Thrifty Thursday: Summer fun for kids on a budget!

Summer vacation has already started for many families and mine is just around the corner (only two more days to go).  One of the big questions I’m hearing from a lot of people is “What can we do for free or cheap this summer?”  I plan to post weekly ideas about the things I’m doing for free or cheap with my kids this summer, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

*Board games – My kids absolutely love it when we get to pull out the board games and we have a closet full of different ones that I try to rotate through so that they don’t get tired of playing the same thing over and over again (although for some reason they never seem to get tired of Candyland).

*Go Bowling ~ A number of bowling centers are offering two free games of bowling each day this summer.  Adults can purchase a discount “family pass” so they can participate, too!  Check out the list of participating free bowling centers here to see if there is one in your area (sadly, there is not one in mine)

*Build and indoor fort – Grab your pillows, blankets, and sheets, and get creative! If you need some ideas, here are some great articles:
Building an indoor fort (from

How to build an indoor fort (from

*Camping ~ August 14-15th you can get free entrance fees at more than 100 national parksCheck here for a list of additional free entrance days by state.  Here’s a tip – many national parks never charge an entrance fee, so you can plan inexpensive visits year round!

Fee waiver includes: entrance fees, commercial tour fees, and transportation entrance fees. Other fees such as reservation, camping, tours, concession and fees collected by third parties are not included unless stated otherwise.

*Crafts and other activities ~ Here are some websites with free or cheap ideas and printables:

DTLK – this is one of the first “kid” sites I discovered when my daughter was about 2 and we were working on skills like coloring and learing the alphabet – they have lots of great printables and kid friendly craft ideas

Enchanted Learning – lots of great printables and activity ideas for preschool-aged children and school-aged children – we subscribe to the magazine also, but you can get great kid craft ideas and kid friendly recipes online, too!

Make and Takes – I subscribe to this blog and love getting my “daily fix” of craft ideas and kid friendly recipes!

Make and Takes

No Time for Flashcards – lots of great, affordable, ideas for kid fun!

No Time For Flash Cards

*Websites where you can purchase craft packets or other activities for a reasonable price:

1-2-3 Preschool Projects – Order a sample activity for free or order themed boxes or activities for the entire month. Prices for the activity packets and boxes are affordable, but they do kind of “get you” on shipping. – lots of great preschool activities and ideas for making bags and swapping them with your friends

Oriental Trading Company – they have lots of great craft packets for preschoolers and school-aged kids. My daughter loves the “activities” I have gotten for her from here. Many of the activities come in “units” of 6-12 which means you can make things for family and friends or it provides a source of entertainment if you have a playdate. Don’t forget to order through Ebates to get 3% cash back (and a $5 bonus using this link if you haven’t signed up with them yet)

*Indoor picnic – instead of eating lunch at the table, spread out a blanket and have an indoor picnic. This breaks up the monotony and my kids love it!

*Movies ~ Check out this list of movie theaters that are offering free or cheap movies this summer

*Read ~ Encourage your child’s love of reading by checking out this list of summer reading programs for kids where you can earn lots of freebies!

Do you have a budget friendly summer fun idea to share or another Thrifty Thursday tip?  Feel free to link up below!

For more Thrifty Thursday ideas, check out Coupon Teacher, Madame Deals, and Life as a Mom.


  1. Renae @ Madame Deals says:

    Great list of ideas for kids! We don't spend much on kid entertainment because there are so many free options. My boys love to play outside so they are happy just going to the park!