Cheap Things to do When Kids are Out of School

trail hiking with kids

For the past couple of years, my daughter’s elementary school has dedicated two Fridays per month as teacher work days, meaning no school for kids. I am lucky that my schedule is flexible enough that I’ve been able to take all those days off from work. Instead of sitting around the house, I decided we would get out and explore, thus Field Trip Friday was born. Last year, I had one additional kid whose Mom had to work those Fridays. This year, I picked up two more for a total of four kids ranging in age from 6-9. I have been on the hunt for low cost or free things to keep them entertained and to insure that my house remains intact. Luckily there are lots of fun, cheap things to do when kids are out of school.

Spend Time Outdoors

What we don’t have in big city amenities, our rural area makes up for in outdoor activities. For our first field trip of the year, we hiked the Geyser Trail to Colorado’s only natural geyser. All the kids had done the trail before, so it was familiar and easy terrain. They made up an elaborate game where the girls were power panthers and the boys were guardian warriors. We fought off every imaginary foe and found tons of hidden treasure on our 2.5 mile hike. You’d be amazed at how creative kids can be when you take away their electronics.

visiting national parks with kids

If you live near a National Park, I highly recommend taking your kids. Entrance fees are usually very affordable, and there are a number of free admission days throughout the year. Kids love the Junior Ranger programs, which is a great way to get to know the park. We went to Mammoth Cave while visiting relatives in Kentucky last weekend and had a blast, all for way less than the cost of a dinner out.

Even for city dwellers without the availability of National Parks or forests, there are usually tons of free trails or municipal parks to take advantage of. I promise you’ll feel better about yourself if you spend some time outdoors today or any day.

Visiting or Helping Out With a Charity

Another place on my list this year is visiting a wolf hybrid refuge in our area. They offer free tours, and visitors can help out with some of the basic chores that come with sheltering dozens of enormous wolf dogs. I’ve been a long time supporter of this organization. We’ve been to outreach events with wolf ambassadors, but I can’t wait to take the kids to see how it works behind the scenes.

Depending on how old your kids are, there are a variety of charities that allow young volunteers. It’s always free to give of your time. I don’t think it’s ever too early to let kids learn the value off helping others through non-profits.

Low Cost Recreation

We could pay an arm and a leg to spend the day at a place like Dave & Busters or Chuck E. Cheese’s. I’m sure the kids would love it, but for a fraction of the cost, we can visit the city rec center. Kid admission is only $3. We can swim, play basketball or volleyball, and use the climbing wall. They have tables where we can eat lunch or snacks brought from home. It’s not pizza, video games, and cashing in our million tickets for a whoopee cushion, but I’ve never had a bad time at the rec center. I can’t say the same for the other places.

Even in our small town, I can usually find cheap activities to keep my kid and her friends entertained. Children don’t need a ton of fancy toys or trips to expensive places to be happy. I have no problem spending money on occasional treats. Heck, I spent $24 to take my niece and daughter to see Minions this past weekend. We go to the movies maybe once or twice a year, so I don’t feel bad about it. For every other Friday, though, we’ll use our feet and our imaginations instead of our pocketbooks.

Do you spend lots on entertainment? What’s your favorite memory from an activity you did as child?





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  1. When I was a kid, our school would take us on “field trips” to do volunteer work. For example, at a soup kitchen, an animal shelter, etc. I look back on those days so fondly, though they were infrequent. I loved spending time with my friends and really feeling like I was making a difference.

  2. I love using the public library for free entertainment. There are story times and programs for kids of all ages. It’s not necessarily an all day event, but can be a great way of getting out of the house when the weather’s bad.

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