Making memories with your kids this summer doesn’t have to drain your bank account. Your children just want to enjoy time together, and there are plenty of ways to do that on a budget. Here are 28 free ways you can have a blast with them.
1. Head to the library
The library is a great resource for free books, and you can make your trip even more enjoyable by letting your kids pick out any books that interest them or by using a printable library scavenger hunt to discover new reads. It will keep them busy, they’ll have tons of fun, and they’ll end up with new books to enjoy. Check your library’s calendar for fun activities and story times as well. (See also: 7 Modern Reasons to Visit Your Local Library Today)
2. Turn your backyard into a water park
Turn on the sprinklers, have your kids change into swimsuits, and allow them to run wild. You can also add a tarp and some dish soap for a DIY slip and slide. It’s really the perfect way to keep cool on a hot summer day.
3. Host a family game night
Pull out your board games and dedicate a whole night to playing a game together as a family. If you have a big family, you can play the games as teams and compete for a prize like, the winner gets to pick the movie on movie night, or the last place team has to do the dusting for the next week. (See also: 6 Fun Games That Teach Your Kids About Money)
4. Let them play dress up in your clothes
Who needs fancy dress up costumes when Mom and Dad have dresses and suits to throw on? See what funny combos your kids can come up with and even organize a mock fashion show.
5. Create a fort in the living room
Hunkering down inside a homemade fort is a fun activity for kids and adults alike. All you need is a few chairs, some sheets or blankets, and a lot of comfy pillows to make the perfect indoor fort.
6. Have a camp out in the backyard
A camping trip won’t always fit your schedule or budget, but you can still enjoy the experience by pitching a tent in the backyard. Roast hot dogs and s’mores outdoors with a grill or fire pit, tell ghost stories, and sleep under the stars. And make sure to use bug spray!
7. Bake some sweet treats
On a rainy day that can’t be spent enjoying the summer sun, stay in and whip up some treats. Scour Pinterest for fun baking recipes to try out. What kid wouldn’t want to make unicorn poop cookies or rainbow s’mores dip?
Or you can turn a regular meal into a game by letting the kids make funny food art. My girls always love when I turn their pancake breakfast into a dog, cat, or something holiday themed, like a turkey or Santa.
8. Have a picnic
Take meal time out in the fresh air with a picnic blanket and paper plates. Enjoy your family picnic at the park, in your backyard, or even in your living room if the weather isn’t cooperating.
9. Make bath time extra fun
A bath with glow sticks, extra bubbles, or a few drops of food coloring can make tub time a blast. You can even add new toys or bring in water toys for the special occasion. Or you take bath time outside by filling a kiddie pool with bubble bath solution and letting kids get clean in their swimsuits.
10. Go hiking
A family hiking trip can be a wonderful bonding experience, especially if there is a lot of wildlife and plants to see along the way. Get kids more involved in the hike by making it a scavenger hunt or by bringing binoculars so they can birdwatch. American Trails lists hiking and equestrian trails available in each state. (See also: 10 Most Breathtaking Day Hikes in the U.S.)
11. Have a spa day
Everyone loves a little pampering from time to time. Whip up DIY face masks for you and your kids from ingredients in the kitchen, like yogurt or avocado. Enjoy a bath with a homemade bath bomb or treat yourself and the kiddos to a mani/pedi and let them pick their own colors — even if it’s a different color on each nail. (See also: 10 Spa Treatments You Can Do at Home)
12. Conduct a science experiment
No need to make your kids sit through a dull science lesson. Get them interested in the subject by trying fun experiments that will blow their minds like making homemade ice cream, rock candy, or creating invisible ink for writing secret messages.
13. Hold an impromptu dance party
When your kids are complaining that they’re bored or are fighting with each other, turn up the music and just start dancing. Watch the anger or antsiness fade into endorphins as they enjoy a subtle workout.
14. Visit Petsmart or Petco
My kids love going to the pet store just to walk around and look at the animals who’ve come in with their owners, and the smaller pets like fish that are available for adoption. Some locations have dog and cat adoption days on the weekends, so the kids can meet and pet four-legged friends, too!
15. Turn your garage into a roller skating rink
Clear out the garage, put on your skates, and blast some tunes for a fun DIY roller skating party. If you have a disco light, even better!
You can also check out Kids Skate Free to find free skating rink passes in your area.
16. Write and star in your own movie
Want your kids to take a break from the screen? Encourage them to make a movie or show of their own. If you don’t have a video camera, you can use your smartphone and upload clips to a free movie editor, such as Blender or iMovie, to add special effects and cut and paste scenes.
17. Throw a tea party
Serve herbal tea, cookies, and tea sandwiches on your fanciest plates and drink with your pinkies up. Talk in accents or listen to a narrated audiobook like the Harry Potter series while you and your kids fancily dine.
18. Blow some bubbles
19. Try geocaching
Geocaching is where you hunt for a hidden object through GPS coordinates. Many people around the world have made the experience a thrilling one for families with kids to enjoy. (See also: 6 Outdoor Adventures That Don’t Cost a Dime)
20. Go bowling
Who doesn’t love using a giant heavy ball to knock down several pins at once? Bowling is great for kids and adults, and it doesn’t have to cost you a thing. Get free bowling passes through Kids Bowl Free or see if your local bowling alley gives away free games for good grades or birthdays.
21. Start a kids book club
Invite your children’s friends over once a week for a book club meeting and read something that everyone will enjoy. Make themed snacks, crafts, or have the kids re-enact their favorite scenes.
22. Paint outside
Get creative without the mess. Use paint that you have on hand and make masterpieces on paper, rocks, or old shirts. You can even lay down an old bed sheet and let the kids paint with odd objects around the house, like a whisk or straw.
23. Set up a scavenger hunt
Hide a prize, such as a pan of brownies, and write and hide clues all over the house. They will have a blast solving riddles and trying to guess what the ultimate prize is. (See also: 15 Free Ways to Entertain Kids for an Afternoon)
24. Host family Olympic Games
Inspire some friendly competition among your family members by holding your own Olympic Games. If you have enough people to split into teams, you can even make your own uniforms with old T-shirts. Try fun games like a three-legged race, carrying an egg on a spoon, and water balloon toss.
25. Tour museums for free
Sign up for your local museum’s mailing list to get notifications of free events and fee-free admission days. (See also: How to Visit Museums for Free)
26. Take a factory tour
Give your kids an inside look at people hard at work in various industries. Search FactoryToursUSA under your state to discover free factory tours near you. There are 565 tours listed, and many of them with free or little admission cost.
27. Sign up for a free class
Many stores offer free classes for children. Check with your local library, bookstores, schools, and community center for more offerings.
Here is a short list of free classes to get you started:
The American Girl Store occasionally offers free events and crafts.
Michael’s Craft store offers free craft activities along with $2 and $5 craft classes.
The LEGO store allows children to complete a free mini-build once a month.
HomeDepot does a free workshop for kids each month.
28. Visit a nearby farm
It’s so important for kids to see where their food comes from, and visiting a local farm is the perfect way to show them. Use LocalHarvest to find nearby farms and free events. You can also connect to pick-your-own farms near your area. Check to see if admission is free and if you can walk and picnic on the farm for free.