It's time for some summer fun, enrolling in multiple summer camps can be costly. The good news is there's plenty of free fun to be had that entertains and even educates children while giving parents' wallets a vacation too. Find free summer programs for kids that won't cost you a cent but keep your children busy until the school bell rings again.
Free Summer Movies
Watch a free movie at the theater or under the stars.
Many movie theaters host free movie days throughout the summer. Outdoor movies are usually in the park where there's plenty of room for families to spread out with blankets and coolers.
Indoors or outdoors, some free movie events are sponsored, which usually includes games, prizes and food giveaways. Kids probably won't get to see the latest box office smash, but they do get to watch a family-friendly movie at no cost to you.
Free Sports Clinics
Learn from college athletes, their coaches and even professionals in the sport. Free sports clinics are usually held on college campuses for a limited amount of kids. Each free sports clinic has its own rules but many allow children as young as 4 and up to 17 years of age.
Free Behind-the-Scenes Tours
What's it like to work at a TV station? How does the mail get from point A to point B? Let the kids take a behind the scenes tour to find out.
You can tour many places simply by asking.
Be creative when choosing locations to visit. If your kids are interested in animals, tour a veterinary hospital. If they like baseball, set up a tour at your local stadium.
Grants and sponsors make some summer camps free for kids. Art, writing, theater, math, science and reading camps are some of the themes of these camps.
But many also include crafts, field trips and swimming. There are even special free summer camps that cover anti-bullying, conflict resolution, self-esteem, leadership skills and personal safety topics.
Vacation Bible School
Churches hold Vacation Bible School as an outreach of their ministries. Members of the church as well as non-members are invited for a free week of fun. Kids sing songs, learn Bible lessons, make friends, create crafts, perform in skits and learn how to treat others, among other valuable lessons. Each church has its own age guidelines but 3 and up usually benefit the most from Vacation Bible School.
As soon as kids can walk, they can start learning the benefits of volunteering with you. When they get older, they can branch out into their own volunteering opportunities. Cleaning up the park or the beach, collecting books and toys for the less privileged, visiting nursing homes and helping prepare meals for the homeless are just a few of the many ways kids can volunteer. One place to search for kid-friendly volunteer jobs is VolunteerMatch.com.
The library is an excellent venue for story time. But did you know there are even more activities for kids at the library that won't get them shushed?
Most libraries offer free summer reading programs. Kids sign up to read a certain amount of books over the summer. The library then awards prizes and holds a party for the eager readers at the end of the reading program.
Or just stop in for one of the library's other special events. Themed activity days may include book readings, related crafts and hands-on learning. For example, a fire safety day might feature stories about firefighters, a dress up time where kids can put on a firefighter's gear and a visit from a real fire truck so kids can see how it works. Other lessons can also be educational with activities designed to teach kids about computers, stranger danger and bike and water safety.
Free Arts and Crafts at Museums
Introduce art appreciation at a young age. Museums are reaching out to future artists through free kids' programs that encourage them to create their own works of art.
Story time ties book illustrations into the art you find in the museum. Kids enjoy craft time, paint, use clay and a variety of other mediums to enrich their art experience.
Free Parks and Recreation Activities
Playing in the park can be more than an hour on the playground. Many parks and recreation departments set up a summer schedule of day-long activities.
Kids are exposed to the arts, fitness lessons, a variety of sports, even computer instruction. Check your city's local parks and recreation department website to see what activities are planned near you.
Free Building Workshops
Some home improvement stores offer free building workshops that help kids build everything from a bird house to a miniature school house. Kids get free aprons, goggles and the required tools and supplies to build their own project with the help of the store's employees.
The most popular kids workshops are through Home Depot and Lowe's. Home Depot's Kids Workshop is the first Saturday of the month. Lowe's Build and Grow Clinics are every Saturday.
Free Admission to Children's Museums, Theaters and Art Museums
Spend a day at a children's learning museum, children's theater or art museum absolutely free. Target Free Days lists thousands of places across the country where admission is free. Some locations have a reduced-cost admission, but most waive the admission fee completely. The program is available all year long, but it's perfect for summer outings with the whole family.
Strike up two free games of bowling every day of the summer. Present the coupons that are sent to you each week and go bowling. Participating bowling alleys are listed on KidsBowlFree.com.
What's it like to walk through a jelly bean factory or see a motorhome being built? Take the kids and go see for yourself.
There are plenty of free tours for kids and going on a sweltering hot day will get the whole family out of the sun. What's best about this activity, though, is that you can also go on free tours during the winter when it's too cold to go outside.
Most companies that offer free tours don't just open their doors during the summer. You're welcome to come just about any time for some free fun.