27 frugal or free fun things to do with small children this summer

Summer is a GREAT time to spend time with family and create lasting memories. But if you're living on a budget you might be panicking to come up with ideas to keep your little ones entertained. Fear no more. I got you covered.

1. Go Bowling for free. Many bowling areas through the US offer Kid’s Bowl Free days. The times are usually in the morning. But it’s worth it because it’s free. Check out this website to see if there is a bowling area in your town that offers this.

2. Build a fort. Take the couch cushions off the couch, throw a blanket on top and you got a fort. Bonus points: pop some popcorn and watch a movie that way.

3. Do some good. Gather up old towels and take them to your local animal shelter. If you call ahead and tell them you have kids in two they might be willing to show you around. We did this and Ryals loved it.

4. Fly kites. Head outside with a  couple kites. I love these.  Or make your own and then fly them.

A photo posted by Lydia Senn (@lydiasenn) on

5. Go for a walk or ride bikes. We do this daily now and the kids love it. We talk about what we see and where we went. There is a little pond near our house and we have been watching the baby geese grow. We also use the track at our local public school. It's open to the public during nonschool hours. 

6. Hike in the woods. Nature is free. See if your community has a trail circuit and take the kids.

7. Visit your local fire station or police station. Call ahead and tell them your coming and usually they will show you around and give your kids a coloring book or two!

8. Go on a picnic. My kids love eating outside. Even if it’s just in the front yard.

9. Sidewalk chalk. Get a tub of sidewalk chalk from the Dollar Tree or make your own and decorate your porch, house or drive way. Or leave a person you love a note in their drive way.

10. Go to your local splash park. We do this weekly. It’s a great way to run offer energy and it’s free!

11. Go to the library. Seriously. I don’t know what our family would do without the library. We save $1,000 annually there. And the summer programs are amazing. We have seen puppet shoes, petting zoos, hay rides you name it!

12. Have a themed movie night. Go to the library or use a free Redbox code to get a movie your kids want to see. Then plan a menu around it. Don’t over think it, spaghetti and meatballs and watch “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” Or make cowboy beans and watch “Toy Story.”

13. Go on a scavenger hunt in your own yard. Take pictures of things in your yard like toys, leaves, frogs and birds. Print the photos out and glue them on index cards or let your child look at them on your phone and then find the objects.  

14. Join a summer reading program. Whether it’s a program at your library or the book store this is a great way to get kids excited about reading. Here are some programs

16. Plant a small garden. You can get seeds at the Dollar Tree or better yet, save seeds from things like bell peppers, cucumbers and squash and then plant a small vegetable garden with your kids. Here is a great list of books for preschool children about gardens. 

17. Have a pizza decorating night. Make a simple pizza crust and then let your children design their own pizzas.

18. Camp in the living room. Get out your sleeping bag and watch a Roy Rogers movie on Amazon Prime. Camp in your own living room. I remember doing this as a kid and loving it.

19. Have a board game night. Have prizes for the winners. It doesn’t have to be anything huge. Make it something like “winner picks a movie” or “winner gets 15 minutes of computer time.” We love Sorry and Boggle Jr. and they are great learning activities too. 

20. Make a scrap book. Depending in your children’s ages this might be more for you than for them, but let them choose the photos and design the pages.

21. Play spoon ball. Okay, this sounds crazy but this is a game my oldest invented  when he was three. We take a wooden spoon and we hit the soccer ball with it and see who can push it the furthest. I swear it’s fun and it can entertain him for an hour.

22. Put bubbles in the kiddie pool. This is a novelty and my kids love it. All you do is squirt a little bubble bath or dish soap in there and you’re golden.

23. Paint with shaving cream. This is a great one for rainy days. Add a little (very little) amount of food coloring to some shaving cream and let your kids paint with it in the bath tub. It comes right off the tub.

24. Go fishing. Find a public fishing area or pier and go. Bait is cheap.

25. Play water gun tag. Put on your swim suits and tag each other with squirt guns from the Dollar Tree.

26. Go to the movies. Regal, Carmike and a host of other theaters have cheap movie deals during the summer. It’s usually under $5 and include a drink and pop corn. Most of it is movies that have been on DVD a long time, but it’s a great way to add something a little exciting.

27. Screen on the green. See if your town offers a movie night in the park. Pack a picnic and enjoy an outdoor movie.

There are so many frugal and free options for families during the summer. Take advantage of them all!

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What about you? What is on your frugal family list? 

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