Sometimes as parents I think we get too involved in making everything big and grand and boy can that lead to a lot of stress! As a kid and as a parent, it was the little things that made the biggest impression. The impromptu fun we had as a family.
Here is my personal list of my favorite 25 free (or very cheap) summer activities for families.
Family: 25 Free Summer Activities for Families
- Make homemade ice cream (try this No-Churn Coffee Ice Cream – no ice cream maker required and only 3 ingredients – it’s the liqueur that keeps it from freezing solid or homemade chocolate ice cream made in a bag)
- Visit your local park with a picnic lunch – search for a national park near you with the NPS Find a Park feature – search by name, location, activity, or topic.
- Make sidewalk chalk and invite the neighbors to have an art festival on the block – try Martha Stewart’s homemade sidewalk chalk recipe made from plaster of Paris.
- Visit the library during storytime or when an author visits
- Play dress-up – mom and/or dad included!
- Make homemade applesauce – check out Kids Health’s easy kid-friendly Awesome Applesauce recipe.
- Feed the ducks, geese, and other waterfowl (if allowed) or just take pictures of them. Have the kids mimic the birds and talk about how they impact the environment.
- Make bug catchers – Craft your own bug catcher out of an empty juice bottle, milk jug, or other similar container.
- Make butter! It’s surprising how many kids don’t know how easy it is to make your own butter. All you need is chilled heavy whipping cream and baby food jars (or canning jars). Here are step-by-step details for making your own butter – your kids will love this!
- Board game day – rain got you down? Pull out the board games! Add music, dance a bit, and have fun.
- Fly a kite! Windy days can be great fun! You can even make one with sticks and paper or purchase inexpensive dowels at your hardware store. Here are the full instructions for making kites with kids.
- Backyard Relay Games – Invite the neighbor kids for a backyard relay game! Decorate an empty paper towel tube with ribbons and the “pass the baton” in a backyard contest. Winning team gets stickers, small treats, or bragging rights.
- Tour a Fire Station – My husband has given thousands of tours during his career and the kids love them! Firefighters get a chance to show off their beloved engines and gear and kids get a chance to interact up close, honk the horn, and run the sirens!
- Paper Airplanes – Spend a few hours perfecting the perfect paper airplane and then bring out the ladder and with mom and dad’s help, let the kids climb the ladder to launch their creations. Prizes for furthest distance, best crash landing, best effort, etc., can be paper certificates or small trinkets.
- Treasure Hunt – I loved these as a kid! One of the older kids, or mom and dad, hide clues throughout the yard (or house if the weather is bad) leading to the treasure. Be creative and make it age appropriate. Need some ideas? Check out the Parents.com website for reusable clues, blank clue sheets, treasure chest, and award winner coloring page.
- Make Playdough – Here are four non-toxic play dough recipes (non-toxic if you use natural dyes and not food coloring) – some require cooking and most can be dried and then painted. Here’s how to dye your homemade Playdough naturally plus another homemade recipe for Playdough.
- Photo Booth – collect all the crazy glasses, wigs, hats, boas, and more you have around the house, hang a sheet or frame for a fun background, then get out the digital camera and snap away. Inviting friends over leads to a day of merriment!
- Farmer’s Market – Visit your local farmers market. Give the kids a chance to check out the different vegetables and fruits, talk to the growers, and usually there’s free entertainment as well! Check LocalHarvest for events.
- Pillow Fort – who doesn’t love pulling all the cushions off the couch, adding blankets, and calling it home for the day! Or drape a table with blankets for a cozy fort. Have a picnic lunch, read a book, or just relax. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy this magical time away from it all.
- Nature Walk – Bring along a notebook, some colored pencils or crayons, and have the kids capture the trees, birds, bugs, and more in drawings! It’s a way to slow down and really look at nature plus they’ll have a gorgeous souvenir of their own work when they’re done!
- Movie Night Under The Stars – We used to drag a console TV outside – now it’s just an iPad or laptop away! Set up lawn chairs, snacks, and watch your favorite movie outside.
- Umbrella Picnic – When you live in Seattle, you have to have lots of alternative plans for rainy days. But sometimes it’s fun to embrace them! Picnic at the park in your rain boots and umbrella or use a golf umbrella to read outside on the patio.
- Factory Tour – If you live near a big city, there’s likely a free tour available. Find out how food is made and what goes into getting it to your home. Tours are so popular there are several websites devoted to them: Watch it Made in the USA is a guide to factory tours and Factory Tours USA offers a look by state (convenient if you’re travelling!).
- Make a Movie – My husband and his brothers did it back in the 70’s with the old Super 8 movie camera and they’re still some of the funniest home movies we have. Have the kids create stop motion animation with their favorite toy or go big and create characters, select a director, make costumes and get going!
- Visit a Farm – But how do you find one in your area? There’s a website of course! FarmVisit.com lists farms in the US and Canada that offer information on local farms, what they produce, how they produce it, and if the offer tours.Also check out LocalHarvest for farm information.
Here’s hoping you have a magical summer! They go by all too quickly.