Summer is a time when kids have a lot of free time and trying to figure out how to keep them entertained can be a challenge. One thing that causes parental frustration is paying a high admission price to a park or event only to have the child complain the whole time. Or discover a sudden interest in something he could see for free, like ducks (just like those in a neighbor’s pond) when you’re on a trip to the zoo. As an alternative, parents can save both their money and their sanity by taking advantage of many free events and outings offered for kids. These fun and educational “field trips” can be found in a lot of unexpected places. Here are several places to start looking for them:
In addition to year-round story times for toddlers, many libraries have summer calendars packed with concerts, magicians, storytellers, events, and games related to summer reading clubs. Look also for year-round non-reading activities for any visit, such as toys, puzzles, or coloring books. They also offer a lot of resources for you.
During the school year, schools offer evening concerts, speakers, and other special activities. In the summer, many have playground programs to keep students busy on weekdays.
Check with your city, township, town, or borough to find out if it offers any street fairs, festivals, carnivals, or the like. Individual booths may cost money, but some of the exhibits and concerts are free.
Many craft stores offer free “make and take” craft classes for children to promote the use of their merchandise.
Community and Volunteer Organizations
These types of groups often offer programs for kids as a community service; some will be focused on a particular interest shared by the members of the organization.
Churches and Other Places of Worship
Ask about regular club-type programs offered weekly during the school year as well as special events sponsored by the church. Many places of worship host lots of fun events in addition to instruction in the faith.
Some have drop-in sports sessions or regular classes in hobbies and more.
Our local mall hosts regular kids’ club events, including trick-or-treating, scavenger hunts, and story times, sponsored by stores and community organizations. Even if yours doesn’t, you can create your own scavenger hunt, sending a group of older kids around the mall in search of unusual items.
Factories and Farms
Look into the possibility of taking a tour of a local factory or large farm. These trips are fascinating, educational, and often free for adults and children alike.
State and County Parks
Learn about nature through formal classes or informal visits. The parks in our county offer everything from swimming, hiking, and boating to a nature museum and disc golf courses.
A number of theaters host family movie series that screens weekly free G- and PG-rated movies during the summer.
Opportunities for free family fun will vary in number and type depending on where you live, but nearly anyone can find some sort of free event for young children. With a little creativity, children can be entertained for hours on a local “field trip,” and when it’s free, it doesn’t matter much if the part of the trip that interested them most was the ride on the elevator at the mall.