Finding engaging activities that’ll keep your kids busy during the summer months can be harder than completing an American Ninja Warrior course. We said “challenge accepted,” and then searched high and low to find these 14 programs that are not only fun but affordable too. Read on to see them all.

photo: courtesy Brain Chase

1. Treasure Hunter
Give your kids an exciting and engaging adventure this summer by joining forces with Mae Merriweather from the Grayson Academy of Antiquities. Starting on June 19th, 2017, your tiny treasure hunter can join other participants from all over the world to work hard, have fun, and decode the clues that will lead one lucky winner to the mysterious Globe of Magellan.

How does it work? Kids will choose up to three electives out of 15 (depending on which package you select), including math, engineering, cooking, foreign language and even yoga, to solve each weekly challenge. Once solved, an original webisode containing the next hidden clue will be unlocked. The first treasure hunter to solve the mystery will jet off to unearth the real buried treasure—a gold-plated globe and a $10,000 scholarship!

Insider Tip: There’s also a special Texas Edition! Find out more here.

Cost: $69 and up. Click here for more information.

Online: brainchase.com

photo: Gabby Cullen

2. VIP Builder
If visiting LEGOLAND isn’t on your summer to-do list then consider the VIP mini-build program at your local LEGO store instead. Each event occurs on the first Tues. and Wed. of every month, and you can sign up in advance for a time slot (registration opens at 9:00 am on the 15th of the month prior). The mini-build is different every time, and master builders can take their mini models home for free! Your kiddo will need to be a 
VIP member between the ages of six – fourteen, and be able to complete the model in the store.  

Insider Tip: If you can’t grab a spot, visit shop.LEGO.com/Minibuilds to download the building instructions! 

Cost: Free

Online: lego.com/en-us/stores/events/mini-model-builds

photo: Dave Edens via Flickr

3. Click, Click
If you’ve got a budding Ansel Adams at home, the Ranger Rick photo contest is a great way to keep her busy over the summer. First, head for the great outdoors and have her take nature and landscape pictures. Then, select her favorite one and send it in with proper sizing (2 MB or smaller, JPG format, at least 600 pixels wide or 600 pixels tall). If your kid doesn’t have a digital camera, no worries! Phone images are also accepted. Recent winners (this is an ongoing contest) are entered into the running for Ranger Rick’s “Your Best Shots Magazine Award.” and are selected every three months. Each winner receives a certificate of achievement and copies of the magazine featuring the winning image!

Cost: Free

Online: nwf./kids/ranger-rick/photo-contest

photo: Dana Porrazzo via Kids That Do Good

4. Little Do-Gooders
It’s never too early to instill the habit of giving to others. Have your little philanthropists sign up with Kids That Do Good this summer in order to spend time giving back to their local community. The online (kid-founded!) resource allows kids to get involved with a cause or charity of their choosing—or, if you’ve got real go-getters at home—create their own! Once you’ve created an account and found an organization, kids can track their service hours via social profiles and certificates.

Cost: Free

Online: kidsthatdogood.com

applecamp_orangefred_summerpreviewphoto: orangefred via Flickr

5. Awesome Apple
The very popular Apple Camp returns for the summer. Designed to help spark the imaginations of kiddos ages eight to twelve, this three-day workshop allows kids to explore and expand on their digital creativity. They’ll choose one of three tracks, and spend 90 minutes of each day working on their project. Be sure to sign up here to get an email announcing open registration—spots fill up quickly!

Insider Tip: If you can’t grab a reservation, check out your local store for regularly scheduled events.

Cost: Free

Online: apple.com/retail/camp

minimakers_lowesbuildandgrow_summerpreview_redtricyclephoto: Rebecca Landis via Flickr

6. Maker Madness
The Home Depot offers workshops that are perfect for mini-makers. Simply pre-register online, and then show up on the selected Saturday to build fun projects like a tic tac toe game. At the end of the two-hour workshop, kids receive a certificate of achievement, a Workshop Apron, and a commemorative pin while supplies last.

Cost: Free

Online: homedepot.com/workshops

2012 Summer Campphoto: courtesy Bass Pro Shops

7. All Things Outdoor
Bass Pro Shops is like Disneyland for outdoor sports aficionados. It’s also a great place to keep kids busy during the summer. From Jun. 23 – Jul. 24, 2017, stores will offer 20-minute workshops on Thurs., Sat., and Sun from 12 p.m. – 3 p.m. Emerging sportsmen and women will learn about bird watching, fishing, archery, kayaking, water safety, camping and more. After each workshop is over, camp survivors get a chance to enjoy free crafts and activities. Be sure to contact your local Bass Pro for details.

