Summertime is one of the best times of the year to connect as a family. The warm weather and the fact that most kids are not in school during the summer makes this time of year conducive to family bonding.
Even families who homeschool year-round can take advantage of the beautiful sunshine and extra time available to families by taking their school days outdoors or planning some fun activities to do in the afternoon when their school work is done.
Either way, there’s no question that summertime gives us a bit more daylight in each day and provides gorgeous weather in which we can plan enjoyable activities with our families.
Here are 50 free and cheap summer activities you can do together as a family:
1. Have a picnic. Make some of your family’s favorite sandwiches, grab a blanket, and head out to your local park (or even your own backyard!) to have a fun outdoor lunch.
2. Go camping. Take the family camping at a local campground and roast marshmallows while you tell stories and sing campfire songs.
3. Make fruit popsicles. Pick up a set or two of inexpensive popsicle molds and gather your kids into the kitchen to create some of their favorite popsicle flavors! Here are a bunch of recipes to get you started.
4. Go on a nature walk. Bring a magnifying glass along with you on a nature walk while the kids discover and inspect insects, leaves, rocks, dirt, grass, and more.
5. Spend a day at the beach. Pack up the car with all your favorite beach essentials (don’t forget the sunscreen!) and spend a day at the beach relaxing, swimming, and making sand castles.
6. Go fruit picking. Find a local “you-pick” farm and spend a few hours picking your own fresh fruit. Strawberries, cherries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and peaches are usually the in-season fruits during the summer.
7. Declare a game day. Pull out your favorite board games and decks of cards, and spend the day playing games with your kiddos. Or, you could take this idea outside and play a bunch of outdoor games (red rover, freeze tag, red light green light, Simon says, tug-of-war, etc).
8. Play hopscotch. All you need for a fun game of hopscotch is a pack of colored sidewalk chalk and a bit of space to draw your hopscotch board (a driveway or sidewalk is perfect for this).
9. Jump rope. Show your kids your jump-roping skills from back when you were a kid! Or, make a game of it and see who can keep jumping the longest.
10. Take a free workshop. Take the kids to a free workshop at Home Depot, where they can build and decorate a craft to bring home. Workshops are held the first Saturday of each month from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM. The kids each get a Home Depot workshop apron, as well as a pin and a certificate for each project they complete.
11. Go to the museum. Bring the kids to the museum for a day of fun and learning! Check with your local museum to see if they offer free kids’ admission on certain days.
12. Have a cookout. Have the kids help you prepare some food for the grill and enjoy lunch or dinner outside!
13. Create a backyard obstacle course. Grab some outdoor toys (like foam swim noodles, baseball bases, orange safety cones, and hula-hoops) as well as a few random garage items (like spare tires, rope, PVC piping, or 2×4 pieces of wood). Place the items together to build your kids an obstacle course they can play on while you sit on the sidelines, cheering them on!
14. Have a water balloon fight. Fill a bunch of balloons with water, place them in a bucket, and then let the water war begin!
15. Have a freeze dance party. My husband and I like to gather the kids together in the living room and declare a freeze dance party! We play some music on the TV or our phones and let the kids dance around the room. We will randomly pause the music in periodic intervals, and when the music stops, the kids must freeze! They love this, and we all crack up over the silly “frozen” poses.
16. Play a game of “telephone.” We discovered how much fun this game is one random night while we were sitting around the dinner table. If you’ve never played this game before, it goes like this: One person whispers a short phrase into the ear of the person sitting next to them. That person then whispers the phrase into the next person’s ear; and so on. By the time the message gets to the last person, he or she will say the phrase out loud, and it’s usually VERY different than what was originally said! This game always ends in tons of laughter all around!
17. Have a bonfire. Head outside on a mild summer evening and build a bonfire. This is one of our favorite summer activities as a family. We love sitting with each other and talking, telling jokes, and of course, making s’mores.
18. Run through the sprinkler. On a particularly hot day, it’s always fun to turn the sprinkler on and run through it to cool off.
19. Make homemade ice cream. I’m a firm believer that any food made at home from scratch almost always tastes better (and is healthier for you, too!). Do a search online for a yummy homemade ice cream recipe and bring the kids into the kitchen to help you out. Pinterest has tons of recipes you could try!
20. Have a family movie night. Grab a bunch of blankets and pillows and gather together in your family room. Pop some popcorn and put on a movie the whole family would enjoy. Want to step it up a notch? Check out this amazing outdoor movie idea and take the movie night to the backyard!
21. Plant a vegetable garden. Gather the kids and all your gardening tools, and head outside to plant a backyard vegetable garden.
Bonus tip – If planting non-GMO heirloom seeds are important to you (like they are to me), I found an excellent source for you here: The 10 Best Seed Companies for Heirloom Seeds
22. Do some painting. Get out some washable finger paints, paper, and art smocks (junky play clothes work, too) and let the kids go to town, painting to their hearts’ content. Kids who have outgrown finger painting could use watercolor or acrylic paints – ask them to paint a picture just for you, and then proudly display it in your home!
23. Play hide-and-seek. Rainy day and you need a fun indoor idea? Playing hide-and-seek is always fun!
24. Put on a puppet show. Pull the couch away from the wall, grab a few puppets, and put on a puppet show with the kids. Let them make up the stories and put on a show for you, then switch places and put on a funny puppet show for them! No puppets around the house? No problem – here’s a quick tutorial that shows you how to easily and quickly make a few puppets out of items you probably already have around the house.
