Published July 6, 2021
We’re full-swing into summer break, and we can only imagine the never-ending choruses of “I’m booooored”s and “there’s nothing to dooooo”s around your house. Keeping kids occupied during summer break can be challenging during the best of times, but coming off a full year of COVID-related cabin fever means this summer, especially, is driving parents crazy.
Not to fear! There are tons of FREE (and low-cost) activities nearby to keep kids active and engaged…and hopefully just a tad less whiny. We’ve compiled a few of our favorites below, but this still only scratches the surface. If you haven’t bookmarked Indy’s Child and Indy with Kids in your browser yet, do yourself a favor and take a look. They’re both fantastic resources for all things kid-related in our fair city!
Lots to Love at the Library
We cannot praise the Indianapolis Public Library enough…. Year ‘round, they have all sorts of fun, free activities, but they really step up their game during the summer.
- Enroll your kids in the Summer Reading Program and encourage them to read books and do fun activities so they can win prizes! Turn it into a family event by enrolling yourself in the Adult Summer Reading Program, too. It’s quick and easy to register online, over the phone, or in person.
- Take a chill pill with a Mindfulness Minute for Kids & Families session.
- Delight your little animal lovers by going to an Animal Meet and Greet or an Animal Show, put on by Silly Safaris.
- And this only scratches the surface! There are events for kids who love art and kids who love engineering and kids who love cooking and kids who love dancing and kids who love…well, you get the picture. Check out the library’s full schedule of events to keep your kids occupied all summer long!
Garfield Park’s Got it Going On
There are so many parks around the Indy area, and many of them are the unsung heroes of the summer. None more so than Garfield Park—outdoor activities, indoor activities, art activities, nature activities…they have it all!
- Burello Family Center: Grab your sneaks and head to the gym! Ask about their free fitness classes, like yoga and karate, or just enjoy open gym hours, when admission for kids 12 and under is free. You can also enjoy the aquatics center or Pickleball for a small fee.
- Arts Center: Do you have a budding artist on your hands? Take them over to the Arts Center some Saturday to participate in their free Arts for All activities! While you’re at it, check out the exhibits around the building and engage your little ones in a “critique” of what you see. The Arts Center also puts on some fun events throughout the summer—check out their website for info on Vintage Movie Nights, a Bad Art Night, and the pet-friendly Picasso Puppies event!
- Conservatory and Sunken Garden: It’s always a good day when you get to explore the Sunken Gardens (free admission) at Garfield Park. Wander the grounds and admire three acres of beautiful formal garden displays and fountains. For an extra treat, visit the Conservatory ($2/person) and delight in more exotic plant life. The Conservatory and Garden also host several events throughout the summer for free or for a minimal fee. Check out the list here.
Opt for Outdoors
Speaking of parks, there’s no end to the fun when you opt to enjoy the outdoors and start exploring. Indy has a number of parks, from big to small, simple to extravagant, and almost all of them have a variety of activities going on any given day. Check out their website for a full list, and here are a few of our favorites:
- Clamber around the ruins, take a hike, or visit the Nature Center at Holliday Park.
- Go for a bike or a stroll on the Cultural Trail, and explore some of Indy’s hippest neighborhoods. Visit some of the local restaurants along the way, or pack a picnic!
- Throw on some old, don’t-give-a-care clothes and tennies and go creek stomping at Marott Park.
- Wander around (and play on) interactive public art on the grounds of the Indianapolis Art Center or at The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park (home of Funky Bones).
- Head downtown for some crazy fun at the Colts Canal Playspace!
Sometimes a good way to stop the “I’m bored”s is to give your kids a purpose. There are several organizations in town that could use an extra set of helping hands. Volunteering doesn’t always have to be “work,” either—if you align your volunteer activities with your kids’ interests, it could end up being the highlight of their summer! As a family, make a list of everyone’s interests and hobbies, and do a little research to find out if there are any opportunities that could be fun AND rewarding. Here are some examples to get you started:
- Does your family love animals? Look into the Parent & Me Volunteer Program or Youth Opportunities at IndyHumane.
- Do you have a budding cook on your hands? Volunteer for a nearby food pantry, like Mid-North.
- Into gardening? Help plant, weed, and harvest at Indy Urban Acres, a local farm that donates fresh produce to food pantries.
- Get creative by volunteering for Art With A Heart.
There’s so much to do in this city, and a lot of it is free, free, free! We can’t wait to hear what your families have been up to once we see everyone back in the classroom. Happy summer, everyone!