100 FREE things to do with your kids this summer

Written by Nikki Amara Myers

My daughter’s first year of preschool ended last week.  Now what?  Camps?  Play dates?  Crafts?  Parks?  Adventures to here-and-there?  There are endless opportunities; however, finding the time to research and organize these activities can be time consuming.  Thank goodness for Sarah B., author of the wonderfully creative Digital Reflections, an incredible blog with a plethora of ideas, tips, and recommendations regarding crafts, digital scrap booking and discovering the ordinary.  I’m so glad I found Digital Reflections’ post as it was a healthy and wonderful reminder that having fun with my children doesn’t have to cost anything.  Creativity, planning ahead, and developing a back-up-plan will yield various opportunities to build a summer filled with weekly, or even daily, activities where you child will have fun, learn (without it being obvious), be inspired to try new things, and perhaps grasp that interesting and fun things to do are all around them, and that daily life provides an exciting canvas for them to paint. 
How many free activities will you choose to plan?  Ten?  Forty?  All?  It is up to you.  For me, if it’s not in the calendar it doesn’t get done so I’m planning ahead, making my list, and getting those soon-to-be adventures into the calendar.  Whether you go only with your children or you coordinate a group remember to have fun, document what you’ve done through photographs or words, share your experience, and continue to build a wonderful framework of fun for you child.  Happy Summer!
A big, huge thank you to Digital Reflections’ author, Sarah B., for allowing us to benefit from her wonderful summer suggestions.   Thank you, Sarah and Digital Reflections!  

100 FREE THINGS to do with your kids this summer

A little break from our summer activity to bring you a list of things to do this summer, that won’t break the bank, and if you are handy they will actually be FREE.  If you are keeping up with our summer you know I am all about keeping the kids from being bored, but also about enhancing their education in the process and bringing them back to nature.  

1.  Library – check out books that have IDEAS – give reason for further hands-on study (activity).  Reserve books through your online service at your local library that has items of interest for your child’s age group, how to make paper airplanes, science experiments, craft projects, etc.  

2. Library – STORY TIME – something about a different setting can break up the routine for the kids and it gives them something to look forward to.

3. Local Parks – go early, pack a lunch, bring a drawing tablet, and enjoy the outside before it’s too hot.

4. Take a field trip.

5.  Visit a fire department

6.  Play in the water – but aside from the everyday play in the sprinkler and kiddie pool – make games with the water.  Use the water with paint brushes and paint the fence (it dries clear), put food coloring in the water and stretch paper across a fence or fill water guns with this colored water and then they are really painting with water colors. 

7.  Build a fort – go to nearby woods, gather sticks, broken branches, etc. then build a fort or house.  This will provide days -worth of enjoyment both in the gathering/building/playing inside.

8. Take a nature walk (http://www.trails.com/catalog_product.aspx?productfamilyid=10509)– take along a journal, let the kids bring cameras, then go home, identify everything your photographed and create a nature book.  That’s a whole other day’s activity (paper, photos, glue, scissors, and notebook).  This is especially good if saved for a rainy day.

9.  Take an “Alphabet tour” – again camera(s) in hand, journals and letter guides for younger kids. Begin with the letter a (Apple street), b (building), c (coliseum), d (dairy queen), e (eatery)…you get the drift.  When you are done each child has a personal and creative alphabet memory book.

10.  Check out kid’s free days at your local museums.

11.  Make homemade ice cream (if you don’t keep heavy cream on hand you will have to buy it, but hey it’s still pretty cheap entertainment/enjoyment).  Make popsicles, smoothies, and ice-cream sundaes.

12. Go on a scavenger hunt – create one.  

13.  Host a neighborhood carnival (we’re talking bean bag toss, eggs on a spoon races, and those kinds of games).  Each neighbor hosts a game/activity and gives out a snack/drink. This makes for a very fun day.

14.  Go to an outdoor concert (most towns/cities have a website where you can see what/when and which ones are free.)

15.  Check your movie theatre for free summer movies (usually morning showings).

16.  Go to the beach.

17.  Check out your local hardware store – they offer free kids club building projects.

18. Cook with your kids (my kids are still love to cook the evening meals with me) but let them plan it, be a part of the shopping and table- setting.  Make dessert!).

19.  Host a cooking party – invite some friends (your kids are not the only ones home and wanting something to do).  Have each mom bring a few ingredients and spend the day making cookies, treats, etc. (maybe you know someone who could use some extra love and attention – make a whole meal with these friends, let the kids make cards, and go make someone’s day brighter and happier).

20.  Teach the kids Frisbee golf.

21.  Go fly a kite (why not make them first).

22.  Do a sewing project together.  Make a picnic or story time blanket, apron, or summer dress.

23.  Make sock puppets – put on a puppet shows.

24.  Go outside for reading time.

25.  Make and blow bubbles.

26. Hide-and-find all the army men/dinosaurs/little people/cars/mini-animals, etc. in a sand pit – have an excavation.  You can even read a book about archeologists before or after the excavation.

27.  Play dress up.

28.  Have a tea party.

29.  Make an obstacle course out of your back yard and have races.

30. Play jacks.

31. Go fishing.

32. Go on a bike ride.

33. Camp in your back yard.

34. Melt and create with crayons.

35. Visit a local state park.

36. Go bowling (a lot of the alleys offer students 2 free games over the summer).

37. Plant a garden using seeds from your vegetables/fruits.

38. Tour local historic sites.

39. Make a star gazing map.

40. Teach the kids to knit.

41. Check with a local farm – offer to help feed the animals.

42. Set up a lemonade stand.

43. Set up hot wheels races in the driveway.  Have them make a trophy to give to the winning car.  At the next race, the new winning car gets the trophy.

