Whether you have babies or teenagers, or live in a big city or small town, finding free things to do with kids is challenging. But, as a team full of moms, we can confidently say we have some solutions for you! From virtual tours of your favorite museums to some in-store crafts at Home Depot and more. If you’re looking for cheap and easy fun activities with your kids, we’ve got you covered.
Engaging in activities for free not only saves money but also helps children understand the value of being resourceful and creative. By exploring new things and finding freebies for kids together, you can foster a sense of curiosity and a love for learning. Read on to learn how to have fun with your little ones in the summertime heat.
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Limited Time Activity (July Only): Play Where’s Waldo Local for Free
Through the month of July you and your family can play the free scavenger hunt game, Where’s Waldo Local in over 237+ communities nationwide. Anyone can play and there are prizes, plus a Where’s Waldo celebration (complete with a Where’s Waldo cake) at the end of July. Read all the details, including where to play, how to play, and get a peek at some prizes here.
1. Register for Kids Bowl Free and bowl for free every day this summer.
In between skating days, check out the Kids Bowl Free program. Registered kids have the opportunity to enjoy two free games of bowling every day during the spring and summer months.
Available at more than 1,500 bowling centers around the world, this program provides a safe and fun activity for kids of all ages. Register for Kids Bowl Free today and let the good times roll (literally).
2. Lace up your roller skates and find a Kids’ Skate Free program near you.
Get out of the house and go for a skate! Powered by the MyHownd app, you can register and find a local skating rink near you with free skating sessions. Just download the app, register your kids, and you’ll receive two coupons for free skating sessions every week! Sound like fun?
Find out more about the Kids Skate Free program to find a local rink and more details with dates, times, and criteria for a free roller skating session.
3. Sign up for JCPenney Kid Zone to make a free Summer Tote on July 8.
On the second Saturday of each month, participating JCP locations host free JCPenney Kids Zone crafts events. These craft events take place in JCPenney stores with a Kids Zone area, and kids can attend for absolutely free. Parents can also shop JCPenney in-store with a special 10% off coupon that stacks with other coupons for additional savings.
4. Create a free bean bag toss game at Home Depot on July 1.
Home Depot plans these free in-store workshops on the first Saturday of every month. Your child will go home with their project, an apron, and a certificate and pin for their crafting achievement. The kits include everything you need, except for a few tools and random materials like glue and paint, which will be provided. You can register for the class online prior to the event, or you can register in person as long as the class isn’t full (but they do fill up quickly).
5. Build a tic-tac-toe grill game on July 15 at the Lowe’s Kids’ workshop.
Along with JCPenney and Home Depot, Lowe’s offers free in-person kids’ workshops at local participating stores. These usually land on the second Saturday of the month. And if you can’t stay for the whole workshop, you can register to pick your kit up and take it home. You can see the project and register for an upcoming workshop or kit a month in advance. Since they’re free, these kits go pretty fast. You can register for a kit on the Lowe’s DIY page by selecting an event, choosing a time slot, and registering how many kits you’d like, up to four.
6. Pop in at your local Michaels for a free friendship bracelet class on June 11.
Michaels is the place to be on Sundays. Their Sunday Makebreaks are essentially Michaels free craft classes in mini form — there’s a different project each week that only takes about 15 minutes to complete. Sunday Makebreaks are available in-store at Michaels every week from 2 – 4 p.m. local time. You don’t have to register ahead of time here. Just stop in and start creating.
7. Michaels’ Free Craft Camps for Kids Start June 19 (Register now!).
Michaels’ kids camp, known as Camp Creatology, is back just in time for summer break. Starting on June 19, 2023, you can pick from four themed kits in instructor-led classes spread out over four weeks. However, unlike the Michaels’ free craft classes, you DO need to sign up in advance for Camp Creatology. You can choose from a live in-store program, recorded class, or self-guided way to learn, whichever works best for your family.
8. Visit local museums for free.
If a virtual visit isn’t quite what you had in mind, there are free museums in most states that you can visit at no cost! Or you can score free museum admission on select days of the month or by checking out passes at your local library. And if you receive SNAP benefits and have an EBT card, Museums for All offers free or discounted (like $3 or under) admission to over 1,000 museums, zoos, aquariums, and more, across the U.S.
9. Visit national parks for free with the Every Kid in a Park program (or on August 4 for a free-admission day!).
Looking for something to do in the summer that the whole family can enjoy? 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.
And if you live near a National Park, you can find free park admission days in 2023. The next predicted free admission day is August 4, 2023, to celebrate the anniversary of the Great American Outdoors Act.
