25 Free or Low Cost Ways To Keep The Kids Busy This Summer

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Summer time is my favorite time of the year especially since becoming a mom. I love doing things with my children in summer and a lot of those things are free or low cost  and I am going to share them with you today.

25 free or low cost ways to keep the kids busy this summer

25 Free or Low Cost Ways To Keep The Kids Busy This Summer

1. Create A Summer Bucket list

Creating a summer bucket list is an activity in itself as it gets everyone together brainstorming ideas of how to make some fun memories during the summer ahead. Keep the list thrifty and frugal by setting a price limit for events on the list. Not all the ideas have to be low cost, perhaps pick one or two splurge events and then brain storm ways to fund those.

2. Your Local Library

In my 19 plus  years of parenting I have not discovered a cheaper source of summer fun then all the fabulous free events our local library puts on for children, teens and adults during the summer months.

I know what events are available differ from town to town but here are a few of the things we have enjoyed.

Reading contests where they prizes were coupons for free ice-cream, fries, burgers and even a free ticket to the local water park.

Story time, puppet shows, craft time, knitting classes (for teens and adults), magic shows, animal information displays and much much more.

Of course besides the added summer events the library is also a great place to find books that your children can spend hours getting lost in.

3. Free Local Events

Generally most towns have some sort of free events taking place in the summer time. It might be a summer concert in the park, an antique car show, or a 4th of July parade. You can find out about most of these local activities by visiting your local newspapers website and searching the classifieds (or you could purchase a paper too, as often the free event finds are worth the subscription price of the paper).

Another great source of family friendly free events are local churches. Myself and my kids have so many fond memories of church ran Vacation Bible Schools.

4. Form A Weekly Playground Meet Up Group

When my kids were little my summer meet up play group was something I think I looked forward to as much as my children if not more. It was very casual. We met once and came up with a list of local parks that we could meet at. We usually threw one backyard pool event in there too. Once the list was made someone typed it up and made sure we all had a copy. You brought a snack to share to the events and drinks for your own kids.

It was so nice to have a few more pair of eyes watching out for the kids on the playground and other moms to talk to each week.

5. Use What You Already Have

Summer fun can be found by looking at what you already own in new ways. For instance one year my daughter found days worth of fun from an old sheet I let her have. She hosted picnics for her teddies on it,made forts our out of it, tossed it up in the air to watch it fly and much more.

What in your home do you already have that could be a source of summer fun. Look around your home with new creative eyes. Those big boxes the stove came in, could become a day long project on the front porch making a fort. The pieces of scrap lumber leftover from a household renovation, could become a balance beam, or a skateboard ramp or a……

Don’t forget about the recycle bin, that can be a gold mine of continually growing arts and crafts supplies.

6. Use Those Free Redbox Codes For Movie Night Under The Stars

It seems to me that one can get at least 2 or more free movies from Redbox a month by signing up for their Text messages, emails and becoming part of their playpass club. Another great source for all the codes without having to sign up for anything is the site Money Saving Mom that seems to list them as they become available. (tip enter Redbox into the search box found in the header of Money Saving Mom and recent codes will pop up)

If those two ways to snag free movies don’t work for your Swagbucks offers a $10 Redbox e-card for 1000 points. InstaGC also has Rebox e-cards available. That way you could hold movie night on whatever night works best for you and not what night the free code becomes available.

To make summer movies more fun try taking the laptop outside and letting little ones watch it on a blanket on the grass, or snuggled up with you on the porch swing.

If it is a rainy day, throw a movie night in the middle of the day complete with popcorn and homemade lemonade and curtains drawn and lights off.

7. Sign Up To Bowl For Free All Summer Long

If you live in an area where summers are so hot that going outside in the middle of the day is just too hot, then spend the afternoon inside air conditioning enjoying free bowling (shoe rental not included). You can get all the details over at KidsBowlFree.com

8. Check To See If Your Kids Can Skate For Free

Kids Skate Free is another way of beating the summer afternoon heat while burning off energy. There is a charge for skate rentals.


9. Check you regions museums and zoos to see if they have discounted days

When my children were little we took advantage of the free evening the large children’s museum in Indianapolis  offered once a month. The zoo in Indy also had a special discounted day once a month. If you live in or near a large center chances are their zoos and museums just might have a discounted or free time. I found them by spending a few minutes searching their websites, usually under hours and admissions under specials.

