Beat Boredom on a Budget: 20 Low Cost Ideas for Summer Fun with Kids

You don't need to spend a lot to have a fun summer: Find free and cheap things to do with kids

By Jennifer Hill, publisher of Macaroni KID Fremont, Calif. and Brenna Gutell, publisher of Macaroni KID Conejo Valley - Malibu - Calabasas May 25, 2024

Looking for budget-friendly ways to enjoy quality family time this summer? Look no further! Whether your kids are already out of school or eagerly counting down the days, there's no shortage of low-cost and even free activities to keep them entertained all summer long. From fun things to do at home to exploring scenic parks and embarking on thrilling outdoor adventures in Conejo Valley, Malibu, Thousand Oaks, Agoura Hills, Oak Park, Calabasas, Westlake Village, and Newbury Park there is a wealth of opportunities for summer fun. Gather your family and start planning your next adventure!

"Before summer arrives I like to sit down with my kids and talk about some ideas of what we would like to do during summer break. We make a list and highlight things that seem really important. Then we pull out a calendar where I've already added any scheduled travel, appointments, and camps to see what we can make happen". - - - Jennifer Hill, publisher of Macaroni KID Fremont, Calif.

As the publisher of Macaroni KID Conejo Valley - Malibu - Calabasas, I'm committed to bringing you the best local family-friendly events and activities across Ventura County and Los Angeles County. While you're planning your summer adventures, be sure to consult our event calendar for even more exciting options to add to your itinerary!

mihailomilovanovic from Getty Images via Canva

Here are some free or inexpensive ideas to get you started, or to fill in some gaps. Whatever you choose to do, make some memories and have some fun with the kids!

1. Visit Local Parks

We have so many great parks and other outdoor spaces to explore here in the Conejo Valley, Malibu, Thousand Oak, Westlake Village, Agoura Hills, Oak Park, Newbury Park and Calabasas. Different playgrounds, walking, hiking and biking trails, gardens and more. Create a list and visit a different one each week all summer long. Get outside and enjoy nature together!

Here are a few to get you started:

2. DIY Crafts

Use recycled materials or items collected from nature. Tip: take a bag on a hike and find some great items to use. Create some crafts such as nature collages, bird feeders, and rock painting. Here is an idea for using objects found in nature to paint.

Jupiterimages from Photo Images

3. Go on a Hike . . . or Two

From local trails to county and state parks, there are lots of fun options to get everyone moving. Some trails are also open to bikes, so be sure to check the websites for details. Tip:  Don't forget to bring along extra water and head out early before it gets too hot.

4. Camping

You can start simple and have fun right in your own backyard. Pitch a tent, enjoy stargazing, tell stories around a fire pit, and don't forget to roast some marshmallows. This can be an easier and fun option if your family hasn't ventured into the great outdoors before. A DIY At-Home Campout

When you're ready, plan a camping trip. We have many local, nearby, and affordable campsites in Conejo Valley and nearby in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. 16 Tips and Tricks To Make Family Camping Easier.

5. Scavenger Hunt

This can be simple or elaborate. Make up your own or try a neighborhood scavenger hunt. Stuck at home? Set up an indoor hunt just for fun. Plan ahead and crate one at the park or while hiking and exploring. There's no limit to themes and ideas for scavenger hunts.

6. Enjoy Water Fun at a Splash Pad or Pool

Cool off and make a splash with your family at nearby splash pads and pools! Dive into a day of water-filled fun that's perfect for beating the summer heat.

Check out the links below for more information on details, open dates, and hours. While most pools may require a small fee, splash pads offer a refreshing and free alternative:

7. Embark on a Geocaching Adventure

Turn your park visit, hike, or bike ride into an exciting treasure hunt by going geocaching with your family! Geocaching adds an extra element of fun and mystery to your outdoor adventures, as you search for hidden treasures using GPS coordinates.

Not sure how to get started? Find out everything you need to know to begin your geocaching journey here.

8. Experience the Magic of Outdoor Movies

Step into a world of enchantment with outdoor movies! There's a unique charm to watching your favorite films under the open sky with your family. Find outdoor movie events by checking out the Macaroni KID Conejo Valley - Malibu - Calabasas event calendar for local screenings. Or, why not become the host of your very own backyard movie extravaganza? Invite your friends and neighbors, set up cozy seating, and let the popcorn flow as you create unforgettable memories under the stars.

