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5 Free (or Cheap) Ways to Entertain Your Kids

5 free or cheap ways to entertain your kids
Dr. Zoe Shaw, A Year of Self-Care

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. So, here are a few ideas that will keep your kids on an adventure while you protect your pocketbook.

5 Free or Cheap Ways to Entertain Your Kids:

1. The Library

My personal favorite go-to is the library. They consistently 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 for 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.

Make special family memories with this 50 item summer bucket list boardAnother library perk you might not expect is that they 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 in your movie night. Also, be sure to check out apps like Hoopla and Libby that allow you to use library resources straight from your phone or tablet.

2. The 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 four items they want, a lot of excitement ensues. I account for tax (a good money lesson for kids) hence four items and not five. I try to steer them toward things we can take home as activities for later like play dough, dress up, coloring books, or bubbles. There are a lot of other things, like gift wrapping supplies and household needs, you may want to check out at the Dollar Store to save money.

3. 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 offers free craft-making, including things like mini science projects. 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. Home Depot offers a free craft and workshop apron, among other things. Additionally, many museums have one free family night a month; they are busy but worth looking into. If you’re a Bank of America customer, they offer free museum admission for the debit cardholder on the first full weekend of every month. Check to see what’s free in your area.

7 tips to balance money and marriage like a pro board4. Groupon

Now this one isn’t free, but deeply discounted. Download the Groupon app, choose your current location, and take a look at “things to do.” We have played about a million games of laser tag on the cheap thanks to Groupon. If you click on the bell icon, it’ll show you any additional discounts like 20% off with a promo code.

5. The Park

Not many things are better than a good ol’ fashioned trip to the park. We try different ones in the area, so it always feels like new adventures on different playgrounds. I’ve found a lot of parks in our area that have splash pads in the summer, so put on the 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 little picnic after they wear themselves out playing.

One time 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 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 and about to have some free (or at least cheap) fun!

Want to invest in your family in even more ways? Listen to this podcast episode to learn how: Growing Family Wealth Takes More Than Money With Deb Meyer – 143

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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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