41 Ways to Keep Your Kids Entertained This Summer that Cost Little or Nothing (Part 1)

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This is the first of a two part series of articles talking about fun and cheap ways to spend time with your kids without breaking the budget. The two articles combined will total 41 ideas. This article in particular will have 20 out of the 41 ideas. My second article, which will post on Wednesday, June 6, 2018, will have 21 of the 41 ideas. Hope you enjoy this list and let me know if you think of any others.

Summer is here and that means that our kids are home. No more school, more free time and more time to drive you crazy! This summer for us is particularly interesting for the Summit of Coin family. 

We will be having our second child in the middle of the summer (I know exciting, right). By the time our second child arrives, our oldest will be 19 months old. She's in the perfect jealousy age and the perfect age to challenge mom and dad. 

Despite the challenges that she may give us, we are excited for our summer together! Mom, Dad and the two kids will be home for a whole month together, before I have to go back to my day job!

In preparation for the child, my wife has been reading some books and our pediatrician suggested that each parent gives at least 15 minutes of undivided attention to the oldest child everyday. This got us thinking about activities for our daughter to enjoy.

We not only want to give our daughter at least 15 minutes of undivided attention everyday, but we would also like to be able to go out and have some Daddy/Daughter or even Mommy/Daughter adventures this summer.

This started a compilation of ideas that we wanted to do on our adventures with our daughter. Check out the first 20 out of 41 ideas that we came up with (in no particular order):

1. Find a FREE outdoor concert

  • Age Group: Any
  • Cost: $0 (may spend some money on a popsicle or ice cream at the concert)
  • Description: Recently, my wife and I went to one of these awesome free outdoor concerts. In the bigger cities they have them all the time and are a great way to enjoy an evening without the cost of paying for entertainment. Most of these concerts have great green space that a kid can run around and play, just like we saw many kids doing while listening to the concert.

2. Find a FREE movie under the stars

  • Age Group: 2 years and older (only suggest two years and up, because our daughter has not seen or does not seem interested in sitting still during a movie or TV show)
  • Cost: $0 
  • Description: About 20 minutes from our house, we have a mall that has a green space and shows movies on their big screen every Friday (maybe more frequently in the summer). The last movie that we saw at this green space was Grease! The movies are older, but classics!!

3. Go watch a fireworks show

  • Age Group: 2 years and up (sound might be a little much for the really small ones)
  • Cost: $0 
  • Description: Growing up, it was a summer tradition for my family to go to a fireworks show. We always attended big bang boom in Norfolk, NE. I specifically remember those summer days of hanging out at the park waiting for the fireworks show to begin (had to show up early to get the best seats). We would take breaks saving seats and go explore around the park.

4. Find a splash pad

  • Age Group: 1 year and older
  • Cost: $0 
  • Description: I have found a splash pad in a park around the houston area. Based on my research the cost is free for the park and the kids can enjoy all the benefits of cooling off with water (needed with the Houston heat)! Some splash pads may cost some money, especially the ones connected to a water park. 

5. Visit your neighborhood swimming pool

  • Age Group: Any
  • Cost: $0 - $10 per person per day (some community pools may have a family pass)
  • Description: Luckily, we live in a subdivision that has a community pool. We pay the HOA dues every year for the community upkeep and the swimming pool is part of that payment. This means that on a daily basis we do not have a daily expense to go to the pool. Growing up in a small town, there was no HOA and no community pool. We did have a city pool that required a daily entrance fee of about $5 or you could pay for a summer family pass. Two relatively inexpensive options to go and enjoy the summer by cooling off at the pool!

6. Visit your neighborhood park

  • Age Group: Any
  • Cost: $0
  • Description: This might be the best way to let your kids have fun at no cost to your monthly budget! We love to take our daughter to our neighborhood park, and she loves playing on the swing and going down the slide. 

7. Go on a picnic

  • Age Group: Any
  • Cost: approx. $20 (Lunch meat, bread, cheese, chips, dessert, etc.)
  • Description: Add this to the park adventure and you have a fun filled afternoon of playing and eating. It is a classic way to enjoy a warm summer day!

8. Visit a state park

  • Age Group: Any
  • Cost: Varies depending on entry fee
  • Description: So far, this is the priciest item on the list. But, nothing beats the great outdoors! You can enjoy a great hike, explore everything that nature offers and have a picnic. We did this with my family and our then one-month old daughter. It was a great day!

