Now that summer vacation has started, I’ve been thinking about fun, free or cheap, things to do with the kids over the summer and thought I’d share my list with you. Amazingly enough my children do occasionally manage to get sick of blowing bubbles and playing in the sandbox. So here’s my ideas for when we take this show on the road:
1. Go on a nature walk.
A visit to a nature trail or park is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon. However, my kids are just as excited to go on a nature walk within our own neighbourhood. You can add fun game like elements by making a scavenger style check list of animals or plants to look for, or by counting how many squirrels or dogs you find along the way.
Our local library has a multitude of awesome free summer activities. Even when there’s nothing special planned, a trip to the library is always a hit with the kids. And as a bonus, it’s a nice cool air-conditioned place to hang out on a hot summer’s day.
3. Keep an eye on group deal sites.
Group deal sites, like for example DealFind, Groupon, or WagJag, often offer fantastic deals on kid friendly outings, such as mini-golf, indoor play centres, local restaurants and more. The key is to sign up for their newsletter and check the daily deals ahead of time, and not when you’re looking for something to do today.
4. Take advantage of free swim days at your local pool.
Many municipalities have cheap or free swimming available. For example in Alberta and Ontario Tim Hortons sponsors free swim days throughout the summer (you can check out the list of participating cities HERE).
5. Ride the bus.
Take the bus instead of driving. Not only is this a nice way to help keep smog down on hot summer days, it’s also all part of the adventure. At ages 2 and 4 my kids love to ride the bus and they don’t particularly care what the end destination is. Heck I’m pretty sure we could just hop on and ride the bus to the end of the line and turn around and come back home and they would be happy.
6. Pick a part of your city to explore on foot.
If you absolutely must have somewhere to ride that bus to… why not pick a part of your city to explore on foot? Walk down residential streets that are new to you. Visit a different park then the one you usually take your kids to. Or walk through a shopping district and check out the different window displays.
7. See a matinee film.
I’ve yet to do this one, but it’s on the top of my summer to-do list for this year. I want to hop on the bus and bring the kids to the mall to see a matinee.
8. Visit a used bookstore.
A little bit of money can go a long way in a used book store, particularly when choosing kid’s books. Hand over a few dollars and let your little one go crazy picking out their own new books.
9. Have lunch out at a special restaurant or two.
Consider taking it home, or making it a take-out picnic (even if it’s just in your own backyard). Picking up food at the tasty Mexican joint down the way and taking it home, saves us a bit vs. eating it in. By talking it home we’re not paying to tip the waiter, or to buy drinks, but we end up with the same “special” food. It’s also easier to split meals and share plates at home then at a restaurant.
10. Visit a bakery or farmers market and pick out treats.
For my kids I truly find it’s the journey more then the destination that interests them, but if you need an excuse to head out seasonal markets can be so much fun. Our local downtown farmers market includes live entertainment and free goodies for the kids. Plus my little ones love helping to pick out fruits and veggies. Or on days when the farmers market isn’t open the the local bakery makes for a good outing.
Tips to keep things cheap:
- Look up places online before heading out, as they often have coupons available on their website. For example, pick a restaurant or bakery you want to visit and search for their website or Facebook page. Check out the hours, if they are closed on certain days etc, and most importantly if they have coupons to print out or advertised deals for certain hours or days of the week. Kids eat free on Tuesdays? Fantastic lunch hour deals between 11am and 2:30pm? For restaurants you can often preview the menu online, and figure out what you’d like to eat before hand. Which is great for picky eaters, or even just for speeding up the wait times for your food. (For more tips on staying sane while eating out with kids check out my previous post: 12 tips for Eating Out with Little Ones)
I’d love more suggestions to add to my vacation to-do list. Any ideas? What are some of your favourite summertime outings?