Free Family Activities for Summer

little boy playing with plastic shovel in backyard

School’s out for the summer! In no time at all, you will hear those inevitable words, “I’m bored.” Am I right?

So, I’ve compiled a list of activities to keep everyone busy-from the toddlers to the teens. Most are free although some have a nominal fee.

Bowling: Check out I’ve used it. It’s legit. Just pay shoe rentals.

Swimming: Head to your neighbor’s pool, a local lake, or the beach.

Sprinkler/Water Guns/Water Balloons: Bust out all the water toys. If you don’t have fancy water guns- no problem. Pull out the hose, some sponges, and a bucket.

Make a “Redneck Slip-n-Slide”: You will need a hill, a tarp, and a water hose. It’s helpful to drizzle dish soap on your tarp to make it more slippery.

Wash the car: My kids really enjoy this. They like washing the car by hand in the driveway. They also enjoy the drive thru car wash in town. It’s fun to watch all those brushes and gadgets.

Make homemade ice-cream. If you have an ice-cream freezer freezer, you know the joy of homemade ice-cream. It’s just better than the store bought stuff. Did you know you can make ice-cream in resealable bags? Yep-it’s awesome. My family also really loves this ice cream ball

Take a hike: There’s a great app called All Trails if you need suggestions on where to go.

Parks: Check out the activities at a local state or national Park. There are usually guided nature walks, animal encounters, and other events scheduled all Summer long.

Movies: enjoy the air conditioning at you local movie theater. Did you know that theaters all across the country offer free or $1 movies for kids in the summer? Check in with your local theater to see if they participate.

Museums- most museums have one free night per month.

Volunteer: Help out at an animal shelter, a soup kitchen, or Habitat for Humanity. Relay for Life (a walk to raise funds for cancer research) usually is scheduled in the summer as well.

Write letters: Catch up with an old friend or make a new one. Write to Military personnel, nursing home residents, or patients at a children’s hospital.

Go for a walk- We like to walk in other neighborhoods and look at all the houses We greet the dogs we meet and admire everyone’s flowers. Check out an app called Charity Miles to make every walk a charity walk.

Ride bikes: Ride scooters, skateboards, or hoverboards too.

Stargazing: We use an app called Star Roam to identify constellations. In August, look for the Perseid meteor shower, an annual celestial event of shooting stars.

Arts and crafts: We love a YouTube channel called ArtforKidsHub that has step-by-step drawing tutorials. My son really enjoys whittling with a pocketknife. My daughter enjoys learning origami.

Fishing: If you already own poles, fishing can be a great family activity. You might even catch dinner!

Camping: Camp out in a National Forest, Bureau of Land Management land, or in your own backyard for a free or inexpensive campsite. Even if you don’t already have camping gear, a campfire in your backyard complete with s’mores is always a hit with kids.

Geocaching: Geocaching is like a GPS treasure hunt. All you need is a smart phone. There are lots of apps available that give you a library of caches to discover. Follow the coordinates and clues to find a little treasure hidden in your community.

Visit your library- Our local library has the usual story time for little ones and book clubs for older kids. But, they also have classes in creative movement and yoga, a Lego club, and an impressive collection of video games. All libraries generally have a summer reading program with prizes and special events too.

Playgrounds- Take a tour of all the playgrounds in the city. Which has the best swings or the tallest slide?

Check the Newspaper for Free Events in your Community: Many towns offer free community concert series, art in the park events, or outdoor movies in the summertime.

Be patriotic: Free firework displays and parades are common for Independence Day. Consider visiting a local war memorial with your kids as well.

Have a picnic: Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are just more fun on a picnic blanket.

Fly a kite: This is especially fun at the beach.

Enjoy the sunset- We live in the mountains. A fun summer evening can be as simple as watching the sun set at a pretty overlook. You can even bring popcorn.

Make popsicles: Kool-aid, lemonade, and sweet tea are great options. We’ve recently discovered that gummy worms in Sprite make a surprisingly fun popsicle too!

Have Fun with Solar Power: Make a solar oven from a pizza box or make sun tea

Make Bubbles: You can make your own bubbles with water, dish soap and glycerin. If you don’t have glycerin, a little corn syrup makes a good substitute. Use straws or pipe cleaners for wands.

Hunt for Creepy Crawlies: My kids like to look for night crawlers after a summer shower. They try to catch guppies and salamanders at a nearby pond. They search the downspouts for frogs and toads. And, of course, they catch fireflies in jars. Did you know that you can carefully feed a grasshopper a blade of grass? It’s awesome.

Music: Dust off your old flute from high school, get out the record collection, or just turn up the radio.

Play in the Rain: Jump in puddles or make mud pies.

Make a Pinata- We had such a good time one summer making a pinata with my niece. Old newspapers, paint, watery glue, and a balloon found in the junk drawer transformed into a colorful sunshine complete with a smiley face.

Look through old photos: My kids think my high school yearbooks are hilarious. They also enjoy their baby books and our wedding album.

Old School Fun: Teach your kids to skip rocks, make a whistle from a blade of grass, or make a daisy chain. Play hopscotch, teach them cat’s cradle, or Miss Mary Mack.

Fold Paper: Have a paper airplane contest or make cootie catchers.

Play cards: Go Fish, Old Maid, and Rummy are classics. My family plays Canasta or Poker a lot.

Board Games: Most families have a few board games on the shelf. We play a lot of Monopoly. But, we also like Yahtzee

Karaoke: During the lockdown, we discovered that we could use You Tube to have Karaoke Nights. It’s so much fun!

Bake: There’s just nothing like warm cookies and milk. My favorite is no-bake cookies. Just combine melted peanut butter, melted chocolate chips, and oatmeal. Scoop onto parchment and let them cool.

Pamper one another: Soak your feet. Paint fingernails. Give each other scalp massages or back scratches.

Learn to play your child’s favorite video game: Try out Minecraft or see why Roblox is so popular. If you can’t beat them, join them.

Have a terrific summer!

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