Free (or sort of) for all

June 29, 2012 | Posted in: Early Learners, Elementary, High School, Middle Years

Spending time with our children during the summer is a rewarding experience. Spending time together doing something free – or close to it – adds a whole new level of enjoyment.

Here are several suggestions for free or inexpensive activities we discovered throughout the Capital Region. Most of them are available wherever you live. Whatever you choose to do, remember that by spending time together you’re creating cherished memories and helping foster healthy family relationships.

Words to live by

We can’t resist the opportunity to encourage reading, so we’ll start with a suggestion to check your local library for summer programs. Many libraries offer themed programs that give young readers – from babies up to teens – prizes for reading. Some even offer summer reading programs for adults. Going on vacation? Cool off in a library. You can find a list of New York state libraries at

Bookstores frequently feature summer reading programs as well. Barnes and Noble’s “Imagination’s Destination” is for kids in grades 1-6. Kids receive a free book from a designated list when they read eight books over the summer. The bookseller’s reading program website also features parent and educator activity kits that include fun activities about reading to be completed with a child. For more information, visit online at

Speaking of words, works by the master wordsmith, William Shakespeare, are commonly featured in summer theater productions. Saratoga Springs Shakespeare Company performs free in that village’s Congress Park at 6 p.m. on Tuesday-Saturday, July 17-21 and July 24-28, and at 3 p.m. on Sundays, July 22 and 29. For more information, visit online at

Make it your own

Local home improvement stores Home Depot and Lowes both offer free build-it workshops for kids and an accompanying adult. Each store offers a workshop on select Saturday mornings (check the Lowes and Home Depot websites for specific times and projects).

Lowe’s Build and Grow Clinics are offered for children 5 and up. Participants receive a free apron, goggles and project kit. Parents must stay with their child while the project is assembled. During the roughly hour-long class, kids complete a project. Past projects have included wooden toys, birdhouses, games, kaleidoscopes and treasure boxes.

Visit the Lowe’s Build and Grow Clinics website to view the next two upcoming clinics. To register a child, enter your zip code under the chosen clinic and click on the Register button.

The Home Depot Kids Workshop is for children ages 5-12. Participants receive a free project kit, kid-sized orange apron and an achievement pin for a job well done. Past projects have included fire trucks, birdhouses, picture frames, toolboxes, mail organizers, race cars and planters, among others.

No registration is required for the Home Depot Kids Workshop. Simply show up at your local Home Depot during the time frame (usually starts at 9 a.m. on the first Saturday of every month). An adult must stay with the child during project completion.

To view the upcoming workshop project, visit the Home Depot Kids Workshop website.

Be a good sport

Football fans young and old are delighted with the return to Albany of the New York Giants training camp. The Super Bowl XLIV champions are expected to draw more than 40,000 fans to watch their preseason practices, held at the University at Albany from July 27 to Aug. 14. Giants training camp will feature 14 single practices, all at 1 p.m. Players, including star quarterback Eli Manning, are generally available for autographs following daily practices.

Due to current construction on the UAlbany campus, locations for practices and access has changed. For updated information, check the Giants or UAlbany websites closer to training camp.

If you live or will visit the Rochester area this summer, you may enjoy a day at the Buffalo Bills training camp at St. John Fisher College. The Bills have gained notoriety for one of the top training camp destinations for visiting fans. You can find out more at

Area bowling centers offer a Kids Bowl Free program during the summer. Sign up for children to receive two free games per day all summer. (Note: Age limit may vary by bowling site; bowling shoes required by most sites for additional fee.) A family pass is also available for about $25. The family pass includes two free games per day for up to four adults, all summer long. Not only can you have fun as a family, you can incorporate some bowling math by asking the kids to figure out how many pins are left out of 10 if you knock down 7 – or 3 if bowling isn’t your best sport. For more information, visit online at

Reel time

Regal Cinemas offers Summer Movie Express, a nine-week festival at participating theaters. Movies (G- or PG-rated) are shown at 10 a.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. There is a ($1) fee this year, and a portion of proceeds will be donated to the Will Rogers Institute. For a schedule of movies, visit online at Regal Cinemas.

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