Free Summer Activities for Children in Burnsville (and Why You Should Go!)

I’ve been collecting free summer activities in the Burnsville, MN area that I want to share with local families in the South Metro area.

These great activities for kids are for more than just passing the time- each has it’s own developmental benefits, read to learn more!


10 Free Burnsville Activities 


  1. Library programming– the local Burnhaven Library has a ton of activities for children of all ages.  While reading and literacy is the main focus (with traditional story times offered frequently), they also have Lego play groups, music and other performers, arts and crafts, and even “drive-in” movies for young children.
    • Why you should go?  Free.  A great way to help children learn to participate in a group activities, such as story time, in a very low risk, welcoming environment.  They offer such a wide variety of programming that everyone can find something they can try, even evening and weekend options are available.  This is a great time to practice social and self-regulation skills, like walking and using a quiet voice inside, sharing toys with friends, and listening to an adult’s directions.burnhaven library
  2. Home Depot– each local store offers a free children’s craft the first Saturday of each month.  The advertisements say ages 5+, but you will see many younger children working with parents there.  You just show up, get a kit, and make the creation.  It is loud (lots of children hammering) and messy (acrylic paint is used, so wear older clothing), but you get to work with your child to create a usable product (bird house, tool box, etc.).
    • Why you should go?  Free.  A great parent-child activity, a chance to help your child try something new (and something you are not likely to do at home).  These projects are a great chance to work on executive functioning skills, as well as practical motor and visual-motor skills, such as hammering.  Children get to practice skills such as attention to task, sequencing steps, and creative to decorate their project.home depot kids
  3. Splash pad– Burnsville has 2 splash pads now.  The newest is at Lions Playgrounds, just opened last year.  It is small, but compliments the wonderful new playground at Cliff Fen Park.  It is a great way to spend an afternoon in the nice picnic areas, open grassy areas, playgrounds, and splash pad.  The second is a larger splash pad, a non-traditional water feature for children to play in at Nicollet Commons Park (the “Heart of the City”.  It is a small shallow river for the youngest kids, and a variety of small climbing areas with running water and fountains.  It pairs nicely with many summer events at the amphitheater set-up (see #7).
    • Why you should go?  A great way for children of all ages to experience a variety of sensory experiences while building motor skills.  The climbing structures allow a chance to work on safety and control.  You will almost always find other children around to play with, which is a great opportunity to encourage social interaction skills.splash pad
  4. Disc golf- a great activity to try for older children, Red Oak Park in Burnsville has a free course.  (Not sure what disc golf is, read more here).
    • Why you should go?  Disc golf is a great family activity that can be enjoyable without being overly competitive (especially when no one really knows how to play- all the more fun to learn together).  The game is a great challenge for visual-motor skills, eye-hand coordination, and encourages physical activity.  Sports activities are a great chance to work on strategy use and problem solving skills in a fun, rewarding environment.disc golf child
  5. Go to the beach– Burnsville has a nice beach at Crystal Lake Park.  It can by busy on hot days, so plan ahead to find a good spot.  We often go on cooler days and just play in the sand.  The park also has walking trails and playground equipment, as wells as picnic areas.
    • Why you should go?  Sand and water is a great combination for exploration and creativity for children.  It encourages sensory play, as well as development of motor skills as child run, dig, and build in the sand.child playing on beach
  6. Visit neighborhood garage sales– a great way to get outside, go a walk together, and meet some neighbors.  Let you child carry a small amount of cash and make  small purchase for themselves (or to give to someone else to encourage thinking of others).
    • Why you should go?  Children benefit from being part of a community.  Meeting neighbors in a safe environment is a great way to promote awareness of the world around them.  Letting children spend small amounts of money is a great way to help them build cognitive skills (impulse control to not buy the first thing they want, problem-solving to decide what they can afford, ect.)garage sale sign
  7. Attend a free concert– Burnsville has a variety of summer concerts for different ages groups.  On Thursdays midday, there is a preschool focused event at the Heart of the City with a local principle reading books, followed by a free musical performance for children (all while kids play in the splash pad).  In the evening there are free adult focused concerts and a kids movie night.
    • Why you should go?  Music is loved by almost any child, and whether the traditional kids concerts or more adult focused concerts, it is a great chance to expand your child’s awareness of a variety of musical styles.  Attending group events helps children work on social skills (knowing how to wait, learning how to sit quietly when needed, participating with other children in group activities like dancing.) burnsville-park
  8. Grocery store– visit any local grocery store, go on a scavenger hunt.  Make a simple or complex list for your child and enjoy the trip.  You can increase the challenge as children gets older.  For example, older children can find a recipe or science experiment they want to try, make a list, then go shopping to find all the supplies (a great executive functioning task).
    • Why you should go?  This activity is an option, even on the hottest or rainiest of days.  It is always open and air conditioned.  You can tailor your activity to the age and abilities (as well as interest), especially to work on cognitive and executive functioning skills.  The grocery store is a great place to work on visual processing skills (scanning the shelves), as well as functional problem solving skills.  Try making a scavenger hunt game for the store.color and shape scavenger hunt
  9. and 10. Visit your local parks and go on walk/hike– Burnsville is filled with both small neighborhood parks and larger community parks (nearly everyone had a park within walking distance of their home).  Find a park close to you on the city website.  Burnsville has miles of hiking trails, but sometimes the best ones are the ones closest to home.  Check out your neighborhood for pathways to explore.  Our new favorite is Crosstown West Park with walking paths to a small lake filled with ducks!
    • Why you should go?  Being outside and physically active is great for children’s development.  Each playground can offer a new sensory experience (sand, mulch, gravel) and motor challenges (swings, slides, climbing equipment, teeter-totters, balance beams, tunnels…) for children- so take a short journey and try out a new park each week.  The sensory experiences children will find as they explore (and as adult let them explore- encourage safe and active exploration- get messy, be creative and adventurous!).  Most parks have walking trails; taking a family walk is a great way to bond as a family, encouraging conversation and relationship building moments with your child.  Hiking trails are quiet, safe, and a great way to explore together.
    • Here are some great OT posts about playgrounds:
Paige Hays is an occupational therapist who provides in-home, pediatric occupational therapy services in the south metro area of the Twin Cities, MN. She is a mother of 2 girls, avid DIYer, and a highly skilled and experienced OT. She specializes in working in pediatrics, with diverse expertise ranging from cognition and sensory issues to working with children with neuromuscular disabilities or complex medical needs.