20 Cheap Fun Things to Do With Kids This Weekend

School's out for summer for a few more weeks, which means the kids are about to tear your house apart in three… two… one. Unless, of course, you help them channel that boundless energy elsewhere with these cheap or free things to do with kids this weekend.

1. Investigate Summer Programs at Your Local Library

Believe it or not, your local library still exists — and it probably has a whole calendar of activities planned for the summer. Pop in on your ride home from work one day to pick up a schedule to see what programs your kid might like.

2. Take a Hike on Nearby Trails to Search for Wildlife

Even if you live in a big city like I do, you can find well-worn hiking trail that provides a bit of the great outdoors without going too far from civilization. On this hike, let the kids take a camera so they can capture the various wildlife and insects they might encounter along the way.

3. Set Off on a Playground Hopping Adventure

Take that bar-hopping concept you know so well, apply it to playgrounds, and you've got yourself a lively afternoon of exercise for the kids and a bit of bench relaxing for yourself.

4. Visit a Nearby Transportation Hub and Watch the Vehicles

When I was a kid, my grandparents would take me to all kinds of places to watch various kinds of transportation. We'd sit outside of airports to watch planes take off and land, hang out in Baltimore's Inner Harbor to watch the boats, or spend a couple hours at the B&O Railroad Museum learning about old trains and even taking a quick ride on one. Even though those examples are specific to my childhood, you can likely find some version of these activities in your neck of the woods that'll create lifetime memories for your brood.

5. Splash Around in a Public Fountain on a Hot Day

This is equally as fun for the kids as it is for parents — if the fountain allows adults to participate. A few summers ago I spent a hot day in Boston and headed straight for the Copley Square Fountain. I had a blast, and it looked like all the ankle-biters did too. Do a quick search online to see what your area has to offer.

6. Head to Your Local Lanes for Free Bowling

For several years now, KidsBowlFree has offered free bowling for kids at participating centers during the summer. It's actually a fairly generous program, which allows two hours of bowling per day per child. That's not to suggest that you should shuffle your kids off to the local alley every day to get them out of your hair, but, you know, when you've had enough it's not a bad way to let them wear themselves out.

7. Pop Into Your Town Cineplex for Low or No-Cost Movies

Legit — I kind of want to have a child (or at least borrow one part time in the summer) so I can take advantage of the low and no-cost movies available to kids and their parents. Lots of theaters — most national chains, actually — participate in this freebie program, and the screenings are titles in which your kids will definitely be interested. Find these cheap or free screenings at theater near you.

8. Beat the Heat at an Indoor Play Area at a Nearby Mall

Too hot outside? Let your kids burn off a few dozen summer junk food calories at the play area at the local mall. These areas are mostly for toddlers, so if you've got big kids give 'em a few bucks for a matinee or the food court so they can do their own thing.

9. Catch a Major or Minor League Baseball Game

One of my all-time favorite summer activities as a kid — and even now as an adult — is spending a few hours at the ballpark. Most MLB teams have inexpensive kids' tickets (or free tickets for kids younger than a certain age), and the price is even more affordable to watch MiLB in action. Wise Bread has more tips for saving at America's baseball stadiums.

10. Check the Air Show Schedule to Find One Near You

If you want more of a spectacle than watching airplanes take off and land at your nearby airport, find an air show in your area. These stunt flyers are sure to impress, and it's honest-to-goodness fun for the whole family. This air-show calendar will help you plan your trip.

11. Find a Fun Pool for Refreshing Playtime

Most neighborhoods have a public pool for the kids to cool off in during the summer months. If that's not an option, perhaps you have a friend or family member who's lucky enough to have a pool in their backyard and willing to let you use it.

12. Pack a Picnic and Enjoy it on the Beach

Beaches — both along the ocean or surrounding a lake — offer hours and hours of fun. Bring along all the sand essentials — shovels, pails, boogie boards, sunscreen — and let the kids run wild. Pack a picnic with their favorite lunch foods to keep them satiated and out of your hair.

13. Set Up Water Games in the Backyard

When splashing around in a pool isn't an option, get creative with backyard water fun. Turn on the sprinklers, set up a slip-and-slide apparatus, or have a water balloon battle. There are lots of great ways to get wet and have fun without ever leaving home.

14. Invite Your Kids' Friends Over for Crafts and Snacks

There's hot and then there's too hot, so it's not a bad idea to have a plan B if the temps outside are too much for your little ones to handle. On days like this, invite over your kids' friends, set up a couple craft projects, and serve a few snacks so everyone can stay occupied, creative, and cool.

15. Break Out the Board Games on a Rainy Day

You can almost bet that when the weather is unbearably hot, there's a storm a-brewin' to break the heat. When the skies open up, hunker down and introduce your kids to a few of your favorite childhood games that don't require batteries, plugs, or controllers.

16. Look Into What's Happening in Your Neighborhood Park

All the open space should be put to good use, and most areas take great advantage of its green space. Visit your town's website or stop by your local library or town hall to browse a calendar of what's coming up that your kids might like.

17. Visit Some of the Free Attractions Your Town Has to Offer

Do you know what's fun and free in your town? You may think that there's nothing to do that doesn't cost anything, but I can assure you there is. Dig into the Internet to find these special spots that'll entertain the kids while saving you dough.

18. Go on a Mini-Excursion to a Nearby Town You've Never Been

I love to explore, and sometimes I hop in the car with a friend and we visit a not-too-far-away town we've never been to check out the shops, have lunch, and just hang out. Kids can enjoy these mini-getaways too with advanced planning to find things to do that complement their interests.

19. Visit Your Local Retailers' Websites for Cheap Activities and Workshops

A few major retailers (and probably some of your mom-and-pop shops, too) understand that it's a full-time job trying to keep your kids occupied and out of trouble while school's out for summer. That's why they offer classes and workshops for kids to keep their little heads thinking and hands moving. Home Depot and Michaels craft stores are chief among the retailers that host these type of events, but you can find a bevy of more free classes.

20. Put Together a Backyard Campout

Save yourself all that hassle of packing and lugging your camping gear around this summer by setting up a campout in the backyard. The kids will have a blast because they can invite over a few of their friends to join in the fun, and you can rest a little easier since you'll have all the modern convenience of home to pull it off without a hitch. Ghost stories and s'mores will be required.

Have any other cheap fun things for kids to do this summer? Let us know in the comments below.

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Looking for some cheap and fun things to do with kids? We’ve got ideas that you can do at home, or out and about! From DIY projects, to free stuff you can do, to activity ideas, here are 20 frugal things you can do to keep your kids entertained! | #frugalactivities #cheapactivities #kidsentertainement

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Guest's picture

I loved the 4th and 15th point. Never been to transportation hubs myself, so that should be something both me and the kids will enjoy :)

And I love board games, its difficult to get kids these days to take interest in board games, as they favor video games over everything. But I hope I can get my brood to play some board games. I find them to be much more fun and enjoyable than the video games.

Any suggestions on what board game might tempt 10 & 11 yr old boys to leave their video games?