The Resources You Need

Looking To Keep Your Kids Busy This Summer? Try These FREE (Or Almost Free) Programs

Food, cheap entertainment, and more!

Originally Published: 
Six-year-old Amy reads in a book at the childrens' library in Frankfurt Oder, Germany, 11 September ...
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Summer is here, and you know what that means: The kids are out of school for a couple of months, giving them all damn day to drive you crazy and eat you out of house and home!

Before you start pulling your hair out, take a look at this list of free (or almost free) summer programs for kids and teens designed to get them out of the house. Think free food, cheap entertainment, programs to help keep their bodies and minds healthy, and even opportunities to volunteer in their community.


School-provided meals ensure kids have access to food during the school day. Aside from giving parents a break from packing daily meals, they also help keep food budgets down. And with the cost of food at record highs, free summer food programs are a much-needed resource for many families.

  • Local food banks and school districts are great places to turn to supplement your family’s nutritional needs, as well as these two programs that offer meals almost entirely nationwide:
  • The United States Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program is a federally-funded, state-administered program designed to provide no-cost, healthy meals and snacks to children and teens in low-income areas. Meals can be taken to-go or eaten at participating sites.
  • No Kid Hungry is a non-profit organization on a mission to end childhood hunger in the United States by offering breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks to kids of all ages. Use their find free meals locator to find healthy meals being served by organizations in your community.

Sports & Fitness

P.E. classes may be on pause, but there are still ways to keep kids active and entertained this summer, thanks to these programs that offer free gym memberships and sports activities for kids and teens.

  • Through August 21, 2023, kids ages 14-19 can enjoy the Planet Fitness Free Summer Gym Membership for Teens. The program includes use of the gym facilities as well as group fitness classes. And there’s even a chance to win a $200,000 scholarship.
  • More than 1,500 bowling centers across the U.S. are participating in the Kids Bowl Free program. Kids can get up to 2 free games each day once registered.
  • Like the free bowling program, Kids Skate Free has partnered with skating rinks nationwide to provide kids with up to two free passes per week so they can get their skate on all summer long.


Keeping those brains sharp during summer is easy to do with these free summer reading programs and free entrance to museums.

  • Kids can earn a free book when they participate in the Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program during July and August. All they have to do is read a designated number of books, write down their favorite parts in a free B&N Reading Journal, and then collect a free book.
  • Most local libraries offer free summer reading programs to encourage kids to read in exchange for prizes like books and toys. And don’t forget that many libraries provide free resources that go well beyond books. Amazing things you can borrow from your local library include toys and games, sports equipment, and even small kitchen appliances and power tools. Many also partner with local attractions and museums to offer free access to community members.

Arts & Crafts

Kids who love to craft are sure to enjoy these free maker classes that will allow them to get hands-on with their creative sides.

  • Michaels Camp Creatololgy is offering free in-person and online crafting classes for kids this summer. Kids can register for classes and make things like pop-up art, clay figures, and mixed media art.
  • Kids can officially get more done this summer when they participate in The Home Depot In-Store Kids Workshops. Workshops are held on the first Saturday of each month between 9 am —12 pm and include step-by-step instructions and materials to build birdhouses, putting greens, and more.

Community Service

With no homework and a lot more free time, summer is the perfect time to get kids involved in helping out in their communities. They can serve and prepare meals, mentor youth, provide care for animals in shelters, clean up and beautify their communities, and more.

  • Kids That Do Good matches kids with volunteer opportunities within their communities where it’s needed the most. Kids will learn how valuable their time and help are, giving them a lifetime of appreciation for giving back, and they can even track their volunteer hours for those college applications.


Check out your local parks and recreation department to see if they’re hosting any summer park programs. They’re a great way to get kids outdoors, and many offer safe and free activities and entertainment. Can’t find one in your community and have kids who want to hit up a movie or two this summer? No worries; many movie theaters offer super-discounted movie tickets for kids.

  • LA Parks After Dark is just one example of community summer park programs that offer free concerts, movies, live music, games, and more!
  • Movie tickets for family movies (rated G and PG) are only $2 per person all summer long with the Regal Summer Movie Express program.
  • Megaplex Kids Summer Movies offers a summer series of kid-friendly movies. Passes are only $10 and are good for all 10 weeks (10 movies). Qualifying guests can present an EBT or eWIC card for a complimentary pass.
  • Every Wednesday at 9:30 a.m., from July 19 through August 10, kids can watch family-friendly movies for only $1.50 per ticket as part of the Cinemark Summer Movie Clubhouse. Movies include Minions: The Rise of Gru, The Bad Guys, Sonic The Hedgehog, and other top hits.

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