Frugal Family Fun

101 Cheap & Free Summer Activities

by Katie on May 27, 2015

Now that the countdown to summer break has officially begun (48 hours and some change according to my kids’ latest update!), I’ve started planning a bucket list for our family’s summer.

Like most parents, I’d like to avoid those two dreaded words….I’m bored! At the same time, I’d also like to limit the amount of screen time during the summer and find a variety of things to do that won’t break the bank.

So, I’ve decided to compile a list of activities and events that are both family friendly as well as budget friendly!  Some of the items on this list will be universal in regards to location, while others are more region-specific (because let’s face it….there are so many awesome things to do in Cincinnati!).

If you have any family favorites that you’d like to add to the list, please leave a comment or feel free to shoot me an e-mail.  Without further ado, here’s the first installment of 101 Cheap or Free Things To Do This Summer……


1.  Make Flubber

What is it about goo that is universally appealing to kids?!  Whether it’s Play-Doh, clay, Silly Putty, or flubber, my kids are drawn to these compounds like a moth to a flame.

Making flubber is a relatively simple process, and it only requires a few ingredients.  The key to the whole process is making sure you mix the appropriate ingredients in two separate bowls before combining everything together into one container.

In order to set up this project, you’ll need to combine the following ingredients into the first bowl:

1 cup all-purpose school glue
¾ cup water
4-5 drops of food coloring

Mix these ingredients until they are well combined, and the food coloring is evenly distributed.  In the second bowl, combine the following:

½ cup warm water
2 teaspoons borax

Stir until the borax is completely dissolved into the water (the water will look cloudy once it’s all dissolved).  Pour the borax and water solution into the first bowl.  The solution will bubble a little when it’s first combined.  Continue stirring or mixing with your hands until the ingredients have combined completely and the flubber is no longer watery.

The possibilities for flubber are endless.  It bounces, it can be blown into a very large bubble, and it can be cut out into a variety of different shapes.  Without a doubt, it’s one of the oddest feeling substance that we’ve ever worked with.  It’s slimy and very pliable, and it can be stretched incredibly thin.  In fact, the kids stretched it over a cup, and made a small bongo drum that worked for quite a while until it finally ripped apart.

The flubber should be stored in an airtight plastic container in between uses.


2.  Play Capture the Flag

One of the best ways to engage your kids in any activity is to simply join them!  On Mother’s Day, the kids had the idea of playing capture the flag, a game that I hadn’t played in more years than I care to admit.

We set up a system of rules regarding bases, flag location, and appropriate nerf gun usage!  Then we divided into teams and let the darts start flying!

We played in the yard until it was almost too dark to see.  I lost track of how many times I ran back and forth between the two forts, and at times, I laughed so hard that it was physically impossible to keep running!  And yet, I still have no idea which side won!


3.  Family Game Day

Our family LOVES playing games.  If we have an overly hot day or an especially rainy day, I love pulling out a stack of games and meandering through a lazy afternoon of family time.

If we devote an entire day or afternoon to games, we typically go in rotation, letting each of the kids pick their favorite game to play.  We have several overall family favorites such as Bounce Off, Blokus, Titanic, Monopoly, Telestrations, and Wits & Wagers.

We’ve accumulated quite a stash of games throughout the 17 years we’ve been married.  We (as well as the kids) often ask for games as gifts, since they’re something that we use quite often.  We also look for great deals on games on Amazon as well as on Black Friday (it’s only 6 months away…..just sayin’!).


4.  $1 Summer Movies at Cinemark

The kids love going to the movies, but if it’s a new release, it costs us $50 just to get in the door!  Needless to say, we don’t catch many new movies until they hit Redbox.

Cinemark is making it affordable for families this summer by featuring their summer movies for just $1 per show.  You can also purchase a 10-pack of movie tickets in advance at the box office or on the Cinemark site for $5 – or just $0.50 per show.

All movies featured during the summer series will be rated G or PG, and you can find the listing of participating theaters here.


5.  Free Firsts Appreciation Days at Hamilton County Parks

We are sooo lucky to have a phenomenal park system in Hamilton County.  A $10 annual park pass fee grants you admission to a multitude of park settings in a variety of locations throughout the county.

The Hamilton County Parks are once again celebrating their Free Firsts Appreciation Days this year.  On Free Firsts Appreciation Days, county residents can enjoy free entry into any Hamilton County park without the need for a Motor Vehicle Permit.

Special appreciation day activities will also be available:

  • Fre Tourboat rides at Winton Woods
  • Free Fishing tickets at Lake Isabella
  • Free Wet playground entry at MW, WW, WM (limit 2)
  • Free Fishing tickets at Campbell Lakes
  • 10% discount at Nature’s Niche stores
  • Buy a daily adult Highfield Discovery Garden admission and receive one kid’s admission for free
  • Free medium basket of range balls with the purchase of a medium or large basket at Miami Whitewater Forest
  • Free round on the Miniature Golf Course with the purchase of a Miniature Golf Course round at Little Miami
  • Free regular basket with the purchase of a regular basket at Meadow Links

You can find a Hamilton County Park location near you here.

Stay tuned for more fun ideas later this week!

