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10 FREE Ways to Beat the Heat with Kids

free ways to beat the heat

Guest post from Deanna of From this Kitchen Table

I live in Oklahoma. Our summers can be pretty miserable, but my children aren’t happy with spending the hottest months of the year cooped up in the house.

In an effort to save my sanity, I have 10 free ways to beat the heat with kids during those hot months:

1. Library

Take your kids to Story Time which often includes a few songs and a craft, and then let them check out a pile of new (to them) books and maybe a movie or two. Not only will you kill a couple hours, you come home with supplies that will keep them entertained.

Our library also shows a movie once a week and has special performances for kids during the summer! Call and ask what they have going on or pick up a printed calendar.

2. Splash Pad

Okay, I know sitting outside in the 100 degree heat isn’t high on your list of fun. It isn’t on mine either. Avoid the hottest times of the day and let your kids enjoy the water while you sit and read a book on the covered benches.

3. Mall Play Space

You can’t really beat air conditioning and space to run! When you need to get out of the house during the hottest time of the day, turn to indoor recreation. Let your kids climb and slide without worrying about sun burn.

4. Park

Once again, I know it’s summer and it’s hot — but go early early in the day. Have a breakfast picnic at the park and let your kids swing and play before the sun heats up the play structure. An added bonus is that you’ll usually miss most of the crowds.

5. Free Movies

During the summer, our local theater has free showings of a film for kids one day a week. What a cheap way for your kids to experience going to a theater. You could even use it for a testing ground to see if you’d want to go to a paid movie with your toddler.

6. Book Store or Toy Store

Our local bookstore is one of my 3-year-old’s favorite places! We normally have to pry her away when it’s time to leave. Not only do they have tons of books (including used ones), they also have a great toy selection and a train table set up for kids to use.

7. Beach

Again, plan your visit for first thing in the morning or shortly before dusk. To make it even more fun, you could plan for a breakfast picnic or eat dessert on your beach towels watching the sun set.

8. Community Events

Check your city’s calendar for community events. Many places will have free family activities periodically. Our County Fair has no fee for admission and the local Christian radio station puts on a big event for kids every summer.

9. Free Food Events

Occasionally, you’ll find restaurants that have freebies. You can print off a coupon for each person in your family, if they are required, load up the car and head to the drive thru or inside of the restaurant.

I’ve seen coupons for free ice cream cones, French fries, pancakes, and onion rings. A&W gives away free floats on National Root Beer Float Day and Chick-Fil-A has Cow Appreciation Day.

10. Free Workshop Projects

Home Depot has a Kids’ Workshop once a month and Lowe’s has Kids’ Clinics twice a month. It’s a fun way to spend a Saturday morning and your children will come away with a wood project they are proud to have hammered and put together.

What are your favorite free things to do in the summer?

Deanna, a wife and mother, attempts to balance frugality, (semi) natural living, lack of time and sleep while trying to follow what the Lord wants for her life. She enjoys dark chocolate, BBC mini series, good books, and spending weekends at home. She blogs at From this Kitchen Table.

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  • Kim M says:

    We just discovered the Home Depot kids workshop this past saturday! It was pretty fun, even for me. I have a 6 yr old son and 3 yr old daughter who participated (even though its recommended for 5+). I had to do the majority of the nailing together, but they had a blast painting their own bug houses. They even provided a snack of gogurts, bananas and juice boxes for the kids. I can’t wait to try the Lowe’s program… the kids had so much fun!

    • Deanna says:

      Aren’t they a blast? My oldest is 3 and we’ve brought her to the workshops at Lowe’s before, and you are right, it’s mostly parents at that age but she still had a ton of fun and felt a part of the process. Wow, that’s great your Home Depot even provided snacks. Haven’t seen that at Lowe’s.

  • Kim says:

    I’d heard about the Home Depot & Lowe’s workshops, but I’d forgotten about them. Thanks for the reminder! My oldest is almost old enough to participate in them, so he’ll be super excited.

    • Deanna says:

      You can bring your son now! Our oldest is just 3 and she goes (to Lowe’s anyway, we don’t have a Home Depot). She went to her first one when she was just 2 1/2. Sure, she needed a lot of help but she loved attempting to use the little hammer to hit and nails and put on the stickers when it was done.

    • Kim M says:

      You can start bringing him now. There were quite a few kids younger than the suggested age, you’ll just have to be more hands-on than the other parents 🙂 It really is a lot of fun

  • Aubrey says:

    Great ideas! But, as I was reading through the list I couldn’t help but think that the author was certainly from a big city. I think parks (and by “park” I mean the playground at the elementary school) and beach (or, a pond that sometimes retains water throughout the summer) are the only ones that apply to us as we live in what I affectionately refer to as a spot in the road in the middle of nowhere.
    But, I have enjoyed many of these ideas when we visit relatives in bigger cities.

    • How about playing in the sprinkler or kiddie pool or slip-n-slide in your own yard instead of going to the splash pad? (Or just letting your children play with the hose?)

      I grew up in the country and finding a shady spot to just lay around on a blanket in the grass, eat popsicles (homemade in our case) and watch the clouds or read a book was great fun.

      We also had an unfinished basement that we’d hang out in during the summer if it got really hot – free “air conditioning” (which our home didn’t have)! We’d play hopscotch (drawn on the concrete with chalk), or ride our trikes or roller skates (bikes were too big) around.

      Do you have a big-box store within an easy drive? If so, it might be a good idea to do the shopping in the hottest part of the day. Give your children part of the list – either photo or written – and make it a scavenger hunt! Then take the long way home driving with the ac on! We also would occasionally put together a birthday or Christmas list (yep – in mid-summer) just for an excuse to be in an air conditioned store!