10. Travel by train for free with the Amtrak Summer Travel Flash Sale
Kids from 2 to 12 can travel for free with the Amtrak Summer Travel Flash Sale. Through June 20, book tickets for travel between June 30 – September 30 to take advantage of this sale. The free fares are valid for Monday through Thursday departures and are available on most routes for Coach and Acela Business Class only.
11. Participate in Pizza Hut’s Camp BOOK IT! from June – August for a free Personal Pan Pizza.
Pizza Hut’s Camp BOOK IT! is open to all families with PreK-6th grade students (ages 4-12). This parent-lead reading camp allows you to set goals, track reading, and reward your students, in a digital dashboard. When your child reaches their goal, they will receive a certificate for a free Personal Pan Pizza at participating Pizza Hut locations.
Find out more information about the Pizza Hut BOOK IT! program, which starts October 1, 2023.
12. Complete the Barnes and Noble summer reading journal by August 31 for a free book.
Children in grades 1 – 6 can participate in the Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program. Have your student choose eight books to read (borrowed, checked out from a library, or bought from B&N) and fill out the printable reading journal. Return the journal to your local Barnes & Noble between July 1 and August 31, 2023, and your child will get a free book of their choice. Download and print the summer reading journal and list of suggested books.
13. See a free (or really cheap) summer movie.
During the summer, movie theaters offer heavily discounted or free movie tickets for kids for certain movies. The showtimes are usually on specific days of the week and times of day — usually mornings. Check with your local theater for discounted movie showtimes.
Here are some theaters that offer cheap movie tickets for kids:
- AMC Summer Movie Camp: $3 on Wednesdays or $5 on Saturdays
- Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse: $1.50 at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesdays
- Regal Summer Movies: $2 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10 a.m.
- Phoenix Theatres Entertainment: $0 with a free kids’ meal
- Harkins Theater Summer Movie Fun: $1 at 9:45 a.m.
- Wednesday Morning Movie Series at Classic Cinemas: $2 on Wednesdays at 10 a.m.
- Marcus Theatres’ Kids Dream Summer Film Series: $3 tickets
- Megaplex Theatres’ Kids Summer Movie: $10 for the all-summer pass or $1.50 each
14. 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 into 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!
Related: Need some road trip hacks for kids? We gotcha covered.
15. Teens can hit the gym for free through August 31.
Planet Fitness’ High School Summer Pass is a free summer membership for high school teens aged 14-19 in the United States (excluding Puerto Rico) and Canada. Participants can work out for free at any participating Planet Fitness location throughout the summer from May 15 through Aug. 31.
Teens can also take advantage of free fitness classes through the Planet Fitness PE@PF program at participating locations. There are no time limits with the Summer Pass; participants can work out anytime during their local Planet Fitness gym’s hours.
16. Kids as young as four can learn to code online for free.
This summer might be the perfect time to check out free coding classes for kids and teens. Being tech-savvy in today’s world is almost a requirement for all ages. And kids coding classes emphasize collaborative learning, teamwork, and a place to find solutions to problems.
Check out the kids coding classes through these platforms.
- Code.org – K-12 students
- Scratch – Ages 5 – 16
- Kahn Academy – Ages vary
- Swift Playgrounds – Ages 4+
- Code Maven – Ages 13+
- Udemy – Varies
- Codemoji – Ages 5 – 8
- Create & Learn – Ages 7 – 10
- CoderDojo – Ages 7 – 17
17. Attend free library events.
Your local library is an absolute treasure trove. Yes, you can check out books for absolutely free. But they also often host events for kids that are also completely free. From storytimes for toddlers to teen STEM projects, your local library likely has something for everyone in the family. Visit their website and look for upcoming events for more information.
18. Try a free scavenger hunt app.
Some free scavenger hunt apps that we enjoy:
- Monkey Spot Scavenger Hunts
- Audobon Bird Guide
- Treasure Hunt Scavenger Hunt
- Goose Chase
19. Go out to eat for free.
Spend some quality time with a meal you didn’t have to cook yourself by visiting a restaurant that offers free kids meals! Depending on the day of the week, some restaurants offer free meals to kids within a certain age range. It is worth noting that, in our experience, food discounts vary by location. Call ahead and check with your closest location to see if they offer freebie food deals to avoid a wasted trip.
You can also treat your kids to some free food on their birthday, or even their half-birthday! Also, check out free cone day to score some free ice cream or all the food holidays in 2023 where you can get your hands on food for free.
