5 Fun Frugal Summer Activity Ideas for Kids

With temperatures soaring in parts of the country, it’s time to think of warm weather activities. It’s supposed to be over 100 degrees here in the Sacramento Valley tomorrow and last through the weekend. Yikes, say it isn’t so Mr. Weatherman, what happen to spring anyways?

Since we have some sweaty days in our near future, I thought I would share some frugal family summer fun activities and give you an opportunity to share yours. In a time when every kid seems to have a cell phone or iPod in their ear, I am all about finding ways to spend time together as a family that shows my kids that you don’t need to have stuff or gadgets to have a great time. With that in mind, here are some of our family favorites.

  1. Keep ‘Em Wet. A couple of years ago, at the end of the summer, I bought a 550 gallon pool with a built-in filter system from Wal-Mart on clearance for $39. Perhaps the best purchase I have ever made! My kids absolutely love it and spent most of last summer in it. Heck, on the really hot days I even climbed in it and splashed around with them. When summer ends, I clean and store it and it has held up very well. If you don’t get one this summer, keep an eye out in late-August for a great deal for next summer. Other cheap and wet activities are of course, water balloons, lawn sprinklers, and the infamous super soakers. Just get wet and play with your kids. Good, free fun!
  2. Family Bicycle Ride. This is easily my favorite. Almost every weekend during the summer, I load up all our bikes on the back of my truck and we head out for a ride on one of the numerous biking trails in our town. Unfortunately, our street is not conducive to riding bikes on or we would probably do it every evening. I have witnessed great family bonding on these outings, and once everyone has a bike, it doesn’t cost a cent. Not to mention the exercise it provides.
  3. Local Library. Our local library has a weekly storytime program where kids are invited to come and listen to a story and then do a small related craft project. This is a lot of fun for the kids, totally free, and nicely air conditioned! Check to see if your local library has a similar summer reading program. Once storytime is over, the kids return their books and check out new ones to read.
  4. Camping. I am a huge fan of taking the family camping. Precious memories are built sitting around the campfire, your 3 year old with melted marshmallow in her hair, your 6 year old with dirt so thick the only way you can see him is when he smiles, it just does not get any better than that!
  5. Go Back To The Minors. Ticket $25, soda $3.50, hot dog $4.50, next credit card bill, Major Heartburn! Forget about going to see a ridiculously expensive Major League Baseball game with the family and opt for a minor league game instead. My kids could care less who is actually playing and besides every minor league game I have been to is a blast and very family oriented. No ushers staring at you, telling you “please stay in your seats”. A neighboring town where we live has a minor league team and tickets are $3 for kids, $5 for adults, you get a much better view, food is much cheaper (especially if you bring your own), plus they have family oriented activities and games. It is always a great time.

What are some of your favorite frugal summer family fun activities? Wow, try saying that 5 times really fast! As always, I am looking forward to your comments.


By , on May 14, 2008
Kyle James Kyle James owns and operate a website called Rather-Be-Shopping.com which specializes in coupon codes for over 750 stores, organized in 25 shopping categories. He also has a blog, where he writes about frugal living and personal finance tips as well as other musings about the adventures and mis-adventures of raising 3 active kids.


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  1. Leanne:

    Camping is our favourite activity, hands down. We take minimal “stuff” and we spend our time relaxing, playing, walking and being together as a family – great times.

    Going to the beach is another fave. The kids don’t swim so much, but love building sandcastles, jumping over waves and we usually take a long walk along the beach.

    My husband and two older kids also like to go fishing. Occasionally, we even get a meal out of it!

  2. Cynthia:

    My kids and I always enjoyed going to the biggest farmer’s market in our area. I’d pack a picnic lunch and drinks and we’d spend the entire day there. Free music, entertainment for the kids, cooking demonstrations, a kids fountain nearby, and free samples! We’d also pick out our veggies for the coming week, and spend time together experimenting with ways to prepare them.

    Locally, we now have 3 farmer’s markets each week – Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday evenings.
    When my kids were a bit older we’d volunteer as a family at various festivals. In exchange, we’d get free entry, free activities, etc. (and of course, we’d take our picnic lunch!). Portland, OR has a Blues festival every year which was always our favorite.

    We’d also take long walks in nearby fields and hills, armed with a basket and pair of scissors. Always came home with lots of beautiful wildflowers! Walks through our neighborhood to admire gardens helped us to make acquaintance with many of our neighbors. And many of those new friends contributed inspiration, plants, seeds and wonderful advice to our very first garden.

    The small city where we live has free outdoor movies in the evening. We’d always arrive early so the kids could play in the water fountain. And, we’d take a big bag of home popped popcorn to munch on.

    Many of the local parks also have free concerts throughout the summer, and since we live in a very diverse community, the music is always diverse as well.

    Check to see if your city/town publishes a newsletter; the same with your local Parks and Recreation district. Does your Parks district offer scholarships on classes? Is your city planning events?

    Do your local Zoo, art museum and children’s museum have family days where they offer free admittance and activities?

    Imagination, flexibility, a sense of fun and wonder – armed with those, you’ll be able to find lots of ways to enjoy your summer!

  3. Check out local activities – many are free or low cost – Here in L.A. there have been children’s activities at the Hollywood Bowl in the summer.

    When I was a kid I went to a Police Athletic League-sponsored program in the mornings. Nothing fancy – just games & simple crafts. Sort of a day camp thing.

    Then when I was in high school, I went to the creative part of summer school, and put on plays, and so on.

    Get yourself on as many mailing/email lists as you can and read the local parent-oriented magazines and the newspaper. You will find lots of things for the kids to do. And if you participate/volunteer – you could get it gratis sometimes, too.

  4. Great list of ideas! I especially like the “Back To The Minors” idea. My son has just started taking an interest in baseball, and this would be a great way to spend an afternoon. For some reason, I never think about minor league games happening, but the ones I have attended have been a lot of fun. Thanks for reminding me!

  5. High school games are great too! Better hurry though, we are in the last of the playoff games here in our area.

  6. What a great idea about the minor league games! We’ll definitely have to give that one a whirl.

  7. Ron:

    How ’bout attending a high school baseball game? It’s even cheaper!

    Take the kids to the park. You already paid for that with your tax dollars.

    How ’bout a fishing trip to a local public fishing lake? For more fun, dig your own worms!

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