Summer is officially just around the corner! Every year I look forward to the days of outdoor play and de-stressing from the busy days of school. At the same time, I do not look forward to kids telling me they are bored or asking for more screen time.

With that in mind, I have compiled the following list of ideas for summer fun, most of which can adjust to suit children of all ages. All these activities are inexpensive and screen-free, and I have personally tested and found them to be enjoyable. :-)

Water Play

  1. Play with water from a tub or small pool. Don't have access to a swimming pool? No problem! While playing in a hose or sprinkler can be fun, I have found that my kids most enjoy filling up a storage tub or small inflatable pool. The littles can play in these as-is, but the bigger ones enjoy using water squirters from the dollar store to have water fights. My toddlers have also enjoyed using small cups and measuring cups to dump water from one tub or cup to another.
  2. Play in a creek. A staple activity of both my own childhood and my children's. This is another great way to cool off on a hot day, yet it doesn't require swimming, so it's great for littles. If you are not sure where a good location is, I recommend finding a map of a nearby walking trail to see if the trail crosses any creeks or rivers.
  3. Throw rocks into a pond . . . or acorns, or sticks, or leaves . . . whatever. This is one of my 3-year-old's current favorite activities.
Little girl blowing giant bubbles.

  1. Blow giant bubbles. I have only gotten around to doing this once or twice, but this activity was a huge hit when my girls were elementary school age. Using the recipe and tips found here, we managed to make some massive bubbles with very little effort. I think I had almost as much fun as the kids did!
  2. Play in the rain. Rainy summer days can often be warm enough to put on a swimming suit and splash in the puddles!

The Great Outdoors

Little boy with a baby toad on his arm.
  1. Take a nature walk. Phone apps may help you identify plants and wildlife, or you may want to check out some identification books from the library.
  2. Go on a nature scavenger hunt. You can find lists for these online or create your own.
  3. Make an obstacle course. You can make this for the kids, have them to create one for themselves, or challenge them to make one for you!
  4. Eat a picnic lunch. This can be as simple as taking your plate of food out to the back yard and sitting on a blanket to eat it.
  5. Roast hot dogs or marshmallows. Roasting sticks (available where camping supplies are sold) are something I never used as a kid but greatly appreciate now! If you don't have a good place to build a fire, you might try this over a grill.
Two kids in a tent in the backyard.
  1. Go camping in the backyard. Tent and sleeping bags optional. (My siblings and I used to sleep out on our trampoline with a few blankets and pillows.)
  2. Do some cloud gazing. Younger children may enjoy finding pictures in the clouds; older children can be encouraged to identify the type of cloud and learn about how it's formed and what it means about the weather.
  3. Try stargazing. I have written a whole post on this subject here!
  4. Catch fireflies. A necessary rite of childhood in my opinion!

Places To Go

  1. The library. Preschool story time at the library used to be one of our favorites, but check your library for the possibility of activities for all ages.
  2. The park. Sometimes I forget how much fun my kids have at the park.
  3. The mall. My girls always loved going to the mall and simply looking around, playing at the play-places and checking out the toys. We frequently left without buying much more than a snack or small treat.
  4. The pet store. Maybe not as exciting as the zoo, but a much easier way to visit some cute animals!
  5. A hike. Good exercise and a challenge for older children.
  6. A farm. Farms often have recreational or educational programs available, but we visit them most often for strawberry picking and other “U-pick” opportunities.
Sister with her baby brother at an elephant exhibit.
  1. The zoo. I have recently discovered that our nearest zoo (the North Carolina Zoo) is one of the largest zoos in the world! I also learned that homeschoolers can register as a “school field trip” and get in free (one teacher and any school-aged children).

Indoor Activities

  1. Read books. I often don't get a lot of time to read to my toddler on school days, but he always loves it. I love reading longer books to my older kids as well!
  2. Print coloring pages of your child's favorite cartoon characters for them to color. This activity won't require much from the parent!
  3. Play board games. Doing this with younger kids may be an exercise in patience, but it becomes much more fun as the kids get older.
  4. Build puzzles. My siblings and I used to do this frequently, usually with Adventures in Odyssey playing in the background.
  5. Bake something – cookies, muffins, cupcakes, etc. I admit this is not one of my favorite things to do with my kids, but it is one of my toddler's favorite things to do with me (or more frequently, his older sister).
  6. Make popsicles. You can get some good silicone popsicle molds online, but cheaper ones are also widely available. I used to enjoy simply filling a mold with juice as a kid, but you can get creative with frozen fruits or look up a recipe online.
  7. Have a tea party . . . or a chocolate milk party if your kids don't enjoy tea. Dress up fancy to make this more fun!
  8. Try a fruit or vegetable at the grocery store that you (or your kids) have never had before. Some of my kids enjoyed their first sample of pomegranate this past winter.
  9. Build a blanket fort. Another childhood staple.
  10. Have a stuffed animal war. If you have a good collection of stuffed animals, this can be a fun alternative to a pillow fight.
  11. Put on a play. An idea that is best done without parental involvement. My girls did this frequently when they were younger (as did I when I was a kid).
  12. Have a sleepover in the living room. An easier alternative to camping. Make sure to turn out all the lights early to leave time for fun with flashlights!

What summer activities are some of your favorites?