20 free things to do with your kids this summer

Parents and kid have summer fun
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Some years it seems like summer can’t get here fast enough, and then it’s gone in the blink of an eye. We are here to help you pack in as much fun as possible without missing a minute — or overspending. We’ve curated a list of 20 free things to do this summer that can help you connect with your family to make the most out of summer break.

Attend an Outdoor Movie

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Many cities and neighborhoods offer free movies at local parks during the summer months. Grab some lawn chairs and head out at dusk on movie nights. Look for notifications in neighborhood Facebook Groups and newspapers and flyers in large parks.

MORE: Regal Cinemas offers $1 family movies every week this summer

Go Bowling

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More than 1,500 bowling centers around the globe provide two free games of bowling each day to kids during the spring and Ssummer. All you have to do is head to the Kids Bowl Free program’s website, find a bowling center near you and register your child.

Take an Art Class

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Michaels hosts in-store events, where kids can learn how to make an art project all year, and summer is no exception. Recent offerings have included how to make a wood-burned keychain, and ahead of Fourth of July, kids can make a red, white and blue tie-dye shirt. Events are free and materials are included.

Visit Your Local Library

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Most public libraries across the country host summer reading programs. Kids sign up at the library and then record the books they have read to a librarian.  Certificates can be awarded for accomplished goals and often there are even opportunities to earn prizes.

BONUS: Many public libraries host free events for children of all ages. They can include storytelling, concerts, animal visits, craft projects and so much more. Find your local library and check it out.

MORE: Get a free book with Barnes & Noble’s summer reading program

Go Fishing

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Free fishing days and weekends happen every year around the country on different dates, depending on the state in which you live. Check out our list of  Free Fishing Weekends 2024: When you can fish for free in every state.

Catch a Concert

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There’s nothing quite like listening to live music with loved ones outside on a warm summer evening. Medium to large cities oftentimes host free concerts through their Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB). If you don’t know the website for your area, type in the city’s name + CVB into Google.

Attend a Home Depot Workshop

Home Depot

Kids can join Home Depot on the first Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. to noon to learn how to make a special project from start to finish. Recent options have included making a putting green and a flower planter. Advance registration is required.

MORE: 11 genius ways to save money at Home Depot and Lowe’s

Touch a Truck

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Do you have a little one who likes trucks? Contact your local fire department to see if they offer tours. It’s a hands-on way to teach kids how first responders help your community. Consider making a drawing or card as a thoughtful way to thank them for all their hard work.

Many communities also have Touch-a-Truck events where kids can get hands-on with not only fire trucks, but construction, police and military vehicles.

Volunteer Together

Community matters. Local nonprofit organizations are always looking for volunteers and several will have opportunities for kids and families. Some examples include walking dogs at a local animal shelter, helping at a food pantry, or cleaning up a park. Find a Neighbors Helping Neighbors group on Facebook or search VolunteerMatch to see which organizations near you can use your help.

Go to a Museum

Getty Images | Sergio Dionisio

Bank of America sponsors “Museums On Us” which offers free general admission – during the first full weekend of every month – to more than 225 cultural institutions in cities across the United States. This program, now in its 25th year, is available to Bank of America, Merrill or Bank of America Private Bank credit or debit cardholders.  If you have one of these cards, all you need to do is present it, along with a photo ID, to a participating venue. The free admission does not cover special exhibits, ticketed events or fundraising events.

MORE: Have SNAP benefits? Enjoy free and discounted tickets to over 1,200 museums

Make a Splash

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Splash pads and spraygrounds provide fun opportunities to safely play with water and can be found throughout the nation. Your local parks and recreation department can help point you in the right direction. And if you’re looking for a local water park, you can start your search here.

Stargaze

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All of the summer fun doesn’t have to happen under the sun. Stargazing is a memorable way to connect with family without spending a dime. All you need is a blanket and a clear sky. Apps like Sky Guide can help you determine different constellations and planets.

MORE: Is your child in 4th grade? Get a free national parks membership for your whole family

Wander Through a Farmers Market

Farmers markets offer the opportunity to connect with local farmers and sample produce and homemade goodies. It’s always free to attend, and some markets host live music. Check out LocalHarvest to find the closest one to you.

Learn a New Skill At Apple

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Kids (and adults) can learn how to do more with their Apple devices through complimentary sessions at their nearest Apple Store. Learn photography tricks, coding, music editing and art and design. Be sure to register in advance because these free classes tend to fill up quickly.

Take a Night Walk

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Going for a nighttime stroll can give your child a whole new experience. It can also be quite calming and help ease anxiety around the darkness.

Send Kids on a Scavenger Hunt

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Sometimes all you need to do is send your kids to look for stuff. For pre-readers, draw them pictures of things: a leaf, a twig, a rock, a stapler, an oven mitt, a slipper, etc. For older ones, give them written riddles they need to figure out how to find the items. (“I can smash scissors, but paper covers me. What am I?”)If this sounds like too much prep work, take comfort that this, too, has been done by others who share lots of scavenger hunt ideas online.

For an alternative, check out geocaching. It’s a bit like treasure hunting, except the treasure stays where you find it. Kids who love video games will especially like the way this activity blends the virtual world and the real one.

Think Like a Tourist

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Is there a nearby city you’ve always thought about exploring — or even your own? Put on your tourist hat and head out the door. Check out your local visitor’s center for new places to discover, or old gems you might have forgotten about, and experience the city through a new lens.

MORE: 16 (actually) free things at Disney World

Take a STEM Class

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A Dojo is a free, volunteer-led, community-based computer club for young people. Anyone aged 7 to 17 can visit a Dojo and learn to code, build a website, or create an app or game. Dojos are a space for kids and teens to explore technology in an informal, creative, safe and social environment. Get started by finding your local club to view offerings.

Play Candy Land With a Twist

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Rainy afternoons don’t need to leave anyone down in the dumps. Time to break out the board games. Our household favorite when my daughter was young was playing Candy Land with real candy. While we didn’t match up items exactly as pictured on the board and opted for varieties that kept portion control in mind: small licorice bites, Skittles and M&Ms.

MORE: Toys that will keep kids entertained indoors when it’s too hot to play outside

Picnic in a Park

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Peruse the pantry to find easily portable items like pretzels, popcorn and snack packs. Then head to the yard — or the park! Fruit, sandwiches and pasta salads are also big hits. Don’t forget to toss in a few cold beverages, napkins and silverware. Even better when you have a second bag that contains ideas for play, like a soccer ball, chalk, bubbles or water guns.

Bookmark this list for easy access to free activities!

About the Author
DWYM Staff

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