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Cheap Summer Activities For Kids That Fit In Your Budget

For kids, summer vacation drags on forever. For parents, those weeks can just seem like a big drag on their wallet -- thanks to summer camps, vacations and all of those ice cream cones.

But summer time doesn’t have to be so expensive. Here are five cheap summer activities to keep down expenses and build up a summer of happy experiences.

1. Explore new parks and playgrounds

summer fun in parks

Parks and playgrounds are always a hit with kids

Outdoor free play is good for kids’ bodies and minds. Best of all, it’s free! Towns and cities across the country are dotted with parks and playgrounds. Add to those the state and national parks across the country.If you always go to the same park, branch out. Check in with your local parks department or KaBoom’s

Outdoor free play  is good for kids’ bodies and minds. Best of all, it costs nothing! Towns and cities across the country are dotted with parks and playgrounds. Add to those the state and national parks across the country.If you always go to the same park, branch out. Check in with your local parks department or KaBoom’s Map of Play to find a new place to play near you.

If you have a fourth grader, print out your pass for the National Park Service’s Every Kid in a Park program. The initiative aims to get all fourth graders and their families to explore our nation’s parks with free admission.

2. Sign up for a summer reading program

 The “summer slide” has nothing to do with the playground piece. Instead, it refers to the academic material that some kids forget when they spend a book-free summer. According to Scholastic, it doesn’t take much to prevent the slide. Reading only six books during the summer can help to keep kids, especially struggling readers, from falling behind.

To get kids excited about reading, libraries across the country offer summer reading programs with free activities and, often, rewards for reading each week. Libraries aren’t the only place to find these incentives. Barnes & Noble also has a “summer reading triathlon.”

Cheap summer activities that feed your children’s brains? Win win!

3. Cool off in the movie theater

child free movie programs for summer

Find great deals on summer movies that your kids will love

If you are looking for cheap summer activities, there’s nothing like relaxing in the movie theater on a hot summer day. And, if you don’t mind second-run G and PG-rated movies, you can do it for next to nothing. Throughout the summer, theater chains offer free or inexpensive movie mornings that also sometimes include discounts on popcorn and other concessions.

Tickets, for instance, are only $1 at Regal Entertainment Group’s Summer Movie Express and Cinemark’s Summer Movie Clubhouse. They are free at Marquee Cinemas Summer Kids Series and Bow Tie Cinemas Kids Club. Be sure to check with the theater near you to find out if a summer movie series is planned.

4. Search for discounts at local museums

 Admission can add up for a family of four at some museums, but many offer free or discounted days or don’t charge admission at all. National Geographic lists 20 museums that don’t charge admission -- from The Getty Center in Los Angeles to the Smithsonian’s 19 free museums and galleries in Washington, D.C.

And there are many more -- from state institutions to local destinations. Bank of America or Merrill Lynch cardholders also can take advantage of free admission through the Museums on Us program. Make a list of the museum deals near you and start checking them off this summer!

5. Build, craft, bowl

bowling with kids

There are many programs that can keep your kids active and engaged without overspending

National chains and bowling alleys offer free programs for kids and their families. Build something at Lowe’s Build & Grow and Home Depot Kids Workshops. Get crafty at Michael’s Passport to Imagination. And don’t forget bowling! AMF and KidsBowlFree.com both offer summer deals at bowling alleys all over the United States.

Cheap summer activities aren’t hard to find. With just a little bit of planning, you can help build a memorable … and affordable … summer of fun for your family.

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Bowling image By en:User:Scl chua (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Bowlingball.JPG) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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