55 Summer Activities for Kids that are Frugal or Free!
Did your kids get out of school this week? My kids were out last week and unless you go year-round, your kids are ready to let loose and enjoy their summer. But let’s face it, planning summer events can get pricey. So it is best to find summer activities for kids that are frugal or free.
Let me just say, I LOVE it when my kids are home. Although they can drive me nuts by yelling the word MOM 50 times in an hour period, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Don’t get me wrong, I like my free time when they are at school, and in fact, this is my only blogging time, but since they are home I am going to make the best of it and work on this blog while they are having their short amount of screen time. (hee hee)
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When I think of my childhood summers I remember fun summer activities like camping, days at the lake, and trips to the ice cream store! We would watch the fireworks in front of my grandparent’s bowling alley and hang out with cousins. It was a simple and fun life.
Just some history, I grew up in Northern Michigan and we lived within walking distance to Houghton Lake. When we were bored, that is what we did. We went swimming every day, rain permitting!
We didn’t need a pile of money to have fun!
Now that I am older, I live in a city and I don’t have that luxury of walking to the lake every day! However, I want my kids to have fun and enjoy their childhood with the laid back carefree days summer has to offer.
Since I am totally into saving money, I don’t want to pay high prices for camps and activities every day. So in my quest to save, I came across 55 summer activities for kids that are frugal or free and figured if this list helped me, it would help my readers too.
So enjoy a popsicle, put on your flip-flops, and find a sunny spot to enjoy reading the 55 summer activities for kids. Keep your calendar handy and make a plan to HAVE FUN!
Grab your free Kid’s Summer Activity Planner Printable PDF here: Summer Activity Planner for Kids – Free Printable PDF
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55 Summer Activities for Kids:
1. Parks – We love our local parks and since we live in a condo, we walk or drive to a park almost daily! Look up your city’s website. I bet you will find parks you didn’t know existed!
2. Beach – If you live close to a beach, take full advantage of it. We have a beach within a half-hour, so we are going to make a few day trips this year.
3. Toy store promos – Our local downtown toy store has promotional days where they offer free activities for kids. Last year, we got free tacos (Dragon’s Love Tacos them) and drawing activities at our local Toyology. The kids loved it! Of course, they love looking at the toys too!
This toy store puts toys out and encourages kids to play with them, so it is a win, win because I don’t have to buy anything!
4. Fishing – If you have a fishing pole, take your kids out to a dock or a lake. Make sure it is okay to fish beforehand, but I remember fishing as a kid and it was SO relaxing!
5.Free Museums – We go to the Detroit Historical Museum! It is free to go in, but they accept donations and we usually donate to support a good cause! But for a few bucks, we get to enjoy the history of Detroit and my boys absolutely LOVE the train room! Check your local city for free museums.
Pro Tip: If you want to buy a museum pass, buy it outside of your home area. If you buy an ASTC participating museum pass outside of your city, you will get into the local city museums for free for that one year. We live near Detroit, but bought our museum pass in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Since we are outside a 90-mile radius, we are able to go to the Detroit Science Center, Cranbrook Museum, and Ann Arbor Hands-on Children’s museums for free for the entire year! We also love the Grand Rapids Public Museum so we don’t mind making the two-hour drive once a year!
6. Local Garden – Do your kids enjoy gardening? For a few dollars, you can buy some seeds and plant a small garden in your yard! Kids love trying foods that they have actually grown themselves so plant some veggies!
7. LEGO Stores – I have to admit, this was a go-to in the winter, but there are days in a Michigan summer where it is 95 degrees and humid (So it feels like 105 degrees). These are not days you want to be outside in a park. So we head up to the local mall and go to the Lego Store.
They have Lego Duplos and small Lego bins out for the kids to play with. There is something about playing with toys that aren’t yours, even though you have the same toys at home! LOL
This summer they have a Star Wars theme and the kids can test the flying Lego projects they make on a slider ramp. My boys love it.
Side note: I never mind my kids playing with Legos. They are great for fine motor skills, problem-solving, and engineering! Although I don’t like them sucking up in the vacuum, it is something I will tolerate to enhance my kid’s learning!
8. Walk Downtown – Go to your local downtown and take a stroll! Do some people watching or stop in for an ice cream cone!
9. Library Programs – Our local library is great! I just signed my kids up for nine programs and that is only for the month of June. I can’t wait for the July sign-up date and I have it marked on my calendar! They will see a magic show, attend a troll party, participate in “1000 books before kindergarten”, and more!
10. Library play – Our library has a kid’s area with a train table, toy kitchen, and computers with learning games. I don’t mind screen time as much when they are learning about the human body or alphabet sounds. Check out your library and grab your kids some books while you are there. I can’t say enough about making the library and reading an emphasis in childhood!
