Free Things to Do With Your Kids This Summer
By Wendy Wan Turk
It’s summertime, and the kids are home and bored! Days are longer, and it’s hard to find enough activities to keep everyone entertained. Sure, there are multitudes of camps, summer programs, and summer school options to choose from, but often these programs will cost as much, if not more, than daycare, but may not include as many hours, options, etc.
My memories of summertime were mostly of my brother and me watching TV for most of the day and maybe reading books. This is usually the quick and easy solution for summer boredom, but perhaps not the most enriching way to spend a summer. So, here’s a quick list of fun and free things you can do with your kids this summer:
Music, food, and good company on a gorgeous LA day, who could ask for anything more? Many local parks and public spaces provide free summer concerts and are spacious and early enough for little kids to have fun too. Make sure to look into the rules of what to bring/what not to bring. A lot of parks will allow alcohol and food but suggest you bring your own chairs and picnicking items, but this varies among venues.
I’ve gone to a lot of free concerts at local parks, typically at the Santa Monica Pier, Playa Vista Concert Park, or Manhattan Beach's Polliwog Park, but you can also find something more local to you. The easiest way to find events in your area is to either search your local parks or click on the link below for a large compilation of events in greater Los Angeles:
Get familiar with your local library. Ever since you stopped having to research or write papers, the library may be a building you just drive by, but it can also be a great resource beyond the thousands of books. Libraries typically create programs and classes for different kids’ age groups, starting from the baby time all the way to teens. Plus, you might find a good class for yourself!
And don’t forget libraries still let you borrow books, as well as DVDs and other media, so you don’t have to go out and buy every movie you don’t have time to see. Schedule a family movie night, or just grab a DVD of your kids’ favorite TV show for instant entertainment. Libraries also have free downloads of books, magazines, and music for your iPad (or another iDevice), Kindle, or Nook, so you don’t even need to remember to return your books!
Museums & Aquariums
Create a culture schedule for you and your kids. There are many museums, botanical gardens, and observatories that are always free or have at least one day a week or month that is free. Often many museums, such as the Getty Center, have gardens or outdoor areas that are great for younger kids to play. Find a museum that coincides with your child’s interests (i.e. science, botanical garden, modern art, etc.) and be sure to capitalize on the experience by finding ways to spark good conversation about the experience; have your kid teach you something about the subject you are learning about.
Check out below the list of free museums/aquariums
Local Parks, Splash Pads, Beaches, and Trails
This may seem obvious, but what better time of year to get out and enjoy some fresh air? Check out your local parks for summer programs including arts, gymnastics, and group playtime. A growing number of cities have also built skate parks and other areas to keep older kids entertained.
Remember that your local pool is probably open for summer too. This may not be a free activity, but probably only costs a couple of dollars for hours of fun. If you don’t have a local pool, your park or a shopping center may have splash pads or fountains that kids can play in. Not only is this a good way to get out and keep everyone cool and entertained, but these water features also recycle their water to stay drought-friendly.
Living in Southern California, we have the great luxury of having so much wildlife a short drive away. Head to the mountains for hiking, mountain biking, and climbing, and to the beaches for wading, tide pooling, and other sand activities.
Look into programs run in the Santa Monica Mountains, including guided nature walks, hikes, campfires and more. Even if you’re familiar with some of our local trails, it’s always fun to explore somewhere new:
Some ideas for your visits to the park:
•Encourage your children to watch for wildlife. There is often wildlife at parks including birds, bugs and sometimes larger friends. Children can log the wildlife they see into a notebook, create drawings or take photos.
•Go on a scavenger hunt. Work together to create a list of items you could see in a park like a leaf, a pinecone, sand, a swing, a fence, etc.
•Draw a nature map of your local park. Walk the park and then have your children draw the map of the park including important features and details from your walk.
•Picnic in the park. Your sandwich often tastes better when you are sitting in a beautiful park. Bring a blanket and your favorite foods to enjoy the nice weather. Don’t forget to pick up your trash and to recycle.
•Walk. Before or after dinner, take some time to walk together as a family. Discuss what happened during the day while getting a little exercise.
•Running games. Teach your children to play “Hide and Seek,” “Red light/Green light” or “Red Rover’” Or with keeping it simple by establishing a friendly competition running from one side of the neighborhood park to the other.
•Create your own Olympic Games. Who has the fastest time running from one tree to another? How many high jumps can you do in one minute? Use the resources in your neighborhood park to create an Olympic Games for your family.
•Make art from nature. Press flowers, glitter pine cones or draw part of your favorite park. Bring a little bit of nature back home with you.
