How does that song lyric go? "Summertime and the living is easy." Hmm…whoever wrote the song definitely wasn't a parent!

Don't get me wrong, I love how homework and alarm clocks disappear from June to August. But eventually the easy living of summertime starts wearing thin. Kids will soon get bored and turn to you for solutions. Fortunately, many businesses are on our side when it comes to fun activities for the kids that don't break the bank. Check out the following opportunities in your neighborhood:

Cheap or Free Kid's Movies

Many movie theatre chains like The Grand Theatre, The Regal Theatre and Cinemark show cheap or free weekday kid-friendly movies all summer long. Some tickets include popcorn and a drink. Other admissions don't include food but are so cheap ($1 or free) that you still have enough money to buy that box of Goobers. Most show times are mid-morning and all films are rated G or PG. Sure, the movies are ones you've seen before — like Mega Mind, Charlotte's Web and Madagascar — but remember, going to the movies isn't always about the movie itself but rather the experience. It would be a great idea for a play date!

Free Bowling

The sounds, the sights, the smell of rented shoes: Who doesn't love a trip to the bowling alley now and again? Many lanes across the country offer free bowling programs from now through August. Toddlers to high schoolers bowl two free games (shoe rental not included). Check out the Kids Bowl Free website for a list of bowling alleys coordinating free programs in your area.

Crafts

Two retail favorites give parents and kids the chance to get creative. Lowe's Home Improvement presents Build and Grow Kid's Clinics every Saturday morning. Free pre-designed kits with materials included let parents and kids work together to build everything from birdhouses to model airplanes. Michael's Arts and Crafts has a great in-store summer program called Passport to Fun. Weekly crafts focus on different cultures and countries. Even the kid-friendly restaurant Chick-Fil-A gets crafty at many locations.

Story Times

The kids and I love visiting the library during the summer. Sadly we've outgrown the story hours; but, we still register for the summer reading program that includes other activities like craft times, magicians, and more. Have you checked out your local library lately? If it's more convenient, bookstores like Barnes and Noble and Borders have weekly story times and other family friendly events.

Eventually summertime becomes a quest to beat the heat and the boredom. Thankfully parents have a variety of free and cheap activities to pack our arsenal.

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