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Indoor and Outdoor Summer Activities on a Budget

You don’t have to break the bank this summer to keep your family entertained. We've rounded up some free (and almost free) fun things to do all season long.

Have Neighborhood Game Night

If you have fond memories of kick the can and four-square, get the neighbors together one evening every week for a little friendly competition. Parents can be the keepers of the rules and rotate as referees. Mix and match the contestants into new teams for fresh contests, and consider themed groups like dads and daughters or odd-numbered house addresses versus even-numbered ones. You can find rules for many classic playground games freely available online. This article from Today's Parent magazine is a great place to start!

Dig for Treasure

Few things compare with the joy of discovery. Luckily, with this activity, you don't have to own a sandbox to keep your little archaeologists hard at work. Simply fill a kiddy pool with play sand, adding toys and fun trinkets as you go. Your local party supply store can be a great and inexpensive source of inspiration here. Prizes like tiny figurines (from army men to dinosaurs and so much in between), plastic jewelry, die-cast cars and bubble bottles all make for great treasures. Then, just make sure everyone gets a shovel and a bag to keep their goodies in — not to mention a bath afterward — and let them dig away!

Go on a Factory Tour

Do your kids have a favorite soda, candy, ice cream, toy, piece of sporting gear or other product? Are they fascinated by heavy equipment and excited at the idea of being close to a thousand, or many thousands, of something? More than 550 factories across the country offer tours so kids can see how the manufacturing process works from start to finish. They’ll be so amazed they probably won’t even realize how educational the experience is. Start planning your trip to witness firsthand how it's made (whatever it may be) by visiting the Factory Tours USA website.

Play Bingo

Bingo! It's as much fun to play as it is to say. And it's a simple game to set up at home. First, design your own cards by using the Print-Bingo website. Simply choose from one of their pre-loaded custom templates or make your own. Download, print and either mount your cards on cardboard or laminate them so they're a bit more kid-proof. Choose your prizes and figure out your method for randomly drawing and calling out matches. For extra fun, substitute candy or small snacks for the standard bingo markers. 

Take a Crafts Class

Keep little hands and minds engaged by enrolling in a craft class. Several major retailers offer hands-on instruction designed especially for young makers. From scrapbooking to beading to making masterpieces with common household materials like popsicle sticks, these classes give kids fun opportunities to increase their manual dexterity, exercise their imaginations, learn the value of both patience and persistence and take pride in a job well-done (or an effort well-made). Sessions are often free or available for a nominal registration fee — typically $5 or less. The Thrifty Little Mom has a set of great recommendations on where to begin your search for classes.

Home Drive-In Movies

Family movie night is fun. But a family drive-in movie night offers something extra special. You don't even have to set up in the backyard if you don't want to (though it's not that difficult if you have access to a digital projector and an inflatable screen). Clear out enough floor space in front of your television and have the kids create their own custom cars using cardboard boxes, markers, stickers and whatever other decorations they like. They can sit in their cars while they thrill to a good old-fashioned double feature, complete with a cartoon short. Grill some hot dogs, pop some popcorn, turn your kitchen counter into a concession stand and give your kids a taste of what the movie-going experience used to be like.

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