20 free things to do with your kids this summer

Parents and kid have summer fun

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.

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Watch A Movie Outside

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.


Get Your Art On

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.


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Catch A Concert

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.


Read Up

Slow down the season by falling in love with a good book. Head to your local library to see if it participates in All Together Now, a program design to help children ages 3-8 connect with reading and storytelling. Kids create a goal, read on their own and either record it or report back to a librarian. Certificates are awarded for accomplished goals and sometimes there are even opportunities to earn prizes.


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.


Take A Free STEM Class

CoderDojo, a volunteer-led computer club, offers free workshops for kids ages 7-17. Get started by finding your local club to view offerings.


Make A Splash

Splash pads provide fun opportunities to safely play with water and can be found throughout the nation. Your local parks and rec department can help point you in the right direction.


Attend A Home Depot Workshop

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.


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Explore A Fire Truck

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.


Help A Neighbor

Community matters. Check in on an elderly neighbor to see how your family could be of service. This might entail helping to walk a dog or just sitting down for an hour or two to talk or play a few card games. If you feel shy about ringing their doorbell, consider dropping a note in their mailbox with your phone number or email address to help get the ball rolling.


Host A Backyard Family Tea Party

You don’t need much to host a fancy backyard tea party. Simply spread out a blanket or tablecloth, your finest tea cups and a few stuffed animals. Invite young ones to put on their fanciest dress-up costumes or outfits while you brew a pot of tea. Enhance the experience by bringing out sugar cubes and cupcakes for a sweet afternoon snack.



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.


Learn A New Skill At Apple

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

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.


Go On A Scavenger Hunt Together

Print off a scavenger list online or make your own. The DIY version can be simplified by thinking broadly about colors, shapes and textures. Create a list of items: something yellow, six pine needles, one big stick, two smooth rocks, etc. Kids can cross off items as they find them and report back what they found.
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Think Like A Tourist

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.


Candyland With A Twist

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.


Picnic In A Park

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.


Concoct A Magic Potion

Little witches and wizards might enjoy whipping up their own magic potions. After explaining that this is something to only look at — and not drink — pour water, dish soap, food coloring and glitter into a mason jar. Pop on the lid and give it a shake to watch it glisten. Take it further and ask the magician-in-training to write their wacky magic recipe.


Build A Pool For Toys

If your kids like to play with plastic dolls or action figures, why not offer them a day out at the pool? This one is even better as no travel is involved. Fill a plastic bin or large mixing bowl with water and play it outside. Then cart out all the small figurines you can find. Cut up an old rag to make beach towels for all the swimmers so ones not in the pool have a place to rest and relax.


Bookmark this list for easy access to free activities!

About the Author

Emily O'Brien

Emily is a freelance writer who loves connecting the dots among facts and finding obscure little details to weave in throughout her work. Whether she's interviewing Olympic athletes, small business owners, dessert cookbook writers, or world-renowned architects, she's passionate about shining the spotlight on good people doing remarkable work. More.

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