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Summer’s almost here, which means the clock is ticking to line up activities for the kids. Do yourself – and your budget – a favor, and don’t spend a ton of money to keep them busy.
Instead, take advantage of all the free and cheap summer programs offered by local and national businesses. They will keep your kids reading, bowling, making movies, watching movies and touring museums – all without breaking the bank of mom or dad.
On top of that, Triangle libraries are kicking off free summer reading programs that reward kids – and in some cases, adults – for reading. Free book bags, stickers, weekly rewards and prizes, story hours, puppet shows, book clubs and contests are all in the works. Call your local library for details.
• Barnes & Noble bookstores will reward your children with free books just for reading. Print out the store’s reading log at BarnesandNoble.com/summerreading and once the kids complete eight books, they can choose a free book to take home. Among the titles your kids can earn: Jane O’Connor’s “Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth”; Beverly Cleary’s “Ramona Quimby, Age 8” and for older readers, “Hoot” by Carl Hiaasen. The program runs through Sept. 3.
• Pottery Barn Kids stores have launched a summer reading challenge for kids ages 10 and under. Get the details and a reading log at PotteryBarnKids.com under the “Features” tab. Once your kids have read all 14 books on the recommended list, turn the log in for a free book. The program runs through Aug. 26 and also includes in-store story times. The Triangle’s Pottery Barn Kids store is at Streets of Southpoint in Durham.
• Apple Stores across the country will be hosting free three-day “Apple Camps” for children ages 8 to 12, where kids will make their own movies using – what else – Apple products. The kids will learn how to shoot their own footage and put it to original music. Sign up at www.apple.com/retail/camp/notify.html to be notified about upcoming dates.
• Stadium 10 at Northgate theaters in Durham will be opening its doors every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning this summer for free kids movies. The series of movies includes “Charlotte’s Web,” “The Lorax” and “Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Squekquel.” The program starts June 11 and continues through Aug. 15. Go to www.ecemovies.com for a complete schedule.
• At Regal theaters throughout the Triangle, the movies aren’t free this year but still a bargain at $1. The movies will be shown at 10 a.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays for nine weeks, starting June 11. Each theater will show two movies each week. Titles include “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” “Parental Guidance” and “Racing Stripes.” For a complete schedule go to regmovies.com and click on the Summer Movie Express link.
• At Stone Theatres’ Park West 14 in Morrisville, kids summer movies are also $1. Show time is 10 a.m. Tuesday, Wednesdays and Thursdays for eleven weeks, starting June 11. “The Smurfs,” “Madagascar 3” and “Hotel Transylvania” are among the titles. Check the full schedule at StoneTheatres.com.
• AMF bowling centers in the Triangle are offering free bowling to kids 15 and under all summer long through Sept. 2. Register at Freebowling.amf.com and each of your children will be entitled to two free games per day. For $34.95, parents may purchase a summer pass that allows them to bowl with their children. Up to four adults may use the pass. Shoe rentals for kids and adults are extra. In the Triangle, AMF centers are located in Cary, Durham and Raleigh.
• The Alley in Raleigh, Rainbow Lanes Family Fun Center in Clayton and Kendale Lanes in Sanford are also offering free bowling to kids ages 15 and under through the national KidsBowlFree.com program. Shoe rental is extra. Head to KidsBowlFree.com for more information and to sign up.
And finally, some kids’ programs run all year long, but summertime’s more leisurely schedule may be the only time you have to take advantage of them. Here are a few ideas:
• If you have a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch credit or debit card, use it for a free admission to select museums around the country on the first full weekend of every month. In the Triangle, get in free to Marbles Kids Museum and the Nasher Museum of Art. Or take advantage of it while on vacation. Head to museums.bankofamerica.com for a complete list of qualifying museums.
• Call your closest Home Depot and Lowes Home Improvement stores about their free workshops where kids get to wield a hammer and take home a new project each month. At Home Depot, kids ages 4 to 12 build a new project on the second Saturday of each month. At Lowes Home Improvement, Build and Grow clinics are offered at 10 a.m. on select Saturdays and Sundays.