Cost: Free

Online: bassproshop.com/familysummercamp

craftykiddo_zhao_michaels_summerprograms_redtricyclephoto: Zhao via Flickr

8. Camp Creativity
Does your artist dream of paint, paper, glitter and glue? If so, Michael’s Camp Creativity is the perfect way to beat summer brain drain. Kids come in on Mon., Wed., and Fri. from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm to work on projects that have fun and exciting themes like Ocean Adventure, Outdoor Fun, and Safari Creatures. There are new crafts each day, Fridays are face painting days, and your little creative kiddo will even keep a journal of his progress over the summer!

Cost: $5 per session or $12 for 3 sessions.

Online: michaels.com/camp-creativity

kidsbowlfree_patrick_flickr_summerprograms_redtricyclephoto: Patrick via Flickr

9. Sweet Strike!
Budding bowlers can perfect their technique all summer long thanks to Kids Bowl Free, which allows them to play up to two games a day free of charge. All that’s missing is a pair of those sweet bowling shoes. To find a participating bowling alley near you, click here.

Cost: Free

Online: kidsbowlfree.com

cheapmovies_cinemark_neetalind_flickr_summerprograms_redtricyclephoto: Neeta Lind via Flickr

10. Summer Screenings
Sometimes a dark, cool movie theater is the only way to beat the heat. Your kids can sign up for a punch card, or show up at participating Cinemark (movies shown on Tues. – Thurs) and Regal theaters (movies shown on Tues. and Wed.) to catch fun kid-friendly flicks for just $1. Even better, most movies show before noon, making it easy to catch a flick and head home for nap time.

Insider Tip: You can skip the concession lines at Cinemark with a speed pack!

Cost: $1 per movie at both locations, or $5 for 10 punch card from Cinemark.

Online: cinemark.com/summer-movie-clubhouse and regmovies.com/movies/summer-movie-express

rollerskates_stevedepolo_summerprograms_summerpreview_national_redtricyclephoto: Steven Depolo via Flickr

11. Roll with It
Xanadu your heart out and head for the local roller rink this summer. Whether your kids like to skate or rollerblade, a few laps will get their blood pumping, and the cool, A/C-induced temps are a total bonus. The Kids Skate Free program allows families to take advantage of this offer once a week (during summer months). Click here to find out if it’s happening at your local rink.

Cost: Free

Online: kidsskatefree.com

4489006272_d64bae672e_ophoto: arrathoonlaa@att.net via Flickr

12. Great Reads
There are over 8,000 books in the Sylvan Learning Book Adventure archives, and with a little help from Bookmark Bailey, Rex Reader, and Shelley Story, little bookworms can boost their reading skills in a fun and engaging way. Kids simply log on to create their own booklist, and after reading each book, they’ll use the quiz-o-matic to collect points that can be traded in for cool prizes like temporary tattoos, subscriptions to Highlights magazine, free candy, and more.  

Cost: Free

Online: bookadventure.com

6066757705_9238dc953b_zphoto: daveynin via Flickr

13. Rangers-in-Training
If you’ve got a National Park nearby (or have plans to travel this summer), be sure to sign up your mini explorers for the NPS Junior Ranger Program. Each kiddo will be outfitted with a handy Junior Ranger guidebook that’s filled with historical facts and cool tips about all the National Parks. Every adventurer also gets the chance to complete a series of activities, share answers with a park ranger, and receive an official Junior Ranger patch and certificate. Click here to learn more. 

Insider Tip: Kids can earn badges at home by downloading activity books and information packets. Click here for more info

Cost: Free

Online: nps.gov/kids/jrRangers

EricCarleMuseum_freemuseum_summerprograms_redtricyclephoto: Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism via Flickr

14. Museums on Us
If you are a Bank of America or a Merrill Lynch cardholder you can snag free admission at more than 150 museums, science centers, and botanical gardens across the country on two days every month just by showing your card. Find out if your favorite museum is participating, and on what days by clicking here.

Cost: Free

Online: museums.bankofamerica.com

Which program do you think your kids will like best? Share with us in the Comments below!

—Susie Foresman & Gabby Cullen