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Free Things for Kids to Do in Summer

Updated on August 2, 2019
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Denise homeschooled her 4 children and has stories. She provided art lessons for many children in the homeschool community for many years.

Play chess
Play chess | Source

What To Do

If you are like me, you view the summer with a mixture of excitement and dread. Before it arrives, you can just hear the comments of boredom and laziness from your children. So what is a parent to do? Arm yourself with a list of things for these bored kids to do or participate in before the couch permanently fuses to their behinds. With things to do and things to look forward to, the summer won’t be nearly as long. Even if you have planned an expensive vacation, the rest of the summer looms ahead. However, there are plenty of free, healthy and even educational activities to keep your children occupied all summer. Here are only a few.

Lake Trip
Lake Trip | Source

The Family Magazine

If you have creative budding artists as I do, a bit of creative direction is in order. I started the Family Magazine one extra-long summer and it became something the kids did all year long. Divide up the Magazine features among the children, assign artwork and photography work, articles and interviews and turn them loose. A parent will have to take on the role of Editor and correct spelling or layout problems, but for the most part, the kids create and layout the magazine. Printing is much easier these days with in-home printers and scanners. We used to have ours printed at the local print show. It would have been great to have a printer at home back then. The only note is to keep personal information about your address, children’s personal info, such as last names and ages, out of the magazine for privacy reasons.

We had an “I Witness Weather” section, hosted by my son looking out his window. We had news of interest such as the tearing down of a section of homes as the eminent domain for the building of a new high school, etc. It was of interest because one of the homes belonged to my grandparents. The children learned a lot about politics and eminent domain laws through that feature. We had a poetry section and an art section featuring the kid’s personal work.

We had a Veterinary Section on the health, care, and feeding of pets. The pets included a rat, rabbits, dogs, cats, a parrot, chickens, ducks, and an occasional reptile. The possibilities are endless.

These magazines were given and sold for a pittance to friends and family members every month.

Library Reading Programs
Library Reading Programs | Source

Fairs and Festivals

The summer is the time when communities gear up for the local fairs and other shows. In my area, the County Fair isn’t until October, but I often feel this is unusual and mostly because we have really hot months all the way through September. Not only that but the County Fair is not free for entrance, parking, or rides. Still, the fairgrounds boasts Rodeos, Car Shows, Hot Air Balloon shows (early in the morning usually), Horse Races, Agricultural shows, and Food Festivals. Something for everyone.

We also have Farmer’s Markets once a week in several locations in my area. The Farmer’s Market boasts of more than just fresh produce grown locally. They usually have a petting zoo, live music, dancing in the street, artist’s booths, exotic food booths, plus free samples of products like dried cherries and raisins, cranberries and pineapple juice, just to name a few. Our farmer’s markets are free to get into although I have heard of places where they charge for parking. Check your area for the times and places near you.

Dancing in the Street at the Farmer's Market
Dancing in the Street at the Farmer's Market | Source

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Get Outside

This is the time to visit state parks, mountains, beaches and camping sites near you. Many offer free admission but you have to check before you go. The state parks near hear charge per carload but it is usually for parking. The day of hiking, swimming, picnicking, and exploring is ours. Bird watching is free and we created Bingo cards with different local birds that we could check off as we saw them. The first one to call Bingo won a prize. Usually, ice cream.

Shakespeare Dress-up Day
Shakespeare Dress-up Day | Source

Dress Up Day

We had a costume closet mostly because my husband ran a drama group through our church. However, I like to have fun things in the costume closet that we would never use at the church, like fairy wings and gorilla masks. I gathered these things a little at a time from thrift stores, wedding dresses, capes, wigs, Bozo shoes, Army boots, etc. One day a week throughout the summer and into the school year, we would have a Dress-up Day, where the kids each picked a character, either historical, fiction or non-fiction, and they were that character for the day. Who can’t have fun as a fairy, or Tarzan, or the Queen of England for a day? One day my daughter was Anna Pavlova for the day; she danced everywhere.

Trampoline | Source
Bubbles | Source


Summer is the time we would pull out the dishwashing liquid, glycerin and string on two sticks to make the extra big bubbles in the back yard. Incredibly fun for at least a couple hours. The kids got the hang of some pretty impressive bubbles. There are also the small Dollar Store bubbles available for the younger set. The dog helped to make this activity fun and funny.



You can buy kites but we like making our own. The craft/building part took most of an afternoon and the flying was left for another day. The biggest problem was waiting for a day where there was a little gust of air. Those still hot summer nights just didn’t have enough breezes to keep those kites up. But when we had the slightest breeze, look out!

Host a Bonfire

All you need is a backyard pit and family and friends. Have a S’mores cookout with homemade skewers for roasting the marshmallows. Don’t forget the music. What’s a bonfire without a sing-along. Think about your favorites but we always liked to sing Amazing Grace and then the kids thought up the songs faster than we could sing them.

Bonfire | Source

Have a Scavenger Hunt

We used to live way out in the country, miles from any other neighbors, excepting the cows. So I would make Treasure Hunts instead of scavenger hunts, but it’s the same idea. Make a list of things to find, divide the kids into two groups and turn them loose. My treasure hunts were often poems with part 2 and part 3 and part 4 found where the previous one left off. It also took a bit of brainpower as I didn’t come right out and say, “Go to the chicken coop” but made them think about where to find cluckers or sunrise in a round box. At the end of the treasure hunt or scavenger hunt have a prize waiting. It could be as easy as a favorite meal or an ice cream Sunday. It doesn’t matter because they are all going to enjoy the process more than the prize anyway.

Swimming | Source


We did a lot of swimming as well. We had a family member who allowed us to use their pool every afternoon all summer long. It was a lovely diversion.


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