      Hope those are some helpful ideas!

    • Deanna says:

      Actually, the town I live in isn’t very big. We are 23,000 people max. The park we most frequent is at the school down the road and our free “beach” is a small section of a man made lake. (They actually just added the beach recently.) The nearest big cities with malls and other such things are 1 1/2 hours away.
      I think one of the tricks is making the simple things special. Make a big deal out of going to the park at the school or the city splash pad. I actually have a post going up tomorrow with ideas for staycationing in a small town!

  • Another tip: Movies in the Park! A lot of cities have outdoor summer movie series all around town, a few days a week with current and older movies, most are family-friendly. They’re fun, a great way to get out of the house, and they’re often shown in the early evening (so it’s cooler). And you can bring your own snacks to enjoy during the show. ~Brenda from

    • Deanna says:

      How fun! Our city hasn’t done Movies in the Park but what a great idea. Being able to bring your own snacks makes it super affordable.

  • People might want to check out their library’s summer schedule. Ours has special animal presentations on Mondays, DIY science experiments Thursday afternoons, and on Fridays, they have art supplies for making your own art. These are just summer activities, but such fun for free. 🙂

    • Deanna says:

      Our library has special presentations and events in the summer too but not near as many as yours. Sounds like a great place to spend lots of time to cool off.

  • Maria says:

    If you live near any state parks or national parks, they do lots of free (or very low cost) family activities also.

    National Parks will have Junior Ranger packets for kids to do and learn from, earning badges or pins for completing their requirements. Most of them will also do “Junior Ranger Days” throughout the year that have different activities that aren’t in the packet, and the kids usually earn a badge/pin/sticker/certificate that way, too.

    Around our area, one of the local state parks has “Smokey Bear’s birthday party” on the first Saturday in August. They serve cake and do lots of fire-prevention activities as well. The state parks in our area will also have nature centers with activities for kids to do.

    • Deanna says:

      Oh, we don’t live near any state parks let alone national parks but if we ever move near one I’m going to remember this tip! Thanks so much for sharing.

  • That’s a great list, Deanna. Thanks! We go to the library all the time.

  • It’s not free, but we hung up a mist line on our kids’ play structure outside. It was $30 at home depot and with no a/c inside, it’s quickly become the best place for the whole family to stay cool! Plus, it saves on gas because we don’t feel the need to escape as often.

  • Meredith says:

    I would like to note something about the mall play space. Many of these areas say “no kids under…” a certain height (ours is 40 inches). Reserve this area for younger preschool kids. Don’t take your 8 year old and have them romp around. However, older kids will like to window shop in the mall. Take girls into bath and body works and you’ll get to sample fragrances. Go look in the Disney store. Take a lunch and eat in the food court!

    • Leah says:

      Do you mean ‘over’ a certain height?

    • Our mall’s play area gets crowded during the summer. It has a maximum height in the play area, but many parents don’t follow this rule, and no one is really there to enforce it. I don’t like to see my 3-year-old getting pushed around by the kids, who are obviously too big for that space. I guess the nice thing about the mall is being able to walk around in an air-conditioned space.

      • Deanna says:

        Agreed! When there are too many people I get my 3 and 1 year old to move on to someplace else. They really just like the open space and just walking around.

    • Deanna says:

      I agree! The same thing with restaurant play spaces. It’s always a bummer when I bring my fairly young (3 and 1) kids and the place is full of high energy kids over the height limit. 🙂

  • Check with your local movie theater. Ours has the “Summer Movie Express”. For a dollar a person you get a fun family friendly movie on a weekday morning. Many theaters do this for free!

    • Deanna says:

      Fun! Our historic Theatre downtown shows family friendly movies every Thursday for free, haven’t seen any of the movie theaters do it though.

  • Lori Ewart says:

    Our small town has a weekly Farmer’s Market on the courthouse lawn with free entertainment. My three and six-year old grandkids love to go and sit in lawn chairs and listen to the music while they much on a homemade treat that they got to buy there.

    • Deanna says:

      Fun! Sounds like the perfect way to spend a Saturday morning. Our farmer’s market is tiny but my daughter enjoyed walking around the one where my sister lives.

  • Great ideas, Deanna! I didn’t know about the workshops at Lowe’s and Home Depot. We have those stores nearby, so I’ll look into it. Thanks!

    • Deanna says:

      Thanks! You should check them out and I think they are on opposite weeks, so it works out well. We just have a Lowe’s here so I’ve not down the Home Depot one.

  • JoAnna says:

    Register your child at and they will receive two free games of bowling daily all summer long. Shoe rental is extra. There is a map on the webpage to check participating bowling centers in your state/area.

    • Deanna says:

      Yes! My mom was telling me to look into that for my daughter. Our city doesn’t have it, but if we ever even do a day trip someplace it would be worth it.

  • my son loves to go to the pet stores since he was little. It is inside and it is a great way to learn about new fish, birds or other animals. If you come Saturday or Sunday you can let your child to interact with pets for adoption.
    If you have older kids you can volunteer at local shelter. My daughter did it last summer.

  • Sarah D. says:

    Michael’s is offering 2 hour kids’ craft classes this summer, too. At our store they are M, W, F from 10 to 12. You can go however many classes you want, and it’s only $2 per kid per class. My kids have gone twice now and had a blast!

  • also Bass pro shop has free summer camps activities for kids. If you have one close by, you can spend half of the day for sure participating in different events.

  • Jennifer H says:

    I used to do all these things with my now 11-year old. Now I’m having trouble getting him interested in any “fun” activities. I did sign him up for the Kids Bowl Free thing, but he hasn’t wanted to go. There is one movie for the $1 Wednesdays he is interested in out of a whole summer of weekly choices. Thoughts for an older child?

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