Teachers, I know what you’re thinking. You’re just a few weeks into summer and your own kids are already bouncing off the walls. They’ve gone to the pool, slept in, and played with the neighborhood kids, but now you hear your offspring saying the words that we sometimes hear our students say: “I’m bored.” What do you do now? How can you entertain the kids without blowing the budget? Here are some activities you can try this summer that are either free or of a minimal cost:
- Check out the public library: The obvious scenario is that your kids will stock up on books to read this summer, or they join the library’s summer reading program. But aside from reading-related activities, public libraries offer programming for patrons of all ages all summer long. If your city has multiple branches, go from branch to branch to access the different craft classes, story times, book clubs, LEGO® clubs, lectures, concerts, and other fun events. Go to your local library’s website to check out their summer events—you’re bound to find something for your entire family.
- Go to a petting zoo: Is there a petting zoo near you, or one just a day trip away? If so, spend a morning hanging out and interacting with the animals. Typically, petting zoos offer a day or two of free admission—and even if you do have to pay, the fee is minimal. Petting zoos provide hands-on fun, learning opportunities, and outdoor time. This is a great way to spend your day, and even if your kids are older, they will still have a good time.
- Have a picnic: This is one of my family’s favorites. We love eating outside, and sometimes picnic in our yard or go to a nearby park. If it’s rainy, we’ve been known to picnic on our living room floor. The benefit is that picnics are free—and no matter where you live, you can find a spot for a picnic. Moreover, picnics are fun and can be combined with other free outdoor activities.
- Take a family bike ride: Dust off your family’s bikes, grab your helmets, and go for a ride. If you live near a trail, that’s a great place to start. But you can also ride in your neighborhood, ride to the store to pick up groceries, ride to get some ice cream, or even ride to a friend’s house to hang out. You get the idea! Kids young and old enjoy getting on their bikes and taking off. Determine where you’re going or set off for an unknown adventure. Either way, summer is a great time to get peddling.
- Get crafty: Dig up old newspapers and magazines, find your scissors and glue, and grab any art materials you have stashed around the house. Search Pinterest for ideas—heck, you can even grab your old coloring books and crayons and encourage your kids to create something just for fun. Chances are you have a lot of craft supplies sitting around the house, but if you need to purchase supplies, Michaels has weekly coupons that make supplies more affordable. You’ll also find tons of low-budget craft supplies at places like Dollar General and Five Below. Better yet, contact Michaels about a crafting class—these are inexpensive and can help get your kids excited about crafting.
- Go to an arboretum or trail and take a hike: If you live near a hiking trail or an arboretum, get out there and go for a hike. Hiking is free—you need a pair of shoes and that’s about it! Arboretums sometimes cost money, but you can typically find a free admission day. If you aren’t able to find an arboretum, take a nature hike through your own neighborhood and try to notice the things you are usually too busy to see. Hiking is an easy way to be active and relieve boredom.
- Search for free concerts in your area: Summer is a great time for free concerts, so be sure to check your community website to see if there are any events coming up. Maybe it’s a local band playing, a tribute band, or a free classical concert. Even if it’s not your family’s usual genre, try it. It’ll give you something to do and expose you to new music.
- Set out lawn games and invite friends to join in: Summer is a great time for outdoor games, from simply shooting hoops to more elaborate options. Play Scrabble on the lawn, pull out your bean bag toss game, create an obstacle course, or get out your set of washers. Outdoor games are great fun—they get you outside the house and encourage socializing with friends, family, or neighbors. And best of all, playing games costs nothing!
- Set up an outdoor movie: Chances are, you can wrangle up a projector and a laptop. If you can track down these supplies, you can have your own “drive-in” movie experience. Put up a white sheet on the side of your house or borrow a projector screen, set up your equipment, and show a film. Ask friends and neighbors to bring snacks, and enjoy a night outside. You can show a movie that you own, or borrow one from your local library. This is an inexpensive and collaborative way to have a movie night.
- Check out local museums: See what museums are in your community—some museums are free, but those that charge for entrance may offer a free day during the summer. Spend an afternoon checking out a new museum—you will learn something and have fun while doing it.
If you’re looking for interesting things to do this summer, you have many options that are affordable, so mix things up and go on some outings with your kids. You’ll be surprised at what you can find that is free (or nearly free) in your area or within driving range. Take a day trip, get your kids out of the house, and enjoy some time as a family. After all, isn’t that what summer is all about?
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