Photo: Kasper Ravlo via 123RF

The lazier days of summer mean there’s more time than ever for family fun! There are plenty of low-cost and free ways to enjoy time as a family close to home. Here are some of our favorites.

Start a Garden

Summer gardens can be magical, and eating what you’ve grown as the season ends is one of the best ways to get kids interested in various fruits and veggies. If you have the space, start a small garden in your backyard. Many local libraries and garden clubs offer free seeds! Local community plots are a great way to garden together if your home lacks room. Visit any farms or garden clubs in the area to get tips from the experts (and maybe sample their success).

Try Geocaching

Geocaching is a fun summer family activity that will help you explore your area’s trails and natural spaces. You can even plan to geocache when you’re on vacation! If you’re unfamiliar with this worldwide phenomenon, geocaching involves finding and hiding small caches of interesting treasures or trinkets worldwide. You can use various apps to get coordinates to caches hidden by others, then sign the log book when you successfully uncover the treasure! Take a trinket of your own to trade out, or hide something entirely new for other families to find.

Make a Town Map

How well do you really know your town? Summer is a great time to take yourself on a walking tour of the area. Give each person a clipboard and paper so they can draw landmarks as you wander. Encourage everyone to mark down the sites that they find most interesting rather than what you’d typically see on a map. Found a tree that looks like cotton candy? Put it on the map. A building that has way too many windows? On the map. Divide your town into manageable sections and take one a week, then assemble the map pieces at the end of the summer.

Volunteer at Animal Shelters

If your family loves to be outside, loves animals, and has time to spare this summer, consider volunteering at a local animal shelter. Check age requirements in your area, but many shelters need volunteers to walk dogs, play in the yard with animals, clean cages and playrooms, and organize supplies. It’s a fun and rewarding way to give back.

Movie Nights

Free summer movies at the park are popular in many locations, so check your city’s summer events calendar for details. Pack a picnic dinner, grab a blanket, and find the best viewing spot on a hill. If you don’t see anything listed near you, plan for movie nights at home instead! Make dinner and snacks fit the movie’s theme for some extra fun. Don’t forget that you can rent movies from your local library if you want to give your kids a taste of the classics.

Visit New Parks and Libraries

We tend to keep close to home during the school year, following a routine. Summer is the perfect time to branch out and explore parks and libraries further from home. Pull up an online map of your area and search for public parks if you don’t have any new ones in mind. Check event listings at local libraries and plan to visit new ones during sessions you’d enjoy. See how many new spots you can visit this summer!

Photo:  – – via 123RF

Learn to Fly a Kite

Kite flying is a fun family activity that requires a small financial investment but a lot of time. The best flying conditions require a gentle breeze, an open area, and some patience. The freedom of summertime makes it easier to get up and go when you notice the perfect weather outside. Buy a kite at the beginning of summer and scout some potential flying locations so you’re ready to head out when the breeze is just right. Look online for local kite club events that you can attend if this becomes a new passion.

Have an Ice Cream Competition

Summer is the perfect time for ice cream; your family may already have a favorite spot to head for the best scoop! This year, create your own ice cream reality competition by testing out scoops from as many ice cream shops in town as possible. Each family member should choose a flavor and stick with it the whole summer to compare. Visit one shop a week, and by summer’s end, you can declare a winner! Bonus points for documenting the entire journey in video clips.

Remember that summertime fun doesn’t have to cost much — it’s being together that’s most important!