5 Nearly Free Things to Do With Your Kids This Summer

School is about to close its doors and release kids into an extended summer vacation but with money tight for so many families around the country, many parents are fretting about what to do with the kids at home. They will be less traveling and likely more whines of boredom when money concerns limit parents and their fun-ability. But lack of funds doesn’t necessarily dictate a hum-drum summer. In fact, the one thing that can make for great family time is actually free.

fountain fun

Creativity doesn’t cost a thing. So get your mind working and try one of these five things to get your mind motivated to make your own fun.

Plan a Theme Day

Kids love something new. Put theme ideas contributed by all family members into a bowl at the start of summer. Every Sunday, draw a theme slip from the bowl. Allow each member of the family to come up with ideas of how to celebrate the theme at the end of the week and put them to task at coming up with decorations, food items, and other related items you already have around the house. Choose to celebrate the theme day on a Saturday (or any free day when everyone can be involved) and just run with it. Stay in ‘character’ as it relates to theme, eat food that relates, and make the most of your family time.

For example, host a Hawaiian luau theme. Help kids make grass skirts out of newspaper, palm trees from construction paper, visit the farmer’s market for fresh fruit, and spend time dancing in the yard.

Tip: For older teens who may not be as inclined to participate, host a similar idea once a month but include their friends too. Beats hanging out at the mall.

Inspire a Little Entrepreneur

On a hot day, a glass of cold lemonade is best. Teaching your kids to have a work ethic is priceless. You can purchase a few canisters of drink mix, a bag of ice, and help your kids set up a neighborhood stand. Work with them over the week to create posters and handcrafted fliers to promote the event. It keeps the kids interested and busy during the week. Guarantee that all proceeds be used as per the kids’ wishes, whether it be for a bit of summer fun or even as a donation to the less fortunate.

Invest in Volunteering

A bunch of ungrateful kids complaining about nothing to do all summer can quickly burn out the nerves of even the strongest parent. Take the kids to an age-appropriate day of volunteering. Animal shelters, children’s hospitals, homeless kitchens, and elderly care homes all are in need of assistance on any given day. A few hours of giving can make a world of difference in gratitude amongst your children and has a huge impact on your community as a whole. VolunteerMatch.com offers information about the different kinds of opportunities available in your area.

Save for Big Fun

Wherever you live, there is likely some kind of ‘big fun’ within driving distance where the kids would love to visit — an amusement park, the beach, kid-sized adventureland. These cool places typically cost a lot of money in admission fees and food prices. A family of four can spend close to $200 for a single day outing. Just because money is tight doesn’t mean ‘big fun’ is totally out of the picture. With proper planning, anything is possible and now is a good time to teach the kids about savings and planning. Take a poll as to where the kids would love to spend a day. Research ticket prices and the overall cost of spending a day there with the whole family, then sit down with the family and think of ways to save cash toward the day out. By cutting back on extras with a goal in mind, kids may be much more willing to forgo ice cream in favor of saving. Younger kids don’t need a complicated financial lesson but teaching them about working hard for something they really want is an incredible lesson at any age.

Free in the Community

Some families that were hit hard by the recession were not previously used to cutting back so abruptly on expenses still find a stigma associated with ‘free’ things. While frugal is much less of a curse word now that it has been in the past, many still overlook the free activities in their own neighborhood. With a little research and a phone call or two, you can discover a wonderful world of ‘free’ children will actually enjoy. There are camps, recreational programs, swimming activities, and many other services provided free to kids throughout the summer. Every community is different and programs vary but even the smallest towns likely have some resource that will not drain your wallet. If your area doesn’t offer compatible activities of an age-appropriate nature, start your own amongst the other parents in your area. A little imagination can go a long way and there is no need to spend money.

Getting back to basics is becoming more common and more acceptable. Not everyone is running as hard to keep up with the Jones’ in light of the foreclosures and debt problems families are still facing. Think back to your own childhood memories. Isn’t it true that some of the best times you spent as a kid where not the times your parents spent tons of dollars to entertain you but rather the times they spent tons of time with you.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.


  1. I especially like the saving for a bigger plan idea. I have fond memories of being a “young entrepreneur”–making arts and crafts and selling them for pennies.

  2. Terry says:

    Great tips.

    I like what you say about getting back to the basics.

    We like to take short trips with our kids on weekends. We drive to an interesting place – a park, or observatory, or some interesting site- and come back home the same day.

  3. Mary Slagel says:

    This is a great post full of wonderful ideas. I might even have to try the theme day as an adult with my friends!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Disclaimer and Stuff

The articles are written by personal finance enthusiasts (not certified professionals) based on their personal experience. What works for them may or may not work for you, and you should always consult a financial advisor before making important financial decisions.

In accordance with FTC guidelines, we disclose that we have a financial relationship with companies mentioned in this website. This may include receiving access to free products and services for product and service reviews and giveaways.

Any references to third party products, rates, or websites are subject to change without notice. We do our best to maintain current information, but due to the rapidly changing environment, some information may have changed since it was published. Please do the appropriate research before participating in any third party offers.

For additional information, please review our legal disclaimers and privacy policy.