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Cheap Things To Do With Your Kids This Summer

ways families can enjoy summer for little moneyThe last day of school might be the most exciting day of the year for many kids. I can even remember how happy I was as a kid to be released on that final day; no more schedules, no getting up early, and no homework. It was really fun, for about a week. Then parents start to hear the dreaded words, “I’m bored.”

I’ve worked hard to be able to have lots of time off to spend with my daughter this summer, and I want to make the best of it.  Luckily kids are pretty easily entertained and there are lots of fun, cheap things you can do with your kids this summer.

Get Outside

No matter where you live, summer provides the perfect time to get outside. When I was younger, my Mom shoved me out the door in the morning and didn’t expect to hear back from me until lunch. That doesn’t work as well in today’s world, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a ton of free outdoor ideas to keep kids entertained, under your supervision, of course.

Plant a Garden

Kids love to watch things grow, and even little ones are old enough to water and help pick when the time is ripe. Try this raised garden bed guide for a DIY garden you can build yourself!

Paint Rocks

I’m not sure if it’s just my child, but it seems that kids really like rocks. Spend some time searching for perfect smooth ones and then paint them. My favorite design we’ve come up with was painting a rock red with black spots like a ladybug. If kids are painting outside, you also don’t have to worry about accidentally having your kitchen appliances painted along with the rocks.

Play in the Mud

Kids love to get dirty. Throw personal hygiene out the window and let them play in the mud. Just make sure to hose them down before they come inside!

Build Something

You’d be surprised at how much imagination and creativity children have if given the right outlets. They love to turn junk into masterpieces. Look around to see what scrap materials might be lying around the house. If you don’t have anything at home, take a trip to a salvage yard or builder’s thrift store like the ones common with Habitat For Humanity.

Your kids can probably come up with ideas on their own or there’s always Pinterest. Little kids can use glue or string. Older kids might be ready for saws and hammers. See what sort of creations you can come up with.

Cook or Bake

Let kids get in the habit of helping you cook. Yes, it does take longer and makes a bigger mess if you let them help, but it teaches them kitchen skills that will stick for later use. Even little kids can make their own pizza or  healthier versions of their favorite snacks like this version of mozzarella sticks.

Set a Fitness Goal

It’s never too early to get kids interested in physical fitness. No, you don’t ever want to tell them they will be fat and lazy if they don’t exercise, but setting a family fitness goal is a great thing to work toward over the summer.

This summer, my daughter is going to enter her first competitive event, the kid’s triathlon on the 4th of July. We’ve been practicing jogging for a mile and riding her bike around the neighborhood. I don’t really see her being a speed queen any time soon, but I know she will be proud to cross the finish line, and it will hopefully inspire her to remain active as she gets older.

Take Advantage of the Community

We live in a small town, but there are still tons of free, kid friendly activities during the summer. The best programs seem to happen at the public library, but there are also free movies, cheap swim nights, and outdoor programs at the state parks in the area. It isn’t hard to find at least two afternoon activities a week to keep kids occupied. We seriously looked into doing some paid camps this summer. We are doing a week of group golf lessons, but for the most part, the city and local businesses are keeping us entertained.

The area where we live is also home to some great outdoor trails. Mesa Verde, Canyonlands, and Arches National Parks are all close by, and we can be up in the mountains in less than an hour. Even if you live in the city, there are probably tons of free ways to take advantage of your surroundings.

Get Unplugged

You’ll notice that none of my activities centered around TV or electronics. I do admit to throwing on a Netflix show if I need a break or have to get some work done at home. I have no problem with kids having access to technology, but I also can’t stand to see them glued to a tablet or smartphone all day. It doesn’t get them moving. It doesn’t build communication or social skills, and it doesn’t take advantage of summer. Save those for cold weather or rainy days!

What are your favorite ways to entertain kids over summer break? What do you miss about summers from your childhood?


Image: Freedigitalphotos.net


About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. I and my kids are together mowing and maintaining our lawn. I also let them choose which plants they’d like to have in the backyard. This activity this summer is really making them active and creative as well.

    • Kids love to choose plants, don’t they? I think we could spend hours at the greenhouse picking out plants.

  2. We do a lot of the same things with our kids Kim. We try to get them outside as much as possible and include them on things like gardening and things around the house. We use the library a lot as well, and are planning on that a lot this summer – we’d much rather have the kids reading as opposed to being plugged in to something.

    • I agree. I have no problem with technology, but 8 year olds don’t need to be plugged in all day. Heck, neither do forty somethings!

  3. We just planted our garden last week. The kids love gardening and watering their veggies!

    • Our daughter could water all day long, which is a problem because we are usually under drought restrictions!

  4. Thanks so much for including my Skinny Mozzarella Sticks in this fun post!
    All the best,

  5. The girls are still in school for a couple more weeks, but they are definitely looking forward to their summer break. 🙂 The girls are involved in a lot of activities so it seems like I play chaffeur most days. We spend as much as time as we can at the beach too. They, of course, look forward to their lemonade stand because it’s a money maker for them!

    • My daughter had already pulled out your book and is planning a lemonade stand of her own. Our house is not really in a good location for traffic so we need to find a venue, but if she made a few bucks, I think she would be thrilled.

  6. oh the 70’s where your parents would throw you out the door and we didn’t even have to be in till dark. Because times have changed, and my situation growing up might have been different, I’ll have to take your word for it…but I guess it’s OK since I don’t have kids. 🙂 We had so many kids in our neighborhood that we’d play stuff like kickball all day. If I had a kid here, the beach is always a great option. I love that you live so close to so many great national parks though. That is something we definitely did not do as kids.

    • We did not do anything outdoorsy as a family when I was growing up. It is nice to take advantage of the really cool stuff that’s practically in our back yard.

  7. Well I don’t have kids but I’m already starting to realize that you can spend as much or as little on entertainment as you want. Well there’s one obvious thing I miss about Summers during my childhood: the long break from work! With that being said, I’d NEVER be a teacher. I don’t know how they do it.

  8. For us it’s mostly outdoor sports. The boys are into soccer and it’s definitely nice to see them outside for a change since most of the time they’re stuck on their mobile devices.

  9. When I was a kid, my mother would give me these homemade chalks that I love deeply. I’s color the sidewalks and pretty much anything that lacks color in my opinion. That definitely is one thing I miss from my childhood!

    Now I try and get my kids to do educational stuff even when it’s summer, so as to avoid the “summer slide”

    Do you believe in the summer slide theory?

  10. Cycling is a big part of our summer activity but it isn’t possible in winters. Do you have any ideas for winters?

    • I guess it depends on where you live. We bundle up and sled, ski, and enjoy sunny winter days even if they are cold. We also spend lots of time at the city rec center during the winter. The indoor pool and climbing wall are fun year round.

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