10 tips for a great yard sale (smaller)10. Throw a yard sale and spend the profits making the backyard fun

I know I can’t be the only mom who doesn’t want to be on the run every day of summer. Sometimes I just want to stay home and other days I have to because laundry doesn’t get washed by itself.

Lucky for me I have a husband who could be a playground designer. My kids have been spoiled with backyards that trump some local playgrounds.

However you don’t have to have a lot of equipment to get your yard ready for summer fun. Here is an article I wrote about the elements of a summer backyard and most items could be bought second hand or on clearance or for very little money new. To raise money for them consider throwing a family yard sale, tell the kids that the money is going to making a fun backyard and see if that doesn’t inspire them to part with some toys that are truly just clutter in their rooms.

10 Ways Thrifty People Save Money On Camping (med)

11. Go camping

Camping can be free when you borrow a friends tent and pitch it in your own backyard, and truly I think that is the best way to try out camping with little ones for the first time.

If you want to get a bit farther from home though, state park campgrounds are generally the least expensive per night, I haven’t seen one in our area over $30 a night (but that could be different in other areas ).

12. Take advantage of kid friendly happy hour at local restaurants

By kid friendly happy hour I am meaning the ones like those at Steak & Shake where you can get half price shakes in the middle of the afternoon, because sometimes a cool treat on a hot summer’s day can be the perfect pick me up.

psst… Swagbucks has Steak & Shake gift cards you can cash your points in for. Here is a tutorial showing you how simple it is to earn Swagbucks doing things you do online right now, no extra work needed.

13. Beat the afternoon heat with a movie on the big screen

Cinemark Theaters runs an event called Summer Movie Club House where you can see certain shows for just a $1 per person. If you buy their $5 pass for 10 movies you get that price down to just .50 cents a piece. That is a pretty inexpensive way to either beat the afternoon heat or get out of the house on a rainy summer’s day.

Regal Movie Theaters also runs a similar  summer movie program with $1 entrance fee per person.

click through the links to either theater  to find out what movies and where they are available.

18+ point programs to help you earn $50 or more in gift cards each month (medium)14. Get the kids earning points to put toward summer fun

If you have spent anytime reading my blog you know that I am a big fan of using point reward programs to help pay for those little splurges that just make life more fun. Many of the activities in these reward programs are thinks like clicking the SuperLucky Button over at Superpoints , or playing games on Swagbucks, or learning about environment policies over at Recylebank.

Spend sometime checking out the ways to earn at your favorite point programs and assign those point earning actions  you feel comfortable letting your kids do to your kids and in exchange for their work cash those extra points out for gift cards you can use for summer fun outings.

15. Go on a walk

Some of my favorite talks with my kids have come from simple summer walks around the neighborhood. Sometimes we head to the local gas station for a round of slushy drinks, other times the library, and some walks have no destination at all.

When my children were little another fun type of walk was a spur of the moment, no printable needed “I spy walk”.  I would name things for the kids to find. To avoid sibling fights I would name a child to find it and give them an age appropriate item to find (the older they were the harder the item was to spot). My kids loved these walks.

 16. Go for a bike ride

Of course this is only going to be a low cost to no cost activity if you actually own the bikes. If you don’t I suggest first checking Free Cycle if you area is active on the site. If not try yard sales, or Craigslist for low cost second hand bikes.

If you are going to buy new I strongly suggest a locally owned bike shop especially if the bike you are buying is for an adult or a teenager who is going to have the bike for years. Yes department store bikes are cheaper but nothing beats the maintenance help you can find from your local bike shop.

If you have never taken kids out on bike rides before start small, and if you can haul them and all the bikes to a local trail so that traffic is not an issue.  Over the years my kids and I have gone from 30 minute bike rides up to full day bike rides with over night stays. The talks and memories we have built through biking together are priceless.

17. Have Fun With Homemade Bubbles

Bubbles can be fun for all ages. Dollar stores sell cheap bubble solution which is fine for tiny bubble making but if you want to get into huge bubble fun homemade is going to be cheaper.

