Whether you have babies or teenagers, live in a big city or small town, finding free things to do with kids is challenging, As a mom, I can confidently say I have some solutions! I’ve included everything from virtual tours of your favorite museums to some crazy sidewalk chalk shenanigans you can get into and more.
Read on to learn how to have fun with your little ones in the summertime heat while respecting the CDC’s social distancing guidelines. Be sure to download the KCL app to find great deals while you’re at it.
1. Lace up your roller skates and find a Kids Skate Free program near you.
Get out of the house and skate! Just choose your home state, and the Kids Skate Free website lists rink details with dates, times, and criteria for a free roller skating lesson.
2. Get two bowling games through Kids Bowl Free for your next summer idea for kids.
Nothing beats two free bowling games courtesy of KidsBowlFree. The program collaborates with local bowling alleys and offers this deal every summer.
You do have to purchase a Family Pass and use it during select times and dates, but your kids will thank you for it. Some bowling alleys include free shoe rental for the summer.
3. Visit famous museums virtually.
Wouldn’t you love to go to France for the summer? Girl, stop dreaming. A virtual tour of the Louvre is as close as it gets, but you get to see some of its most famous exhibits including the “Mona Lisa Beyond the Glass” VR experience.
The Louvre Kids section features a series of animated videos about artwork in the museum like Venus de Milo. There are also videos from professional storytellers (with English translation).
If France isn’t your thing, see what your options are using PureWow’s museum tours article. Here are other free museum summer activities for kids:
- MetKids is a cool, interactive website that lets kids “hop in a time machine” to medieval or modern times, explore geography, and tackle big ideas like mythology, creatures, and fashion.
- The Guggenheim offers virtual entertainment for families, teens, and little kids. You can download art kits and activity sheets, and hear from museum curators. There are also live digital programs.
- Through Google’s Arts and Culture channel, play a plethora of games that can be turned into summer activities. Your kids can also download and color famous masterpieces and solve jigsaw puzzles in solo or multiplayer modes on their computer.
4. Organize a fun summer activity for kids with virtual zoo or aquarium field trips.
- via Facebook
Zoos all over the country are offering free virtual zoo field trips. For instance, every day from 3 – 5 p.m. ET, the Cincinnati Zoo hosts their Home Safari Facebook Live events, where they feature one animal and provide an at-home activity for your kids.
Check out what other zoos and aquariums are doing for summer activities:
- Monterey Bay Aquarium (crafts, printables, online courses for pre-K – 12)
- The Atlanta Zoo’s Panda Cam (live streams of pandas in action)
- San Diego Zoo’s Live Cams (penguins, apes, koalas, and more!)
- National Aquarium (coloring pages for kids, downloadable masks, and word searches)
- Shedd Aquarium’s Stay at Home with Shedd (video and activity series)
If you’re asking, “How about fun things to do with kids near me?” Well, you don’t have to live in a big city to find free or cheap events. Check your local news, park districts, newspapers, and city websites to see what they have to offer.
5. Get a free kids’ summer activity from The Home Depot Kids Workshops on the first Saturday of the month.
If you’re looking for a more hands-on summer craft for kids, Home Depot gives out free DIY Kids Workshops kits from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on the first Saturday of the month. The kits include pre-cut materials, directions, estimated build time, and level of difficulty. There’s even a Certificate of Achievement!
The kits are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are gone quickly. Reservations aren’t allowed, so plan wisely. If you missed the handout period, you’ll either have to wait until the following month or order a Kids Workshops Kit ($5 – $10) from HomeDepot.com.
Examples of projects include:
- Interactive sensory board
- Bird feeder
- Rainbow jewelry holder
- Hexagonal wooden planter
Need more summer activities for kids?
6. Enroll your kids in a Microsoft free summer camp near you in 2022.
- via Microsoft
The cost of summer camp can be hard on a lot of families. How about a free one near you that’s just a click away?
Teach your child some tech skills with Microsoft’s virtual summer camps where kids can play games, travel the world, and even pick up some basic coding along the way.
Apple will be offering a virtual Apple Camp for kids 8 – 12 in lieu of its usual in-store camp sessions. Your kids can learn to code or even explore their inner artist with Apple’s design projects.
To get started, download their activity book and follow the lessons on the site as they become available.
7. Check out a free virtual story time for kids from the New York Public Library.
- via NYPL
New York Public Library’s virtual story time can hold your kids’ attention for a bit with its multilingual offerings and fun summer activities like STEAM lessons and literacy guides.
Be sure to look at your own local library’s services to see if they’re offering free virtual community activities for kids, too. Some may have summer books for kids in a special section. Even if the library is out of state, you could still use their digital services (in most cases), or you can pay a non-resident fee for a library card.
Still need more ideas? Here are other free, virtual options to consider:
- Storyline Online (celebrities reading children’s books)
- Brooklyn Public Library Family (book readings, resume building, and foreign language learning, along with Creativebug — online arts and crafts)
- Reaching Across Illinois Library System (RAILS) (stories, discussions, games for teens, kids, adults, and seniors)
8. View free summer movies through Kanopy Kids, thanks to your local library.
Through select public libraries, colleges, and universities, Kanopy lets you stream ad-free movies. You just need a public library card, and you can view the flicks on a computer, phone, television, or tablet.
With over a thousand options, you and the kiddos can incorporate this on your list of fun things to do with kids. The Kanopy Kids division has story time, television series, science/math videos, and of course, movies. For you tired parents, the standard Kanopy website lets you pick from documentaries, foreign films, and award-winning movies.
This idea is also great for road trips! Need some road trip hacks for kids? We gotcha covered.
9. Find fun things to do with kids through Upparent.
Upparent is a gold mine of family-friendly information that can be accessed just by entering your zip code. You can browse the event calendar, view recipes, and get road trip tips. On the Upparent website, you can find other useful tips on things to do in the summer including:
- DIY crafts
- Free things to do
- Indoor and outdoor places to go
(Also, find even more entertainment ideas for summer activities using dollar store toys.)
10. Visit national parks for free with the Every Kid in a Park program.
Looking for something to do in the summer that the whole family can enjoy? Every year on September 1, the National Park Foundation’s Every Kid Outdoors program grants a free pass to national parks across the country for kids in the fourth grade.
To be valid, the pass needs to be printed out. The FindYourPark website is a helpful resource to choose a location for your next kids’ summer activity.
11. Score free summer books for kids from Barnes and Noble.
Barnes & Noble’s summer reading program is a great way for kids to build their reading skills and earn free books. Who doesn’t love that?
Kids must read eight books (borrowed, checked out from a library, or bought from B&N) and use B&N’s Reading Journal to write about their favorite part. Then, bring the completed summer reading journal to a B&N bookstore to choose a free book.
The program is for first through sixth graders and runs during July and August. Get to reading!
12. Geocaching for hidden treasures is an unforgettable thing to do in the summer.
Geocaching is a great thing to do with kids! This real world, outdoor adventure lets you hide and seek containers using your GPS coordinates.
With more than two million Geocaching sites worldwide, let your kids find hidden treasures in their own communities. All they need is a phone or GPS and some comfortable shoes.
Check out this Geocaching guide for kids to make sure you’re going on a hunt with a reward at the end rather than a wild goose chase.