This post may contain affiliate links. Read my full disclosure here
This is it. Summer is finally here and we can rejoice and spend all day outside eating popsicles and hiding from the sun under layers of sunscreen and tree shade. With there being so many different summer activities, we can keep ourselves busy and having fun.
These inexpensive activities are great distractions as we await the school bell to ring on our kid’s first day. Or even worse, the new school clothes and back to school supplies that will drain our wallets at the end of summer- especially if we choose to buy in bulk online.
With a non-regular schedule happening in summer thanks to no longer needing alarm clocks to help catch the bus, it can be easy to fall into a slump. Staying on your couch, eating potato chips and watching the latest season of Stranger Things on Netflix just take over your life.
These unhealthy habits actually put you and the kids at a higher risk of catching a flu bug or getting sick. Choosing to get out and be active is a great way to build up your health and immunity. Not only that, but summer is a great time to deep clean the house and sanitize everything.
Inexpensive summer activities are a great way to get outside and not stay cooped up in your house.
Getting that much-needed sunlight and endorphins going while being able to practice your human socialization skills.
Not to mention when you aren’t home, you can turn off your electricity to save money and cut costs on other utility bills as well.
Saving money is a great motivator to help get you out of your pajama pants and into day-time clothes.
Here are some fun summer things to do with your family that don’t cost much.
Splash pads vary by location, you may or may not have some nearby, but they are becoming increasingly popular. It’s basically a park with toys for kids, but in the summertime, the water company turns the splash parks on so that kids can have fun playing in the water. Like a miniature theme park in your own neighborhood, while not incredibly fancy, it is free and kids LOVE it.
Museums are a great place to take the kids any time of year. In summer it’s a great way to keep them interested in learning and has the added benefit of being an air-conditioned building.
A lot of museums have free entry days every month and you can get discounted entry any day of the week if you have an EBT card. You can also opt to buy a yearly membership plan with your local museums and then you are free to go as many times as you want.
[Related] The Smithsonian museum has one day a year where there is free entry no matter where you’re at within the US.
Your local library is so much more than walls full of books, outdated computers, and whispers. There are DVD’s that you can borrow for a fun and free movie night at home with the kids. CDs for a fun car ride too!
Not only that but every month your local library hosts several free events geared towards kids. They often have crafts, reading times, guest speakers and other fun activities.
Various parks and school playgrounds
Finding your local parks is as easy as a quick Google search for “parks near me.” Thanks to Google reviews, images and social media you can find out everything you need to know about a local park before you even go. Letting you find the one that is the most fun (and safe).
Some schools allow you to play on their outdoor playgrounds during the summer. Check with your school though as this can sometimes be seen as trespassing and you definitely don’t want to break the rules.
McDonald’s play place and $1 ice cream
Now, I know what you’re thinking- McDonald’s is so unhealthy. Yes, well.. of course, it is. But it has a few good things worth noting.
- There is a cheap treat menu that includes $0.69 ice cream cones or $0.99 for chocolate dipped!
- Some have indoor playground areas where you can let your kids run around, in air conditioning.
- This also gives them the chance to socialize with other kids, make memories/traditions with you and you might get to speak with other adults. As a stay-at-home mom, sometimes you just need to have an adult conversation with someone other than your spouse.
Even if you spend 1 day per month here, and only ever get $1 ice cream cones, for a family of 5, that’s about the same as 1 cup of coffee from Starbucks.
Play dates with the neighborhood kids, kids from school, family and friends are all great ways to socialize your children and keep them entertained for a few hours.
Another option is babysitting in your home, one or two days a month. It’s like a playdate, but you get paid for it. Which makes it a great side hustle that can pay for the summer activities you are your kids are busy doing.
If you’re lucky enough to have a local drive-in movie theater still up and running, definitely find a way to take your kids before they get too old!
I remember the last (and possibly only) time I ever went to a drive-in. It was my siblings, my mom, grandma and me. We watched Mulan (it had just been released not too long before) and right after that the theater played A.I. we stayed for both movies.
It was a fun experience getting to roam freely in the car, watch movies and eat junk food in our pajamas. We even had pillows to make the experience more fun!
