25 Free (or Cheap!) Things to Do with the Kids This Summer!North Dallas — By Rebekah on June 12, 2008 at 9:15 am
You’ve signed them up for camp, you’re taking a vacation….but what’s a Mom to do when her kids are bored and her wallet’s busted? Six Flags? Hawaiian Falls? While those are great options for the summer, you won’t find them on this list. We’ve limited our results to things you can do for $5 or less per child, with a few annual memberships that are “worth it” added in.
So here it is, 25 great ideas to keep your kids – and your bank account – happy this summer!
By the way, in case you’re wondering, none of the activities mentioned below are paid advertisements. These are all ideas submitted by our Mom community. Thanks for sharing your great insights with MomsOutLoud.com!!
Let’s be honest: if you’re not in the pool on a hot Texas summer afternoon, you really want to be inside basking in some strong air conditioning. Here are some fun activities you and the kids can both enjoy while keeping your cool.
1. Summer reading programs at your local library.
Keep your kids learning during the summer by registering them for programs to win prizes in return for hours reading. This year is the 50th Anniversary of the Texas Reading Jubilee, so every library has a special program going. Here are links to the summer reading program information in the following library systems: Frisco, Plano, McKinney, Allen, Coppell, Flower Mound, Carrollton.
2. Story-times at your local library. While you’re registering your kids for the reading program, check out the story-times available for their ages. Many libraries have several offerings on multiple days of the week for all different age groups. During the summer, some libraries (Frisco and McKinney come to mind) are going all out with special guests featured each week, including magicians, musicians, and animal experts. Check your library (links above) for exact dates and times.
3. Another story-time option is Pottery Barn Story Time. Every Tuesday from 10:00 am to 10:30, Pottery Barn Kids at Stonebriar Mall hosts a Book Club Story Time. At their first visit, children receive an Official Book Club card, and after 5 visits, you will receive a $10 off coupon for your next Pottery Barn Kids purchase. Pottery Barn Kids is located in Stonebriar Mall on the second floor across from the food court. Additionally, Barnes & Noble Booksellers locations in our area offer story-times. (And, we think Borders does, too, but their web site was not friendly enough for us to supply a link…please check with your local store to verify.)
4. Catch a cheap movie. Cinemark Theaters is offering a Summer Movie Clubhouse program for kids. You can purchase a 10-pack of movie passes for $5 (50 cents/movie) or buy tickets for $1 at the door. Kids favorites are also being shown for this event. BUT – reportedly the 10-pack of passes goes quickly, so go get them now. Click the link above for showtimes and participating locations.
5. . . . and another cheap movie. Studio Movie Grill Summer Series: will last all summer long, at 11am from Monday through Thursday. Parents can take their children to see some great kid friendly movies such as Pippi Longstocking, Happy Feet, Night At The Museum, and Shrek. Tickets for children are only $1 and $2 for adults. This special can be found at both the Plano and the Lewisville Studio Movie Grill.
6. . . . and if that’s not enough — another cheap movie. AMC Summer Movie Camp will be on Wednesdays at 10am at StoneBriar Mall. AMC Theatre is showing kid-friendly movies for only $1 for kids all summer long! On June 25th, they will be playing Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. For the full summer schedule click on the link above.
7. Get moving and jumping at Going Bonkers Family Fun Center.
This center is next to the Vista Ridge Mall in Lewisville and has everything for children of all ages including an indoor playground, arcade, and a special play area for children under 3 years of age. Tickets are just $2.50 for children under 3, $5 for children 3-18, and just $1 for adults! For other options: Pump It Up locations are also offering open jumps for $6, Animal House Parties in McKinney is $6 (with pre-purchasing packages that can reduce your costs to $4 per child per time), and the Wiggly Play Center in Frisco is $7.45-8.45 per child depending on day of the week (with pre-purchase packages reducing your costs to $5 per child per time).
8. Dust off the polyester shirt and go bowling. There are several options around our area, including: Allen Bowl, with special Sunday pricing at $.99 per game per person, and other weekday pricing at $3.25-$3.95 per game per person. Plano Super Bowl also has Sunday specials from 8am-2pm for $1.25 per game per person (and weekday pricing of $5/game/person). In Frisco, Strikz Entertainment Center has a Sunday Special on games at $1.95 a piece from 10am to noon ($3.95 -$5.95/game/person). Strikz also has laser tag and arcades more appropriate for older kids (and adults!). (We tried to check the Main Event pricing, but – wow – very complicated and not easy to figure out.)
