It’s the end of the year for a lot of kids right now, and nearing it for us. Friday was our Seniors’ last day, and Monday is their official graduation, and I plan on being kind of a wreck on Tuesday morning, but c’est la vie. The rest of us still have to stick it out until June 18th, but that’s coming up pretty damn quick, and hallelujah — it’s summer break.
(Except it’s not, really, because I have a kid and a five-week summer program I work, but look, that’s all beside the point).
I am on a pretty strict budget, especially during the summer, but I hate the idea of having to sacrifice getting to do fun things, so I’ve made it a point to find free or cheap ideas for activities to fill the days.
Local parks. Through word-of-mouth, networking with other parents, or through the use of free apps (Playground Buddy and Map of Play come most readily to mind; you can Google “playground finder” to find other, similar services). We’re lucky in that there’s a nice park just down the street from our house, but there are several others that I don’t think I would ever have known about — including two quite nice ones — had I not gone searching online.
Museums. A lot of schools (as in universities, though as we’re local to Philips Academy, we benefit from The Addison Gallery, as well) have free or cheap museums on campus, if you live near a university town. Free Tours By Foot offers a nice list of free/nearly-free things to do (including walking tours and museums) in a number of major cities, and if you live in MA, Free Fun Fridays lists a changing roster of museums and attraction that are free every Friday during the summer. For those in the greatest need, Museums4All offers free or reduced museum admissions upon presentation of your EBT card. Honestly? Google “free museums (your state);” tons of institutions do free nights regularly (nut just during the summer!), and local libraries often offer museum passes.
Local Farms. I always set my sights to the local farms during the fall — hayrides, apple cider donuts, and all that, but most famrs with orchard have year-round seasonal fruit picking, and many have ice cream stands, petting zoos, and tours (and yes, often times, hayrides).
Sand-sculpture shows. If you have beach access (presumably coastal, I would expect), then it might be worth it to Google “sand sculpting” near you. I’ve had the pleasure more than once to be staying at a beach holding a competition, and it’s fascinating watching them work; well worth a trip just to see the finished pieces, but it was especially gratifying to watch the sculptures take shape over the three days of our stay. Local to me is one in Revere, MA; one in Yarmouth; and one in Hampton, NH (which is the one I usually attend).
Library Programs. Our local library offers free and open to the public events for kids year round, though they sort of doubledown during the summer. They have make-and-take crafts, storytimes divided among various age groups, puppet and magic shows, pajama parties, and a Little Bookworm program in conjunction with the local MSPCA. For older kids, there are anime groups, board game meetups, movie night, gaming tournaments, and a summer reading challenge. I was not a library kid — my folks never took us — and I didn’t realize until I had a kid of my own how much the library really has to offer.
ASPCA camps. This is a little pricier, but still cheaper and less of a time commitment than any number of other “camps” (holy sh— I nearly had a goddamn heart attack the first time I looked up summer camps. Bear will never go to one. There is absolutely no way we could ever afford it). The one local to us is $350 for one week, Monday through Friday, 9 am to 3 pm, and open to age 5 to 14. Every week is a different theme; if your kids are animals lovers, definitely visit your local ASPCA chapter (online or in person) and check it out. They also tend to have events and family fundraisers, so it’s worth bookmarking their pages or following them on Facebook for updates.
Make-and-take at various stores. Did you know they did this? I had no clue. A lot of craft and DIY stores offer make-and-take sessions (generally about 30 min) at their stores. So far I’ve dug up Michaels ($3/30 mins, materials included, ages 3+; they also have a cumber of other classes and events that are store-specific); Home Depot (numerous DIYs for both kids and adults, store-specific); and Lowe’s (15-30 min. make-and-takes, offered sporadically). They aren’t full day events, but pair them, say, a trip out for ice cream and a movie and popcorn at home, and you’ve got a nice, low-key, relaxing summer day.
JoAnn’s classes. Ok, so this sort of goes with the above, except 1.) it’s more expensive, and 2.) for older kids, but if you have an older child who is very into building skills in crafting, sewing, and other maker skills, this is worth looking into. JoAnn Fabrics offer classes and camps (classes currently registering for as low as $17.50!!) ranging from $35 for a 3 hour single session, to $79 for a “camp” running 4 sessions at 2.5 hours each (I believe). Most classes are recced for ages 8 and up.
Summer Movie Camp. AMC Theatres are offering at a number (but not all; sorry, I’m left out of this one myself) Summer Movie Camp, “Kid-Friendly Movies plus a KidsPack every Wednesday for just $4 (+tax).” I don’t now about you, but generally movie tickets here are $15+ so $4 for a movie (that, by the way, includes snacks)? Well worth checking out.
Facebook. Okay, Facebook isn’t the suggested activity, but it’s a great place to find local activities. Use the group function! Search your city! Search local events! I’ve found local Touch-a-Truck events, a Fairy House festival, Trunk-or-Treats, block parties, fairs, and festivals. I’m actually off to find more as we speak.
Do you all have any suggestions for things to do during the summer without breaking the bank? I hope to add more to my personal list soon!