11. Train Search – Head up to your local train track or check the Amtrak schedule and go watch for trains. My boys loved watching the railroad crossing light up, go up and down, and the train passing by!
12. Mall Walk – If you need to beat the heat, do a mall walk with your kids in the stroller to get some exercise or let them walk if they are older. Then head over to the play area and let the kids go wild while you enjoy a free moment.
13. Bible School – Check to see if your church or other local churches offer a vacation bible school. My son is going next week and it was only $50 for the entire week. He is excited because he is able to see some of his preschool friends again.
14. Put on a Puppet Show – Make some sock puppets or use construction paper and let your kids think up their own puppet show. They can perform for you when they are ready.
15. Summer Concerts – Find free summer concerts and enjoy some dancing and music. My local library, city, zoo, and church all have summer concert series so we are never lacking music in our lives!
16. Sidewalk Chalk – This is a great way to teach the kids how to write their names. Use sidewalk chalk to draw pretty rainbows and pictures, then make a hopscotch grid and play that too!
17. Make Your Own Play Dough – My kids seem to enjoy play dough more when we make it ourselves. Their job is to knead in the color and give my hands rest after all of this typing! LOL
18. Art Shows – Check the city website for local art shows. The pretty art makes for a nice change of scenery.
19. Picnic – Picnics are always a fun summer activity! Enjoy some food on a blanket or park picnic table and let your kids run around!
20. Splash in the Puddles – After it rains, let your kids put on some rain boots and splash around in the puddles! Why Not?
21. Swimming – Take a cool dip in the local pools. Many cities have a pool but still charge a small fee. Also, many city parks have pool areas or splash pads.
22. McDonald’s Play Area – On rainy days, take your kid up to the McDonald’s play area and grab a $1 coffee. I have met so many nice moms in the McDonald’s play area over the past few years.
23. $1 movies – Many theatres offer kids’ movies in the summer at a low price. Many have $1 or $2 movies and it is a cool break from the heat.
24. Biking – We found a park by our house with an awesome bike trail. This is where my five-year-old learned to ride his bike with no training wheels. It is safe and I can sit on the bench and read while they bike! Got to love it!
25. Bubbles – You can get some really cool bubble wands at Target or other stores for only $1. Have a bubble blowing contest!
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26. Sprinkler – We live in a condo, so we can’t do this, but one of my best friends sets up a mini splash pad in her backyard and invites us over. The kids have SO much fun!
27. Petting zoo – There are free petting zoos in some parks and local events.
28. Red light Green Light – Remember this fun game? My kids love racing each other to see which one can get to mommy first.
29. Simon Says – Another blast from the past. The main reason your kids will love these games is that YOU are playing with them!
30. Bug hunt – Make a list of bugs on a piece of paper and go outside with a magnifying lens. See how many you can find.
You can probably tell I have two little boys by some of my activities, but my kids love bugs. Sometimes I let them play in the dirt outside our condo while I read. It literally entertains them for at least 45 minutes to an hour.
31. Nature Walk – You can do the same thing with a nature walk. Make a list of birds, squirrels, trees, and flowers, and see how many you can find.
32. I spy – My kids love playing I Spy! It is a great car game if your kids are bored on a long car ride!
Check out 20 things to do in a car over at Sharing My Favorites! These ideas are great for any summer car trips you are planning.
33. Watch an air show – Check out the local air shows in your area. The Blue Angels come to Michigan a few times in the summer and it is such crazy fun to watch these amazingly talented pilots do extreme tricks with their jets!
34. Finger Paint (mess-free) – Crayola offers a mess-free version of finger painting, which my kids love! It smells a little like laundry detergent, but it is clear so less mess for momma!
35. Ice Cream (McDonald’s or Wendy’s) – McDonald’s has one of the cheapest sundaes I have found. It is $1.29 for hot fudge, hot caramel, or strawberry sundae! So cheap the whole family can have one! It is usually too much for my kids (ages 4 and 5) so we share. Also, try Wendy’s frosty! Most Wendy’s sell them for $1.
36. Home Depot Craft – The first Saturday of every month Home Depot offers a free craft. The July craft is a fishing game. My Home Depot even gives a free snack. drink and smock. Check the Home Depot website because some stores require registration. Type your city in to find weekly events.
37. Camp in the Backyard – Put up a tent and bring out your sleeping bags for a summer night of camping!
38. Splash Pad – Look for local splash pads! Here in Metro Detroit, we have four free splash pads close by and about five more that charge a small fee.
39. Duck Duck Goose – Remember this oldie but goodie! Kids eat these types of games up and love the interaction!
Last 15 Summer Activities for Kids:
40. Circle time – So, I used to be a teacher and during college, I taught preschool, so this was a no-brainer. I put up a dollar store calendar and we count the days, look outside for the weather, read a book, and sing a song every day. Then I have them trace their names before having screen time! It’s a great motivator!
