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8 Free and Frugal Activities for Children

activities for children

Guest post from Aileen of Aileen Cooks

When we made the decision for me to stay home with our kids, we knew we would need to cut corners. Staying home meant more quality time for our kids and a better balance for our family. It also meant fewer funds for extras.

Not only have I learned to cut corners by making my own version of expensive items, I have learned about some great resources for free and inexpensive activities to do with your kids.

Being on a budget does not mean you have to stay at home!

1. The Library

The library is not just for books and storytime (which are great). Our local library hosts all kinds of events including live entertainment (jugglers, puppet shows, drum circles, etc.), weekly play times, a new mom’s group, crafting programs, and weekly movies.

Our library also offers the Discover & Go Program which allows us to visit museums for free or at a discounted rate.

2. Splash Pads

Splash pads are getting more popular. They are basically playgrounds that spray water so you and your children can cool off during those hot summer months. It’s worth it to ask around and see if there are any free splash pads available in your city.


Find a Mom’s Group through My mom’s group has been a lifesaver… and most events are free.

My kids and I have made some wonderful friends through our group. I get out at least once per week and get to connect with adults while my kids enjoy the company of their friends. It’s win-win!

4. $1 Summer Movies

Both Regal and Cinemark theaters offer $1 summer movie showings. They are usually the first showing of the day and are a fun outing — even for little kids.

5. Kids’ Building Workshops

Both Lowe’s and Home Depot offer free building workshops to kids. They suggest this for kids ages 5+, but I have taken my 3-year-old with no problem.

We haven’t been to the Lowe’s workshop, but the Home Depot workshop provides a free apron for each kid and pin for each project they complete.

6. Free Bowling

Kids can bowl two free games per day at select bowling centers (only during the summer). You can search for a participating bowling alley at

7. Regional & State Parks

Check to see if your local parks offer any free classes or events for kids. Ours offers free toddler hikes and nature classes.

8. The YMCA

If you have a local YMCA, I highly recommend their kid’s sports classes. I’ve found their prices to be quite affordable price — and you might even be eligible for a scholarship.

What are your favorite free and frugal kids activities? 

Aileen is a stay at home mom of two living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She blogs at Aileen Cooks where she shares family-friendly recipes, tips on cooking with kids, and money-saving tips.

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  • Tina says:

    Bank of America customers get free admission to some local museums on the first weekend of every month. Check out “Museums On Us” on their website for more info and a link to a PDF of participating museums.

  • Maryalene says:

    Great list!

    Goodrich theaters also have a free summer movie series.

    I would also add that if you have a favorite museum/zoo, it might pay to become a member. Not only does a membership make admission free but many places also have free or reduced cost member events.

    • I would second the membership idea. It’s more money up front, but if your city has a good zoo and children’s museum (and possibly an aquarium and a science/natural history museum), you can basically entertain yourself for the entire year at no extra marginal cost once you’ve got the membership. Memberships are a great thing to ask for from extended family for the holidays or birthdays too.

  • Karen says:

    I published several ideas last week on One program which I was not aware of is the summer camp sponsored by the Salvation Army. The week long camp is totally free for all participants. Contact your local Salvation Army office to ask about one near you.

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