These ideas were also featured in a live segment on the Saturday morning edition of ABC Action News in Tampa. Scroll to the bottom of this post to watch the video.
Summer is a glorious time to take a break from the routine, but after a while, sleeping until 11am and watching The Princess Bride on repeat can get boring. (I’m talking about the kids, obvi. I know you’re getting no sleep and watching any more than 50-second snippets of TV would be a dream.) Of course, having an unscheduled summer is awesome, but if you’re dying to get out of the house, get some friends together and try these fun, free summer activities for kids!
1. Go for a free grocery store tour.
I organize a free toddler learning adventures group in my area, and this was one of our favorite things to do. Get a few friends together, and call your local grocery store. Ask for the manager and see if they offer free tours of their store. At our local Publix, we got to watch bread go into the ovens, the kids got a free cookie at the bakery, and we even got to check out a live lobster in the tank in the seafood department!
2. Visit your local fire station.
In our area, you don’t even need to call ahead. If the garage doors are up, the fire station is open for visitors. If you’re not sure, call your local fire department and ask if they allow kids to come check out the trucks. My boys love this adventure, and it never gets old because, in our city, we have more than 8 fire stations to choose from. So each day, we go to a new one, it feels like a whole new adventure. Sometimes, the firefighters will let us tour their kitchen, let the kids climb into the fire trucks, fire a water hose at the truck to wash it, and even let the older kids go down the pole they slide down when there’s an emergency! Who knows? You might even get lucky and they get a call while you’re there!
3. Pick produce at a local farm.
What I love about this adventure is that you get something out of it too! Great quality, local produce that usually costs a fraction of what it does at the grocery store. Depending on the time of year, there are plenty of places to go to pick tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries and peaches. I usually call a few farms in one day, and they’ll tell me what produce is good to pick at what time of year. Then, I’ll make a note in my calendar to call ahead during those months and go. Many of them also have petting zoos you can enjoy for free.
4. Watch a free movie.
Many movie theaters offer free movies to young kids during the summer. The movies are usually a bit dated (like a few months old), and showing times are often Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, but hey… it’s something to do and it’s in air conditioning! Muvico offers free movies all summer long, and so does Regal. Just click on the links and find your home theater!
5. Organize a beach or park cleanup.
I know you want to just scroll past this one, but don’t discount it. I was shocked at how much fun my 2 toddlers had picking up litter at the beach. The thing is, it’s a task that even an 18-month-old can do, and the kids get instant gratification at seeing the trash go into their bags. It also teaches them responsibility. I loved this learning adventure!
6. Visit a marina or shipyard.
Seriously, all it takes is a phone call! We used to store our boat at a local dry dock marina, and it’s quite a sight. The boats are stacked 3 high to the ceiling in a huge warehouse, and there’s this crazy forklift-on-steroids that moves the boats from their dry dock into the water. It’s amazing to watch. I called the marina, organized a group to go and the kids loved it! The dockmaster even let the kids wash a boat with soap and water.
7. Make pizza at a pizzeria.
Our city has a local pizzeria that lets kids come in and make their own pizzas in the kitchen in the back. The owners transformed tomato can boxes into makeshift step stools, and let all the kids go to town creating their own pizzas! (This learning adventure isn’t totally free, since we had to pay for our pizzas, but you gotta each lunch anyway so I think it still counts.)
8. Go behind-the-scenes at a local fast food restaurant.
Along the same lines, Chick-Fil-A allows groups to go behind-the-scenes and learn how to make their sandwiches, fries and milkshakes. There is a minimum age for this, so I haven’t been able to take my kids and their friends yet, but it’s on my radar for the future!
9. Visit the airport.
Talk about a little kid’s dream! At our airport, the first hour of parking is free, and my kids love to hop on the free tram from the parking area to the terminal. Then, we’ll sit in the terminal and watch passengers come in and out. We also park on the top of the parking structure so that we can watch the planes land, and I point to the control tower and explain how controllers tell the pilots when and where to land. It’s a wonderful learning adventure that’s totally free!
10. Show up for a free kid’s workshop at Michael’s, Home Depot or Pottery Barn Kids.
These are usually on the weekends, so plan accordingly, but many big box stores offer free workshops designed specifically for the kiddos. This summer, Pottery Barn Kids has a photo booth for back-to-school pictures, and Michael’s is offering foam printing classes for $2 (which covers supplies). The kids can even get their hands dirty at Home Depot, with free classes on how to make a chalkboard door hanger. (This post is not sponsored. I’m just sharing these links to be helpful!)
11. Ask a local pilot to climb into their airplane!
Even if you live in a large city, there are plenty of local airports with small, privately-owned planes. Google the airport, and then look up the phone number for the local FBO. (FBO stands for fixed base operator, which basically means it’s the spot at the airport that deals with the private planes.) Ask for the FBO manager, and see if they have any planes or helicopters they’d be able to open up for a group of kids. It sounds odd, but I’ve done this 3 different times, and you’d be surprised at the positive response. These old dudes love to show off their planes to a bunch of cute kids! It’s how we planned our middle son’s 2nd birthday party a couple months ago (which happened to be just 9 days after our third son was born!).
12. Do some free bowling!
Okay, we took like 10 toddlers to do this last summer, and as you can tell from this picture, it was a free-for-all. Buuuuuut, we all had a blast. Basically, you go to this website, and you can get free games for each kid all summer long. The added bonus is that some bowling alleys will even send your kids a birthday postcard for additional free games during the year. And hey, who can argue with a fun activity that’s in the air-conditioning?
The bottom line is: get creative with your summer fun! You don’t have to send your kids to expensive camps when there are plenty of free, educational activities all around you. All you need to do is think about life through the eyes of your child. What intrigues them? What interests them? Then call around and plan it out!
What are your favorite fun, free outings with your kids? Share them in the comments section below. Oh, and if you live in Tampa Bay, join She Just Glows Kids for some free learning adventures!