Sure, many children want nothing more than to go to Disneyland after the last school bell rings, but most families cannot afford to take a big trip every summer. Luckily when the weather is nice, there’s no reason to spend a lot of money to have fun with the family. Often, the best parts of expensive vacations are the most ordinary ones anyway.
When I asked my friend’s son and daughter — who were 7 and 9 — what they enjoyed most about their six-day trip to Disney World last summer, they replied, “Swimming in the hotel pool.” Fortunately, you don’t have to hop on a plane to have fun in a pool or do plenty of other activities, none of which will break the bank.
Read on for a handful of fun (and cheap!) things to do with your kids this summer.
Affordable Summer Activities For Kids
Go on a day trip.
It's always great to get out of town for the day, no matter where you live. Pack a lunch, fill your thermoses with water, and hit the road. You can wing it or do a little planning beforehand, but most cities have plenty of affordable, if not free, activities your kids will enjoy. Seek out places with zoos, state parks, lakes, observatories, or children’s museums, museums of science, art, or history. (Many museums have monthly free days; so check their websites.) Don't know where to go? Throw a dart on a map. Drive to that town. Explore it!
Free Activities For Kids
Explore your own hometown.
Whether you live in a town with a population of 20,000 or half a million, there are also undoubtedly plenty of things to do right near home. Consider buying a season pass at the pool rather than daily ones to save money in the long run. Or hit up the park, but make it less of the same-old activity by going to new parks in different neighborhoods. Or create a scavenger hunt with simple items on it for younger children to find on a nature walk; have older children create their own list for each other (a sibling or a friend) to find. Finally, almost all libraries have free summer programs for kids from toddlers to teens.
Get in the game.
Playing together may seem obvious, but sometimes it takes a little motivation to get into it with your kids, instead of just letting them do their own thing. Why not make paper airplanes and see whose can fly the farthest? (See “How This Guy Folds and Flies World Record Paper Airplanes.”) Break out a board game (Monopoly might last most of the summer…) or play the game Would You Rather, and learn something new about each other. Keep things fresh by hunting for new board games at summer yard sales. Backyard games like Simon Says, Mother May I, Red Rover, Freeze Tag, and Ghosts in the Graveyard are great, too. On a day that’s too hot or too rainy to go outside, teach your kids to play chess — or have older kids watch a YouTube video and teach you.
Free Summer Activities For Kids
Go on a bike ride or break out water balloons, the sprinkler, bubbles, or a Slip N’ Slide in the backyard. If you have a dog, this is a good day for the kids to give Fido a bath. Plant a garden. Children love eating food they’ve grown themselves. If you live in an apartment or an otherwise small space, consider growing herbs or tomatoes in pots. Go camping in the backyard. There’s very little hassle, and the novelty of roasting hot dogs and s’mores in a fire pit or on the grill and sleeping in a tent or under the stars makes this activity a truly memorable one.
Buy ingredients and have kids make their own pizzas or turn your meals upside down by having the kids help make tacos for breakfast and pancakes for dinner. Or teach them your most beloved recipe.
Consider doing volunteer work together. My daughter and I used to make weekly visits to a nursing home. Other families find volunteering at animal shelters fun and meaningful. My friend’s teen son absolutely loves the family’s weekly volunteer work at a soup kitchen.
Affordable Activities For Kids
Get the grandparents involved.
We're sure your parents would love to get in on all the fun. Have your kids interview them and write down their stories. Grandparents can teach their grandchildren card games and the family can play together. Or visit an antique malls together and have Pappy point out all items and toys they used to use and enjoy. Give the children a little spending money if you like.
Summer Activities For Kids
Celebrate a quirky holiday.
Check out the Holiday Insights website and celebrate bizarre and fun holidays, including Joke Day (July 1), Shark Awareness Day (July 14), Take Your Houseplants for a Walk Day (July 27), Campfire Day (August 3) Bad Poetry Day (August 18), and Frankenstein Day (August 30).