14 cheap or free things to do with adventurous kids

Free Things for Kids to Do This Summer
Free Things for Kids to Do This Summer

Spring has arrived in many parts of the country, the school year is winding down, and it's time to try some fresh ideas for keeping boredom at bay. These activities will engage adventurous kids and spark their sense of excitement.

Related:50 Ways to Beat Summer Boredom on a Budget


It's the ultimate family treasure hunt. Bust out a smartphone and sign up for a free geocaching account. Then use the phone's GPS to find a nearby cache. Try this anywhere -- at home, in a park, or on vacation -- and there is sure to be a cache nearby.


A thrill for adventurous kids may be just a short car ride away. Cheapism.com found 11 affordable zip line courses all over the world, and there are many more that won't leave a wallet empty.


Even something as mundane as a trip to a park becomes a free adventure with parkour, the sport of athletically navigating an urban environment. It can be attempted anywhere there are obstacles in the path. Start by challenging kids not to touch the ground while traveling from point A to point B and they will develop simple parkour moves. Professional parkour artists the Tapp Brothers have more ideas on how to get started.


This one depends largely on location, but lucky families may have access to something like Ohio's Old Man's Cave, a series of caves connected by hiking paths. Touring the caves is free and makes for a good day trip.


Spend the day fishing and exploring nearby scenic waterways for some one-on-one bonding with a child. In addition to catching fish, this is a chance to be among wildlife and make other discoveries out in nature.

Scary Movies.

For kids who are tough and not afraid of much, pop in a scary movie, dim, the lights, and try to spook them a little. Just be careful not to screen something too scary right before bed. NPR's "Pop Culture Happy Hour" podcast inspired listeners to make suggestions online in the comments for an August episode.


Whether the model is Robin Hood or Katniss Everdeen, children will be excited to get a bow and arrow in their hands for some exercise and target shooting. Highly rated starter bow-and-arrow kits run as low as $20 at Dick's Sporting Goods, and Amazon has a variety of practice targets for less than $1.

Farming for a Day.

Find a working farm that is open to the public and lend a hand for the day -- many welcome the help. Some farms charge a little (typically $20 or less per family, depending on the activity). For younger kids, think story time and a chance to explore the farm. Older kids can sign up to be a farmhand for the morning, learn the art of wood carving, check water ecosystems after sunset, learn about beekeeping, and learn to identify edible plants, plus much more, depending on the farm.


Pack a picnic lunch and take the kids out for a day of wading in a nearby park or nature preserve. Teach them to skip stones, catch tadpoles, and look for other wildlife in or near a creek.

Watching Trains or Planes.

This is especially appealing for young kids, who seem almost universally fascinated by trains and planes. Pack them up in the car and follow the tracks to find a secluded spot to park and watch trains come and go, or head to a local airfield or airport and watch the planes take off and land. It's fun during the day and even more spectacular at night.

A Night Walk.

Everything looks different at night. Grab some flashlights and head out for a nighttime walk -- maybe even turn it into a scavenger hunt by giving everyone a list of things to look for. Just be sure to wear bright clothing and reflective pieces for safety.

Rock Climbing.

See how kids fare high off the ground on a rock-climbing wall. There are climbing gyms across the country that charge between $15 and $30 a day. This activity will bring a sense of accomplishment and wear everyone out.


Test kids' balance with slacklining -- similar to tightrope walking -- at a local park, beach, or ski resort. With a slackline kit available on Amazon for less than $40, a line can be set up in a backyard or other area with strong trees or poles, close enough to the ground that a fall won't cause injury.


Camping is one of the most adventurous things to do with kids -- depending on your version of "roughing it." It could include making a fire, catching food, putting up a shelter, and scouting for wildlife. Camping is one big adventure kids of any age will love.

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