Low-Cost Activities To Do with Kids this Summer

By Matt Diehl, July 20, 2016

With summer in full swing, keeping your kids busy and happy is an important task. Bright sunshine and no school is a perfect recipe for fun but not every parent can afford to entertain their children every day. This could leave you asking yourself, “How can I support a summer full of activities for my kids?”

The good news is, there are a variety of budget-friendly and free summer activities for children to enjoy. When planning your event, please be certain to take safety precautions and be mindful of any permission that may be required. Here are some low-cost summer activities to delight your kids and your pocketbook:

Bike parade

Does your child love riding their bike? If so, organizing a bike parade could be a fun event for your family and others in your community. Talk to the other parents on your block to organize a date and time for the parade. Encourage the kids to get creative with streamers, radios and other accessories. You can most likely find low-cost supplies at a dollar store or party supply store. On parade day, have parents and neighbors line the street and applaud as the procession peddles by.

Obstacle course

A great way to entertain kids and promote exercise is to create an obstacle course with household items. For example, you can lay a ladder flat on the ground for the kids to hop through. Another obstacle could require the kids to crawl through a maze of cardboard boxes. For older children, try hanging a rope swing from a sturdy tree branch or create a balance beam with spare lumber in your garage. To close the festivities, hand out homemade awards to everyone and prepare snacks and drinks for the kids to enjoy together.

Petting zoo

If your child loves animals, a more economical (and equally fun) alternative to a major zoo is a local petting zoo. Viewing, petting and feeding the animals can give your children an opportunity to get in touch with nature. For added fun, some locations also offer themed playgrounds and putt-putt golf for kids to enjoy when taking a break from their barnyard friends. Be sure to research your local petting zoo options for your preferred price range and attractions. Imagine the stories your child will tell after feeding a goat, milking a cow or riding a pony!

Outdoor game night

Do you know a group of parents with kids the same age? Designating one night a week for a multi-family game night could be a fun, low-cost experience for everyone. If you have enough people to play a sport, try kickball, wiffle ball or basketball. If you don’t have any equipment available, classic games like capture the flag and tag could also be a hit. Are your summer nights getting hotter? Buy some water balloons and have a water fight!


Summer days aren’t always sunny and dry so it’s good to have a backup plan for soggy weather. Bowling alleys provide a fun indoor activity and some offer summer deals to attract customers. For example, an alley might charge a one-time fee of $30 per child to bowl a few games every day during the summer (ex. Memorial Day to Labor Day). You could also see if any local lanes or schools participate in the Kids Bowl Free program. This program allows parents to register their kids for two free games per day at participating bowling centers and schools.


It is never too early to teach children the importance of giving back. This idea could be met with some moans and groans but it presents a perfect opportunity to explain what volunteering is and how it can be fun. Here are some volunteering ideas that are great for kids under the supervision of an adult:

  • Give away lemonade at a little league park
  • Play board games at a senior facility
  • Feed animals at an animal shelter
  • Plant flowers for an elderly neighbor
  • Pick up litter in a park or wildlife area

For more tools and resources regarding youth volunteering, visit volunteermatch.org.

Day trip

No matter where you live, there could be several fun places to visit at a reasonable price and distance. Search the National Park Service website and explore your nearest national park. Load up the car and see what your nearest historical American landmark has to offer. If you pack meals for the day and snacks for the drive, the only thing these lifelong memories could cost you is gas money.

Low-cost, big fun

Endless summer fun doesn’t require endless spending by Mom and Dad. Hopefully these economical ideas will keep your kids busy and budget intact all summer long!

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of OneMain. The information in this article is provided for education and informational purposes only, without any express or implied warranty of any kind, including warranties of accuracy, completeness or fitness for any particular purpose. The information in this article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial, legal or any other advice. The information in this article is general in nature and is not specific to you the user or anyone else. The author was compensated by OneMain for this post.

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