•Play with dirt and mud. Bring a shovel or even better, use your hands to dig your way to China. Create mud structures and mud pies. Let your children have the opportunity to get really dirty while learning how to play and be creative by themselves.
•Watch the clouds. There is nothing better than to spend some time cloud watching in a park on a sunny day. Lie down on the grass and start to identify shapes.
•Start a rock collection. Collect all different shapes and sizes, colors and surfaces. Another great way to bring a bit of the outdoors home with you.
Buy Nothing Project
Find other families who can share time and resources to create fun summertime activities. Maybe you ask to borrow supplies, like a bike, so you can do a family bike ride, or maybe you ask for art supplies that you’re short on. Pool your resources and be creative, and make new friends along the way. Not only will you think of ways to have unexpected fun, but you create communities too.
Hopefully, you’ve found a summer’s worth of ideas and free activities to keep your kids busy this summer. Not only will you save money, but also your kids will gain a wealth of knowledge and experiences that paid activities may not provide. After all, summertime should be a time to slow down and enjoy the long days. On top of that, you can use all the money you’re saving this summer to put it toward a long-term goal, such as a *529 Plan for college!
LIST OF FREE MUSEUM DAYS/CHILDREN’S ACTIVITIES
The Arboretum of Los Angeles County: Free admission on the Third Tuesday of each month
Autry National Center: Free admission on the Second Tuesday each month
Cabrillo Marine Aquarium: Free admission daily, suggested a donation of $5, adults, $1, kids
California African American Museum: Free admission daily but parking is $8.
California Science Center: Free admission daily but parking is $8; some exhibits are an extra charge
Claremont Museum of Art: Free admission on the First Friday of the month from 5-8:30 pm
Craft and Folk Art Museum: Free on the First Wednesday of each month
Fowler Museum at UCLA: Free admission daily
Getty Center: Free admission daily but parking is $15
Getty Villa in Malibu: Free admission daily but parking is $15
George C. Page Museum at the La Brea Tarpits: Free admission on the First Tuesday of each month
Griffith Park Observatory: Free admission daily
Hammer Museum: Free admission daily
Huntington Library and Gardens: Free admission on the First Thursday of each month with prior reservation through their website.
Japanese American National Museum: Free general admission every Thursday from 5 to 8 pm and every third Thursday of the month. Also free one Saturday each month. This event is called Target Free Family Days and include entertainment, cooking projects, and arts and crafts.
Kidspace Museum: Free Family Night is the first Tuesday of every month from 4 pm-8 pm.
La Habra Children’s Museum: Free admission on the first Saturday of each month.
LACMA: Free admission on the Second Tuesday each month, free after 5 pm daily and on several Holiday Mondays. LACMA offers free membership for children (and one free adult guest per child). Here is the link for the NextGen membership form.
Long Beach Museum of Art: Free admission each Friday
Los Angeles Fire Department Museum: Free admission on the only day it is open: Saturdays from 10 am - 4 pm
Manhattan Beach Roundhouse Aquarium: Free admission daily
MOCA: Free admission at all three MOCA locations on each Thursday from 5-8 pm
Museum of Latin American Art: Free admission each Friday
Natural History Museum: Free admission on the First Tuesday of each month
The Nethercutt Museum: Free admission daily
Norton Simon Museum: Free admission on the First Friday of each month from 6-9 pm
Pacific Asia Museum: Free admission on the Fourth Friday of each month
The Paley Center for Media: Free admission daily
Pasadena Museum of California Art: Free admission on the First Friday of each month
Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology in Claremont: Free admission each Wednesday
Heal the Bay Santa Monica Pier Aquarium: Free admission for kids under 12; free admission first Wednesday every month
Skirball Cultural Center: Free admission each Thursday
Free Entertainment and Shows for Kids in Los Angeles
Kids Club at 7th and Fig: Various activities every third Saturday at 12 pm.
Kids Club at the Grove: Various activities each Thursday from 11 am -1 pm
Kids Club at Americana at Brand: Various activities each Tuesday from 11 am - 1 pm
Kids Club at Waterside in Marina del Rey: Various activities each Tuesday at 11 am.
Kids Club at Westfield Culver City: Various activities each Tuesday at 10:30 am.
Lakeshore Learning: Craft activities each Saturday from 11 am - 3 pm
The Music Center featuring World City and Pillow Theatre: Various activities and performances (acrobats, puppetry, and more) on Saturdays throughout the year
REMO Kids Rhythm Circle in North Hollywood: Kids of all ages play with instruments every Saturday at 11 am.
*Prior to investing in 529 Plan, investors should consider whether the investor’s or designated beneficiary’s home state offers any state tax or other state benefits such as financial aid, scholarship funds, and protection from creditors that are only available for investments in such state’s qualified tuition program.
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