How to host a simple and fun wiener roast night (med)

18. Host a backyard wiener roast

Okay so the word wiener  still makes me giggle (yes I am 5 at heart) but my family did this with another family last year at a campground and we had such a blast. The evening was simple to throw together and had such a relaxing atmosphere. Now our kids are all old enough not to rush into the fire pit so this might be a little more stressful for those of you with itty-bitty ones but  still a lot of fun. Don’t forget those s-more makings for later in the evening too.

10 tips for successful yard sale shopping

19. Go yard sale shopping

So much fun can be had when you give each child a dollar and let them join you in your hunt for bargains at yard sales. Yard sale shopping with my daughter has been a great way for us to spend time one on one together (the boys came a few times but decided it wasn’t there thing)  plus my daughter has learned a lot about how far a dollar can stretch in the secondhand market.

No machine needed peppermint candy ice cream takes under 5 minutes to prepare

20. Make homemade ice-cream together (no machine needed)

A few years back I came across a no machine needed ice-cream recipe that can be altered 1000’s of different ways. It takes just a few minutes to make. My children loved to help making it when they were younger and can now make it entirely on there own. The fun part is anticipating when it will be ready to enjoy.

21. Read together outside

I remember sitting swinging on the front porch swing  for hours with my kids when they were little in the summer time reading our favorite read-a-loud books over and over. You can keep it up when they are older by diving into chapter books, and when they get even older each of you can take a turn reading a chapter.

If you are going to be reading make join your local library summer reading club as well as reading programs that are offered by various bookstores and other retailers.

22. Throw a picnic

The picnic can be at the local park, or your own backyard; children just get a kick out of eating on a blanket from a basket.

23. Throw a party

Clean the grill. Make up a simple menu and split the list between your friends. Have everyone bring their lawn chairs and see if someone has corn hole or another backyard game you can play. Keep the kids busy with a simple sprinkler, kiddy pool or various other inexpensive kid toys. You don’t need fabulous decorations, a magazine worthy backyard or even a huge yard for that matter to just have fun with friends during the summer time. Kids and adults can have fun at a backyard summer party.
Follow Victoria @Snail Pace Transformations’s board Summer Fun on Pinterest.

24. Make pinterest your friend

What I love about the pinterest search engine is you can enter the materials you have on hand and in minutes come up with a few great ideas of how to keep the children busy.

Here are a few of my summer time themed boards that you can follow to get ideas from…

25. Let them be bored

A trend of my generation of parents that I have noticed is that we are always so busy trying to fill up every moment of our child’s day. We don’t want to hear those dreaded words “I am bored”. What I have learned in my almost 20 years as a parent, sometimes the most imaginative ideas come out of boredom.

There is just something about “nothing to do” that makes a child see items he or she already owns in a new way. My daughter one summer came down hours after complaining she was bored with our entire family represented in Lego one year.

our family in lego

My son spent last summers “bored hours” learning how to build a computer on YouTube and then he saved up his money and did just that.

aidens computer

Boredom can pay great dividends.

May your summer with your children be blessed!

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  1. Love these Summer ideas and the reminder about all the points programs to earn “free” money to fund your families Summer fun! I am so ready for Summer but I know how quickly my children will get bored.

  2. Those Legos are so cool! We have a bucket list, too! All year we keep a list of things to do during the summer so we don’t have to think about it when summer comes around. I think we are going to do Vacation Bible School for the first time ever this summer because it’s free through our church.

  3. So many great ideas! We have taken advantage of numbers 3 and 7 for several years and they add so much to our summers. I did not know there is also a skating program – must look that one up! I especially love the last one – yes, it’s fine for kids to be bored on occassion. Some of the best moments come during our “I’m so boooooored” periods.

    • Victoria says:

      Yes it is amazing to me what the kids will find to do once I ignore their “I am bored” statements for a while. Doing so really does get them to start thinking creatively.

  4. Such great ideas. Thankfully our library has tons of free resources to keep us happy and busy all summer. Tweeting!

  5. These are great ideas! Just the other day I was in our playroom and found a stash of bubbles from last summer. The kids were so happy that we found them and it kept the busy for hours!

  6. Such a great list for the summer. Love the LEGO family. Our house seems to have LEGOs mixed into the decor in every room.

  7. Great list! I think the last tip is great. Let them be bored. I love the lego family!


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