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Kids summer activities – 23 free or cheap summer ideas to do with kids

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Written by Vera C. Last updated on .

little girl in shorts and t shirt running in field in summer

Looking for cheap or free things to do in summer with your kids? You're in the right place! Here are some fun summer activities for boys and girls of all ages. No more wondering what to do with the kids this summer!

Many (but not all) of these ideas work equally well for just your family or in a larger group, so if you want to include friends you can. It's good to do a mix, where you spend some time doing your own things as a family, but at other times see if a friend would like to join. This helps your child get ahead with his or her social skills, which I'll talk a bit more about below. First let's look at our list of fun summer activities for kids. These are all free or cheap. Yes, you can have a ton of fun with your kids without having to pay lots of money!

Hi, I'm Vera, and welcome to my site! If you're a parent too, you probably like to save money on your children's clothes. Certain children's stores can often actually be cheaper than the 'big box' stores. Yes, you can actually get cheaper and cuter clothes just by knowing where to shop: here is my article about the top 6 affordable kids clothing stores.

Here is my all-in-one list of awesome summer activities for children.

  1. Picnic at the park - it may sound boring to you, but this will be much appreciated by your kids! Even eating a picnic lunch in your backyard can feel like a treat to the kids
  2. Bake (cookies, bread etc). Make a large batch and give some to a neighbor or friend. This activity can get messy but it's lots of fun, and best of all you can all reap the rewards of your labor when you eat it
  3. Library - this is a good indoor activity for when it's too hot outside or if it's raining. Let your child check out some library books and you can read them together
  4. Local public pool - this is one of my favorite outdoor kids activities for the summer. Most public pools have reasonably priced entry fees. If your child can't yet swim, work on teaching him or her to swim there. Keep to good safety guidelines: ensure that you are in the water with your child and that they are never out of their depth, and have your eyes on him or at all times, and always within arm's reach if they don't swim well.
  5. Invite a friend over for a playdate - a positive productive friendship where the kids play well together is a wonderful social opportunity for both kids. Your child will find his or her toys a lot more interesting when a friend is there to play too!
  6. Plant seeds of fast-growing plants (radish, marigold etc) - this makes an awesome summer project for kids. Anything that grows really fast is going to work well, and as an added bonus with fast-growing plants it doesn't matter if it's already July and you're just starting to plant. You should easily be able to get visible results that the kids will love.
  7. Cardboard box fort - this is one of my favorite creative activities for kids. Don't worry if you don't have any large cardboard boxes, you can get them incredibly cheap at your local Home Depot or Lowes (literally a few dollars each) - they're sold as moving boxes. You'll also need duct tape and scissors. From personal experience, I suggest either buying a new pair of scissors for this or dedicating an old pair that you don't care about. I found that the sticky part of the duct tape tends to gum up the scissors after awhile - you can wipe it off with a damp paper towel or baby wipe though.
  8. Bubble bath - your child has to have a bath right?! So might as well make it fun with a bubble bath!
  9. Washing the car - have the kids be in bathing suits and make a game of it! This summer activity is great because it gets something productive done on your to-do list while still keeping the kids entertained
  10. Buy a mylar balloon each from dollar store – small outlay, hours of fun. This is perfect for if you're stuck for indoor things to do due to weather
  11. Rock painting - have each child pick out a pebble or stone and paint it however he or she wants. You might like to do a demo one alongside them, it can be as simple as painting a pair of eyes on it
  12. Sprinkler fun - the kids always have so much fun, this is one of the best outside activities for kids. You simply turn on hose and let them play with the attached head. Setting it on the sprinkler setting works nicely, or the mister setting. Make sure they're in bathing suits or clothes that don't matter if they get wet
  13. Shaving foam in bath - you can spray shaving foal on the walls of the bath and have your child "write" on it or make a picture with their finger.
  14. Make your own ice cream sundae party at home – cheaper than going out for ice-cream, and twice as fun!
  15. Hiking trail - try out a new hiking trail in your area. This summer you might have time for multiple different ones. You should be able to find one that's not too arduous for young kids. You might have to drive a bit of a ways to get there, but that can be part of the fun
  16. Sidewalk chalk - either draw pictures, or make roads for driving toy cars. Too much direct sunlight? Give them a golf umbrella each and let it rest, open, on the ground where they're working. It's the perfect size for a young child to sit in its shade while drawing.
  17. Pick-a-vege at the supermarket - they pick, you have to make a dish with it, or if applicable you can serve it raw with dip. This is a great activity for kids.
  18. Buy a bunch of crafting items from dollar store (popsicle sticks, construction paper etc) and have the kids create their own project.
  19. Easy & cheap mini road trip – take a trip to a small town near you, explore!
  20. Catch public transportation together - yes, even if it’s less convenient than driving!
  21. Sprinkler park, if they have one in your area. A good sprinkler park is worth the travel, and public ones are usually free.
  22. Gather up old toys to give to charity. Go shopping for 1 new toy afterward, dollar amount equal to number of old toys donated.
  23. Have family movie night and overnight camp-out in the sitting room.

Summer is a fantastic time for your kids to have fun with you. It's also a great opportunity to keep up their social skills by inviting a friend to join every now and then.

I've noticed that the kids who seem to have the best social skills are often the ones who have some less-structured activities with their friends (such as the activities listed above), as opposed to kids who are only around others in highly structured settings such as sports teams. Not saying that structured classes are bad - they're great! - just that your child also needs to see his or her friends for not-so-structured play every now and then. You don't need to set an exhausting schedule of summer playdates, just try catching up with a different friend once a week just for a morning or an afternoon. It doesn't need to turn into a long event or a Big Thing.

Whatever you and your kids do this summer, have fun! They're only young once and it's great if they're able to look back later with happy memories of childhood summer fun with you.

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