44. Have a LEGO building contest (using x# pieces, only using blue pieces, creating something a certain height, create something that moves, etc.).

45. Make a doll.

46. Hunt for animal tracks – get a book from the library to help identify them.  

47. Have a dress up party (doesn’t have to be Halloween to wear those costumes).
48. Learn bird calls.

49. Use magazines to make mosaics.

50. Check your craft stores for make and take craft projects (Michael’s, Joann’s Fabrics, Lakeshore Learning Center, etc.).

51. Tour a factory.

52. Make musical instruments and become a ‘home band’ sensation! (Think pie pan tambourine, paper towel holder rain stick, and string and cereal box guitar).  Don’t forget to dress the part!

53. Make tie-die shirts, listen to some groovy tunes, and dance around the house.

54. Take a picnic to dad/mom/grandma/etc, and give them a nice break from their work day.

55. Make a tent or a fort in the living room.

56. Go to an Arboretum.

57. Make a bird feeder with pine cones and peanut butter (and bird seed of course).

58. Paintwith fruit and veggies (and anything else you will let them paint with – think q-tips, old toothbrush, sponges, leaves, etc.).

59. Teach and play charades.

60. Have a “BORED” game day – pull out all those dusty games and let each child pick a game. If it’s nice outside, take them out on a picnic blanket.

61. Walk your neighbor’s dog.

62. Blow up Diet coke with Mentos.

63. Make silhouettes.

64. Check out local volunteer offerings.  Teach the importance of helping others.

65. Learn/Go Orienteering.

66. Make a compass. (Ties in to 65)

67. Gather friends and have a “clean” the park day.  Celebrate your good deed with a picnic and play time.

68. Sculpt with homemade SALT CLAY.

69. Collect Seashells – then sort by color/size etc.  Make a seashell necklace or use the shells to decorate an empty jar. (Adults should use the glue gun).

70. Play “I Spy” as you walk around your neighborhood.

71. Go to a farmers market.

72. Check with a local pizzeria to see if you can come in for a tour (they will probably want you to buy a pizza, so it may not be “free” – but fun!).

73. Check your newspaper for local summer festivals.

74. Make school related activities fun – create your own matching cards (I make mine using these cute digital supplies found here and here). Use macaroni for math reinforcement, make a clock with a paper plate, help with geometry by giving building tasks, etc.).

75. Learn (play) street games.

76. Make Taffy.

77. Make a checker board and your own checkers, and then play for a bit.

78. Make your own board games.

79. Make a Milk Carton Boat  and head to a pond.

80. Have a holiday party in July party and ask all the guests to bring donations for your local food pantry.

81. Participate in local Free Friday activities (see previous Parent Talk Matters’ post).

82. Have a major league team in your area – call about free kids tickets this summer.

83. Take a trip to tour your state capitol, local courthouse, etc.

84. Gather, paint, and make pet rocks.

85. Plan a theme week (keep checking back here for more details about our themes this summer).

86. Make freeze pops.

87. Have a pajama day; enjoy movies and popcorn (great for a rainy day).

88. Color.

89. Make a Wind chime.

90. Write your own poems.

91. Have a toy swap (pack up those forgotten toys and swap with a friend – kids love new “to them” toys as much as they love new toys.

92. “Play” school.

93. Make paper dolls for boys, for girls, or for the more advanced.

94. Travel around the world. Have English scones for breakfast, Chinese Stir Fry for lunch, Italian for dinner. Make a craft to go with each country, get a library book with photos of these places (maybe even see if you have a friend your child can become pen pals).

95. Have a switcher-oo day.  You send your kids to someone else’s house and their kids come to yours… kids LOVE this… just plan a few activities (you can choose from some on this list) and give them a great day as your friend will do with your kids.

96. Play tennis, soccer, kickball, football, etc.

97. Make slime.

98. Make glowing fireflies. – We get our glow sticks at Target’s $1.00 bins and they come with 10, so it’s practically free.

99. Make a sandcastle. If you don’t have a sand box, gather up all sorts of containers and some water jugs and head over to your local park.  Spend the day building a great sand castle together.  Lots of kids will want to get in on the action so it’s a great social time, too.

100.  Enjoy an art lesson.

Most importantly remember the simplicity of childhood is found in the quality of the time spent together.  Enjoy each moment; create an environment of joy and excitement.  I am certain this summer will be one we all remember for a very long time. 

List complied by Sarah B. from Digital Reflections.

Now what?  With so many suggestions where and how do you start?  My advice: either have your child pick a number, and start there or find your favorite one-or-two and make a commitment to trying those out.  For me, I just need to start.  PUT IT IN THE CALENDAR and it will happen (that’s my mantra for everything).  I know everyone in my house will benefit from having a plan (some structure but with lots and lots of flexibility). What about you?  What are your favorite summertime activities?  How do you make your summer fun for everyone in your home?  

About the Author

Nikki lives locally with her husband and two children.  She is a self-proclaimed foodie, photographer, and blogger.  Now a SAHM, she was a school counselor and cast member of Joey & Maria’s Comedy Wedding for many years.  Nikki currently consults as a private, independent college counselor.  She also writes her own personal blog, Days With Us (follow her at www.dayswithus.com or @dayswithus).


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