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Cinemark Summer Movies for $1

by Katie on May 14, 2015

Cinemark is featuring their summer movies for just $1 per show.  You can also purchase a 10-pack of movie tickets in advance at the box office or on the Cinemark site for $5 – or just $0.50 per show.

All movies featured during the summer series will be rated G or PG, and you can find the listing of participating theaters here.

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This is one of my favorite freebies to post about!  The FREE Fridays have returned at the Cincinnati Museum Center!

Visit the Duke Energy Children’s Museum, Museum of Natural History & Science, and Cincinnati History Museum free of charge from 4-8 p.m. on June 12th, July 24th, August 21st, September 11th, and October 23rd.

Visitors will need to pay for parking which is a fee of $4 after 4:30 p.m. and $6 before 4:30 p.m.

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Youthletic $200 Summer Camp Giveaway

by Katie on May 12, 2015

Spring is in the air, which means summer break is right around the corner for families across the Greater Cincinnati area.  For many parents, finding the right camp for their child can be a time consuming, overwhelming (and often expensive) task.

Youthletic has decided to step up to the plate and help families out this summer with their $200 Summer Camp Giveaway.  Youthletic is giving 5 families a $200 gift card to help with summer camp fees. The credit can be applied to any camp, and is not limited to the ones listed in the camp directory.

The contest runs through May 31st.

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The Great Parks of Hamilton County are celebrating their Free Firsts Appreciation Days again this year.  On Free Firsts Appreciation Days, county residents can enjoy free entry into any Hamilton County park without the need for a Motor Vehicle Permit, which is regularly priced at $10 annually or $3 daily.

Special appreciation day activities will also be available:

  • Fre Tourboat rides at Winton Woods
  • Free Fishing tickets at Lake Isabella
  • Free Wet playground entry at MW, WW, WM (limit 2)
  • Free Fishing tickets at Campbell Lakes
  • 10% discount at Nature’s Niche stores
  • Buy a daily adult Highfield Discovery Garden admission and receive one kid’s admission for free
  • Free medium basket of range balls with the purchase of a medium or large basket at Miami Whitewater Forest
  • Free round on the Miniature Golf Course with the purchase of a Miniature Golf Course round at Little Miami
  • Free regular basket with the purchase of a regular basket at Meadow Links

Plus, here are a few programs that are available for free today as well:

Fri 5/1, 11 a.m.: Animals of Ohio
Join the naturalist to meet some of our native wildlife in person and find out why Ohio is the perfect place for them to make their homes. Miami Whitewater Forest/Visitor Center (Free)

Fri 5/1, 11 a.m.: Animals Alive
Join us for a fun-filled program all about different wildlife from the area and even meet a few up close. Woodland Mound/Seasongood Nature Center (Free)

Fri 5/1, 8 p.m.: Night Hike
Get ready to turn off your flashlights! Join the naturalist on a nearby trail to experience the sights and sounds on this nighttime adventure. Trail surface is uneven, so strollers are not permitted. Sharon Woods/Sharon Centre (Free)

You can find a Hamilton County Park location near you here.

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The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County is offering FREE Summer Brain Camp Programs.  Kids in 1-5 grades can explore the world around them during week-long Brain Camps offered free at select branch libraries.

Campers will read great stories, play fun games, experiment with science, and create themed crafts. Times vary by branch location which you can find here.

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Fairfield Parks & Recreation is hosting a Summer Activities Expo on Saturday, May 2nd from 1-3 p.m. at the Fairfield Community Arts Center.  Representatives from over 20 camps and summer programs for children ages 3-17 will be on hand to speak with families about the opportunities available for this upcoming summer.

Participants will be invited to fill out their “Passport with a Fun-Filled Summer” by having their passport stamped at each table visited during the expo.  Those who fill the entire passport can submit it into a drawing for one of four $25 gift certificates to be used on any program represented at the expo.

A variety of different interests will be represented at the expo including theater, pottery, cake decorating, painting, nature programs, golf, fitness, aquatic programs, science camps, and more.  A number of demonstrations and activities will take place during the expo as well, and you can find the full listing of events and times here.

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Free Game of Bowling

by Katie on April 23, 2015

Here’s another fun family freebie!  GoBowling.com is offering one FREE game of bowling.  Simply watch this short video on the GoBowling.com, and you’ll receive a link to a printable coupon for a free game of bowling at any participating GoBowling.com center.

You can find a list of the participating bowling centers near you here.  As a side note, there are several available in the Cincinnati area, including Colerain Bowl, Northwest Lanes, Stump’s Lanes, Mason Bowl, and more.

This offer is valid through May 24th.

Thanks, Drugstore Divas!

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Kids Skate Free Program

by Katie on April 22, 2015

Here’s another fun freebie for this summer!  The Kids Skate Free Program offers free skating for kids throughout the summer.

Each individual skating rink has their own terms and conditions, but the majority of the participating rinks allow kids ages 12 and under to skate for free.  Also, if you child doesn’t own skates, there’s typically a small fee for skate rental.

You can find the full listing of participating skating centers here.

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Anthropologie: Earth Day Crafts for Kids

by Katie on April 21, 2015

Anthropologie is offering free rain forest crafts for kids in honor of Earth Day.  These crafts are recommended for children ages 5 to 10.

The dates and times for this event vary by store, so be sure to check out the Anthropologie site for a location near you.

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