Savvy Summer Savings: 17 Tips for Grandparent Caregiving

Get ready for affordable summer adventures.

Grandparents with grandchildren relaxing at home
Updated July 18, 2024
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With the cost of daycare through the roof, many parents are turning to grandparents to help with child care while school is out for the summer.

If it’s been a while since you’ve had so much time with kids, don’t worry. We’ve compiled a list of 17 things to keep your summer days and wallet full at the same time. Check out these fun activities to keep the kids busy.

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Invest in craft supplies

donatas1205/Adobe Paint brushes crafting supplies on table

Paint, glue, pipe cleaners and googly eyes can be combined in infinite combinations to create beautiful artwork and fun craft projects. Pick up some versatile craft supplies on Amazon, at a craft store, or (if you’re lucky) at a thrift shop for endless hours of fun.

Visit the local library

Swonie/Adobe book in shelves at book store

The library is one of the best hubs not only for entertaining books and media but also for community activities, storytime, crafts, games, and more. 

Some libraries even have movies and board games you can check out. Ask a librarian or check the website for a summer schedule.

Score free summer school meals

NDABCREATIVITY/Adobe grandchildren having fun with grandparents

Just because the teachers are gone doesn’t mean the cafeteria is done operating. Many districts offer meals at schools for free through USDA’s Summer Meals for Kids.

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Sign up for a city recreational sports leagues

Viacheslav Yakobchuk/Adobe young classmates cheering up before game

Does your city offer summer t-ball or soccer for kids? Practices and games are sure to keep them active and busy. Even if you don’t want to commit to an entire summer of sports, many rec centers offer sports camps that run for a week or two.

Check out local art or science classes

Africa Studio/Adobe African-American boy drawing indoors

Rec centers, libraries, and schools offer summer camps and classes on everything from coding to theater to pottery. Most of these aren’t free, but some may offer need-based scholarships for those who qualify.

Visit online classes or educational websites

Gorodenkoff/Adobe Grandfather Talking with Grandchildren at gathering

For rainy or hot days, keep the kids inside to work on an online class or learn something new from an educational website. 

Starfall, CoolMathGames, ABCYa, and PBS Kids will keep the kids practicing math and phonics so they don’t lose as much academic progress over the summer.

Tour local parks

Jacob Lund/Adobe Kids exploring forest with magnifying glass

Whether it’s a nature preserve or a playground nearby, local parks represent hours of fun in the sun. Pack a picnic, a Frisbee, and some hand sanitizer, and you’re good to go.

Enjoy freebie days at zoos and museums

famveldman/Adobe little girl feeding giraffe at zoo

Many zoos and museums have a few free days, making what might be a cost-prohibitive field trip doable. Arriving early or later in the day may help avoid the crowds. 

Also, if your grandchildren are on SNAP (food stamps), they can get free or reduced admission to 1,300 museums nationwide through the Museums for All program.

Attend free concerts

wallaceflores/Adobe people enjoying party at outdoor lawn

Are there any free concerts near you? Grab a blanket and a few snacks for a fun, musical evening out.

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Take a hike

_jure/Adobe young Children hiking mountains together

Hiking doesn’t require much equipment or planning. If you want to steer the kids (and yourself) to a less grueling trail, you can sift through the options near you on or download the app.

Check out the thrift store

Jacquie Klose/Adobe Colorful Childrens shoes shelf at store

Your local thrift shop will have toys, games, craft supplies, puzzles, and more for pennies on the dollar. Bring the kids and give each a few dollars to pick out something “new” to play with. 

Once they grow out of them, you can bring the items back to the thrift store for another child to love.

Enjoy local festivals and parades

soupstock/Adobe cheerful Boy watching parade

Many festivals and parades have free admission and offer fun experiences with local culture, history, and traditions your grandchildren might not experience elsewhere. And with any luck, they’ll get some free candy — always a win.

Go on a nature scavenger hunt

BalanceFormCreative/Adobe mother hiking through forest with sons

Print off a free bingo card or scavenger hunt list, then take to the woods to see how many cool rocks, animal tracks, and unusual flowers you can find. Bring a bird or plant ID book so you can study more about what you discover.

Plant a garden cute asian girl watering plants outdoor

Bring nature to the kids by planting a garden in the backyard. Apart from planting day, kids can make labels for each plant or row, watch the specimens grow, and harvest the fruits of their labors at the end of the summer.

Turn on the sprinklers

famveldman/Adobe Little girl playing with garden sprinkle

Turn on the sprinklers, slap on the sunscreen, and send the kids outside. Somehow, running through the sprinklers on a hot day never gets old. Want to up the ante? Stake down a large length of lawn plastic and let the kids slide over it.

Do some ice blocking

David Pereiras/Adobe Grandparents and grandchildren walking outdoors

This is like sledding only in reverse. Buy or make a large ice block, place a folded towel on top, and let the kids ride it down a hill. They’re bound to get their pants wet, but ice blocking is hours of cheap fun for your grandkids

Paint and hide rocks

imtmphoto/Adobe asian grandparents enjoying with grandson

Take a walk to find smooth rocks for painting and bring them home. Help the kids paint them, then bring them back into the wild to hide for someone else to discover and enjoy.

Bottom line

Drpixel/Adobe grandparents having fun with granddaughter

Keeping grandkids entertained for the summer doesn’t need to be expensive or difficult. 

By taking advantage of community resources, keeping a stock of cheap supplies, and scheduling cost-effective activities, you can make amazing memories with your grandchildren and avoid wasting your retirement savings.

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Author Details

Jenni Sisson

Jenni Sisson is a freelance writer and editor who focuses on personal finance, real estate, and entrepreneurship. She has been published in Business Insider and The Ways to Wealth. In addition to writing, Jenni hosts the Mama's Money Map podcast to help fellow stay-at-home moms on their journey to financial freedom.