Beat the Summer Boredom Blues with Budget-Friendly Family Fun

With more relaxed schedules and the kids out of school, the summer months can be a fun and less hectic time. But they can also be the days of, “I’m bored!,” and, “There’s nothing to do!”

Not to mention the costs of day care, summer camps and vacations can really super soak your wallet. Fortunately, ideas for budget-friendly, boredom-busting summer activities abound. Here are some the whole family can enjoy.

Free concerts in the park
Most cities and towns offer free concerts in parks during the summer. It’s a great way to introduce kids to different types of live music without worrying about them squirming in their seats. Check out your local park’s website–and those in nearby towns—for a summer concert schedule.

Hold a movie marathon
Especially good for rainy days, organize a movie afternoon around a theme, for instance, a Star Wars marathon. Turn off the lights and make some popcorn to make the experience more authentic. Make it even more fun—and give yourself a little break—by coordinating with neighbors and showing each movie at a different house.

Search for buried treasure
For older kids, consider getting them a metal detector. You can buy one for around $50 on Amazon, and one find can pay for itself! The allure of possible buried treasure can keep kids occupied for hours in the backyard, at the beach, or pretty much anywhere. People have found watches, keys, medals, even diamond rings! Word of caution: you may get hooked too.

Visit your local science center
Science or nature centers are not only engaging and fun; they also offer opportunities for learning during the summer months. Many offer discounted passes or annual memberships/family passes. To find a local center— or maybe an idea for a road trip—check out this list of top science centers around the country from Parents Magazine.

Go geocaching
Think technology-driven scavenger hunt played with strangers, and you’ve got geocaching. Geocaching involves using GPS to find “geocaches”—treasures hidden by other players. When you locate a geocache, you update the accompanying logbook. In some, you’ll find small objects left behind; it’s tradition to take one and leave one of your own for the next person to find. Visit Geocaching.com to learn how to track down geocaches or create one of your own.

Pick some fruit
Fruit picking is a fun activity for all ages that has the added benefit of delicious fresh fruit at the end! Go on a berry- or apple-picking expedition at a local pick-it-yourself fruit farm or orchard. Some even have small petting zoos, hayrides and other kid-friendly attractions.

Explore the great outdoors
Kids love to run and jump and well, just be kids. So let them do just that: visit your local parks and recreation organization’s website to find a park or playground you’ve never visited and make a day of it. You can also visit many national parks for free—you may find your family’s a new favorite spot! If you’re feeling adventurous, use Trail Link to find local hiking and biking trails.

Pitch a tent
Camping is fun but can also be exhausting with little ones. Give your kids a taste of camping without the added hassle: pitch a tent in the backyard, add some sleeping bags, pillows, snacks, and throw in a board or card game and flashlights.

Visit a museum or learn a new skill
Museums and art galleries often offer discounted admission at certain times or days, and are creating more and more interactive exhibits geared toward families. Many retail stores also often host free workshops for kids where they can get creative while learning a new skill. Stores offering free workshops worth a look: Bass Pro Shops, Lowes, Home Depot and Pottery Barn. You can also find great deals on activities for kids of all ages and interests on sites like Groupon, Living Social and Certifikid.

Paint your face
Another good rainy day activity! Encourage self-expression and creativity with face painting. Kits usually cost less than $25 and offer hours of inexpensive fun. Make it even better: let the kids paint YOUR face or invite the neighbors’ kids over for a face painting party.

Write a story together
This is a tried and true boredom buster: Kick off a story—maybe create a silly character whose starting on a mission or adventure—and then let each child take turns adding a paragraph or two to it. With younger kids, you can do the writing for them. Go around several times. Once the story is complete, ask each person to draw pictures to illustrate what he or she wrote. Once you’re done, make a copy of the “book” for each child as a souvenir of the day.

Resources: Money Talks News, Certifikid, U.S. News & World Report, TheCentsible.com, Parents Magazine