Free summer activities for military families

Summer is a special time for families to reconnect. Kids get to take a break from the rigor of school and the stresses of virtual learning. And parents can find more opportunities for military-life balance and family bonding. But while opportunities for summer fun seem endless, costs can add up. The good news is that there are many ways to discover new places and have new adventures at little or no cost.

When it’s safe to do so, plan some indoor and outdoor activities with your kids, and enjoy free admission to national parks and museums across the country. Hiking, camping, and learning activities are good for everyone’s minds and bodies—and they don’t have to break the bank either. Check out these tips to meet your military work-life goals, build family unity, and grow your connections.

  • Explore the great outdoors. Kids get more exercise at parks and playgrounds, so shake things up by taking them to any national park. Free annual passes are available to current U.S. Military Service Members and their families, as well as Reserve and National Guard members.
  • Find unique learning opportunities. Military families also can enjoy free admission to over 2,000 nature centers and art, science, history, and children’s museums through Labor Day. Museums encourage active learning and impact kids’ social and mental development. Little ones especially enjoy hands-on activities, interactive exhibits, and new learning experiences with their parents at children’s museums. And it keeps them on the go.
  • Tap into military discounts. Check out your local Information Tickets and Travel (ITT) office for events and other attractions near you. Get military discounts on activities and lodging, and find out what’s going on in your area.
  • Discover local nature. Chances are there are many parks, nature centers, and hiking trails in your area that you might not even be aware of. Take some time to discover new outdoor hangouts for you and your children. Kids who camp and hike tend to have more positive attitudes towards nature and the environment. And spending time outside actually improves kids’ health and focus—and can even be an opportunity to develop social skills.
  • Consider going to camp. Summer camp gives children a chance to learn new skills, explore different activities, and make friends. Many local military installations offer summertime programs or camps for kids (and even during some school breaks). Several organizations (like the National Military Family Association) and independent camps also offer free camp sessions for military kids and families.
  • Be prepared. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 web page for updates on the latest closures and related guidance for indoor and outdoor activities. Save money and time by packing water and snacks from home too. Before you leave, plan your route, practice safe sun, and remember to keep it fun!

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References

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Abacı, O., & Usbaş, H. (2010). Investigation of the effects of the program “utilization of the museums for pre-school education” on 6 year-old children. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2(2), 1205–1209. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2010.03.173

Kruger, J., Nelson, K., Klein, P., McCurdy, L. E., Pride, P., & Carrier Ady, J. (2009). Building on partnerships: Reconnecting kids with nature for health benefits. Health Promotion Practice, 11(3), 340–346. doi:10.1177/1524839909348734

McFarland, A. L., Zajicek, J. M., & Waliczek, T. M. (2017). The relationship between parental attitudes toward nature and the amount of time children spend in outdoor recreation. Journal of Leisure Research, 46(5), 525–539. doi:10.1080/00222216.2014.11950341

Milligan, M. J., & Brayfield, A. (2016). Museums and childhood. Childhood, 11(3), 275–301. doi:10.1177/0907568204040183

Shine, S., & Acosta, T. Y. (2000). Parent-child social play in a children's museum*. Family Relations, 49(1), 45–52. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3729.2000.00045.x