Coming soon to a household very near you: summertime! I’m not one who has ever been relieved when my kids go back to school in the Fall. Still, filling those long days that are over incredibly soon with affordable and memorable activities is a bit of a head-scratcher for me. There is no shortage of sports, camps, and other activities that may be great experiences, but still cost more than my family, or yours, can afford. The trick is to do some digging and find the resources available in your own area that offer affordable summer fun. Here are a few suggestions to start you off.
Or nearly-free. A few theater chains offer summer matinees of family movies that are a few years old one or two days per week. Understandably, these are usually crowded and noisy, but kids don’t seem to mind. Some even come with free popcorn! Check out these theaters near you:
Great Escape Theaters
Phoenix Big Cinemas
Free Bowling For Kids
Kids Bowl Free
My family didn’t try this last summer, the first year it was available, but I am so excited to do it this year! Bowling Alleys across the fruited plains and mountains majesty (as well as the plains and mountains of our Canadian neighbors!) are offering every kid who registers two free games per day. Dates vary from location to location, but cover the late Spring and Summer months. For a one time fee of $24.95 I registered four adults so that my husband and I, and our neice and her husband can play with the kids, too. Additionally, I used the coupon code BowlingGuy to take $5 off that fee. (This worked as of 5/13/2012). And, after registering the grown-ups, received a free $25 gift certificate to RESTAURANT.COM, which allowed me to print a physical gift certificate for one of the participating restaurants in my area.
- We’ve taken our kids to the Lowe’s and Home Depot Saturday morning workshops for a good year now. These are completely free, and include the kit, an apron, and patch and certificate for each completed project. Lowes also provides kids with their own small hammer and goggles. Home Depot provides the opportunity for the kids to paint their projects as well. The term “workshop” is a little misleading, as there is no actual instruction given by the staff. Parents are responsible for helping the kids follow easy-to-understand instructions. Online registration is available, or you can show up and wait until everyone who registered has a kit to see if there are any extras. Lowes’ workshops take place every other Saturday at 10:00 Am, and Home Depot’s is The first Saturday of every month at 9:00AM.
Lowe’s Build and Grow Clinics
Home Depot Free Kids Workshops
- There are also classes offered at various craft stores. We have not tried these yet, but believe me, they’re on my list!
Michaels has its The Knack Club for kids, with a card that kids get punched each time they attend an in-store event, good for a prize once it’s full. Michael’s Store Events
Michael’s The Knack
- Barnes and Noble offers free books to kids in the first through sixth grades that read books and write a page about their favorite parts. Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Program
- Half Price Books offers $5 coupons for kids under 14 who read 15 minutes per day. Feed Your Brain
- Sylvan offers a free online program that allows kids to read books, take quizzes, and earn points to redeem for prizes. Sylvan Book Adventures
- Scholastic also offers kids a chance to log in their reading minutes to try to win prizes. Scholastic Summer Challenge
- PBS Kids offers a program that includes discounts, downloads, tips, and more.PBS Kids Summer Reading Community Challenge
Summer Reading Programs
Of course your local library will most likely have a program with special guests, story times, and prizes; take advantage of them, please! But some booksellers also provide incentives for young readers.
Don’t overlook online reading programs:
You may be surprised to learn that other non-book-specific businesses offer book clubs, kid’s programs, and incentives related to reading. Check out:
- The Pottery Barn offers story time, book club, and more. Pottery Barn Events
- Chuck E. Cheese offers 10 tokens for two weeks of reading. Just print & complete this log to redeem at your local Chuck E. Cheese: Reading Rewards. Chuck e. Cheese offers other incentive calendars as well, for things like table manners, room cleaning, and more. Rewards Calendars
- And what’s better than cold, hard cash? TD Banks offer a 10 dollar incentive at the end of its summer reading program, to be deposited into your child’s Young Savers account. TD Bank Summer Reading
One Thing More: The YMCA has many worthwhile programs and offers financial assistance through its Open Door Program. Find your Local YMCA to download the assistance and membership forms.
Of course this list is nowhere near exhaustive. Your local chamber of commerce may offer a wealth of other options, including discount days at local museums and zoos, free outdoor movies at parks or pools, and various fairs and festivals. In any case, see what you can find and how those days will vanish!