Summer Is Coming: No and Low Cost Entertainment for Kids

Summer is coming. By the time you read this, your kids or grandkids, if you have them, may already be on summer vacation. Back when I was a kid, that meant endless days of hiking in the woods with my friends, playing baseball, shooting baskets and generally trying to make myself scarce so that I could avoid chores. Today, unless your children are at least in middle school, you probably don’t leave their summers all that unstructured.

But what can you do to keep kids entertained for 3 months? If you are a stay-at-home parent, you probably want to avoid having your child play 90 straight days on their X-Box 360 or other gaming console. You also probably want to keep them engaged, you sane, and your wallet full. Fortunately, there are a lot of options out there. You may want to check out some of these.

Go to the Movies: Many cinemas offer discounted or even free films if you go to matinees, especially showings before noon in the middle of the week. Many Regal Cinema locations are offering free matinees at 10am on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for a number of recent children’s movies. It is a great value and a great way to get out of the house, without any cost, in the middle of the week.

Go to a Museum: Many museums offer free or discounted admission at certain times each week. If a museum participates in certain federal funding programs, I believe they are actually required to do so. Call your local museums to ask them when they offer free or reduced admission. Also, check with any organizations to which you belong to determine whether your membership can get you in for free. AAA and various other groups certainly can help. Also, Bank of America card holders can gain free admission to several museums across the country as part of their Museums on Us program.

Read Books: Make a point of visiting the library each week with your kids and require them to take out at least one book each week and to finish it before your next visit. Also, Barnes and Noble usually offers a summer program which allows kids to get a free book for every 8 books that they read. Encourage your kids to read and let them know that they may be able to get free books as a reward. Check with your local Barnes and Noble Bookseller to determine whether they are participating. In addition, TD Bank is offering kids $10 for reading ten books. If you live in an area with a TD bank, check with the bank to determine the rules for participation.

Go for a Walk in the Woods: In my youth, I used to spend hours – sometimes entire days – hiking in the woods near my home. I grew up 10 miles outside of Boston, MA but there was still a 2000 acre reserve in which I could get away from cars and modern distractions. Chances are good that you do not live too far from a wooded area that is probably full of trails and fire roads. Take your kids back to nature and I think you will all love it. If you do not know where you can hike, you can also check with the National Park Service.

Go to a Minor League Baseball Game: Minor league games usually do not cost a lot of money and they can be a lot more fun than major league games. Fans are not nearly as numerous and the players are usually much more accessible. Kraft is also offering a BOGO promotion for minor league tickets for purchasers of Kraft Singles cheese. Some restrictions apply.

Go to a Concert: Usually there are a huge variety of free outdoor concerts in cities and towns across America throughout the summer. Check your local newspaper for listings.
There are lots of free things to check out with kids throughout the summer. You can search for “free things to do with kids” and find several links. You can also visit for profiles on several cities, including in some cases lists of free local activities.

What are you going to do with your kids this summer? Expensive summer camps? Three months of video games and Cartoon Network?

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13 Responses to Summer Is Coming: No and Low Cost Entertainment for Kids

  1. Ann says:

    You can also help them make cookies, a healthy snack mix or their favorite meal. Never hurts to teach children how to do that and it’s fun, if it’s something they like to eat. You can also take them to a farmers’ market, which can be a lot of fun — some of them even have homemade cheeses and jams and stuff.

    Go to the park. We have a great one here that has a merry-go-round, a super cool net and ladders and bars and stuff “fort” to climb all over, paddle boats to take out on the creek/river, lots of paths, an area for fishing, etc.

    There are arts and crafts type things like carving soap or sweet potatoes — you can carve a face in a sweet potato (or apple), let it dry then seal it and you get this really neat, wrinkly old face. There’s also drawing and playing with clay and, in larger cities, there’s generally a place where (fairly inexpensively) you can buy greenware, put on the glazes in whatever pattern you want and they’ll fire it for you.

    A lot of park districts offer programs in all kinds of things for kids from learning to golf to nature hikes that don’t cost a lot.

    What about sitting down and playing old-fashioned board games with the kids or teaching them one or more of the needlearts (knitting, crochetting, needlepoint, sewing) or how to grow something from seed and take care of it?

    There’re lots of things to do that don’t cost much of anything … except quality time with a parent.

  2. getfo says:

    All this requires you to get out of the house and spend gas and some money in most cases. I live in CA, and it’s way too hot to go anywhere.

