Free Activities for Families with Young Kids

Free Activities for Families with Young Kids

Free. It’s a beautiful word, isn’t it? Finding things to do with young kids can be tough, especially when you’re on a budget. If you have several children, something that costs “only” a dollar or two can add up quickly. Fortunately, with some creativity and some searching, you can find free or inexpensive local activities your young kids will enjoy.

With kids it doesn’t have to be a big production. Things that are old hat to you are new to them. And even if they’ve done it before, they may want to do it again. (And again and again and again.)

Spending Time Outside

No matter the age of your children, time spent outside is essential. Kids don’t need a lot of tools or toys to keep them happy, curious and learning outside. A bucket, or even an old pot or pan, is gold. They will fill it, empty it, cook, move things and entertain themselves in more ways than you can count. Not only will this let you get some outdoor things done, but it lets them expand their imagination. Sticks turn into swords or spoons or pens. Dirt turns into key ingredients for magic potions and pies, grass becomes a blanket, trees become mountains and castles. When you let your kids free play, they’ll learn to entertain themselves and develop their sense of curiosity.

Other FREE ways to enjoy the outdoors, with young kids and older ones include:

  • Going to parks
  • Taking bike rides
  • Going for walks
  • Hiking along trails
  • Chasing birds/ducks
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Visiting the beach
  • Geocaching
  • Swimming in a home pool
  • Running in the sprinkler

Don’t hesitate to teach games to your kids that you enjoyed when you were young, like Ring-Around-The-Rosy, Red Rover, kick ball, dodge ball, frisbee, Freeze Tag, Kick the Can, Ghost in the Graveyard, Hide ‘N Seek and Sardines. When I was a nanny, we played all of these games with the neighborhood kids (the more the better). Their parents appreciated that someone was keeping them busy and the kids had a blast. You can also modify the games to fit your kids’ ages.

Visit Your Local Library

Take advantage of your local library. Many of them, even in small towns, have tons of activities designed for your kids. They also have books. Young kids really benefit from reading and having someone read to them. Recent studies indicate that reading to kids for just 15 minutes or three stories per day could eliminate illiteracy in a single generation. Make it a point to go to your local library at least once per week so your kids can get books they want. And if you go every week, you don’t need to worry about fines. (You can also check out movies and music.)

Many libraries also have clubs, free classes and events the whole family can take part of. These are some of the events taking place at the libraries near us this July:

  • Lego mania: All day drop-in
  • Hero day: Learn about police officers
  • Story time for kids (ages 0-2)
  • Babysitting class (for Tweens)
  • Make a Mask Craft (all ages)
  • Baby play group (6-23 months)
  • Curious George Party (2nd-6th grade)
  • Movie nights (G/PG films)
  • World War II heroes(ages 5+)
  • Magic Treehouse Day (all ages)
  • 1000 Books Before Kindergarten
  • Summer reading program (all ages)
  • Storytime Express (ages 2-5)
  • Music of the Civil War program
  • Make It and Take It Science Experiment
  • Puppet Show (all ages)
  • Gaming Underground (all skill levels)

Sometimes libraries also have authors come for book signings. Your kids might love meeting the author or illustrator of their favorite book.

Let’s Go to the Movies

Catching a free flick is pretty cool. In addition to free movies at the library, some cities have a movie night in the park. You show up, have a picnic and watch a film at no charge. Some businesses also do the same thing, particularly those geared toward family services. Keep your eyes open and you may spot something.

During the summer many small local theaters offer completely free G-rated films for the whole family. Just don’t buy popcorn and you’re golden. Some national theaters also have free movies, including Marquees Cinemas, and Cinema World. Chains like Cinemark and Regal play films once per week for $1 per child during the summer.

Don’t forget to screen the movie ahead of time. A few weeks ago my best friend and I took our kids to the week’s free movie, The Box Trolls. Disaster. Roughly ten seconds in, even before the Box Trolls showed up, my daughter began screaming. At least our leaving opened up five seats for late people.

Get Out on the Town

Cities across the country are looking for ways to boost the economy. Many towns have found ways to do this include hosting events and hoping people will spend money while they’re their. You can hear free live music, sample food from fantastic local restaurants, dance and have an all-around good time. Sometimes these are themed, sometimes they’re just all-out parties that are completely family-friendly. Money-saving tip: take out cash and when it’s gone, it’s gone. Keep the cards at home.

During the day, consider looking for local free days” For example, my local botanic garden is free every Tuesday. So we go every Tuesday unless it’s raining or the snow hasn’t been plowed. Local museums, including history, children’s and art museums, often have a day each week or each month that allow you to visit without a charge. Your kids get the full experience, but you don’t have to spend the money.

Also consider booking tours of local businesses. Fire stations and police stations often let people come and show their kids what’s going on. Your kids might enjoy climbing in the fire engine. Candy stores might let your kids see where the magic happens and even do a taste test. (Pair it with a Willy Wonka movie morning or afternoon and your kids will feel just like Charlie.)

During the summer, when things are more lively, your kids can bowl up to three games free. Rent the shoes or buy your own when they’re on sale. You’ll have an inexpensive year-long family activity. Similarly, kids can also skate for free.

Hang Out at Home

Sometimes you can have the most fun at home, in the house, on a rainy day. Let your kids help you bake brownies from scratch, even if you don’t know how to cook. Turn a table and a few chairs into a fort. Paint. Slide down the stairs in sleeping bags. Use your exercise ball to roll the kids around and dump them onto pillows. Play dress-up and let them be in charge. Have a dance party or family game night.

You can have fun as a family without breaking the bank and the money you save by doing things for free can go toward saving for a vacation, your kids’ college or any of the millions of other things you’ll need as your kids age. By spending the money you have wisely, you can prepare for your kids’ future while nourishing their present. Day or night, you can spark your kids’ imaginations, have fun with them and show them you don’t have to spend the big bucks to have a good time. It’s all about the memories.

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