20. Take a family walk and listen to a free audiobook.
Family walks are a great way to spend time together and get your daily dose of fresh air. You can add to the enjoyment by listening to a free audiobook together. Find a family-friendly option that is age-appropriate for your kids and listen while you walk. You could also use the second half of the walk to discuss the book and what everyone thinks so far!
Prefer to read instead of listen? Here’s a list of sites where you can download free books to read and discuss with your kids.
21. Visit 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 the artwork in the museum like Venus de Milo. There are also videos from professional storytellers (with English translation).
If France isn’t your thing, 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 computers. Using this tool, visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the National Gallery of Art in DC, the Uffizi Gallery in Italy, Easter Island, and more.
- The British Museum offers an interactive tour with audio that allows kids to virtually visit different exhibits of the museum online.
- Visit the Smithsonian Natural Museum of Natural History virtually with tours of permanent, current, and even past exhibits.
- Take a NASA virtual tour at the Glenn Research Center.
- Space-loving kids can also take a virtual tour of the Hubble Telescope.
22. Organize a fun activity for kids with a virtual zoo or aquarium field trip.
Zoos all over the country offer free virtual zoo field trips. Check out what other zoos and aquariums are doing for kids’ 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 Livestreams (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, library, park districts, newspapers, and city websites to see what they have to offer.
23. 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.)
24. 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.
25. Create a sensory bin with items in your home.
These are perfect for young toddlers and kids because they provide opportunities for exploration, learning, and play, and can help develop fine motor skills and creativity. To create your own DIY sensory bins, you need a few basics. A container, a filler, small toys, and a scoop of some sort. Look through your kitchen for different types of scoops, dried pasta, beans, and cereals. Raid your craft closet for things like buttons, pipe cleaners, sequins, and other little things kids enjoy. Just be sure they’re always supervised with these bins.
26. Send a free letter through St. Judes Children’s Hospital.
St. Jude Children’s Hospital offers a free service to send a kind message and card to their patients. You’ll select from premade card designs (with artwork inspired by real patients), write a message or select from a prewritten message, and then send the message to one of their patients. It only takes a couple of minutes and could make a child’s day.
27. Join the PETA Kind Kids program.
Kids 12 and younger can register for PETA’s Kind Kids program. They’ll get a free registration card and will receive monthly emails with activities they can do to help animals. Plus, kids can print the free Monthly Actions worksheet to keep track of all the animal-friendly actions they’ve taken throughout the year.
Even more free things to do with kids.
27. Go for a bike ride.
28. Build a fort with Amazon boxes.
29. Raid your pantry and donate to a local charity.
30. Volunteer at a local animal shelter.
31. Do a science experiment.
32. Clean our closets and drop off old clothes at a local shelter.
33. Have a backyard picnic.
34. Bring gently used towels and blankets to an animal shelter.
35. Create potato stamps.
36. Send a letter to the troops.
37. Play catch or frisbee outside.
38. Drop off a thank-you note at your local fire department or police department.
39. Invite neighborhood kids over for a backyard playdate.
40. Write a letter to Grandma and Grandpa or other family members.
41. Start a journal.
42. Start a scrapbook.
43. Create scenes with stickers.
44. Wash dishes together with lots of bubbly soap.
45. Take a bath with different toys from around the house.
46. Watch a cooking show or tutorial.
47. Find free yoga videos.
48. Play with the hose outside.
49. Play I Spy.
50. Paint rocks.
51. Draw a racecar track or town on an old sheet with markers.
52. Pick a bouquet of wildflowers.
53. Read books out loud together (Here’s how to find free books).
54. Freeze toys in a block of ice and use utensils for an icy treasure hunt.
55. DIY sidewalk chalk and paint.
56. Use a soft ball and empty bottles or cans for backyard bowling.
57. Glue pennies on shoes to create DIY tap shoes.
58. Create a fancy charcuterie board with items in your fridge.
59. Use flowers as stamps and paintbrushes to create art.
60. Set up camping in the backyard.
61. Play with Play-Doh.
62. Play with Legos.
63. Use an old sheet and frisbees to play giant tic-tac-toe.
64. On hot days, close all the curtains and have a daytime movie “night”.
65. Create DIY dog toys and treats at home.
66. Download free art games for kids.
67. Hide items around your house for a homemade scavenger hunt.
68. Have a family baseball game.
69. Paint letters on large pieces of cardboard (from shipping boxes) for outdoor Scrabble.
70. Play a board game.
71. Do some finger painting.
72. Play cards.
73. Look through old picture albums.
74. Play charades.
75. Organize a flag football game.
76. Visit your local park.