8 cheap ways to keep kids entertained all summer long

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School’s out for summer or will be soon throughout the country. That means parents have been frantically trying to figure out how to keep their children entertained all summer long and how to pay for it.

In fact, a report from American Express Spending & Savings Tracker found that U.S. families spend anywhere from $600 to over $1,000 per child on summer activities, from camp to sports to amusement parks and more. Though this figure may startle you, the good news is that kids don’t need much to have fun!

For families looking to save money without skimping on the fun, follow these 8 cheap tips to keep your kids entertained this summer.

Read more: 12 unique ways to save money that you’ve probably never thought of

Hang out at the library

One of the best resources in your area for free entertainment is your local library. Not only is it a great place to borrow books, DVDs and video games, but you’ll find reading groups for different age groups, arts and crafts and other community events geared toward families — all for free. You may even get access to discount passes for museums and national parks.

Pick up an entertainment book

Score two-for-one and half-off deals for activities like zoos, miniature golf and bowling, plus savings on dining and travel by picking up an entertainment book for your city. Filled with thousands of coupons, the book pays for itself with savings of 50% off.

Enjoy a matinee

Summer is a popular season for movie debuts, especially when it comes kids’ flicks. Instead of going to an evening showing, make it a matinee for big savings on ticket costs. Otherwise, scope out your local theater’s summer specials.

Cinemark, for instance, offers 10 films for only $5 for advance ticket purchases and at Regal Cinemas you pay $1 every Tuesday and Wednesday for top kids’ movies.   

Research discount days

Going to the zoo, museum or botanical gardens is an enriching experience for your kids, but it is pricey for a family of four. Luckily, many popular recreation centers and attractions offer discount, and sometimes free, admission on certain days of the week.


For instance, the Bronx Zoo in New York offers complimentary access on Wednesdays. Check the organization’s website for applicable days and times to keep your costs low, and pack drinks and sandwiches to avoid overpriced snack shops.

Craft the day away

Get your kid’s creative juices flowing with arts and crafts, which don’t have to cost much. In fact, many crafts can be made using items from around your house like paper towel tubes, popsicle sticks and milk cartons.

Search Pinterest for ideas or review parenting sites for fun and inexpensive projects such as this Puppy Puppet made out of toilet paper tubes, paint and yarn.

DIY waterpark

When the summer sun starts sizzling, a day at the waterpark seems like the only relief. Considering the high admission costs and endless crowds, however, you’re better off going the DIY route.

With a few basics like a hose, slip ’n slide, pool noodles and sprinkler, you can transform your backyard into a waterpark for very little cost. For anyone willing to put in the extra effort, a garden hose and some PVC pipes are all you need for this misting machine that your kids will spend hours running through.

Create a scavenger hunt

A scavenger hunt is a fun activity that is cheap and will keep your kids entertained all day long. Put together a list of tasks and print one for each child to keep track of. Make sure each mission is fun and unexpected, from trying a new flavor of ice-cream from a favorite candy shop to feeding the ducks at a nearby lake. Don’t forget to pick up a few inexpensive prizes for the winner from the dollar store.

Give a helping hand

Enriching activities don’t have to cost you a lot. In fact, a great way to keep your children busy while providing a rewarding experience is by giving back to the community. You can find age-appropriate volunteer opportunities at sites like VolunteerMatch.org. Otherwise, contact a local nursing home, animal shelter or Habitat for Humanity to ask about how you and your family can help out.

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