Finding cheap and free summer activities for kids isn’t as difficult as you might think! If you’re looking for new ideas for free events, or free admission for fun summer activities this year, I’ve got it all covered in this guide.
Whether you’re looking for free movie nights, summer movie programs, nature programs, or anything as simple as where to go on a bike ride, or places that serve up free meals, this guide will hopefully give you some inspiration.
Check out our guide for the Best Summer Water Activities For Kids to help you bring more fun in the backyard this year. Or you might like to check out our Camping Activities & Crafts For Kids if you’re going on an affordable, summer camp adventure!
Cheap and Free Summer Outdoor Activities for Kids
Here’s a list of cheap or free summer outdoor activities for kids when the weather warm and sunny.
Fly a Kite
You can buy a kite for less than $5. Take it to a wide-open space (make sure you are far away from any dangers like power lines) on a windy day. I also think its mandatory to sing “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” from Mary Poppins.
Have a Neighborhood Chalk Drawing Contest
Get some cheap colored chalk and dollar store prizes and invite the neighbor kids to create their best artwork! Make sure everyone is a winner with categories like “Most Realistic,” “Most Colorful,” “Best Nature Drawing,” or “Most Interesting Use of Shapes.”
We have a great neighborhood chalk scavenger hunt here on the blog!
Teddy Bear Picnic
July 10th is National Teddy Bear Picnic Day. Many towns have special activities for this day–check out Facebook for what might be happening in your area.
You can also have your own Teddy Bear Picnic! Listen to the song or read one of the many books about Teddy Bear Picnics and then plan one in your back yard! All you need is a blanket, some simple snacks or sandwiches, and, of course, teddy bears!!
Go on a Nature Walk
Take a simple stroll through the park, a local nature reserve, hiking trails, or even just around the block! You can find many nature walk scavenger hunt lists online, or make your own!
Camp Out at Home
Pitch a tent in your backyard and enjoy a fun camping experience with all the conveniences (and bathroom facilities) of home! You can also add to the fun with these 40 tin foil dinner recipes and these 35 Camping Activities and Crafts for Kids
If you plan on making burgers for your camping out at home, then try out these homemade burger buns while you’re at it!
Plant a Garden
Turn a corner of your yard into a small vegetable garden. Seeds are fairly inexpensive, but water and fertilizer can add up a bit. However, if your garden is successful, you will also spend money to offset your grocery costs!
Don’t have a big enough yard? Just use containers! There are many veggies and herbs that will grow well in containers and, of course, flowers too!
You can also keep kids busy with these cute DIY garden marker rocks.
Have a Park Play Date
Arrange to meet another mom (or a few) and their kids at the local park somewhere. Keep it low key and just bring a snack, or make it more elaborate and bring a picnic lunch.
Many cities and towns have fishing ponds specifically geared towards kids. Depending on where you live, you may have to find a lake or river nearby to do your fishing. If you don’t have fishing gear, kids’ poles are around $10 a piece and worms make for inexpensive bait.
Fill Up a Kiddie Pool or Run Through the Sprinkler
On a hot day, splashing in an inexpensive kiddie pool or running through the sprinkler is a great fun way to to beat the heat!
Have a Squirt Gun or Water Balloon Fight
Challenge all the kids to a squirt gun or water balloon fight on a hot day! You can find cheap squirt guns or water balloons at most dollar stores.
You can buy bubbles at virtually any dollar store, or make your own at home! You can even find some fun battery-operated bubble machines for less than $10.
You can make your own bubbles using Blue Dawn dish soap – they make great bubbles!
Check out a book on constellations from the library. Then lay out under the stars and see how many you can identify! Also, check out Time and Date’s Meteor Shower Calendar to see when there might be one in your area!
Backyard Obstacle Course
Take your kids activities cue from American Ninja Warrior and set up a backyard obstacle course. Your course can be simple or elaborate. Just make sure that it is safe and appropriate for the age of your kids.
Make Dandelion Crowns
Use the ubiquitous summer “flowers” to create lovely braided crowns and garlands.
Go to a Public Pool or Beach
Public swimming areas are a great way to cool off on a hot summer day. Most are free or very inexpensive. Don’t forget the sunscreen!
