things in the area to earn some money so they can do other things that don't fit your budget.

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      How fortunate for you and your wife!!! What a great way to raise your children!! We lived in Florida for a few years and spent our days and weekends at the beach as much as possible. My kids were like fishes, swimming in the Ocean. It's very sad that with all of the electronics of today kids just don't know how to play.

      Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your world!!

    • Spirit Whisperer profile image

      Xavier Nathan 

      7 years ago from Isle of Man

      Children play because it is their nature to do so. The problem is that technology has gotten in the way and children do not play naturally any more.Some day the world will wake up to this sad fact but it will be too late. When a child can say whatever he/she wants to another on FaceBook and then be unable to speak a word to each other when they meet on the street or in school we know there is a problem. As a boy I spent all day every day in a nearby field playing football and the like and hated the interruption of having to go home for meals. I went to bed exhausted and woke up bright eyed and raring to go. I moved to this island in the Irish Sea to give my children the same experience and they do what I did but they also have a beach they all meet up on every day during the holidays and a field they play in on the headlands overlooking the sea. They can't imagine it being any different for other children and this makes me feel that I have succeeded.Thank you for your wonderful hub and I do feel for you and all the people who do not have what my wife and I have created for my family and without a cent between us when we started.

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      Some of the schools around here even offer lunch to the kids during the summer along with permission to use the playgrounds. They do their best to keep the kids busy!!

      I used to love the summer with my kids, we had so much fun!! Sometimes we'd all load up in my hubby's truck and go on a run.. It was pretty packed with 5 kids and 2 adults in a Semi!! But we had some good laughs that's for sure!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      7 years ago from south Florida

      Great ideas, susie, to keep the youngsters occupied during the summer. We had programs run by the city parks from 9am to 3 pm during the summer. Fees were negligible and the kids had numerous activities ranging from baseball, soccer and volleyball to boxing, swimming and all kinds of crafts. It was a blessing!

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Michigan

      @ Simone LOL - Yeah and Minimalls can cost a fortune!!

      @ Dusty - When my kids were younger we had the yearly pass to the State Parks... it was a blast!! They had fun, all I had to do was pack a lunch and sit in the sun all day... what a life!

    • Dusty Snoke profile image

      Dusty Snoke 

      7 years ago from Chattanooga, TN

      These are some great ideas and perfect timing. Thanks for sharing.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      Very helpful tips!! These things sure beat wandering around minimalls all day.


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