Budget-friendly Summer Activities


School is out, and the kids are restless and cranky. You really want to get them out of the house, but everything is so expensive. Don’t worry, there are plenty of budget friendly summer activities out there.

Go Hiking

Find a local park or nature center that has hiking trails. Look for trails that are rated easy or beginner level. These will be easiest for kids to navigate. To make it even more memorable, hike to a waterfall and play in the mist or puddles. Carefully consider the length of the trail Remember that getting to the top is only half the journey. You still have to hike back down. 

Make sure the kids wear sturdy, lace-up shoes with socks. Long pants will help protect little legs from scratches, scrapes, and unwanted bites. A hat will help shade the face, but don’t use it as a substitute for SPF 50 or above sunscreen. Carrying along some mosquito repellent is a good idea, too. 

Go for a Bike Ride

Kids love to ride bikes, and it is even more fun if mom or dad goes with them. If you don’t already own bikes, consider a bike rental shop or purchase some through a secondhand store or yard sale. Bicycles are a great investment because they are an excellent form of exercise and enjoyment for people of all ages. If there is nowhere near your house to ride, find a bike path at a park or nature preserve. Be sure to wear helmets and closed-toe shoes. Little riders might also require elbow pads. Be sure to slather on the sunscreen and carry bottled water for hydration during summer activities.

Attend a festival or concert

Many communities offer free outdoor concerts or movies during the summer months. Just bring a blanket or lawn chairs, some snacks, and plenty of water to stay hydrated. If you’re going to be out after dark, make sure you bring along mosquito repellent. Stop by your dollar store and pick up some glow sticks or glow necklaces to make it even more fun for the kids. Call your local college or library for help locating these events. 

Cool off in a pool or spray park

Find a community pool or spray park close to home. Most charge a very nominal admission fee during the summer months, and whatever you spend will be worth it to get the kids out of the house and cooled off. Be sure to check the rules about water shoes and flotation devices. If you have a baby, make sure you have swim diapers or a waterproof diaper cover.  Bring along plenty of bottled water and some healthy snacks. Make sure you apply sunscreen before the kids get wet and every hour after that. 

Go to the park or playground

Spend a morning at the park or playground. Try to go before the day gets too hot and the crowds get too heavy. Be sure to bring drinks and snacks. Hats and sunscreen will help protect sensitive skin. Sturdy shoes are best to minimize trips and falls. It’s not a bad idea to take a few bandaids and some antiseptic, just in case so you can enjoy fully summer activities.

Visit the zoo

In most major cities, the zoo has special days and times with reduced admission prices. Contact your zoo to find out the best day to go. Also, find out if certain forms of identification like a local driver’s license or school ID is required for special pricing. To help save money, bring in bottled water and a healthy snack. Pack lunch in a cooler and leave it in the trunk of your car. When you get hungry, get your hand stamped for reentry before heading out to a parking lot picnic. Avoid spending money on souvenirs and trinkets by giving the kids tasks to do in the park. You might have them draw their favorite animal, or figure out what type of footprints a certain animal leaves behind. Before your trip, buy an animal sticker book from the dollar store and let the kids create a zoo memory book in an inexpensive photo album or handmade tagboard booklet. Take lots of photos and let the kids take photos with an old camera. 

Make tie-dyed clothing

This is a great activity to do on a warm summer day. Use white socks, underwear, or t-shirts the kids already own if you are on a strict budget. Inexpensive tie-dye kits are available at certain fabric retailers and big box stores. If buying dye is out of your budget, make your own dye from grass clippings, crushed flowers, coffee grounds, grated carrots, or canned beets. Soak the clothing in a soda ash solution before applying dye for a long-lasting design. Rubber bands or tightly wound string can be used to create the folds and wrinkles where the dye will penetrate. 

Make sure to use adult supervision when applying dye of any kind. It can injure eyes and should not be ingested. Face masks are required if using powdered dyes.

Go Fishing

Each of the fifty United States has a youth fishing day for children to learn angling skills and develop a love of nature. Check with your local wildlife resources agency to learn where and when the next youth day will take place. Many of these agencies also have extra life jackets and fishing gear to loan out if you don’t have your own. Keep in mind that any adult accompanying the children may be required to purchase a license.

Set up an at-home museum

Using photos of famous artwork as inspiration, kids can recreate these masterpieces and hang them throughout the house. Use construction paper or tagboard and glitter to make gilded frames. Allow the kids to use a variety of media types including crayon, marker, paint, string, noodles, or anything else they can imagine. Consider inviting friends or family members to come visit your museum of fine art.

Visit a local factory or business

Contact your local bottling plant or newspaper office to schedule a visit. Kids are fascinated to see how things are made. Many local businesses will allow you and your children to take a tour if you call ahead and schedule it. After the tour, have kids recreate the process at home using drawings or cardboard boxes and toy props. Older kids can create a timeline type comic strip or write a paragraph about what they saw during their new summer adventure and activities.

Decorate the driveway or patio

Use sidewalk chalk, fingerpaint, or poster paints to create a work of art in your driveway or on your patio. Challenge kids to make the largest design, the smallest design, the most realistic design, the design with the most colors, and so on. Don’t worry if it gets overwhelming and the kids get messy. It all washes off with soap and water. 

Create shadow art

Use long pieces of butcher paper and water-based markers to create shadow pictures. You can have a child sit or lay on a piece of paper and trace the outline of their body, or you can place different toys on the paper and put it in a sunny location. Have the kids draw the shadows that appear on the paper, then add details to create a lively scene. Plastic dinosaurs and other animals work great for this activity. Make sure the kids wear sunscreen since they will be outdoors during their summer activities.


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