Go for a Hike
Find out what hiking or walking trails there are near you. Do you live near a state park, national park, or national forest? Perfect! Day passes to free park are very inexpensive and most have wonderful trails and picnic areas.
Not sure where to find one? Try the Find a Park tool on State Parks.com to find one within driving distance. They tell you all the state and national parks and other state and federal recreation areas in every state.
Cheap and Free Indoor Summer Activities for Kids
Here’s a list of fun ideas of cheap or free summer indoor activities for kids when the weather just won’t cooperate.
Drive-in Movie Theater
Make “cars” out of old cardboard boxes. Each kiddo gets their own cardboard box seat (I like to fill with pillows and blankets to make them extra comfy!), snack, and drink.
Position all the cars in front of the TV and enjoy a good old-fashioned drive-in movie!
Games are great ways to have screen-free fun and teach important things like following the rules, taking turns, and being a gracious winner or loser.
This was one of my all time favorites as a kid! We would use couch cushions, chairs, and every blanket in the house to create elaborate forts!
Sibling Coloring Contest
If you don’t already have coloring books laying around, you can print out these free summer printables or other pictures from online or use coloring books from the dollar store.
Get a few simple dollar store prizes and give awards based on “Most Creative Use of Color,” “Best at Coloring Inside the Lines,” or “Most Interesting to Look At,” etc.
Even if your own kids love it are older and can read themselves, it is still fun to be read to. Or, if they need the practice, have your kids read to you! Snuggle up on the couch with a stack of good books and enjoy a peaceful afternoon!
Play with Play-doh
My kids will play with play-doh for hours. You can increase the fun by having a sculpture contest or challenge them to make the play-doh into the shapes of letters or numbers. These Picasso playdough mats will give them some great ideas!
Check out this recipe for easy homemade playdough that your kids will love! This recipe is easy to adjust and fun to dye in several different colors!
Put on a Puppet Show
Turn one of your kid’s favorite stories into a puppet show. Take a simple story that everyone is familiar with like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the Three Little Pigs, or another fairy tale. Or, if your kids are really creative, have them just make their own story.
Make and decorate a puppet theater out of a cardboard box. You can make puppets by printing pictures of characters and coloring and cutting them out and gluing them to popsicle sticks. You can also make sock puppets out of old socks, or just use stuffed animals.
You can buy cheap popsicle molds at the dollar store or Target. Fill them with juice, fruit, or pudding, freeze, and enjoy!
You’ll love these summer popsicle recipes!
Make Shadow Puppets
Get a few flashlights and find a dark room. Your kids will have a blast seeing what kind of goofy animals they can make with their hands!
Your tea party can be as fancy or as simple as you want! Use simple plastic cups or check out the thrift store for cool, vintage teacups. Kids can help to set and decorate the “tea table” and make snacks like tea sandwiches, cookies, or cupcakes. My kids like to invite their stuffed animals.
Organize a Play Date
Have another mom or two you enjoy hanging out with (or want to get to know better)? Organize a mid-morning play date! Have everyone bring a snack to share and its a party. The kids will entertain themselves and you can relax and chat with other adults over a cup of hot chocolate or glass of lemonade!
Go to the Library
Most libraries have a kids area with lots of fun activities or toys to engage kids. Let your kids do free things or choose books to check out themselves!
Lego, Duplo or Block Building Contest
Who can build the tallest tower? Who can make the most elaborate city? The possibilities are endless! If you want to get really creative, you can make awards for your kids or give the dollar store prizes.
Check out these fun LEGO activity ideas and challenges.
Create and print your own Bingo cards on My Free Bingo Cards–you can even make them thematic or educational. Pennies, legos, M&Ms, or raisins can all be used as bingo markers. Prizes can be dollar store toys, coupons for fun activities or privileges, or just play for fun!
Vacation Bible School
Sign your kids up for a Vacation Bible School session! Many churches offer free vacation bible school activities in the the summer break, and most do not require you to attend the church in order to participate. This a great, constructive way for your kids to make new friends, and you can have a break too!
Have a wonderful summer!
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