We all want to beat the summer heat without breaking the bank. I live in Wisconsin where the winters are LONG so we are so ready to get out and enjoy the nice weather when it finally arrives. In my experience, children are easily entertained. They find delight in the little and simple things. People joke that kids have more fun with the box that the toy comes in than the actually toy. I have found this to be true! My son's favorite things to play with right now are the large box that his new car seat came in and a water bottle.
Planning your summer fun doesn't have to be expensive. It just takes a little creativity. Some of the most memorable summer days for me growing up were the times we would just make up silly games in the backyard. I remember wanting to go on the computer and play video games a lot in the summer and my parents limited the time I could do that. At the time, it was slightly annoying but I'm thankful they guided me to find balance. When they asked me to turn off the Nintendo or step away from the computer, you could find me outside using my imagination and making up fun games with my younger siblings.
This list of ideas really works for all ages of children. You might have to modify the activities depending on the age range of children you have. Most of these activities are things you can do together as a family and others you can let the children do with some supervision. Keep in mind, they are only little for so long and they will remember how involved you were in their playtime! I hope to be very involved in my children's playtime because I know a day will come where they will want to go off and play with their friends and I don't want to wish I had spent more time with them!
So here is the list! Consider it your summer agenda and start checking activities off the list as you complete them. These activities range from completely free to about $30 maximum. Enjoy!
- Backyard Water Park. If you don't want to pack up the minivan and head to the water park, you can create one in your own backyard! You can pick up a kiddie pool, sprinkler or slip and slide for cheap.
- Bubble Show. Take the kiddos outside for a bubble show. Start by blowing small bubbles and let them watch them float away. Help them count how many bubbles they see. You can also make it a game to see how many bubbles they can pop. For DIY giant bubbles, all you need is string, bubble mix and dish soap. Save that for the grand finale. :)
- Outdoor Finger Painting. Kids love to get messy. It's inevitable. Outdoor finger painting is a great sensory activity. There are tons of great DIY paint recipes if you want to create your own. Bring a pack of wipes out with you so you can wipe them down before going back inside. Ask them to try painting there name or something they see outside.
- Library Trip. A trip to the local library is always a fun field trip. This is especially nice for super hot days or rainy days. You can find a cozy place to read books with them or check some out to bring home. It's important to keep your children in the habit of reading while they are out of school for the summer to keep their skills sharp.
- Nature Walk. Get your little explorers outdoors for a nature walk. Stop and show them things along the way. Depending on where you live, there will be different animals and plants to explore. As I was out for a nature walk with my son, we stopped and saw a squirrel. I pointed out the big fluffy tail and how they eat acorns. As the squirrel scurried up into the tree, I explained that's where they live. We also stopped and picked up some small pine cones so he could touch them. I showed him the big pines trees where they fell from. Make the walk interactive and ask them to point out what they see and ask questions.
- Picnic in the Park. It's always so much fun to eat outside. Pack a lunch and head to your favorite park or outdoor spot. Make sure to show them the importance of cleaning up after yourself and not littering. We don't want to teach them bad habits! They observe everything we do. Ask them to help clean up and throw trash away.
- Backyard Camping. Set up a tent and blankets in the backyard. You can have a little campfire and make smores. Lay on the blanket together and count the stars. You don't necessarily have to sleep out there all night but it's a fun evening activity. You can sing campfire songs and ask them to gather twigs for the fire.
- Sidewalk Chalk. Let them show their creativity on the sidewalk! Help them draw hopscotch squares, play tic tac toe, or ask them to draw their favorite animal. The possibilities are endless.
- Local Festivals. Check your local newspaper and sign up for email notifications on local activities. We have music in the park and car shows almost every week in the summer. These are free events and it's fun to get out and enjoy the community.
- Outdoor Treasure Hunt. Hide prizes around the yard and give them clues on how to find them. You can also have them hide things and give you clues! Make it easy enough so they can figure out but you can also turn into a learning activity depending on their age level.
- Beach Baby. A day at the beach is free and fun. Pack up some toys, snacks and sunscreens and enjoy the day. You can get in the water and splash around or hang out on the beach and watch boats and wildlife go by.
- Ice Cream Run. This is my all time favorite summer activity. Go pick up some ice cream and it will really feel like summer. We like to pick up some cold treats at our local ice cream parlor and walk a few blocks down to the riverfront park and eat it in the shade.
- Sparklers. There is something magical about sparklers. They are simply mesmerizing. Have a "sparkler show" and let the kids watch you wave it around. Depending on their age, they could try holding one as well.
- Make a Fort. This can be an indoor or outdoor activity. If you have any large boxes, help them setup a fort to crawl through. This is such a fun activity and essentially free.
- Garden & Harvest. If you have a green thumb, teach the kiddos your ways. Show them how to plant things in the garden. Ask for help picking berries and gathering fruits and vegetables that are ready for harvest. Teach them what plants need in order to grow. There are kid-friendly gardening items like small watering cans. Get them some gardening equipment of their own and let them help.
- Craft. There are hundreds of fun craft ideas you can do with kids. You can make a birdhouse, paint a flower pot, or create a summer wreath - just to name a few. Let the kids help pick out the items at the store and craft together. Crafts can be done both indoors or outdoors!
- Outdoor Movie. You don't need a big fancy projector but if you have one - great! You can even just take a blanket and your laptop outside and watch a movie together as a family. Bring some snacks to share.
- Yard Olympics. Make up some fun yard Olympics games. You will need to be creative. Make it a friendly competition and teach them that even if they win or lose it is still fun! You can use any toys or household items to set up games like relay races, ring toss or a distance throw competition. Create awards for putting forth effort or being a good sport to their teammates to instill good competitive practices. This is also a great way to run out their energy and they will sleep good!
- Birding. Sit outside or go for a walk to watch the birds. Ask them to point out the birds they see and what colors they are. I like to sprinkle birdseed out in my front yard in the same spot every day so the birds know to come. My son and I watch the birds hop around the yard and eat the seeds.
- Wash the Car. It's always a parenting win when you can make a chore seem fun. You can turn any chore into a game if you set your mind to it. Put them in their swimsuits, give them a sponge and have fun. Splash around and enjoy the nice weather and you wash your vehicle.
- Sensory Sandbox. You can create a DIY sandbox or buy one at the store for cheap. Kids love to play in the sand and it's a great sensory activity. You can buy them so beach toys to play in the sand or simply give them a few cups and spoons from the kitchen.
- Water Balloon Toss. Get them in their swimsuit and have them help fill up water balloons. You can hide them around the yard, you can do a water balloon toss or you can create a DIY balloon launcher and see how far you can launch them. Ask the kids to help you walk around the yard to pick up the balloon pieces to throw them away. Make the clean up part a fun game too!
- Dance Party. Kids love to be silly and let loose. Turn on some music outside and dance! Kidz Bop is always a good mix of songs for a dance party. You can combine the dance party with some of the above activities as well for some extra fun! Have a dance party/bubble show! The possibilities are endless.
Just because you are on a tight budget doesn't mean you can't have the best summer ever. Kids won't remember or care about how much money you spent. They will remember how involved you were and how much fun they had. Even if you aren't on a tight budget, you can have frugal fun and save your money for your children's future or for a fun family vacation! Hope you all have a wonderful and memorable summer.
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