Ideas for Free Summer Fun for Kids

Free summer fun doesn't have to be elaborate. Let's face it, if it's free, it's probably pretty simple. Kids don't usually mind something simple if it's something out of that same-old, same-old routine.

What really puts the "fun" in these ideas is parent participation. Work-at-home parents need plenty of everyday summer activities to keep kids busy while they work, often in addition to summer child care. But you know what they say about all work and no play. And kids start to get a little stir crazy after finding their own fun for too long.


Hang out at Parks and Playgrounds


Echo / Getty Images

Not only are local parks and playgrounds, with their trails, open space and play equipment; a wonderful setting, many also have great free summer programs for kids as well. So make use of the parks in your area. And be sure to keep it interesting. Don't always go to the most convenient park. Mix it up. One day it's a quick trip to the playground in the neighborhood, but the next time, try the state park in the area.


Find Free (or Really Cheap) Kids' Movies

Close up of a young family enjoying a movie in the cinema

Geber86 / Getty Images 

Many movie theater chains offer free or deeply discounted (i.e. $1 or $2 admission) movies during weekday mornings in the summer. Along these same lines, drive-in movies, though not free, are lower-cost alternatives if there aren't any free movies near you. 


Go to Outdoor Concerts, Movies and Festivals

Picnic Outdoor Concert

Mario Tama / Getty Images

Many cities and counties sponsor free concerts, movies in parks and festivals all summer long. Keep an eye on the local paper. With the movies and concerts, bring dinner and invite friends and it becomes a party (that you don't have to host)! Most of these are evening events, so they won't cut into work time.

At all these events you can end up spending money, but you don't have to. Festivals, in particular, have a lot of opportunities to drop some cash, but many also have a lot of free activities and giveaways for kids.


Go on a Picnic

family going on a picnic

Laura Doss / Fuse / Getty Images

If you can't find any free concerts in your area, pack up dinner anyway and bring your own music for a picnic in the park. Picnics can be as elaborate or as simple as you like. You can throw together sandwiches and eat lunch under a tree in the backyard or fry chicken and spend the day at the beach. (Or perhaps somewhere in between like buying fried chicken and going to a local park.) And dinner picnics are after standard business hours, plus they give kids something to look forward to. 


Run Through the Sprinkler and Get Wet

girls running through sprinklers

Mike Kemp / Getty Images

Getting wet is one of the simple (and free) joys of childhood. As a parent, you simply have to accept the inconvenience of the mess water play makes, but the benefit is hours of entertainment. And this is the most fun when mom joins in, but if you like, you can stay dry and work by a window where you can watch the fun. Water balloons, spray bottles, wading pool, and water guns all add to the fun. Let the kids get wet this summer!


Visit Museums, Zoos and Historic Attractions

Elephants at the Zoo

Cameron Spencer / Getty Images

Most of these attractions are not free (though a few are), but many have "free days" when they waive admission. Typically, it's on a regular basis, like the first Tuesday of the month, but sometimes it's just a once a year event. Historic houses and other historic attractions may be low-priced for adults and are often free for children. Kids will be amazed at how many things people once lived without!

Go to the websites of attractions in your area and search using the keyword "free" and see what comes up. Make a list of what's free and when in your area and put the dates on your calendar so you don't forget.


Ride Your Bikes

kids riding bikes with parents

Peter Cade / Getty Images

Bikes get you to venture out into places outside your routine and allow you to cover more ground. If your child is young (but older than one year), consider buying a child carrier and bring him or her out on your bike. If you live somewhere you can safely bike on streets or bike paths, use your bike to run errands with your kids. You'll get exercise; your child will get outside, and the errands will get done.

Taking a day trip to a local rail trail can also be a good option, especially for beginners, because they are usually pretty flat.

As kids get older, they can ride their own bikes, but it takes a while before they can cover long distances and safely navigate roads. Biking with your kids gives you the opportunity to teach them safe biking safety rules for the day when they'll bike without you.

A Word From Verywell

Free fun is everywhere during the summer. These are just a small sample of things you can do. There are many more, so start exploring and have a wonderful break with your kids.

By Laureen Miles Brunelli
Laureen Miles Brunelli is an experienced online writer and editor, specializing in content for parents who work at home.