5 Free or Inexpensive Summer Activities to Keep the Kids from Being Bored

Summer is here and children are out of school. 

If your kids are like mine, they count down the days until school ends, and they revel in their newfound freedom — for a week or two.  Then, the inevitable sibling bickering and the whines of “I’m booooored” begin.

By mid-July at the peak of summer when they’re most bored and the temperatures are soaring, things can seem pretty grim.  Parents may begin counting down the days until school is BACK in session.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

There are plenty of things you and the kids can do to have a fun, educational summer.  (All the better if they don’t realize they’re learning while they’re having fun!)

Best of all, many of these activities are cheap or free!

Here Are 5 Free or Inexpensive Summer Activities to Help Occupy Your Kids

free inexpenive or free summer activities for kids

Fun Trips to Take

1) Factory Tours

Did you know that many factories around the country offer free or low cost tours?  FactoryToursUSA.com currently has details on 571 factory tours in the 50 states.  For instance, if you live near Chicago, you can tour the Eli’s Cheesecake Factory and even sample some free cheesecake.

However, before you go, make sure to check “further details” under the factory tour.  Not all tours are available to the general public.  For instance, Venus Harps factory in Chicago is only open to harp students, harpists, and harp teachers.  No children are allowed.

2) A Historic Location

History can be dry and boring to many kids. . .until you bring it to life.  Chances are there are plenty of historic sites around your house that your kids may enjoy.  We have Ronald Reagan’s birth place near us as well as Ernest Hemingway’s.  We also have Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio.  Each of these is just a short distance away, and our 9 year old is excited about visiting them.

If you’re stumped for ideas, you can search the web.  Also, Family Vacation Critic has some of the most popular locations around the United States.

Fun, Educational Things to Do Every Day

3) Sign Up for a Reading Program

There are a handful of good reading programs nationally that reward your child for reading.  Sign your child up for a few, or only one.  Also, check with your local library to see if they have a reading program available.

Our local library has a new initiative to have all kids read 1,000 books before kindergarten.  Every time they read 100, they get a reward.  Once they reach 1,000, they have a party.  The library also has a regular summer reading program, and the top 50 readers for the summer usually get a bowling and pizza party, which is great motivation for kids.

Not only are these programs fun, but they’re essential to your child’s academic success.  “Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), the nation’s oldest and largest children’s literacy organization, believes there is no better time than this summer to begin helping our children bridge the gap in learning between the end of one school year and the beginning of the next one. ‘Motivating children to read throughout the year is essential to building lifelong readers,’ says Carol H. Rasco, president and CEO of RIF. ‘And reading is the doorway to all other learning'” (Education).

4) Fun, Free Things to Do Online

Growing up, I loved the Saturday paper because it always contained the Mini Page, which could keep me occupied for an hour or two.  Now, you can access the entire Mini Page archives for your kids.  They’ll have fun doing the activities and won’t even realize that they’re learning something!

5) Online Educational Activities

Not all kids will go for this, but my son really likes doing some kind of educational activity online over the summer.  He’s weakest in math, so we’ve been using K5 Learning for him.  Yes, he’s doing math and English related activities, but the whole program has a video game feel, so he enjoys it.  In addition, after kids complete a certain amount of work successfully, they are able to play some online games for a short while.

There are plenty of online activities available like this depending on your child’s age and what subjects you want them to focus on.


Of course, during the summer you’ll still want your kids to play some sports, go outside and play and hang out with friends and relax.  That’s what summer is for!

However, if you also get them involved in some of these low cost or free, more structured and educational activities, hopefully you’ll avoid the summer boredom.  Better yet, you’ll also avoid the summer slide when kids forget what they just learned the previous year.  You’re child will be entertained during the summer AND ready to enter school next year.

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Published or updated December 11, 2014.


  1. Ben and Jerry’s goes over well with the kids. But it’s hard not to buy them one at the end of the tour.

  2. We do quite a few of these with our little ones. Our oldest are almost 6 and 4 and there really is a lot to do, you just have to be creative about it.

    • Glen Craig says:

      So true. My wife was just telling me how the local library is showing kids movies in the afternoon. It’s a great option when it’s too hot to be running around outside.

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