40 Free or Cheap Summer Activities for Kids

With a little imagination, entertaining kids is free

Older man teaching child to play guitar as a summer activity

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School is out. What summer activities do you have planned? Do you know how you'll entertain the kids all summer long without straying from your budget?

Many parents see their bills shoot up in summer as they pay for activities like camp, summer classes, sports leagues, trips to the movies, restaurant meals, and all the other expenses that come with keeping kids entertained.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to keep your children occupied, for free or for just a few bucks. Here's a list of 40 free or cheap summer activities for kids:

40 Free or Cheap Activities for Kids

  1. Shoot funny home videos, of singing, dancing, or just acting goofy.
  2. Start a scavenger hunt.
  3. Go camping—even if it's just in the backyard.
  4. Learn pottery by making figures out of backyard mud.
  5. Browse books at the library.
  6. Arrange a playdate with cousins or neighborhood kids. Once you get the kids together, their imaginations take over, and they'll entertain themselves.
  7. Visit the park.
  8. Encourage your children to start a make-believe "detective agency."
  9. Climb trees, if it can be done safely.
  10. Watch educational movies on Netflix or Hulu.
  11. Bake cookies and other desserts. Or, learn the art of cooking.
  12. Fingerpaint using non-toxic wet paint.
  13. Hike in the mountains, a nearby forest, or another local trail.
  14. Build and operate a lemonade stand.
  15. Make a pizza together at home.
  16. Create a homemade board game. Don't forget to make game pieces and a rulebook with instructions.
  17. Visit a wildlife rehabilitation sanctuary to watch how rescuers help local wildlife.
  18. Learn origami. Make birds, animals, and various objects.
  19. Plant trees in the backyard.
  20. Play musical instruments like guitar or piano. Get a cheap, used beginner instrument from a yard sale or other secondhand source.
  21. Paint old boots, belts, or other leather with acrylic colors.
  22. Join a local recreational center, like the YMCA, which offers affordable memberships and plenty of programs for the whole family.
  23. Make snowcones out of crushed ice. Add different flavors and serve friends.
  24. Tour a nearby factory, such as a chocolate factory or tea factory.
  25. Take swimming lessons.
  26. Take the dog for a walk each day, or go for family walks after dinner.
  27. Read news stories together. Talk about current events with your child in an age-appropriate manner.
  28. Go outside and draw with sidewalk chalk.
  29. Write letters to pen pals or distant relatives.
  30. Search for "free admission" days to the local museum, art gallery, or zoo.
  31. Encourage the kids to stage a play at home. They can write a script and make costumes out of old clothes.
  32. Go on a bicycle ride.
  33. Feed the ducks at the local pond.
  34. Have a "mathlete" competition—see who can solve math problems the fastest.
  35. Write and illustrate your own books.
  36. Play a trivia game. You don't need to buy one—just prep questions ahead of time.
  37. Play Frisbee, soccer, or basketball.
  38. Make mini popsicles with ice trays and juice.
  39. Play hide-and-seek.
  40. Go out and fly kites. If you don't want to buy one, have the kids make their own.