10 Free or Inexpensive Summer Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers

It is finally officially summer in NYC! School just ended on June 26th so I had weeks and weeks to watch sadly as everyone else started their summer without us. People have already gone on week long summer vacations and here we are at only day 2 of our summer. Like everybody, summer is a different dynamic in this house. We go from 1 to 2 children home all day. The boys are too young for summer camp, cabin fever is real and they are usually on their 85th fight by 10am. Meanwhile mama is just trying to enjoy the fact that we finally can go with the flow. But alas these little people have no chill. So how do you find free or inexpensive summer activities for toddlers?

10 Free or Inexpensive Summer Activities for Toddlers

Explore Your City 

Nature walks, playground trips and even walks to the grocery store (if possible) are all easy ways to get out of the house and to see your city. Walk a different route that you haven’t before. Take the few extra blocks to the further playground, or just take some time to explore your neighborhood and see it in a way you haven’t before. Children are easily entertained. It really doesn’t take much.

Head to the movies

Summer is the perfect time for families to hit up the movies. Places like Regal Cinemas have $1 movies for families. Alamo Drafthouse also has Alamo Kids Camp which gives you the opportunity to check out some family favorites at a much lower price. In NYC they also have plenty of opportunities to check out free movies at the park.

Get Experimental

This is the perfect time to allow kids to get creative. Make play doh or slime from scratch. YouTube age appropriate “science experiments”. Find ways to encourage learning in a fun way.

Check out your local library 

Libraries usually have free summer programs for kids. This was also give the opportunity to interact with other children, AND.. use someone else’s air conditioning.

Have movie days

Listen, I know some people are opposed to screen time but movie days were some of my favorite days growing up. In the summer me and my cousins would spend all day creating out “movie theater”. We’d make signs for what movies were playing, create a movie menu, make our snacks together and then we would set up our living room and all watch movies. With Netflix and other streaming services it’s easier than ever to find content your kids will love to watch.

Join play groups

My boys are going stir crazy just playing with each other. And while it probably feels like your kids are the only ones in the world not in summer camp, there are definitely other kids in your city. Get together with other local moms and go to the playground, the splash pad, children’s museums or even out for ice cream. Mothering is better together.

summer activities for toddlers

Head to the beach or the pool

That doesn’t need much explanation right? Kids love sand. My 4 year old told me the ocean chose me. The beach is a super inexpensive way for your kids to burn energy just don’t forget the sunscreen!

Paint rocks or press flowers

This is a perfect idea for getting the paint OUTSIDE your house. I remember painting rocks at summer camp and its a fun activity that kids can do outside without it mattering how much mess is made. I don’t have any experience pressing flowers but I have seen some beautiful ideas on Pinterest.

Make homemade ice-cream/popsicles

Homemade icecream and popsicles take few ingredients, are easy to make and are a perfect way to cool off. AND you can sneak in and make some adult ones! HA! Pinterest is full of quick and easy recipes for these. The kids will love making them and everyone will enjoy eating them.

Learn outdoor games

Tag, jump rope, and red light green light were all staples in my childhood. 2019 seems to be the year of 90s nostalgia so this summer seems like the perfect time to throw it back to some of our favorite games.

Live in NYC? Check out these posts for ideas on things to do locally!

8 Fun Ways to Spend A Rainy Day with Kids in NYC

6 Playdate Ideas for Little Boys in NYC | #BoyMom

The 2019 Spring Break Checklist For New York Families

Totally Tots at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum

What are your favorite free or inexpensive summer activities for your little ones? How do you overcome summer cabin fever?

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