I have a confession: I’m not a huge fan of summer. It’s hot, sticky, and when you’re trying to entertain a kid, can be downright expensive. Within a few days of being out of school, my son will be starting with the “I’m bored!” talk. Since I work from home, the only way I can get anything done is to promise to take him somewhere or do something with him if he lets me finish X amount of articles or blog posts. Since I’m broke (like the rest of the world), those promises are going to have to be for free activities. Fortunately, there are tons of things you can do either in your town or your own back yard that don’t cost a dime (aside from gas to get there, if it’s not at your house).
Free Summer Activities For Kids In Your Own Backyard
- Camp out in your own backyard. I plan to go real camping this summer, but I’m really shocked to find out how expensive it can be. One local park wants $21 per night to set up a tent! That seems a bit excessive to me. You can camp in your own back yard and save the fees. Just be sure to do it the way you would at a real camp site- no sneaking back to your comfy bed at night!
- Make crafts inspired by nature. Gather rocks, twigs, leaves, flowers, and anything else you can find in your backyard and use them to create awesome crafts, like the Instant Friend Kit on Family Fun.
- Have a scavenger hunt.Make a list of all the things found in your backyard (flowers, plants, bugs, etc) and have kids hunt for them. Use the things they find for the crafts activities and you have two activities in one!
- Make your own mini-golf course.Using old cardboard boxes, wrapping paper tubes, cans, or other objects from the house and a lot of imagination, you and your child can design the ultimate mini-golf course in your own backyard. Tons of sites offer different tips. I personally like the Instructables version.
- Play with water. This is one of the most diverse free summer activities for kids. Play with water blasters, sprinklers, hoses with spray attachments, kiddie pools, water balloons, or just about anything else involving cool water. If you pay for city water, it may be smarter to fill a pool once every other day and cover it at night. Running the hose can get expensive.
Free Indoor Summer Activities For Rainy Days
- Build an indoor fort using sheets, furniture cushions, large cardboard boxes, or whatever else you have on hand.
- Host a movie marathon.Pick a theme or series of movies and host a marathon. Don’t forget the popcorn!
- Host a read-a-thon.If you’d rather keep your kids unplugged (or the storm knocks out power), host a read-a-thon instead. Keep track of the books read for one of the many summer reading programs out there.
- Make your own movie.Get out the video camera and have children put together little skits. Capture the memory on film. Bonus- You can put together awesome DVDs for faraway family members.
- Have a scrapbooking day.Gather all those pictures you’ve been meaning to organize and have kids help you make an awesome scrapbook. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be fun and meaningful.
Free Summer Activities For Kids Who Love Nature
- Try Geocaching.I’ve been wanting to do this forever, and we’re going to give it a try this summer. You do need some sort of GPS unit to find the caches though.
- Hike new trails.Check out the local trails in your area and hit a new one every week. Check out Trail Links to find some in your area. Hit “Advanced Search” to narrow it down to a certain radius from your zipcode.
- Keep a nature journal.Make a journal to keep track of all the different types of nature your child sees. Put checklists in the front of the journal with the different plants and animals found in your area, and have your child check them off as you see them. In the journal part, they can draw or tape pictures and write down where and when they spotted the bit of nature.
- Learn about different ecosystems.Rivers and lakes have very complex ecosystems, right down to the microscopic level. If you have a microscope, gather water from different water reservoirs and check out the tiniest life forms. If you don’t have a microscope, you can still explore different ecosystems. Visit lakes and rivers, and check out the different plants, animals, fish, and plankton found there. Have your child keep a journal of their discoveries.
- Check out your local environmental education center.Many counties have environmental education centers that have a variety of trails and educational seminars. While many are free, some require a small fee depending on the activity, so be sure to call ahead to find out.
Free Summer Workshops and Group Activities
- Lowe’s Build & Grow program offers free workshops where kids can build really cool stuff. They host them nearly every weekend, and this summer features Madagascar, Shrek, and Kung Fu Panda themes.
- Home Depot has a Free Kids Workshop the first Saturday of every month.
- Your local library is a huge resource for free things to do in the summer. Check out their calender for story times and other fun activities. Mine even has a magician coming!
- Check out your local theaters for free (or really cheap) movie days. Sure, they’re mostly movies that are on DVD, but kids still love to see them on the big screen.
- If you’re lucky enough to live near a Pottery Barn, they have a ton of really fun and free workshops and activities.
Need more tips on free summer activities for kids? SlashDashMom has the ultimate list of free things to do with kids, with links to different posts throughout the net. All together, the list tops over 500 activities. You can bet I bookmarked that one!