25 Free (or almost free) Things to do This Summer That Get You & the Kids Out of the House

25 Free Things To Do With Your Kids Summer 2014

Face it: We love homemade summer fun, but there are some days when getting out the house beats nagging or listening to, “Mom, I’m booooorrrrreeeeeddddd.”

You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on summer camps to keep your kids busy. Check out these great activities sponsored by national chain stores and businesses.

Most of the links will take you to a page where you can type in your zipcode so you can find local information on days and times for the special FREE or low-cost summer fun offer. Be sure to bookmark this page for a little insurance, in case your vacation plans get rained out!



  • Bass Pro Shops Family Summer Camp
    When: June 7 – July 13. 2 – 6pm Tuesdays and Thursdays and Noon-4pm Saturdays and Sundays
    Cost: Free
    Features free activities and workshops where families with kids ages 8+ can learn the skills they need to enjoy great outdoor adventures, such as bird watching, archery, animal identification, pets in the outdoors and more. Kids can earn a collectable pin for every workshop and questions completed.


  • AMF Bowling Summer Unplugged
    When: Memorial Day – Labor Day 2014 – Everyday until 6:00pm
    Cost: Free
    Kids bowl for free at your local AMF Bowling Center. Just register your children to get weekly coupons via email for 3 free games per child per day all summer long. Shoe rental not included.


  • Kids Bowl Free
    When: Varies
    Cost: Free
    Kids bowl up to 2 games for free everyday throughout the summer at your local independently owned bowling alley. Shoe rental not included. See website for participating bowling alleys and the rules that they set on age limits.


  • Kids Skate Free
    When: Dates and times vary by center
    Cost: Free. Some participating centers may charge for skate rental.
    Find a roller skating center near you that offers free rink time for your kids.


  • Junior Park Ranger
    When: Varies
    Cost: Free or low cost
    The National Park Service’s Junior Ranger program is an activity based program conducted in almost all parks. Typically between the ages of 5 – 13, kids complete a series of activities during a park visit, share their answers with a park ranger, and receive an official Junior Ranger patch and Junior Ranger certificate. You can download the activity books online. Some national parks charge an entrance fee, but you can visit free on August 25.



  • Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program
    When: May 20 – Sept 2, 2014
    Cost: Free
    Kids can earn a free book when they turn in a reading log with 8 books they have read.


  • Pottery Barn Summer Reading Challenge
    When: Until July 31
    Cost: Free
    Kids who read any 8 titles from the Pottery Barn recommended book list can receive a free book at a participating store. Supplies are limited.


  • Pottery Barn Book Club for Kids
    When: Every Tuesday at 11:00, year-round. Check website to confirm if your local stores hosts their Book Club at a different time.
    Cost: Free
    Kids of all ages are invited to share a special story time at Pottery Barn. First time attenders receive a Book Club Passport. Kids receive a small gift for attending five book club sessions.



  • Jo-Ann Kids’ Studio Classes
    When: 2- and 3-hour classes throughout the summer
    Cost: $30-45 per child per class.
    These classes are a little pricy but they teach practical life skills, like sewing, knitting, and cake decorating. No prior skills are required.


  • Lakeshore Learning Center
    When: Every Saturday from 11:00 – 3:00pm
    Cost: Free.
    Kids get to make and take a free simple craft project. Check the website and print out a coupon that you can use while you shop.


  • Michael’s: Kid’s Club
    When: Saturdays from 10:00 – 11:30am
    Cost: $2 per child.
    These classes run for 30 minutes. Kids get to make a fun craft project in a supervised setting while you get to shop. Be sure to check out Michael’s other craft classes at different days and times. Some are free and some require you to purchase materials, first



  • Lowe’s Kids Clinics
    When: 10:00am on Saturdays
    Cost: Free
    Pre-register online and then show up to the store to build your “woodworking” kit. Kids receive a kit to build, a work apron, googles, and more. You’ll need to register early because these events fill up fast.


  • Home Depot Kids Workshops
    When: 9:00 – noon. First Saturday of every month, year-round
    Cost: Free
    The Home Depot’s Kids Workshops teach children do-it-yourself skills and tool safety, while at the same time helping to instill a sense of accomplishment. In addition to the newly constructed project kit, each child receives a kid-sized orange apron, similar to The Home Depot associates’ aprons, and an achievement pin. Pre-registration is required.



  • Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse
    When: Weekday mornings. Varies by theatre.
    Cost: Pre-purchase 10 movie tickets for $5.00 – or, purchase $1.00 tickets on the day of the show. Tickets good only for certain recently released G and PG movies. See website for details on the pre-purchase option.


  • Harkins Summer Movie Fun
    When: 9:45am. Weekday varies by theatre
    Cost: Kids 12 and under can enjoy 10 movies throughout the summer when accompanied by an adult. Check the website for details on how to purchase your summer season tickets.


  • Showcase Cinemas’ Bookworm Wednesdays
    When: Wednesdays at 10:00am from July 9 – August 13
    Cost: Free
    Turn in a “book report” in exchange for a free movie ticket. See website for downloadable book report form.