9. Share the family computer. Nick Jr. Games is a rainy (or really hot) day treat! On Nick Jr.’s website, you’ll find coloring pages, online games, and other fun printables with themes from some of your kids’ favorite shows. (Jack is particularly fond of the Max & Ruby soccer game….although he’s never seen the show. Go figure.)
10. Get your orange apron on and go to the Home Depot Kids Workshops. On the first Saturday of every month from 9am to 12pm, kids ages 5-12 can learn how to create a toolbox, build a birdfeeder, or fire trucks. Totally free! On July 5, the project will be a birdhouse, so get there early to make sure they don’t run out!
FREE OUTDOORS ACTIVITIES
OK, so you’ve had enough of the pool AND the air conditioning. Try these ideas for a nice break in routine, and get your kids moving in the fresh air. (Probably before lunch would be advisable!)
11. Go “Nature Sleuthing” at Arbor Hills Nature Preserve.
For those of you who haven’t discovered this hidden sanctuary in west Plano, go NOW. This is an amazing 200-acre park, with a large playground, over 4 miles of paved hiking/biking paths, large pavilions, a creek, and even an observation tower. Take your kids with a list of “evidence” to search for (a particular plant, a type of tree, etc.) and have them collect it in a picture, a drawing, or even the object itself. A list is available here, you can check out “Are You an Outdoor Kid” for other nature trail ideas, or you cold make a list of your own.
12. Make A Sound Map. Your child can be creative with where they this idea, but it works best in an outdoor area with a variety of sounds (like a playground). To make a sound map, have kids find a comfortable place to sit with a pencil and paper. Then have them write an X in the middle of the paper representing where they are. For a few minutes have your child sit silently listening to the different sounds around them. Once they’ve heard the sounds, have them draw pictures of what they think could have made the sounds!
13. Play at Coyote Creek Park. Dubbed by some kids as the “Shady Park,” Coyote Creek Park is located next to Parr Library at the Southwest corner of Windhaven and Communications in Plano. It contains playgrounds for younger kids and older kids, paved trails perfect for walking, biking, or skating, and a covered pavilion with picnic benches. And, for kids who like to get muddy, it also has a creek that runs through it which will keep them occupied for a good long time.
14. Pack up a family Picnic. Seems simple enough, but this timeless favorite is really fun and if you haven’t done it in a while, you should definitely revisit it. There are neighborhood and city parks all over north Texas that are the perfect location for a picnic (see your city’s parks and recreation website for specific locations). Pack up a lunch (or BREAKFAST, given the heat), bring some bubbles, a kite, or anything you kids might have fun playing with outside, and enjoy some gorgeous weather and family fun!
15. Make a bubble burst painting.
If you haven’t yet read Family Fun Magazine, you’ve gotta try it. It provides an abundance of craft ideas, games for kids (and adults), and projects that can keep your kids busy on a low budget. They also have an amazing website that allows you to search for games, crafts, or activities appropriate by age group. (Just like MomsOutLoud will do for local businesses!) For Father’s Day, Jack & I will be trying out the Bubble Burst Painting idea (link to instructions provided here) to make wrapping paper for Jim’s gifts. Family Fun says: “The end result will likely be more about the process than the final product….” but it sounds like a lot of fun to me.
16. Go Fish! While it may sound hard to find in our concrete jungle, there are several parks nearby that allow fishing. Collin County alone has over 30 ponds and lakes that allow fishing (check the Texas Department of Wildlife website for the full list for Collin, Denton, and Dallas counties). Just make sure this is an entire family activity (i.e., hubby’s there), or you may get stuck baiting the hooks.
17. Check out your local splash park. Several cities in our area have great splash parks for the kids. Frisco residents are lucky enough to have two Splash Parks for children. J.R. Newman Park is located at Main St. and 423 and Shepherds Glen Park is located at Rolater and Coit. Each park is open from 10am-8pm everyday and provides children fun and refreshing water fun.
GET SOME CULTURE….OUTDOORS
17. Dallas Heritage Village: Take your kids on a time warp! This village portrays life in North Texas from 1840-1910. From historic churches, to homes, to a general store, and period clothing, your children can learn a lot at this living history museum. Heritage Village is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10am-4pm and Sunday 12-4pm and summer tickets cost $3 for children 4-12 and $5 for adults.