9. Visit a national park

  • Age Group: Any
  • Cost: Varies depending on entry fee
  • Description: I love national parks, heck I spent a month one summer traveling around and visiting 15 national parks! It was a trip to remember and a summer that we relive frequently with my friends. You can make all kinds of memories visiting these natural wonders. Some of the entrance fees are pretty expensive, but you can offset that by purchasing a national parks pass and that covers you for the whole year! Or the best yet....if you have a 4th grader....you get in free to every national park!!

10. Play catch

  • Age Group: 5 and up (however my daughter has finally started the rolling game!)
  • Cost: $0
  • Description: This might seem like a pretty boring suggestion, however, I still love playing a good game of catch (as an adult). My best man and I played the last time we hung out. There is something about throwing a football or baseball and just talking about random stuff. It's a great tradition to start with your kids!

11. Play frisbee golf

  • Age Group: 5 and up
  • Cost: $0
  • Description: Two summers ago, I purchased four frisbee golf holes for a family get together that we were having at my father's house. We had a blast creating tough holes playing the cheap version of golf. You never know how much fun it can be to play the frisbee version of golf! Most cities have a park with a free frisbee golf course. My hometown had one and my current place of residence has two! When my kids get old enough, we will definitely make that one of our summer traditions!

12. Play mini golf

  • Age Group: 5 and up
  • Cost: Varies (From $0 to $7 per person)
  • Description: Let's continue with the outdoor games! Mini-golf has always been one of my favorite games. Sadly, miniature golf will cost you some money, however, you get the same fun that you find from frisbee golf! Some exciting news, I found a free mini-golf course in the Katy area at Mary Jo Peckham park (for anyone interested in the Katy Area). 

13. Run through a sprinkler

  • Age Group: 18 months and up
  • Cost: The cost of the sprinkler head (I found this one for $25.70)
  • Description: Let's continue with the outdoor games! I remember those summer days of running through the sprinkler. Let your kids relive the simple joy of running through a sprinkler. 

14. Go to the Library

  • Age Group: Any
  • Cost: $0
  • Description: Find out if your local library offers any programs and reading times. This could be a great way to spend a couple hours and its free. My sister takes her daughter every week to the library and they love it! Don't forget you can check out movies and books.

15. Chalk Drawing

  • Age Group: 18 months and up
  • Cost: The cost of the chalk (found a tub for $6.96)
  • Description: Find some time to go out and chalk up your driveway! Make sure to do it when the shade covers the driveway and let your child's imagination run!

16. Walk around the mall

  • Age Group: Any
  • Cost: $0
  • Description: I am the master of walking around the mall and not buying anything. Our daughter loves to walk/run. So hitting the mall and just walking around is a great way for her get her energy out without costing any money. If we feel so inclined, I could let my daughter ride on the carousel, which will cost us $2.50 per ride.

17. Sit by a campfire

  • Age Group: Any
  • Cost: $0-$10 (Depending on how you acquire the wood)
  • Description: Every time I mention a campfire in Texas, I am hit with the question, "In the summer?" I always respond that we always had campfires in the summer in Nebraska (really the only time you can have them). I also mention that it's not for the heat, but to just sit by the fire at night and relax. There is something calming about sitting by a fire and making memories with your friends. For the kids, the same can be said. You can make s'mores, tell ghost stories and just enjoy the night sky. 

18. Go camping

  • Age Group: 2 and up
  • Cost: Varies depending on the campsite fee
  • Description: I am a camper (heck I spent a month camping on my month long road trip)! I can't wait for my kids to be old enough to go camping and I can teach them all the cool things about being in the outdoors. My daughter will be too young this summer, but that doesn't stop the rest of you from packing up the tent and roughing it! Your kids will love it!

19. Have a campout in your backyard

  • Age Group: 2 and up
  • Cost: $0
  • Description: So, you can't make it to the woods for a rough and tumble campout. You can still do all the camping you want in your backyard. Set up the tent, don't let anyone in the house and watch your kids imagination run!

20. Go fishing

  • Age Group: 2 and up
  • Cost: Varies depends on the cost of a fishing license and bait
  • Description: My brother-in-law is an avid fisherman and he takes his daughter out fishing all the time. She loves sitting by her father's side and imitating his love for fishing. Give it a try, you would be amazed how much your kids love the lake and fishing in that lake.

Well, you made it through the first 20 out of 41 ways that you can keep your kids entertained this summer! Use these tips, go out, enjoy the heat (or the cool indoors) and just spend some quality time with your kids. Don't forget to come back and check out the second part of this two part article.

Share any more tips in the comment section or post your photos of your summer adventures!


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