Cool (and Free!) Summer Activities for Kids in Mercer County

With temperatures soaring to unbearable heights, it's hard to keep active and cool. We can help.

Cool (and Free!) Summer Activities for Kids NJLast week—my kids’ first full week of summer vacation—was a tough one for me and my kids. With temperatures soaring to unbearable heights, we found it hard to keep active and cool. We don’t have a backyard pool or pool club membership, so one particularly hot day I spent a fair amount of cash at the local Chuck E Cheese’s to keep my daughters happy, occupied and out of the summer heat.

But luckily, soon this summer there will be plenty of free programs that my kids and I and other local moms can participate in with our kids, so we won’t have to sweat the days away!

Bookworm Wednesdays

One of my favorite summer freebies is the Bookworm Wednesdays program by Showcase Cinemas. Through the program, my kids and I have been seeing free kids’ movies on summer Wednesday mornings (at 10 a.m.) at our local theater, Multiplex Cinemas at Town Center Plaza, for the past several summers. Every Wednesday morning from July 10 to August 7, parents get in free, and kids gain admission by filling out a short book report form. (The form only requires a sentence or two about a book a child has recently read for admission.) The forms can be downloaded online. The program runs at several New Jersey theaters – check the Showcase Cinemas website for theater locations.

The 10 a.m. Wednesday movies have become a social event for my daughters and me, as we often go to the free movies with friends. My kids love Bookworm Wednesdays, because at our local theater, at least one child is chosen at random (through a drawing of the book reports) to receive a prize at each Bookworm Wednesday showing. Movies scheduled this summer include Yogi Bear (2010), Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012), Madagascar 3 (2012), The Lorax (2012) and Hotel Transylvania (2012).

Find out all the locations where you can find free indoor movies this summer!

Kids Bowl Free

My kids and I participated in the Kids Bowl Free program past summers, and it has been both a good deal and fun! For just $24.95 at participating bowling centers, families can get an all-summer bowling Kids Bowl Free Family Pass that entitles them to two daily free games for the whole family (for up to four adults with the kids) all summer long, at an estimated value of $500. In the past, my kids and I have used our Family Pass at the East Windsor Bowl and Recreation Center in East Windsor.

The pass has been wonderful for my family, because it gives us a cool place to go to for fun family time throughout my kids’ summer vacation. The cost of renting bowling shoes is extra, however, so I’ve been thinking of looking for some used bowling shoes for me and my family to cut costs even more!

Barnes and Noble

Kids who download the Barnes and Noble summer reading journal and read eight books and write down a little bit about them on the journal can receive a free book from a Barnes and Noble bookstore this summer upon bringing the form to a local Barnes and Noble store. Children can choose a book from the list of books on their reading journal form. My children have participated in this program for the past several summers, and the enticement of a free book is a great way to keep them reading during their summer vacation! The day when we bring in our completed reading journals into the store is a big and fun event!

Local library

Our local library has always been a wonderful place to go to during the summer when the weather outside is too hot to enjoy.  Our local libraries (we go to either to the Hickory Corner Branch of Mercer County Library System, or the Hightstown Memorial Branch of the Mercer County Library System) run their own summer reading program, complete with events and prizes, and no doubt your local library does, too. There are also other programs that we can participate in over the summer, from story hours, to magic shows to craft sessions, etc. My kids also like to go to the library to browse for a new book, look at the free videos we can take out and read the children’s magazines – all in the air-conditioned coolness of the library!

Do you and your kids have fun free or next-to-free activities that you enjoy over the summer? I’d love to hear them! Share them in the comments below!

(You can also share them with me on my MomHomeGuide Facebook or Google+ page. I am always looking for new and fun summer activities to share with my kids!)

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There's nothing artificial in these blog posts from New Jersey's hardest-working women. Where to go, what to do, and how to do it—with kids—are all part of the mix.

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Essex County Real Mom Anna Sandler lives happily ever after with her Jersey-raised husband and three NYC-born children in the land of jug handles and disco fries. She loves baking and crafting with her kids, even if everything they make doesn't turns out Pinterest-perfect. Anna has never met a holiday she doesn't want to celebrate, and enjoys sharing ideas for everyday fun (indoor beach party, anyone?), as well as how to commemorate bigger moments from birthdays to first days of school.

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