Fishing does have some upfront costs (like fishing poles, and bait) but kids can fish for free in almost every lake/pond that allows fishing. Most have age limit being 12 years old, after that, a fishing license is required, but even those are fairly cheap at $15 per person and can be bought from your local Walmart.
Swimming in your own pool, in your own yard, can be a cheap option. To make it cheap, you’ll need a smaller pool, and not go over the top with toys, cleaning agents and extras. Otherwise, the costs will add up pretty fast.
Swimming at a local facility once in a while can also be a cheap option, complete with lifeguards, a much larger pool for playing in, and a shower for rinsing off before and after.
There are also local lakes and beaches that may not cost anything at all to swim in. The downside is that these are often crowded and dangerous without a lifeguard on duty to help keep an eye on your kids.
Camping in the backyard is great for a few different reasons
- You still have full access to your indoor plumbing.
- You can cook and eat whatever you want.
- If your kids are new to camping, it’s a great way to get them accustomed to it without the full overwhelming experience.
- It’s free. No need for a permit or travel costs.
I have yet to take my 6-year-old to a movie theater because she can’t sit still longer than 30 minutes at a time. But if you’re luckier than I am, and want to enjoy a frugal movie theater with your kids this summer to help beat the heat, there are options.
Matinees are cheap early in the day movie times that are discounted. This is the best time to take kids to the movies because it is less crowded and there is more likely to be kids already there. Later times seem to be adults only as they have dates and kids have bedtimes.
Summer reading program
Libraries aren’t the only place for summer reading programs, your child’s school might have something going on as well as local establishments. Chuckee cheese and Barnes and noble are just two of the many offering different summer reading programs for kids.
Hunting for painted rocks
We all know that kids love to hunt for Easter eggs every year, which can be costly with the plastic eggs, candy, and baskets. But, even better is something you can do all year long like painted rock hunting.
You can buy cheap acrylic paints from Walmart in any color, cheap paint brushes and let the kids spend a few hours designing some creative rocks found in your yard. Then after they’ve dried you can hide them, and the kids can hunt them down. Over and over again.
If you’re lucky enough to live near the mountains or someplace scenic, you can take a weekend and do a big hiking trip with the family.
If you aren’t lucky enough to live somewhere with large hiking attractions, you can do smaller trips around local trails. Go to a park or campground near you and just explore.
Go to the gym
Gym memberships can be inexpensive and are worth it when it includes childcare and unlimited use. It’s when you don’t use your memberships that it ends up being a waste of money.
So get your monies worth and see if you can let your kids hang out with other children while you enjoy some time to yourself (for your health).
Free Movies/concerts in the park
All over the country, there are parks that offer this free activity during the summer. On special nights during the month, movies are played on a big screen in a park, usually set around sunset.
The events are free, but you may be reminded of concessions being sold or chairs being rented. You are allowed to bring your own picnics and drinks though! So this is a great way for dinner and a movie with the family on a budget.
Visit the farm
Have a local petting zoo or farm? Admission is usually pretty cheap or free for kids and they’ll talk about it forever. Take it one step further if you can and find a farm set in the pioneer ages, and watch your child’s mind get blown when they realize tv didn’t exist.
Produce stands and farmers markets are great places to take kids during the summer. It costs nothing to simply walk around and look. They can ask questions, possibly get samples and learn new things about the crops they eat.
Home Depot craft days
Once or twice a month Home Depot does a kid’s craft day, where they supply products and teach kids to do something in a short time period. Building a birdhouse, bird feeder, wood racecar, etc.
Play in the backyard play
There is a lot that you can do in your own yard. Blowing bubbles, playing with chalk, playing in a sprinkler, making an obstacle course and playing hide-n-go seek are just a few.
Cookouts with friends
Meals are cheaper when you split the costs. Have a barbecue with friends and have everyone take control of one part of the meal. Someone can bring hotdogs, the other gets the chips and someone can have drinks or dessert. Now you are feeding a crowd, having a good time and probably spent about the same or less than you would have if it was just your family.
Zoo (season pass)
Admission to the Zoo can be really pricey, but there are a few times a year when discounts are pretty great. Looking for discounts for local citizens, military, school-aged kids or kids of a certain age can really help to get a fun trip for little cost.
Boat or Kayak rental
I didn’t know this until recently, but renting a few hours to use a kayak or boat on a lake is actually a lot cheaper than I had thought. This could be a great experience for older kids.