  • Marcus Theatres Kids Dream
    When: 10:00am on Sundays, Mondays, and Wednesdays between June 15 – August 13
    Cost: $2.00
    Enjoy 8 different movies throughout the summer, along with discounted popcorn and drink prices.


  • Regal’s Summer Movie Express 2012
    When: Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10:00am
    Cost: $1.00 for all ages
    During this 9-week festival, select Regal Cinemas, United Artists and Edwards Theatres will offer selected G or PG rated movies for only a dollar. A portion of the proceeds are donated to the Will Rogers’ Institute.


  • AMC Movies
    AMC Theatres discontinued their Summer Movie Camp in 2010. They do, however, offer Student Day every Thursday throughout the year. High school and college students with IDs get special pricing on all movies.


  • Target Community Events
    When: Varies
    Cost: Free or greatly reduced admission price
    Through special partnerships with museums across the country, Target Stores sponsors free and reduced admission days throughout the year. Search your state and find an event near you.


  • Blue Star Military Museums
    When: Memorial Day – Labor Day
    Cost: Free
    All Active Military families with a qualifying ID card can gain free admission to over 2,000 museums across the United States.


  • Bank of America Museums on Us
    When: First full weekend of each month
    Cost: Free
    Bank of America customers can gain free admission to over 150 museums throughout the country just by showing their debit or credit card and a photo ID.



  • Lego Stores Mini Builds
    When: Varies
    Cost: Free
    Once a month, Lego Stores host a special, free make it-take it event for little builders ages 6-14. Quantities are limited. Check website for days, times, and featured mini-models.


  • Camp Apple
    When: 3-day events throughout the summer
    Cost: Free
    Kids ages 8-12 learn to shoot their own film footage; create an orginal song on Garage Band; and put it together in iMovie. Classes are held at Apple retail stores. Pre-registration is required.


  • Microsoft Youth Spark Camps
    When: Weekly from June 2 – August 29
    Cost: Free
    Junior Designers (ages 8-10) and Designers (ages 11-13) can enroll in free 1-week long Game Coding, Game Design, Movie Making, and Smart Photo Taking classes. Classes are held at Microsoft retail stores. Pre-registration is required.


What low-cost and free activitie are getting you and your kids out of the house this summer? Share your ideas below!

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Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

The Star Wars franchise continues to appeal to kids and adults for its classic tale of good versus evil and its really cool science-comes-to-life ideas. Seriously, who wouldn’t want a chance to drive a pod racer?

If you’ve got a Star Wars geeklet who would rather talk tech than read poetry, then we’ve collected more than a dozen ways you can build on that excitement through Everyday Learning explorations. Wait till you see how you can channel The Force to build days and weeks worth of homeschool learning.


The characters of Star Wars are based on an ancient storyline called the Monomyth. The Monomyth sets out a hero’s path that he or she must travel in order to achieve his or her quest. Elements of the Monomyth include a birth story that usually relates to an orphan; a call to adventure that is oftentimes initially refused; helpers; and a rebirth that occurs after the climatic battle.

Explore how Star Wars fits the Monomyth:

  • UC Berkeley’s Hero’s Journey: 1-page interactive wheel that describes the main elements of the monomyth. This Monomyth site defines the different stages and includes pictures from Star Wars. After you get a better understaning of the Monomyth formula, see if you can identify how Anakin and Luke Skywalker both fit the hero’s journey.

  • Hero’s Journey Story Starter: A free online interactive tool that prompts kids to create their own hero. Click on each of the ten silhouettes and type in your answers to the prompts. When you’re done, you can print your notes to use as a writing guide.


Is it possible to build a light saber just like those found in Star Wars? The key may be found inside of a crystal. You can also watch Dr. Kaku’s video on a
full light saber design.

TechNewsDaily created a really cool infographic that explains how light sabers work. The original link is down, but you can still see the infographic on Pinterest.

Of course, some people are party poopers about light sabers. In 2010, GE engineer, Matt Gluesenkamp, published a blog explaining why light sabers will never work. The article is no longer available, but Geek Tyrant and Nerd Approved give you a summary of Gluesenkamp’s technological breakdown of why light sabers are pure fantasy.


  • The Force: From the authoritative Wookieepedia. (Yes, I spelled that right.) Discover everything you could possibly want to know about the light side, the dark side, the unifying side – the force!

  • Toy companies have been selling Jedi Force Trainers for some time, but you can train up your budding Jedi with a simple science experiment. University of Virginia’s Physics Department will help you explore the basic principles of static electricity using salt and pepper. Really, check it out. Your young padawan will get a kick out of seeing what other objects will work to make the pepper jump out of the plate. (Hint: Use a plastic spoon as your “light saber”.)



  • Star Wars: The Magic of Myth Virtual Tour examines the mythology beneath the Star Wars story, a hero’s journey that takes place “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away….” This online gallery of conceptual artwork and text is based on the National Air ans Space Museum’s Star Wars exhibit, which closed in 1999.

  • Add your ideas for learning more about Star Wars!