38 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 your children 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.

Well, don't worry. There are ways to keep your children occupied, for free, or for just a few bucks. Here's a list of 38 free or cheap summer activities for kids:

The List

  1. Shoot funny home videos, of singing, dancing or just acting goofy. Most smartphones let you shoot videos.
  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 play date with cousins or neighborhood kids. Once you get enough children together, their imagination takes 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's safe).
  10. Watch educational movies on Netflix or Hulu.
  11. You can bake cookies and other desserts. Learn the art of cooking.
  12. Fingerpaint using non-toxic wet paint.
  13. Hike in the mountains or a nearby forest.
  14. Build a lemonade stand.
  15. Make a pizza together at home.
  16. Make your own homemade board game.
  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 and piano. Get a cheap, used beginner instrument from Craigslist or a yard sale.
  21. You can paint old boots, belts and other leather with acrylic colors.
  22. Join a local recreational center, like the YMCA, which offers affordable memberships and plenty of programs.
  23. Make snow cones out of crushed ice. Add different flavors and serve friends.
  24. Tour a nearby factory, such as a chocolate factory or tea factory.
  25. Join swimming lessons.
  26. Walk your dog daily or go for family walks after dinner.
  27. Read news stories together. Explain the story to your child in an age-appropriate manner.
  28. Write letters to pen pals or distant relatives.
  29. Search for "free admission" days to the local museum, art gallery, or zoo.
  30. Encourage the kids to stage a play at home. They can write a script and make costumes out of old clothes.
  31. Go on a bicycle ride.
  32. Feed the ducks at the local pond.
  33. Have a "mathlete" competition—see which kids can solve math problems the fastest.
  34. Play a trivia game. You don't need to buy one - just prep questions ahead of time from the internet.
  35. Play Frisbee or soccer.
  36. Make mini-popsicles with ice trays and juice.
  37. Play hide-and-go-seek.
  38. Go out and fly kites. If you don't want to buy one, have the kids make their own.