- Family and Parenting
Fun Summer Activities for Kids
Free and Cheap Summer Activities
In a down trodden economy it is hard for many people to cut back on their spending. Children may find this especially difficult if they have lived a certain lifestyle and then all of a sudden the money is not there to do the activities that they once did. Here are some easy, fun, and cheap (some are even free) ways to keep that fun going all summer long. Chances are, your kids won't even realize that it is not as expensive as some of the activities that they used to do. Whether you are looking for inexpensive activities indoors or outdoors, this list is sure to help you get started.
Nature Activities for Kids
The beach is a great way to spend some time. If you are lucky enough to live near water, the cost may actually be nothing to you. For others, there are many parks that have beach areas and the fee is nominal. There is usually a choice between a day pass or a season/year pass. If you plan to spend a great amount of time in this park area, it may be worth your while to invest in the season pass. For example, the Metroparks in my area are $5 per day or an annual pass for $25. Considering it is less than five minutes from my house and has two beaches, hiking trails, bike paths, a nature center and more, I invest in the annual pass. There are also several other parks in the tricounty area that the pass is good for so it is a good buy for us. If you decide to spend the day at the beach, pack a lunch to save the cost of purchasing foods at the concession stands.
Camping is a great stand by for many families. While it is nice to be pampered in a hotel, there is something to be said about getting out into nature and roughing it. If you already have a tent and sleeping bags then there is very little cost to you. If you do not, the cost of a decent size tent can be anywhere from $40 on up. Depending on the size of the group, you can probably find one that is very cheap to meet your needs. Most camp grounds charge a nightly fee, usually anywhere between $8-$15 per night. Much cheaper than a hotel! The often also have a beach accessible and activities set up for children. The cost of food would be the same as you staying at home, the only difference is that you are eating outdoors!
Nature walks are great for the mind, body and soul! It is a great opportunity to teach your child the importance of exercise, the benefits of things found in nature and feel relaxed, refreshed, and rejuvenated at the end. You could even create a list of items that you could search for as you are on your nature walk and make it into a nature scavenger hunt. I like to point out a variety of plants and birds as I walk with my kids. We love to search for strawberry or raspberry plants, lamb's ear, and cardinals.
Nature Scavenger Hunt Checklist
Social Gatherings or Playdates for Kids
Play dates are always a great opportunity for fun without a lot of cost. Kids love to play with other kids and whether you decide to gather at someone's house or at a location like a park, it will be great fun for all. If you decide to meet at a park, pack a picnic lunch or dinner for your meal. If you decide to meet at someone's house, try alternating turns and schedule a potluck play date.
Local fairs are both educational and inexpensive.
Community Sponsored Family Events
Using your local paper and checking the events section or the community events/parks and recreation guide is a great resource for finding cheap or free activities for kids. Last summer I signed my children up for an orchard event that allowed them to pick the fruit in season, have a wagon ride, juice and a donut, an ice cream, and all they play time that they wanted in the orchard's play area for just $7 each. This ended up being a lot cheaper than it would have if we had chosen just to pick the fruit and we got so many extras.
4-H or County Fairs
Fairs are wonderful educational opportunities. They allow children to learn about a variety of farm animals and get up close to pet the animals. The owners are near by and are very willing to answer any questions that your child may have about a particular animal. Often times there are contests such as baking or pie eating contests. These are usually inexpensive to visit. There is typically an entrance fee which can range from about $5 for children and up to about $10 for adults. Once you are in the fair most of these activities are free. There is usually an area that offers carnival type of rides and food. This is an additional cost and can be expensive. They will often offer an option to purchase tickets and ride each ride individually or buy an day long pass for one price. If you plan to spend the day there and your kids enjoy carnival rides, this may be the best option for you.
Music or Movies in the Park
My community offers many great family activities throughout the summer. One of these is music in the park. It is a wonderful opportunity to expose your child to a variety of music types as the genre of music changes each week. Pack some snacks or a picnic dinner and you will have a cheap evening of food and entertainment. It will also give your kids some exercise as the dance around to the beat of the music.
Another great weekly summer event hosted by my community is family movie night in the park. It is an opportunity for families to gather outdoors and view a reasonably new, family appropriate movie. It is similar to a drive in but without the car! You can get a group of friends and neighbors together and have a great evening out without the high cost. Check your local paper or call your community center to see if either of these types of activities are available in your area.
Music in the Park
Summer Activities at the Library
I cannot say enough about the library. We are always visiting the library but not just to check out books. The library provides great opportunities for activities and they often sponsor additional learning events. For example, all libraries host some sort of summer reading program. With the summer reading program, children of all ages are encouraged to read or be read to throughout the duration of the summer. As summer continues, children can return to the library for prizes. Our library has a summer reading kick of each year where families are invited to attend a special event. Last year it was a Native American family that shared their cultural traditions and demonstrated some of the traditional dances. This year the kick off will be a Star Wars theme. There were also other events such as a visit from the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum, Summer Fun Day, and visits from local authors.
In the Metro Detroit area, the libraries also offer a Museum Adventure Pass which entitiles library card holders to "check out" a pass and visit the museum listed on the pass. It provides free entrance to the museum for the specified museum on the pass. It is a great opportunity for kids to explore new museums and all for FREE! Your library is a wealth of resources, take the time to explore it!
Free Activities For Kids at Local Stores
Stores are also great resources for free opportunities for kids. There are several national chains that provide monthly and sometimes even weekly activities for kids. If neither of these are near you, check your local stores, especially teacher type of stores or do-it-yourself types.
Do you have a Home Depot store near you? Did you know that Home Depot offers FREE kids workshops on the first Saturday of every month? Well they do! Not only do they create really cool do-it-yourself projects like birdhouses, toolboxes, and plant holders, they also learn tool safety rules and build self-esteem. They also receive an orange apron like the store employees and an accomplishment pin or certificate. Check your local store for more details.
Lakeshore learning is a great resource for both teachers and parents for educational games and toys. However you do not need to spend a penny to reap the benefit of their products. Every Saturday the store hosts a kids craft. It usually coincides with some sort of event going on like Mother's Day or Earth Day but not always. It is a great opportunity for kids to make a craft. My children love to do this and have come away with some great products like a bouquet of flowers or a plant holder. Sometimes they even have several crafts along with games. Check out their website www.lakeshorelearning.com for a store near you and the current craft.
Enjoy your time this summer with your children but use some of these tips to save a few bucks. Be resourceful. I guarantee that your kids will not know that you are penny pinching. Although my children are still small and may not really realize the cost of things, they have a great time with all of these activities. Remember, children really just want to spend time with you. The cost of the activity is not as important as the time spent with you.