Summer Freebies For Kids

School is out already for Higgins and Bernardo only has a couple of weeks to go. It hit me this morning: "What am I going to do with two boys who are now used to having something to do everyday?!"

Does this sound familiar to anyone else?


I am trying to come up with fun things for my kids this summer. I don't have an unlimited budget, so if I can keep them occupied for free or for cheap, that would be awesome! 

Below are some of the things I found, but if you know of any others Please Post In The Comments!!!! Please...you may help save my sanity :)

  • Reading Programs & Storytimes
    • Barnes and Nobles has a free program that runs 5/20-9/2. If your child reads 8 books, fills out and turns in a log (click link or also in stores), he/she will get to pick a free book.
    • Library. Many local libraries offer summer reading programs with prizes available for reading a certain number of hours or number of books.
    • Many bookstores (both local and national chains) and libraries offer storytimes.
    • Pottery Barn Kids also has a read 8 (from their list of books) and get a book free offer. They also have weekly storytime. Runs 5/15-7/17.
    • Half Priced Books. Kids keep a log of how long they read. Once they reach 300 minutes, they can turn in their log and receive $5 Book Worm Bucks (I think it is $5 per month). Runs 6/1-7/31. Book Worm Bucks expire 8/27.
    • Showcase Cinemas. Read and write a book report (see link for form) and kids can see a free movie on Wednesdays! Runs 7/9-8/13. According to their website, an accompanying parent and siblings under 6 will also get in free.
  • Fossil Collecting
    • You may have noticed that we (aka the boys) love going "fossil hunting". To find a fossil park near you, try looking at National Park System: Fossil Parks and Other Fossil Parks. However, I noticed that there weren't any listed in my area and I know of two within an hour drive. If you can't find one listed, try searching for "fossil park" or "fossil collection area" in Google/Yahoo/etc.
  • Building Workshops
    • Both Lowes and Home Depot offer free kids workshops during a weekend each month. Click the links to see when they are being offered.
  • Bowling
    • Kids Bowl Free has a great program where registered kids can receive free bowling in the summer! 
  • Factory/Bakery Tours
    • Many places offer free (or really cheap) tours of their facilities. We have been to an ice cream shop and a chocolate factory already!
  • Farmer's Markets
    • Of course buying things aren't free, but it is free to go and see new things. My kids were amazed the first time we went to the Farmer's Market and a local farm to see where food really comes from. (Shockingly, it wasn't in plastic packages.) It's always fun to see what they have. There can also be fun vendors, like the portable wood fired pizza oven we saw last year. Click here to find one near you. 
  • Cook/Bake
    • My kids do like to "help" in the kitchen sometimes. One of the things I still remember the most from when I was a kid, was making rice cereal treats and chocolate chip cookies with my mom. I love when I can do it with my boys too!
  • Playgrounds/Parks
    • Almost every day (even in the winter), the boys ask if we can go to the park. I get tired of seeing the same thing, so we explore and find new parks.
    • Sometimes local parks offer free events during the summer too, especially around holidays like Memorial Day or 4th of July.
    • Many also offer free movies or concerts during the summer.
  • Movies
    • Some local communities offer free Movie In The Park type of events during the summer. I find a lot of info by talking to other moms at the playgrounds/school, looking in the local paper at the weekend events, and by following the local communities on Facebook/Twitter.
    • Regal Movie Theaters offer $1 movies on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10:00 am. I know our locally owned theater also offers a free kids movie every Wednesday, so if you have a small local theater, check with them too.
    • See if there is a Drive-In movie theater near you. Some of them have kids under 12 free. Although, it won't be completely free, it can be a ton of fun and there are not a lot of them left. 
    • Showcase Cinemas. Read and write a book report (see link for form) and kids can see a free movie on Wednesdays! Runs 7/9-8/13.
  • Picnic
    • If you pack a picnic from home and bring it to a park, it can make for a great (and free) adventure!
  • Museums/Zoos/Aquariums
    • Our local children's museum offers free admission on certain Fridays during the summer. Check out your local art/history/science/children's museums to see if they have free days. 
    • Sometimes other places like the zoo will offer kids get in free days (with an adult ticket).
  • Crafts
    • My boys love craft time and we have spent a lot of time during summers past making new things. I have a lot of the ideas on this blog, and a lot of them are made from things you probably already have in your house!
  • Camping
    • I am not a big camper, although Hubby and the boys love it. However, I will camp in the living room! We even made s'mores over a candle one time. Have everyone tell a scary story, or even have a progressive story (these can be hilarious, especially with little kids).
  • Bass Pro Shop
    • Sometimes they offer fun activities and workshops for free
  • Garage Sale/Flea Market
    • This one isn't free, but can be pretty cheap. A couple of dollars and some negotiation can obtain a few new books or toys that can keep the kids busy for the day or a few days (hopefully). We've even found new video games for just a few dollars. As an added bonus, you can offer them extra chores to earn extra spending money. I think I have a mountain of socks that may need sorting and folding... :) 
  • Eat Out
    • Ok, this is not free. However, there are certain days when kids eat free at some restaurants. If you want to have a treat, but also have it be cost effective, this would be the way to go!
  • Junior Ranger Program
      • This is a free program at the national parks. You pick up an activity book and fill in the questions. Once the booklet is completed, you turn it in and the kids get to be sworn in as Junior Rangers and get a badge or patch! (Click here for more info.) If there aren't any national parks near you, they also offer an online option to earn the WebRanger badge.

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