Saving Money

How to Find Free and Low-Cost Summer Daycare and Activities

Daycare activities for children
Written by Kim Ritter

Here are several tips for finding the best inexpensive and free summer activities and programs for your hyperactive kids.

School is out! Do you know what you are doing with your kids this summer? There are lots of fun kids’ programs to keep your kids busy if you just know where to look. Keep them active all summer with these low-cost and free summer activities for kids.

Organize Playdates or Daycare Swaps

Do you have other parents in your circle who have kids that are close in age to yours? Set up daycare swaps or organize playdates on a regular rotating schedule. The kids will have a great time seeing some of their friends outside of school. Having other parents you trust to watch your childcare can come without an expensive daycare bill.

Explore Your Own City

Have you explored your city lately as a family? There are several free parks, splash pads and other fascinating attractions you can discover. Make it an adventure by taking a bus or a train and packing a picnic lunch to enjoy while you are there.

Take Advantage of Free Admissions

Did you know many zoos, museums, and cultural attractions offer free admission? Summer is a great time to check these out! For those that do have a fee, ask if a student discount is available for your kids. If they don’t offer free admission all year, watch their event calendars for free special events and classes. If you are a Bank of America cardholder, you can gain free admission to museums in your area one weekend a month. Target offers free admission to cultural events in major cities. Many cities have adventure pass programs where you can check out free passes to local attractions through your local library. In addition, some cities also offer free or discount admission for those with reduced incomes. Do some research to see what is available in your area!

Many national and state parks also offer free admission. Some do charge, so be sure to take advantage of national park free admission days. And if you have a 4th grader, you may be able to can qualify for a free national parks family pass.

Play it Up with Sports Camps and Programs

Do you have a junior athlete in your family? Finding summer sports programs for them might be easier than you think! Scout out summer sports programs that fit your child’s interests, starting with their school or sports league. Many professional teams may also offer sports clinics or camps for kids during the summer months, like this traveling baseball camp with former MLB players. While some camps may have costs involved, financial aid may be available. Don’t be afraid to ask about assistance programs!

Get Out and About for Open Gym

Looking for times and a place where your kids can burn off extra energy? Be sure to look for open gym availability at schools and local community centers. This is a great opportunity for kids to get out of the house, get exercise and spend some time with their friends. Older kids involved in sports may particularly enjoy the extra time to work out, lift weights or to scrimmage as they get ready for the upcoming season.

Search out STEM This Summer

Just because school is out of session, doesn’t mean that your kids must stop learning! Search for fun and educational classes and day camps in your area that incorporate some of the important skills of science, technology, engineering, and math. Many libraries and community centers offer programs almost daily in these subjects, and if you have multiple facilities in your area, sign up for their e-mail lists and follow them on social media to stay in the loop about upcoming programs. For day camps that have a cost involved, ask if there are scholarship programs.

Have Fun with Affordable Entertainment Options

Keeping your kids entertained during the summer months can be more affordable than you think! Did you know that there are free bowling, roller skating, and cheap movie programs available? With Kids Bowl Free, kids can bowl 2 free games daily and Kids Skate Free offers free roller skating for kids. Check with movie theaters in your city for kids summer movie programs here.

Get Back in Touch with The Boys and Girls Club

You may have gone to activities at the boys and girls club as a kid, but did you know they are still around and helping a new generation? They also offer affordable summer daycare options on a sliding scale that varies depending on your income. If your family is eligible for government childcare assistance, you may be eligible for free summer childcare. Those who don’t have childcare assistance may still be eligible for scholarships depending on your income. Contact your local club for more details.

Get Outdoors with Free Nature Activities

Does your family like to be outside in the summer weather? Chances are there are some fun and free (or very cheap!) nature activities and day camps going on in your city. Libraries, parks and recreation departments and conservation departments often run great summer programs that can be fun and educational. From fishing to nature hikes, to survival skills and nature talks, visit websites for organizations in your area to find out about fun opportunities to get outdoors.

Check with Parks and Recreation for Affordable Summer Adventures

Does your city have a park and recreation department? If so, check to see if they have a summer adventure program for school-age kids. Many cities have very cheap full day or half day programs that are at least several days a week that offer fun field trips and adventures to local aquatic centers and other area attractions.


Help Your Big Kids Volunteer This Summer Vacation

Are your tweens and teens too old for summer daycare programs but not ready to stay home all summer alone? Volunteering can be a fun and free way for bigger kids to keep busy all summer long, especially for kids who might not yet be old enough to work a summer job. Community service can be a valuable experience, present the opportunity to make new friendships and explore new interests while keeping busy. Many high and even junior high schools have community service requirements, so volunteering could help your child meet academic guidelines as well. Check with local libraries, animal shelters, zoos or other non-profits to see what programs are the best fit for your child.

Having summer fun as a family doesn’t have to be expensive. There are lots of fun ways to have exciting and educational opportunities without exceeding your budget. With a little bit of creativity and work, there are some great ways to find free and low-cost summer daycare and activities for your family.

What are some of the ways your family saves on summer daycare and activities?

About the author

Kim Ritter