25. Build a fort. I remember my sister and I building forts at home using couch cushions and bed sheets, and then sitting inside them for hours, talking and playing. It was a ton of fun! Grab some bed sheets, blankets, pillows, chairs – whatever you need – to build an indoor fort!
26. Read some books together. Let the kids pick out a bunch of their favorite books (or grab some from the library) and spend the day reading together. Not only does reading together strengthen your bond as a family, but studies have shown that reading out loud to your kids helps to build literacy.
27. Play a card game. Gather the family together around the kitchen table and play a few rounds of your favorite card game. Some great kids’ card games include: Go Fish, Old Maid, Crazy 8’s, and Uno. If you don’t have any on hand, you can pick up a cheap set of kids’ card games here. And if your little ones have trouble holding a hand of cards, then this will help.
28. Fly a kite. Take the whole family out to a park or your backyard, and take turns flying a kite. Here’s a great option for a cheap kite that is perfect for beginners and kids.
29. Visit your local library. Pile the kids in the car and drive over to your local library. Let them all sign up for a free library card, and then they can pick out a few books that interest them.
30. Go fishing. Grab some fishing gear and head on over to a nearby public pond, river, or lake and spend the day fishing with your kids! Depending on your state, you may need to obtain a fishing permit but they are generally very inexpensive (and sometimes kids are free).
31. Wash the car. Fill a large bucket with warm soapy water and a few sponges. Pull your car out to the driveway, hand the bucket to your kids, and let them have a blast washing the car. It’s a fun activity that the kids will enjoy, and you’ll end up with a sparkling clean vehicle. Win-win!
32. Play mini-golf. Find the nearest mini-golf center and take the family for a round of mini-golf. It’s sure to be a great time everyone will enjoy!
33. Go to the zoo. Pack up the family in the car, and head on over to the zoo. As a bonus activity, have the kids color or journal about the animals they saw at the zoo once you’re home.
34. Visit a local aquarium. Spend the day visiting and exploring your local aquarium. On the car ride home, make sure to ask your kids which exhibit was their favorite.
35. Have a movie marathon. I don’t normally allow my kids to sit in front of a screen all day long (we usually put a limit on their screen time and encourage more active/imaginative play), but a one-day at home movie marathon with the whole family can be a lot of fun!
36. Create a fairy garden. This is such a cute (and easy!) DIY project that your kids will love! Check out this super simple tutorial showing you how to make your own fairy garden.
37. Have a scavenger hunt. Hide small objects around the house and make a list of all the objects. Hand the list to your kids, and let them search the house for the items. To make it even more fun and interesting, you could dress up as pirates, make a treasure map instead of a list, and tell your kids they’re going on a treasure hunt!
38. Have a yard sale. Give yourself and your kids a time limit (maybe a weekend, a whole week, even a month) to gather up all the items in the house that you no longer need but are still in good condition. Sell them in a yard sale, and you’ll earn a bit of extra cash with the added bonus of decluttering your house!
Bonus Tip – Make sure to give your kids a cut of the earnings, since they helped organize items and maybe even donated some of their old belongings as well.
39. Make homemade pizzas. Pick up some pre-made pizza dough at the grocery store (or make your own) and grab all the topping ingredients you’d like. Make a few small pizzas with the kids, letting them each choose their favorite pizza toppings. Enjoy!
40. Set up a lemonade stand. Let the kids make some fresh homemade lemonade and set up a lemonade stand in the neighborhood.
41. Do a science experiment. If the hot weather makes it unbearable to be outside, try some easy at-home science experiments you can do with things you already have around the house. Here’s a list of ideas to get you started.
42. Make melted crayon art. Hot glue crayons onto a white canvas, and then let your kids take turns using a hair dryer to melt the crayons. The melted wax will drip down the canvas and create a beautiful and unique piece of art. You can find a complete tutorial on this project here.
43. Enjoy some stargazing. Grab some pillows and blankets, and head outside with the whole family at night once it’s dark out. You could also use sleeping bags, or even a cushy inflatable kid pool covered in a bed sheet with blankets and pillows. Once you have your cozy spot all set up, lay back and relax while you gaze at the stars together. Have fun pointing out constellations in the sky.
44. Go for a bike ride. Hop on your bikes and take a family ride through the neighborhood. If you have little ones who are too small for a bicycle or tricycle, you could pull them in a wagon instead.
45. Visit a farmer’s market. Take a stroll with your family through a local farmer’s market. There’s usually plenty to see and do, and you could end up taking home some fresh market goods (such as handmade soap, local honey, and organic fruits and vegetables).
47. Go bowling. Take everyone out for a fun family night of bowling.
48. Play with squirt guns. Grab a few squirt guns and head outside with the family for a fun and refreshing squirt gun war!
49. Finish a puzzle. Try tackling a large puzzle together as a family. Make sure everyone gets involved. This would be another great rainy day activity.
50. Make homemade play dough. Did you know you can make your own play dough at home? Yep! This recipe calls for only 2 simple (and very affordable) ingredients. This is something the kids can make themselves, and have fun playing with as well.
Hopefully, you’ve found a few things on this list that sound fun to you. Let me know if you try any of them – I’d love to hear what you think! Do you have any cheap or free summer activities to add to this list? Let me know in the comments below!