Kids get jobs
This one isn’t exactly an activity, but it is, at the same time. Kids love the ice cream truck with their overpriced refrozen popsicles and catchy jingles. They also love the idea of going anywhere, doing anything and wanting every toy that pops up on the tv commercials.
Having your kids get a job can help them to stay busy, and you can then help them to learn about their money and savings. They can save up for more fun things like a trip to a toy store, ice cream shop or buy movie tickets.
Not only do they get the satisfaction of knowing that they did it themselves, but they also learn responsibility, patience, and other important life skills.
Spending time at the beach is a great way to pass the time for summer. The cold water and wind breezes help to take away a lot of the heat of the summer sun. Not to mention you can have fun building sandcastles.
If hiking wasn’t your style, bike riding could be. You can get to places much faster and some bikes come equipped with carrier spots for kids to sit so you don’t have to hear them complain about their legs being tired.
There are so many different ways that you can go camping on a budget. If you feel that your family is up for the no plumbing lifestyle for a few days, go enjoy some mother nature and freshly cooked smores.
There are rules saying you can’t get too close to planes taking off, so don’t go trying to enter into any restricted areas. That being said, outside the airport, there is usually at least one good spot worthy of a picnic. Take your kids out for an afternoon and have fun watching airplanes taking off and landing.
Summer fun program
For younger kids, you can look at local preschools and see if they have any fun free or cheap summer programs being offered.
Depending on your local carnivals, you may find free things to do besides simply walking around and looking.
Kids bowl free program
Every summer, there is a kids bowl for free program that is worth taking another look at or signing up for.
Look for deals on Groupon
Groupon is a great place to look for discounted certificates and entry fees to anywhere local. It’s essentially the same as paying a discounted price in advance. It’s also a great way to find out about local establishments that you may not have known existed.
Literally, take a few minutes to Google “free kids YOUR LOCATION” and see what free events are near you right now! You might be able to plan out the rest of your summer with just a few minutes dedicated to this quick search.
Water tables are great and can be found for fairly cheap. Instead of filling them with water though, you can do sand. There are a couple of fun and different ideas but these also help to occupy the kids at home.
Parades happen all of the time, especially around major holidays or important local dates. These are free to attend, but parking, crowds, noises, and weather are all factors that should be considered before leaving your house.
Start a tradition
Have a fun tradition get started with themed days like “make it Monday” where you teach your kid to make something. Either a craft or baked item could be good here.
My grandmother had her own kiln, shed and ceramic that she painted and fired up. You don’t have to go to such extremes, but can easily buy a small ceramic piece from a craft store, paints and paint brushes and let your kids have fun creating little masterpieces.
Picnic at the park
Having a fun little picnic at the park can be a great way to hang out and enjoy summer with little to no costs.
Ice cream dates
Set up a small ice cream date with your kids. You don’t have to be over the top, but even just swapping one dinner per summer month into an ice cream sundae can be amazing.
Your kids will always remember the time their parent cut open a watermelon, scooped out enough of it to make a bowl and stuffed it full of vanilla frozen yogurt for dinner. It’s a fun treat, easy to eat and doesn’t heat up the house to prepare.
Smiliar to the Home Depot workshops and the ones at your local library, Michaels craft store also does one geared towards kids and fun with art supplies. They also have paid classes for adults, if you’re interested.
Barnes and Noble storytimes
Taking your kids into Barnes and Noble is a fun activity in and of itself, but being able to enjoy a storytime is another fun perk of going there.
Happy hour at Sonic
Half priced drinks, shakes, and more. Sonic does some great discounted food and drink promos that can really help to treat a family on a budget.
Set aside a few dollars per paycheck or collect coins to pay for a small staycation with the family. Planning for a rainy day fund can help you to enjoy the bad weather and stay indoors. Budget for a movie rental, popcorn, drinks or whatever else might sound fun.
Other budget-friendly things you can do with the kids this summer include:
- Catching fireflies
- Making slime
- Water balloon fight
- Scavenger hunts
With all of these wonderful and different ideas for summer, there is no reason to be over budget or bored! Share your favorite frugal family activity in the comments below.
If you liked this post, you may also like this one about saving money on your grocery bill with kids home for summer.
If you like this post, pin it for later!