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Free and Cheap Summer Activities for Children

By Edited Jun 21, 2016 1 6

Family Time That Costs Nothing But Time

In his famous song Summertime, George Gershwin wrote “Summertime and the livin’ is easy”. That is not always the case for moms at home all summer with children to entertain.

For families who have a lot of time, but not a lot of money, there are many free summer activities for children. With ten weeks of summer vacation, it is important to get out of the house. Finding free activities for your children makes this possible.

And yes, everything listed here is either free or costs a dollar or two per child!

Free Summer Activities for Kids

Free and Cheap Summer Movie Deals

Since 1991, Regal Entertainment Theaters have been showing G and PG rated movies for free on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Now these movies cost $1.oo per person, which is still an extremely reasonable price to pay for a movie experience. This nine-week program is done on a first come, first serve basis. Their website has a place for you to plug in your zip code. It will list all of the theaters in your area that are participating in this program, as well as the movies and dates. A different film is shown on Tuesday and Wednesday, and all are from the past few months.

Cinemark Theaters has a similar program as well. They sell a ten pack of tickets for $5.00 or you pay $1.00 per film as you go. The movies are shown on Wednesday mornings, so it an incentive to get up, get out and get on line so you can grab a good seat.

Local Parks and Recreation in many townships include free movies in the park at night. You bring a blanket, chairs and snacks, and watch a movie under the stars.

Bowl For Free

Free Bowling for Kids
Bowling can be expensive if you play several games. Now you can participate in this fun activity for free! 

Over 1,000 bowling centers in the United States and Canada partake in this free summer activity for children. At the Kids Bowl Free website, you can see if any bowling centers in your area participate. Kids get to bowl two free games per day all summer long. Kids Bowl Free can be found on Facebook and there you will find more information about the program.

Summer Reading Book Clubs 2016

Free story hours for little ones, too!

Barnes and Noble and Pottery Barn Kids offer free story times. This free summer activity for young children is a great excuse to get out of the house. Check each store on-line for specific dates and times, as these will vary. Call a few friends and make it a mommy morning out so you can have some adult conversation as well.

Different locations will have their scheduled story time on a different day, so you can really get the most out of this freebie! There re also toys for kids to play with, so you can stretch out your morning outing for a bit longer.

Another free summer activity for older children offered by Barnes and Noble are book clubs. Children need to read eight books and they receive a free book after filling out the form.

Local libraries also have book clubs with prizes to get children interested in reading while school is out.

There are also many free books on Kindle for you to download for your child's reading enjoyment.

Free Summer Activities for Children in Craft Stores, Retail Stores and Home Improvement Stores

Free Arts and Crafts Classes for Kids

Do your children love to do crafts?  Then head on over to your local retail craft store for free children’s crafting classes. These are offered all summer long by retailers such as AC Moore and Michael's. Schedules can be found online or in the store. Besides being free, the children walk away with a craft they did by themselves!

Whole Foods, the natural food grocery chain, also offers craft classes on occasion. Your local store will have it’s schedule online. 

Lakeshore Learning has free crafting classes for children. These are typically held on Saturday. Again, check online for your local store’s schedule.

Home Depot and Lowes have free “Build it Yourself” classes for children on the weekends. Check each store’s websites for dates and times for the free classes this summer. They often give out patches at the end. so if your daughter is a Girl Scout, she can have this fun patch sewn on the back.

Your Local Library

During June, July and August, your local library will be your best bet for finding free summer activities for your children.

Libraries really rev up their offerings during the summer. From toddlers to teens, your local library has a range of free story times, book clubs, crafts, “how-to” classes, and special shows all summer long. 

Some programs require pre-registration several weeks in advance. So you can take advantage of these free summer activities for children, a good strategy to employ is to check your local branch’s offerings and write the sign up date down on your calendar. Do it first thing in the morning, because the best programs fill up the quickest.

Another thing parents should look at is to check what other local library branches are offering, as you are able to attend those, too! A trip to another library is a field trip for kids.

While you are at the library enjoying those free classes, don’t forget to check out the books, DVDs and audio books. Summer time is perfect for reading what you want at a more leisurely pace.

Parks and Playgrounds

Playgrounds for Children are Free
Parents should not overlook neighborhood parks and playgrounds for no cost fun. Every community has playgrounds, and to children, slides, swings and monkey bars in a different location are all they need to have a good time.

If you are unsure where the playgrounds in your neighboring towns are, go the “Parks and Recreations” section of that town’s website. Most townships have detailed maps of where parks are located and the facilities they offer.

Go early in the morning when it is cooler and pack some water and some snacks. A few hours outside is what children need! Ask some friends to join you. Your kids will enjoy the company, and so will you!


You may not have money to give, but all volunteer organizations need people to get the job done. This activity teaches them a valuable lesson about giving to others. Anyone can write a check…not everyone gives of themselves.

Some places to volunteer are:

Your house of worship

Local animal shelter

A senior citizen center

Meals on Wheels

A food bank

One Dollar Activities

Bring some change for the tax!

One Dollar Activities for Kids
Yes, you are reading correctly. There are activities that cost one dollar or a slight bit more.

One thing that used to get me out of the house and not cost me a lot was to go to the mall with two rolls of pennies, one for each of my twins. One of their favorite activities was to throw the pennies into the different fountains located around the mall. This was so entertaining for them and for a buck, we got out of the house in the middle of the afternoon when the crankies would be at it's worst.

Another activity that will help your children make choices is to give them a dollar and go to Target's Dollar Spot or to a Dollar Store. Tell your children in advance that they can buy one thing with their money, so they have to be selective. Take time going up and down the aisles as they choose just one item.

If this outing goes well, you can do it again another time.

Summer does not mean you have to sit at home doing nothing and watching too much television. There is plenty to do in your community if you just look!



Jun 13, 2015 1:54pm
Those are a lot of great ideas.
Jun 14, 2015 1:03pm
Thanks! I used all of them when my kids were little and not in camp.
Jun 15, 2015 12:56pm
These are excellent ideas. I had not idea about the movies. That is really cool.
Jun 16, 2015 4:06am
This is one of summer's best deals. The lines get long, so it is best to show up early to guarantee yourself a seat.
Jun 15, 2015 8:29pm
Great ideas!
Jun 16, 2015 4:07am
Thanks! I don't get a real world paycheck in the summer, so when my kids were younger, I had to get creative with the fun things we could do.
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