41. Make Pizza – This is one of my boys’ favorites. We use Betty Crocker pizza crust or make our own if we have time. I let the kids knead the dough and add sauce and their favorite toppings. They always eat food they make, which isn’t always the case with my dinners.
42. Water Color Paints – This is one of my favorite paint sets to get out because it doesn’t make a huge mess. Just buy the washable watercolor paints (listed below) and throw a piece of paper and a cup of water out. They will be good to go!
43. Dinosaur Week – Have a dinosaur week and schedule activities that are centered around dinosaurs. Take them to a dinosaur exhibit if possible to end off the week. Find fun art projects and books from the library. We picked up a cool dinosaur book in the dollar bin at Target a few weeks ago too!
If you are looking for some amazing ideas for your dinosaur week, check out Heather’s post from Glitter on a Dime! She has your entire dino week cover in one awesome post!
44. Shark Week – Coincide your shark week with the real shark week. You will be able to catch a few good educational shows on sharks and make fun art projects!
45. Make Popsicles – Buy a popsicle mold and make your own popsicles! There are literally tons of recipes on Pinterest or you can simply add yogurt to your popsicle molds.
46. Crack Peanuts Outside – This is a fun and entertaining activity. My kids love throwing peanut shells on the ground and anything else that makes a mess! Ha!
47. Preschool Park Playdate – Send out an email to your child’s preschool class and have a playdate. Your kiddo will love seeing all of his or her school friends. We have done this a few times and now my son wants his friends there every time we go to the park!
48. Load up on Books – Have a family reading night. What better way to get your kids interested in books than to set a great example. However, our book nights usually end up with me reading the kid’s books to them, but I usually get at least 10 minutes of reading while they look at pictures.
49. Explore Your State Parks – In Michigan, a state park pass is $10 if you buy it when you renew your license. As a kid, we used to visit Higgins Lake State Park for swimming, cooking out, camping, and ice cream. I have very fond memories of Higgins Lake State Park and several others my parents took me to!
50. Car Show – My kids love classic cars thanks to the Woodward Dream Cruise. It takes place a few blocks from our house and during the Dream Cruise week there are free car shows all over town. We especially love the Ferndale Fire and Rescue show!
51. Lego Time – I love it when my kids build with Legos. They play with them daily and they are so into the tractor or train they are working on that day. As mentioned above, LEGO’s help with fine motor skills, problem-solving, and engineering.
52. Michael’s Craft Days – Check your local craft stores for free or cheap craft days. Michael”s has $2 crafts on certain days during school breaks.
53. Stay up and Star watch – Wait for a clear night and set up some chairs in your backyard and get out the binoculars or toy telescope. See if you can find any constellations.
54. Lemonade stand – Make a fun sign and sell lemonade. Teach your kids about making money at a young age and they will be better at budgeting for life!
If you are thinking of doing a lemonade stand, learn how to make it stand out. Brani over at Mama Teaches has a great post on how to do your lemonade stand right! Check it out!
55. Slime – My kids had SO much fun making slime. I know, I know… It will get on your carpet! We have a rule at our house: No slime on the carpet! So far it has worked pretty well. I’ve been consistent with watching them and only allowing the slime at the table, although I have had to pick it out of their shirts a few times.
Buying For Kid’s Summer Activities:
I am budgeting for $3-$5 per week for a special art product each week this summer. If it is something new, they are more likely to be interested in it and play with it all week. My son especially loves the brown magic modeling clay from Crayola because he uses his tractors in it like it is dirt.
-Markers – Pick some different colors they don’t already have or try glitter markers!
-Water Color Paints – You can buy a small set of these at Target for $1.99
-Model Clay (brown for dirt) – Try air dry clay or Crayola model magic.
-Play Dough – You can buy a few small tubs of play dough at Target for $1 each or make your own!
-Glitter glue – Try Crayola washable glitter glue. My kids like the small tubes like the ones in the picture below.
-Finger paint – Try these mess-free finger paints! They are still a little messy but they have no color until used on the magic paper, so WAY less mess than regular finger paints.
-Stickers – I usually pick up seasonal stickers in the dollar bin at Target.
Summer Activities for Kids that are Frugal or Free Conclusion:
I hope you enjoy your babies this summer. Childhood should be the best time of their lives! So make some memories this year.
Don’t cram summer with too many structured activities. Instead, find fun summer activities for kids that are frugal and really spend quality time as a family.
Enjoy the sunshine, stay up late, and hug your kiddos! They will only be little once. Enjoy it!
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Take care – Sarah
What is your favorite summer activity you do with your kids? Leave me a comment. I would love to hear from you!