10 (Almost) Free Summer Activities for Kids

Moms have to be creative in the summer. During days when our little people are underfoot 24/7, busy moms need a plan to keep those little people busy, too, and out of trouble. While I am not opposed to a little TV viewing, I don’t want my children watching TV all day. With a limited budget, I have had to be extra creative this year to come up with a fun summer plan for my little people.

Here are my top 10 ways to have a great summer with my little ones and save money at the same time:

1.The Summer Bucket of Fun

Thanks to my son’s preschool teacher, I found sturdy pink and blue buckets at the dollar store. A little puffy paint decoration later, and I have “Mom’s Summer Bucket of Fun” for each child. While I was at the dollar store, I picked up a wide array of fun and cheap activities that I have carefully hidden away. Bubbles, sidewalk chalk, crayons, finger paint, jacks, puzzles, etc. I spent less than $50, and I have well over 20 different activities for each child. My plan is to place a different activity into the bucket each morning, along with a snack and some coloring and activity sheets. Check out the website DLTK for printable and ideas!

2.Painting with Water, Sprinklers, and DIY Water Tables

Last summer, I fell in love with a water table at the toy store. Unfortunately, the price tag was not so lovable. Water and Texas summers go hand in hand, and I didn’t want my kids to miss out on the fun. So I got creative. I made my own water table using cheap, plastic Sterilite containers. The larger rectangle containers are inexpensive and easy both to fill and empty. They work great for DIY sandboxes, too. And because they have tight-fitting lids, the sand stays clean.

Painting with water is fun and easy. Just get a bucket of water and some paintbrushes, and head out to the sidewalk. Your kids will have a blast.

Don’t have a pool close by? No problem. Get a sprinkler instead. I saw a cute flower one at the toy store yesterday for less than $10 that will get my kids good and wet this summer.

3.The Craft Box

We have a great kitchen table, and I have a ton of butcher paper and tape; so we’ll be making quite a few table murals this summer. Simply tape the butcher paper to the table, and turn the kids loose with crayons, markers, or watercolor paints.

Last summer, I used another Sterilite container and created a craft box. I filled it with art supplies, construction paper, scissors, glue sticks, popsicle sticks, ribbon, pompoms, and glitter. When it’s too hot to play outside, my little ones will be in the kitchen creating whatever they can dream up. I think I’ll skip the glitter this year, though. … Don’t ask!

4. Co-Op Playdates

Before school lets out for the summer, make sure you’ve connected with the parents of your child’s friends. Offer the idea of co-op playdates over the summer where each parent takes a turn one day a week or every other week with the kids. This is a great way to find a little free time for you and create lasting bonds and friendships for your child. Make sure you know and trust the other parents and have worked out any other child care or allergy issues ahead of time.

5. The Farmer’s Market

Our local farmer’s market is bursting with fresh fruit, veggies, farm-fresh eggs, and even meat from local growers. It can be a fun outing for kiddos. Let them choose something new and different to bring home, and then prepare it together for dinner.

6. Pick Your Own Farms

Fresh-picked blueberries … yum! In June, my kids and I head to a blueberry farm near our home to pick our own blueberries right from the bushes. You can find a pick-your-own farm, too! They eat all the berries they can hold, and we take the rest home to freeze. Blueberry pancakes in December are delicious when you don’t have to pay $5 a pint for the blueberries at the store, and we remember the fun summer adventure we had picking them.

7. Go to the Library

Books, books, and more books! Indoor summer fun in an air-conditioned building! The library is the perfect place to get out of the heat on a hot summer day when you don’t want to be cooped up at home. Frequent reading and exposure to books also helps prevent summer learning loss, which is a very real concern over the summer:

“Most students lose about two months of grade-level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains.” (SummerLearning.org)

What can parents do to reduce the “summer slide?”

• Read with and to your kids every day.
• Introduce a new word to them each day.
• Practice counting and everyday math skills.
• Join the Scholastic Summer Reading Program.
• Sign up for your library’s summer reading program.

Last year, both my children were able to go to the circus for free because of our library’s summer reading program. And they loved being able to bring home new books every week.

8. Go Bowling for Free (well … almost)

For the cost of shoe rental, children under 15 can bowl two free games every day all summer long at participating bowling allies all over the U.S. Find one near you at kidsbowlfree.com. Sign-up is simple and takes less than five minutes. You can also get a family pass that will allow up to four adults (or teens over 15) the same two free games per day all summer long.

9. Vacation Bible School

Check out the VBS program at your local church. Most of them are free and have arts and crafts and a great message to share with your children, as well as giving them an opportunity to interact with old and new friends one week during the summer. Don’t think you have to limit yourself to just your own church, though. I have friends whose children attend three or four VBS programs during the summer. This is a great way to make new friends and learn more about the other people in your community you might not meet otherwise.

10.Downtime and Doing Nothing

Little brains need time to relax and recharge, too. Make sure you plan some time into your day for rest. Neither of my kids will nap for me anymore, but we will still have a daily quiet time. They don’t have to sleep, but their feet need to be off the floor. They can either look at books or listen to relaxing music.

Children also need times when there are no planned activities … when they are forced to be creative and find new ways to play and occupy themselves. When my kids tell me this summer, “Mom, I’m bored,” my standard answer is going to be, “Great! What are you going to do about it?” I don’t think it is my job to entertain my children every minute of the day. I want to teach them to be creative and come up with ideas on their own, too.

This is my action plan for a fun and inexpensive summer. What are you going to do this summer?

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  1. I love these ideas, Katie!!