I love having my kids at home during the summer, but like most parents, I struggle to find activities that are both fun and inexpensive. I found some great ideas in Kelli Robinson's recent post Summer On The Cheap: Free and Inexpensive Kid-Friendly Activities, but that post also got me thinking.

In most communities, there are usually lots of great free and inexpensive activities for kids and families to enjoy. Sometimes, though, parents don't know where to find them. So, how do you find the best deals on summer fun near you? (Besides reading Parenting Squad, of course.) Here are 5 of my favorite ways:

Participate in Summer Reading Programs

Most local libraries host summer reading programs for children of all ages. Not only does the required reading give your kids something (completely free) to do, but they can also win some great prizes (which you don't have to pay for). My kids have received vouchers for free admission to local museums and attractions, tickets to shows and sporting events, and coupons for free treats like cookies, ice cream, and snow cones — all things that we can use to have some inexpensive family fun.

Follow Your Favorites

Social media isn't just for gurus anymore. If you aren't "on" Facebook and Twitter, you are missing out. These days, most businesses and local attractions have both Facebook and Twitter accounts, which they use to share special deals and promotions with their fans and followers. You will know immediately when admission fees to your favorite museum are waived for the evening, or when special discounts to your favorite water park are being offered.

Be a Subscriber

Local parenting magazines, websites, and blogs usually provide a wealth of information about free family events and programs in your community. Once you subscribe, you will receive routine updates (most likely via email) about all the family-friendly events near you. Many of these media outlets also sponsor contests and giveaways on a regular basis, so entering these can be a great way to score free tickets and passes to your favorite places.

Join Playgroups

Playgroups provide hours of free or relatively inexpensive entertainment, and are a great way to connect with other local parents. And parents themselves are your best source of information if you want to find the hidden gems in your community, because they're the ones who have the inside scoop. If you're not sure how to connect with other parents, check out websites like Meetup.com, search Yahoo to find local email loops, or get involved with a local organization such as MOPS.

Don't Forget "Daily Deal" Websites

Daily deal websites like Groupon and LivingSocial are hot right now, and they often mean great deals for parents because you can purchase tickets, passes, and vouchers to many of your favorite family-friendly venues at deeply discounted rates. For example, the local custard shop is one of our favorite summer hangouts, and because we purchased a Groupon, we only pay half of what we would otherwise. That's a big discount.

You can also find many deals for nice restaurants and wineries, so you also have the option of entertaining the kids by getting a sitter and then heading out to entertain yourself. Date night on the cheap? Now that's my idea of inexpensive summer fun.

How do you find inexpensive summer fun in your community? What are your best tips for entertaining your kids without breaking the bank?

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