Ever find yourself on a budget with kids to entertain, especially in the summer months? Seeing that “free kids activities near me” seems to be my number one Google search lately, I’d like to think I’ve picked up a thing or two.
Here are a few ideas that will keep your kids on an adventure while you protect your pocketbook:
1. Library. My personal favorite, free go-to is the library. They offer storytelling and art projects, and we’ve even gone to Lego building, an animal show, and family board game night at the library—all free. There are usually multiple libraries within driving distance, so I’d recommend trying various libraries to find your favorite activities or to have different options for every day of the week. Another library perk is that they actually have quite a large DVD selection. Use your library card to rent a handful of kids’ movies to watch on a rainy day or a cozy night in with popcorn. It’s also fun for the kids to walk the aisles and make their own selections. Our library lets you keep DVDs for one week, so you’ll have plenty of time to get your movie night in.
2. Dollar store. We love going to the dollar store with $5 to spend. You might be surprised how many fun things are there. When you tell a kid they can choose any 4 items (I account for tax, hence 4 items not 5) a lot of excitement ensues. I try to steer them towards things we can take home as activities for later like play dough, dress up, coloring books, or bubbles. They also tend to have a lot of current holiday supplies!
3. Free activities at local stores. I was surprised to learn that some of the chain stores offer freebies. The only dilemma with this one is that you are taking kids to a store with lots of intriguing things they will probably request to leave with. So we either have a talk beforehand that we are only going for the fun activity (no purchases) or sometimes we will go in with $5 to spend, and only if they are very well behaved during the activity. There are usually items around the cash register that can be bought for under $5. Lakeshore Learning Center has a lot of these items, including things like mini science projects. Lakeshore Learning also offers free kids crafts every Saturday. Just drop in between 11am and 3pm. We have made everything from jellyfish to watermelon crafts.
I’ve read about a few more stores that offer free activities—all on our list to try soon. Each activity is on a specific day and requires online pre-registration, but they are all free. LEGO stores offer free mini builds that you get to take home once a month. Home Depot offers a free craft and workshop apron, among other things. Additionally, museums tend to have one free family night a month that are busy, but worth looking into. If you are with Bank of America, they offer free museum admission for the debit cardholder on the first full weekend of every month, just check to see what’s free in your area.
I was surprised to learn that some of the chain stores offer freebies.
4. Groupon. Now this one isn’t free, but deeply discounted. Download the Groupon app and take a look at “things to do” and choose your current location. We have played about a million games of laser tag on the cheap thanks to Groupon. If you click on the bell, you can keep an eye out for additional discounts like 20% off.
5. Park. Not many things are better than a good old-fashioned trip to the park. We try different ones in the area so it feels like new adventures. I’ve found a lot of parks in our area have splash pads in the summer, so bring swimsuits and let the kids enjoy a miniature version of a water park. If you take a blanket and some juice, cheese, and crackers, you can also enjoy a picnic. Once we found a kite at the dollar store and took that with us, which was a huge hit. When the cold weather rolls in, I would recommend a Google search of your area for free indoor parks or open church parks. We found an incredible free, indoor play place at a local church that makes the play places at a fast food restaurants seem like child’s play—and it’s a very welcoming environment.
Hope this helps to get the family out there having some free or inexpensive fun!
About Our Guest Writer: Loren Brock
Loren fell in love with film production while growing up on music video sets in Nashville, TN. She thinks with some serious balance, and lots of coffee, you can do it all. This has led her to a nomadic life from California to North Carolina working for a few months at each stop in film production for major studios (she even made a cross country road trip with a toddler in tow and enjoyed mostly every minute). When she is not on a production, she enjoys sidewalk chalk, adventures in the park, and just playing as much if not more than her son!
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