Today is July 1st and summer is in full swing! By the end of the school year I am over waking up three children at 7 am to feed, cloth, and rush them off to school!

Yes to SUMMER FREEDOM! No one, not even the dog is waking up in my house before 9 am! By mid-summer baseball has also finally ended in our household and the ONLY scheduled events we have upcoming are a few camping trips with our Cub Scout Pack and vacation we are still planning for late August! I am finally spending a few days wallowing in lazy days when my major to do’s include pulling weeds and reading books and trying out some recipes and crafts with the kids. Relaxed, chilled, unscheduled days, spent at home, after weeks of busily packed schedules that would have been impossible to pull off on my own without quick calls to mom friends asking if they can take this kid to that ball game! (Quick SHOUT OUT to the amazing group of Ligonier Moms who are always helping each other out!)

While I am happy to relax at home with my own pack of wildlings, undoubtedly the daily dramas which arise from summer boredom will soon be driving us parents to the loony bin. So what do we do when sports are over, and we are tapped out from summer vacations and summer camp programs? Where do we take our kids when you made slime for the 20 billionth time and you just can’t make it again?

Luckily here in the Ligonier Valley, we have soooo many different organizations offering Free, yes completely Free programs. Why is free so awesome, because you can do these programs over and over and you are not incurring a deficit. Carpool with a friend and save even more. The more money we save the more money we collectively have to put towards our families needs. School shopping is about to go down, ladies!

A few years ago now I created a Facebook page to facilitate the idea above. The more we save just by sharing free events with each other and even free kids items like clothes and sports equipment, the more we can use on our families needs. It is probably the scout in me, but being thrifty is something I take pride in. The page named Ligonier Valley free for kids is a meant to consolidate all the searching for kid-themed free events and giveaways in the area. we have so many things to offer locally but sometimes it’s hard to find them with so many different pages offering different things. This summer we have gone step father and created a linear style calendar of free events for you.

The programs listed are programs that are imaginative, creative and informative to keep the kids mentally engaged in the summer as well as physically active. Did you Know Keystone is having a Yoga on the beach session, of that Forbes State Forest, has Guided hikes of various mileage?

The playground program offered by the YMCA and COOK Township is a great opportunity for you to go grocery shopping ALONE ~which is my biggest complaint of the summer months! Oh how I love going to the store in the fall without kids in tow (who ask for the whole store repeatedly trying to break me.)

If you have kids, this summer calendar of free events is something you should refer to should the need to escape the house and occupy your minions arise. You can also visit Ligonier Valley Free For Kids on Facebook to find links to a lot of the events. If you know of any free events happening in an organization you belong to please feel free to post it to the page so that others can take advantage as well!

Some places to note that are always free to visit include the Powdermill Nature Reserve and Trails, The Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve and Trails, Keystone State Park Beach and Trails, the Forbes State Forest which has trails through-out Ligonier Township, Lynn Run State Park Trails and Flat Rock Natural Slide, Flight 93 Memorial and the Westmoreland Art Museum. Nothing beats getting outside and exploring nature with your kids no matter their age. just pack some water, snacks and some sandwiches and have a day exploring. Consider bringing some art supplies and encourage them to draw or paint something that inspires them on your visit.

Written by Sara Hillen, mom of three human children: Michael 10, Ian 7 and Hailey 3, and two wannabe human children: a giant dog, Finnegan and a very fat cat called Duncan. I have been a resident of Laughlintown for the past five years and previously spent summers and falls visiting the Ligonier Valley from Pittsburgh. I can proudly say I have never missed a Fort Day  Weekend in my life, and really enjoy the beautiful wilderness of the Laurel Highlands, as well as the wonderful sense of community so many Ligonier residents strive to share with each other. I spend my time volunteering with Scouts BSA of America, in Cub Scout Pack 370 and with RK Mellon PTA as the Scholastic Bookfair Chair Woman.
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July Calendar of Free Events for Kids

July 1 | Cook Township Playground Program                              9am-noon July 2 | Cook Township Playground Program                             9am-noon Game Night @ Heritage UM Church                                       5pm-7pm        July 3 | Cook Township Playground Program                              9am-noon Free Fishing at Keystone Lake                                          all day Geological History Walk @ Keystone SP                                   9am Cannon Ball Club @ Fort Ligonier 5-12yo                                 10:30-noon July 4 | Cook Township Playground Program                              9am-noon Free Fishing at Keystone Lake                                          all day July 5 | Friendly Fire Fri. @ Fort Ligonier Free Entry                             9:30am-7pm Playground program @ the YMCA w/ Swimming                      1pm-4pm Geological History Walk @ Keystone ...

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