    Going to the library is good if you have lots of time. You can stay there for about 4 hours or so to avoid using AC at home.

    Does anyone have any no-cost tips how to keep kids intertained while I am bisy with cooking and cleaning and laundry?

  3. Lou Russo says:

    I think David’s idea is to be busy WITH the kids, not keeping them “entertained” while you do something else. We watch two of my grandchildren (5 an 18 months) a couple of days a week. We try to send them home dirty. The 5 year old loves the library, but is into bu collecting and watching birds. He’s outside almost all day. We have a small sandbox that he uses for his dinosaurs, a big wheel for riding, and he likes to help garden. The little one just likes being outside. We are lucky enough to have a pool, so many summer days are spent there.

    If the kids are old enough, why not have them help you clean, do laundry, etc.? You’d be amazed at how much they really enjoy helping out.

    We take them to a small park for climbing, running, jumping, and such. Let them do jigsaw puzzles, give them a box of crayons and some paper, let them use water paints. There are myriad things to do WITH kids that don’t cost much, and give them and you a chance to bond.

  4. Justin says:

    Here n our community, we have “Movies in the Park” every Thursday evening July through August. They play family friendly movies on a huge screen while families lay out on blankets and lounge in lawn chairs. The best part….it’s completely free and filled with great family fun!

  5. Jackie says:

    Here in KC, one of our 2 year colleges plays nearly free movies almost every Friday during the school semester. They play twice – at noon it’s free and at 7pm it costs $1. It’s open to the public, everyone gets 2 free, small bags of popcorn and students can go free anytime. The movies are everything from fairly current blockbusters (think 2nd run theatre for the timing) to holiday influenced movies (Beetejuice at Halloween) to kid shows to 3 Stooges tribute nights.

    It’s put on by their theatre department and a lot of fun. It’s definitely worth checking out in your local community.

  6. Tightwad says:

    LOTS of kids books and FREE to join!
    An added benefit is the anticipation of receiving your books in the mail!
    It’s a great site! I have been a member for years and I LOVE IT!

  7. Jens says:

    For younger kids:
    – go to your (local) airport watching planes/helicopters landing and taking off
    – watch a construction site
    – camp with your kids in the garden for a night
    – build things with wood

    I think in general kids don’t have to travel far away to get some entertainment with their parents.

  8. Jackie says:

    Jens list reminded me of something else. If you can resist the temptation to buy something, Lowes has kids activities where they can build something from a little kit. I’m not sure if it’s free or not (I think it is, but I don’t know for sure) but definitely something to call your local home improvement store to check out.

  9. Ann says:

    Getfo, if your budget is that tight, find a local Goodwill or Salvation Army store. They have all kinds of games and puzzles and stuff for really, really cheap and a lot of them are like new. That should keep the kids busy, though I think turning cooking, cleaning and laundry into a game and getting them to help is a better idea. Plus, I grew up pre-air conditioning and STILL spent my summers outside. You’re selling your kids short by keeping them indoors and not having them help with household stuff — they get a feeling of accomplishment and you get help.

    Lou, you just reminded me of something that I thought was terrific. I was dating a guy in advertising who had two young daughters. One time, when he had fixed us dinner, the girls wanted to watch tv. He told them no, gave them paper and crayons and told them to go write a story with pictures and come back to share it with us. They grumbled at first, but got into it (while we drank our coffee) and were so proud when they came back and “read” it to us. 🙂 We had fun telling them what a great job they did.

    I also remember, as a little girl, grabbing empty boxes — they could be from anything like cereal or shoes or whatever, all the way up to BIG boxes — and “making” them into buildings and castles and stuff.

  10. Cheryl says:

    I love all of these ideas. However; most of them are for younger kids. What do you do with a 16 year old who has no driver’s license and we live in a smaller town? I also am a single mom who works 8-4:30.
    Any ideas?

  11. Pingback: Frugal and Fun Summertime Activities for the Family |

  12. Cheryl — For a 16 year old, I think the best answer is help him or her to find a summer job. If you live in a small town, perhaps there are places that are close enough for your son/daughter to walk to work?

  13. Angie says:

    No comment, but need an idea I am a assistand director at a childcare facility in greenbelt and I do not know what to do with my two year olds this summer. We are not insured to take them on the school bus but i would like to due in house field trips any ideas?

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