RDNE Stock Project from Pexels | Canva

9. Outdoor Games

Teach the kids those childhood favorites such as Red Light, Green Light and Mother May I or gather the neighborhood kids for a fun game of tag, hide-and-seek, jump rope, or kickball. Here are 5 Fun Backyard Games to Play with Your Kids Anytime

10. Discover Fun at the Library

Dive into a world of adventure and fun at your neighborhood library this summer! With loads of activities for kids, teens, and grown-ups, it's the perfect spot for family-friendly entertainment that won’t break the bank.

Explore magical worlds during storytime, get creative with hands-on crafts, and dive into exciting STEM activities. Your local library is packed with more than just books – enjoy free access to movies, music, and video games, and even borrow museum passes for a fun day out.

The children's area is a treasure trove of fun, filled with toys, puppets, and games that will keep your little ones entertained for hours.

Whether you're looking to escape the heat, enjoy some quiet reading time, or join in on a fun event, your local library has something for everyone. Check out their websites for specific details and keep up with the latest happenings by visiting the Macaroni KID Conejo Valley - Malibu - Calabasas event calendar.

Head to your local library and discover a world of fun and learning for the whole family!

11. Bike Rides for Family Fun

Get the kids rolling on their bikes and enjoy some outdoor adventure together! Find a local bike trail or a park with a nice path, and set off on a fun ride. Explore scenic routes, breathe in the fresh air, and make the most of your time outdoors.

For an extra treat, plan a ride to your favorite local ice cream shop. There's nothing better than enjoying a sweet reward after a day of cycling fun!

12. Community Events

Summer is the perfect time to dive into local festivals, fairs, farmers markets, and outdoor movies and concerts. These events are great opportunities to experience the vibrant community spirit and make lasting memories with your family.

Stay in the loop by checking the Macaroni KID Conejo Valley - Malibu - Calabasas event calendar for a comprehensive list of local happenings. There's always something exciting going on, so don't miss out on the fun!

13. Science and STEAM Fun

There are lots of simple science experiments and activities you can do with the kids - or set them up to do on their own if they are old enough. Tip: a table in the backyard is perfect for potential messes.

Here are some of our favorites:

14. Gardening

Get the kids involved in planting a small garden or even a few pots with veggies or flowers. It's a wonderful way to teach them about nature and enjoy some quality time together. Our kids especially love discovering strawberries or blueberries to snack on right from our garden!

15. Sun and Sand

Spend a day at the beach and let the kids cool off while they splash and play. Bring along some sand toys and have a castle-building contest – it's amazing to see how creative they can be with just sand and water. Don't forget to pack your blanket, towels, shade, lunch, and plenty of water for a fun and relaxing day by the sea.

Check out these great spots:

16. Enjoy a Picnic Adventure

Children thrive on new experiences, and dining outside the usual kitchen setting is bound to delight them. Prepare a simple picnic meal, choose an exciting location, and set off on your adventure! Whether it's a nearby park, a playground, the beach, or a scenic spot after a hike, a picnic is always a fun and memorable outing.

17. Community Service

Give back to the community by volunteering together as a family. Participate in local clean-up events, food drives, or other opportunities to make a positive impact. Reach out to local organizations to find ways to help, and check the Macaroni KID Conejo Valley - Malibu - Calabasas event calendar for upcoming community service events. It's a rewarding way to spend time together and teach kids the value of helping others.

18. Attend a Local Farmers Market

Spend a delightful morning or afternoon at a local farmers market. Let the kids pick out fresh fruits, veggies, or flowers, and maybe even try some local delicacies. It's a great way to support local farmers and introduce your family to healthy, seasonal produce.

19. Explore a Museum

Discover the wonders of local museums, many of which offer free or discounted admission days. Spend a day with the kids exploring exhibits, engaging in hands-on activities, and learning something new. It's a fantastic way to spark curiosity and create lasting memories together.

Consider getting a museum membership to support these cultural institutions and enjoy extra perks and discounts plus unlimited visits throughout the year.

Local Museums:

20. Host a Backyard Sport Day

Set up different sports stations in your backyard or a local park. Include activities like a mini soccer game, a relay race, or

These activities provide opportunities for kids to have fun, learn, and bond with family and friends while enjoying summer break – and without spending a lot of money. Enjoy your summer adventures!

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