budget-friendly summer activities
budget-friendly summer activities

Budget Friendly Summer Activities for Kids

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Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

If you have kids, you may already be looking at what you’re going to do with them this summer. Camps, vacations, and other outings aside, there may be several weeks free weeks that need planning for. Depending on how many kids you have or their ages, these activities can really put strain on your budget. Here are a few budget-friendly ideas for your kids this summer.

Planning Budget Friendly Ideas for Kids

The most important thing when looking for summer activities for kids is to start planning as soon as possible. There are a couple of reasons for this. First is that many camps, childcare options and other planned activities have limited spots available. So if you wait until the last possible moment, some of your preferred options might not be available to you. 

Similarly, if you don’t end up planning ahead, it may have a larger impact on your budget. While you’re unlikely to be able to fill your summer with free activities, you can still save money if you plan ahead. If you’re able to plan proactively, you’re likely going to be able to find more budget-friendly ideas.

How to Find Budget Friendly Ideas

Finding summer activities for kids may take a bit of planning and forethought. There are free and cheap things that you can do outside, like hiking, visiting parks and exploring nature. You can also visit free experiences like libraries or shopping malls. And don’t forget to consider at-home activities you can do. Talk with friends and family who have kids of similar ages to see what they are doing. You might be able to combine with another family for twice the fun.

Don’t Forget, Boredom Is an Option

This may seem counterintuitive, but remember that boredom is an option. It is not necessarily your job as a parent to fill your kids’ lives with activities non-stop, all-day. While of course this will depend on kids’ ages and your own schedule, it’s important to schedule some downtime. Kids have great imaginations and will find ways to entertain themselves if left on their own.

9 Budget Friendly Summer Activities For Kids

Having said all of that, here are 9 budget-friendly ideas for kids that you can keep in mind for this summer:

  1. City and County parks — Depending on where you live, you might have access to a variety of local parks. Taking a walk in nature or visiting park playgrounds can be great ways to spend a few days this summer.
  2. Support your local zoo or museum — Many local zoos, museums and other activities offer affordable annual memberships. 
  3. Nature cams — if nearby nature from parks and zoos isn’t enough for you, there are many live nature cams such as Africam or the Monterey Bay’s PenguinCam that can give your family even more access to nature.
  4. Your public library — Not only is the library a great place to read and explore new books, many libraries offer regular programs throughout the summer. Many of these programs require advance registration so make sure that you check your library’s schedule beforehand.
  5. Summer reading programs — And on top of that, many libraries offer special summer reading programs with prizes for reading a certain number of picks. So on top of 
  6. Browse the mall — Mall-walking is not just for the elderly! An indoor shopping mall can be a fun (and air conditioned) place to spend a few hours browsing and people watching. Make sure to leave your money at home so you’re not tempted to buy anything.
  7. Free kids building workshops — both Home Depot and Lowe’s offer free monthly in-store workshops where you and your child can build various items.
  8. Thrifting — Set a small budget and then visit a local thrift store. See what you can purchase (or upcycle) for $5 or $10.
  9. Build a backyard obstacle course or scavenger hunt — Set up either an obstacle course or a scavenger hunt in your yard with the items you already have in the house. If your kids are old enough, you can even have THEM be the ones to build or organize it.

The Bottom Line

While summer vacation is every kid’s dream, it can be a stressful (and costly) time for working parents who have to scramble for ideas to fill up 2-3 months of time. Taking some time to make a plan and a budget for the summer early on can be a great way to make a memorable summer. Hopefully these budget-friendly summer activities can give you some inspiration for how to plan for your own family this summer.

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

Dan Miller
Dan Miller

Written by Dan Miller

Dan Miller is a freelance writer and founder of PointsWithACrew.com, a site that helps families to travel for free / cheap. His home base is in Cincinnati, but he tries to travel the world as much as possible with his wife and 6 kids. More from Dan Miller

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