18. If that’s too far for you to drive, check out the Heritage Farmstead Museum in east Plano.
This farmstead, originally built in 1891, has been preserved and is now used to teach kids and adults what life was like on a Texas farm. Even if you missed what we’ve heard are very cool summer camps, they will still be having “Fridays at the Farm” which have special topics for kids aged 2-5 or 6-12 that can teach them about farm life back then. Self-guided tours are $2 and children under 4 are free.
19. Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Texas Electric Railway by attending the Interurban Railway Museum special event this Saturday, June 14 in Haggard Park in Plano. There will be Interurban Railway Museum tours, trackless train rides, old-fashioned entertainment and plenty of fun and games. Enjoy local storytellers, cotton candy, snow cones and old-fashioned hot dogs. Live music will feature the Children’s Musical Theater and Radio Disney.
20. Check out the stars at Frisco StarFest. Telescopes will be set up every Saturday night in the summer at Frisco Commons Park. This event is a little bit later in the night, so it may be better for older kids. At dark until 10:30pm, you and your kids can look through about a dozen telescopes at the stars.
21. Catch a classic family movie at Movies in the Frisco Square. Saturdays from June 7th to July 26th at 9pm, you can take your kids to see a Movie in the Square…Frisco Square that is! Frisco Square is located directly across the street from Pizza Hut park just off the Tollway at Main Street in Frisco. An inflatable 26′ x 13′ screen will be set up and you’re invited to bring lawn chairs and blankets to enjoy the show. The movies start at 9pm on Saturdays. The movies include The Wizard of Oz, Madagascar, Willy Wonka, and other family-friendly flicks.
22. Get your groove on with free live music. Frisco Grooves will provide free live music in Frisco at Warren Sports Complex. Hosted by the American Bank of Texas, bring your family and a chair (and food and drinks if you want) every Friday night in June at 7:30. Plano Parks & Recreation is hosting two free summer concerts on June 12 (the Killdares – Celtic Rock) and June 19 (Vocal Trash – yes, they play on garbage cans).
WORTH THE MEMBERSHIPS:
23. Join your local recreation center. The Frisco Athletic Center has an amazing outdoor pool area, with two water slides, lazy river, a lagoon pool and a large playground for children. Monthly passes for an entire family are $60, or you can purchase day passes are $6 for kids and $8 for adults (see all pricing options on the web-site). Plano operates several city rec centers with pools. The most recently built center, completed in late 2007, is the Tom Muehlenbeck center on Parker & Parkwood (near the Tollway).
It has lots of great features, including a wonderful indoor and outdoor pool area with water slides, shallow pools for little ones and spray areas. Children under 7 are free when accompanied by a paying adult ($5/day pass for adult, $3/day pass for child 7-15 yrs). You can save even more money when buying an annual membership; see web-site for details.
24. Feed the stingrays at the Dallas Zoo. A Dallas Zoo membership is perfect for a family that enjoys spending a relaxing day enjoying the animals and exhibits at the Dallas Zoo! An annual family membership is just $79 and covers admission for an entire year to the Dallas Zoo and the Dallas Aquarium at Fair Park, plus gives you free monorail tickets to go on “safari” at the Zoo. The Stingray exhibit at the Zoo will allow your kids – even your youngest – to feed, touch, and feel the stingrays in their shallow pool (barbs have been humanely clipped), runs through Labor Day.
25. Learn about airplanes at the Frontiers of Flight Museum at Love Field in Dallas. This museum has a wide variety of airplanes on display, and tracks the history of aviation from the Wright brothers first flight at 7 miles per hour, to today’s space shuttle launchers, capable of flying at 17,000 mph – all accomplished within 80 years! And if your kids need to expend some extra energy before heading back home, they can play in the children’s play area in the museum. Educational story-times are available for pre-schoolers through all family age ranges (see web-site for details). Admission is free to kids under 3, age 3-17 is $5, and adults $8…or buy an annual family membership for $75.
So, there you have it: 25 fun, free (or cheap!) things to do with your kids this summer. Get your calendars out, start planning your activities, and you and your kids will all be having fun on a budget!
(If we missed anything, please email us with the idea at MomsPick@MomsOutLoud.com. We’ll add it to our list, which we’ll republish next year with updates.)