Summer Programs for Kids that Won’t Cost Much


Summer break last between 10-11 weeks for most American schools. Billed as being a vacation period full of carefree days, summer can be a source of stress and financial strains for some families. If there is no parent at home to care for students out of school, families have to scramble to ensure their children our safe, supervised, and hopefully engaged in constructive activities.


Additionally, the “summer slide” – the loss of educational achievement that occurs during instruction free summer breaks – can leave students academically disadvantaged. This is especially apparent in children from lower income families.  Students can lose up to two months of reading skills in the summer. This gap stretches to a three-year deficit by the time children reach the fifth grade.

The financial strain that keeping kids engaged throughout the summer is another real challenge. Families pay on average $968 per child for summer activities. With 40% of American families unable to raise $400 without selling or pawning an item, the extra cost of summer care can be too much to bear.

Finding reliable and affordable summer programs for your children is not optional. Good programs exist that don’t cost an arm and a leg, but parents need to be proactive to land great opportunities.


  1. Start with city or state funded programs. Summer programs offered by your local municipalities are often less expensive because they’re conducted in public buildings. Park districts, local school buildings, or community centers can offer quality affordable programs. These programs also generally offer resources and access to activities and trips for a reasonable fee. They are generally limited in capacity relative to the demand in your area. Start to investigate the programs early. Talk with the program administrators to clearly understand registration dates, costs, and documentation requirements. These programs can fill up quickly. Parents with limited childcare options and a tight budget want to make signing up for these summer programs a priority.
  2. Investigate large churches in your area. Churches, especially those with larger congregations, also offer summer programs that can be both affordable and staffed with reliable adult supervision. These programs may also be limited in capacity, so start early. Talk to your neighbours with older children to get feedback and tips.
  3. Look into non-profit organizations. While the cost may not compare with municipal or church programs, non-profit organizations like the YMCA or the Boys and Girls Clubs of America are also known for their affordable and quality summer programs.

With any program, always ask if there are any fee waivers or scholarship opportunities available. There may be non-publicized grants or discretion among program administrators to waive fees or provide discounts to families in need.

Summer should be a time to recharge and rest for children who’ve worked hard throughout the year. Unfortunately, summer represents a challenge to balance much-needed summer care with affordable activities that fit the household budget. If parents are diligent and proactive, finding summer programs that don’t break the bank is possible.

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