- Family and Parenting
30 Summer Activities For Kids
Summer is almost here and children will be home all day every day. How often during the long summer days have you as a parent heard, "I'm bored, there's nothing to do". How many children do you see wake up on a summer morning, turn on the TV or a video game, and not stop until the day is done. Summer can be a time of so much fun for kids; a time of learning, growing, exploring, and doing new and different things. Sometimes it's just difficult to come up with ideas or plans, and sometimes plans seem too lofty or expensive. But...summer activities don't require a lot of money, supplies, or preparation to be wholesome and fun.
At the beginning of each summer, my children and I love to make a list of things we want to do before school begins again in the fall. We try to do things on the list each week, and by the time the summer is over, the children can look back and actually have an idea of what they accomplished, the fun they had, and keep the memories for years to come. I've come up with a list of 30 free or very low cost ideas that can give you a jump start on your summer plans.
1. Go on a scavenger hunt. Make a list or use pictures to show your children what it is they should find, then send them outside or take them to a park and let them go. Give them a time frame and the one who comes back with the most found items wins (what you ask---maybe first in line for dessert, first choice for popsicle color, etc.). Change this idea up a little and make it a photo scavenger hunt. Arm each child with a camera (if available) and send them out to photograph listed items. This would also provide a memory keepsake.
2. Go on a hike. Parks. nature preserves, universities, and many other places within each state have hiking and nature trails, with some even marked with the types of plants and animals you can find. Closer to home, you can take a nature walk around your neighborhood. I always had so much fun taking my kids in their strollers around the neighborhood and having them listen for the birds or look for the birds sitting on the power lines, or watch dragon flies fly by. You can also spot Mrs. Smith's new roses she just planted, Mr. White's squirrel feeder with the squirrel on it, or any of so many other things that we normally are too busy to notice.
3. Go swimming. Do you have a friend with a pool? Is there a community pool close? Does the local college or university offer low cost swim times? Is there a beach or lake close by?
4. Play in the sprinklers. Get on bathing suits or just old clothes and turn on the sprinklers, then get set for hours of fun. Make up games in the sprinklers, play follow the leader, practice flips and turns, etc. If you have a large plastic tarp, you can spread some dishwashing liquid on it and turn it into a giant slip and slide.
5. Create a backyard obstacle course. If you have jump ropes, bicycles, a swing set, balls, buckets, or any other backyard toys, you can create a giant obstacle course in your backyard for kids to run through. Time them and then see if they can beat their time.
6. Go on a picnic. Have your children help you pack up goodies and find a fun spot to picnic. Many kids haven't had a meal outside of a dining room table before.
7. Find a new park. I know in our town there are parks everywhere. Find a new one and play on the equipment. Go to a new park each week and write an article about the best parks in your town.
8. Pick blueberries. In Pensacola, Florida where I live, June and July are peak months for blueberries. If this is true for you, go find a blueberry field and pick. If not, find out what's in season.
9. Visit a local farm, animal or plant. Tour the farm, find out what you can do on the farm. Can you ride the horses, pet the animals, feed the animals, pick the vegetables or fruits.
10. Start a new exercise program. Try to begin to walk, run, or bike with your kids and keep a log of how far you go each day/week. By the end of the summer, tally your miles.
11. Visit a fire station or police station for a tour. Many such stations have no problem letting parents or groups of parents bring children for tours and they welcome the opportunity to teach children safety skills. Kids love to try on the fire fighter's hat, boots, stand by the big wheels on the truck, or watch the water shoot out. Before you go, if possible, clean out stuffed animals and take them to donate. Police and fire fighters use these to give to children they come in contact with during times of crisis.
12. Wash the cars. To some this may sound like work, but to many kids, getting on their bathing suits and playing in the water while squirting it on the car is lots of fun. Even little kids can have a sponge and wash tires. Don't forget to get as wet as possible.
13. Go to the beach. If you are lucky enough to live close to a beach or lake, take advantage of this. Go to the beach and build huge sandcastles, make habitats for hermit crabs, or throw a frisbee. Don't forget the sunscreen though.
14. Have a lemonade stand. An old summer stand by. Help your kids make a few pitchers of lemonade and set up a table in the front yard. Saturdays are the best days for this when people are out going to garage sales. Another thing that kids can sell at a small stand is extra fruits or vegies from the garden.
15. Baking. Have children go through a cookbook and find a new recipe they want to try. Make sure you have all of the ingredients.
16. Make a book. Get a piece of construction paper and some white copy paper. Fold the copy paper between the colored construction paper and staple at the fold. Then give children markers and pencils and let them go at it writing and illustrating their own book. See how creative they can be.
17. Have a sleepover party. Do this as a family or invite friends. Move living room furniture to the side and set out sleeping bags, then put on a movie and pop popcorn.
18. Make homemade pizza. Grab some refrigerated pizza dough, english muffins, or just bread. Then put small bowls of various toppings such as cheese, pepperoni, black olives, or any other fun toppings and let kids put what they want on their own pizza. How fun is it to eat what you've made.
19. Have the kids create a talent show.
20. Do science experiments.
21. Have kids do arts and crafts. Put out paper, glue, markers, pipe cleaners, scissors, tissue paper, and any number of other items found around the house on a table covered with newspaper or a plastic table cloth (I save the plastic table cloths from birthday parties). Let childen use their imagination and create whatever they want. Display afterward.
22. Sign up for a library reading program. Most public libraries have a summer reading program that is fun for children. Ours uses a board game format where children roll dice and move spaces, then find a book to read based on the space they land on. At various intervals, they can stop and get a prize. When it concludes, they get coupons for free items.
23. Make a fort in the house. Use blankets and chairs or couches, etc, to make a covered "fort" for kids to play inside of.
24. Go to free movies. Many movie theaters will have free movie times once or twice a week during the summer where they show family movies (i.e. Disney cartoons, popular characters, etc.) Check your local theater for a schedule.
25. Put on a play. Have children write a play, find a book they like, or find an already existing play to put on. Have them schedule a performance time, hand out tickets, and put on the play for friends and neighbors.
26. Vacation Bible School. Many churches put on a Vacation Bible School and welcome anyone to bring children. These programs are usually free.
27. Volunteer. Do your children love animals, other children, helping the environment? Do they have a heart for the poor, the homeless, or nature preserves? There are so many opportunities to volunteer for children of all ages.
28. Create a treasure hunt. Make clues around the house for your children to follow with a small treat at the end. These can be so much fun and as detailed as you want them to be. Make it a mystery story and the child is solving a mystery by following the clues.
29. Make media time educational. If your children are like mine, they love their game systems, computers, IPODS, hand held devices, or anything else that keeps their faces towards a screen. Media time can also be educational and fun with the right programs. There are so many websites that make learning fun with games, challenges, and activities. For younger children to about 2nd grade, Starfall is an amazing reading program that incorporates games and interactive pictures with words and stories on the screen. Other fun sites: PBSKids, Poptropica, and Sheppardsoftware.
30. Start a business. Sound like a big task? Kids want to be able to earn their own money and summer is a great time to do it. I have one daughter, 14, who went on YouTube and learned to make hair bows. She has marketed them and is making money. Not to be outdone, her 8 year old sister wanted her own business, so after much discussion, we decided on planting seeds in decorated plastic cups, and when they grew, she could sell the plants for $2 each. She made her own money this way. With social media these days, word gets around fast. They have had their businesses since last summer and are still making money.
Above all, don't forget to have fun and enjoy each other. Make memories to treasure because, as the saying goes, "they grow up too fast".