90 Low Cost or No Cost Activities to Entertain Your Kid All Summer Long
If you find yourself checking the calendar to see when the kids return back to school and it's only a week into their summer break, you may want to check out this list of 90 Low Cost or No Cost Activities to Keep the Kids Entertained All Summer Vacation:
1. Make sailboats and race them. Put water in a plastic kid's pool and race your handmade sailboats. Use only the natural wind power to make them go and see who makes it to the finish line first! (If you live near a ditch or other moving water source, you might consider racing them down the stream after a rainstorm!)
2. Jump rope. This is fun for one child or a group of children. Learn a few songs and games to play for group jump roping, and try to see how many jumps each person can make before making a mistake.
3. Puddle jumping. Nothing is more fun than getting to play outside when it's raining. Summer rainstorms don't always mean you have to head inside- put on bathing suits and rain boots and stomp in the puddles!
4. Have your own drive-in movie. On a clear, dry night, bring the television set outdoors and let the kids watch a movie on blankets under the stars. For added fun, invite the neighborhood kids to drive-in on their bicycles to enjoy the movie, too. Don't forget the popcorn!
5. Plant a container garden. Many vegetables and herbs can be grown indoors or out inside containers. Let your children pick some varieties to grow and tend to them throughout the summer. It may even convince them to eat a vegetable if they know they grew it!
6. Target squirting. Set plastic cups on the top of a fence, deck railing, or balanced on kids heads and let other children squirt them off with water guns or plastic water bottles. You can create points by writing on the plastic cups and keep score or just see who's the fastest to knock over the cups.
7. Car wash. Arm your kids with the hose, a bucket, soap and some sponges and set them to work washing the family car (and each other). You could let them hang a sign around town advertising their car wash service, as well.
8. Dirt restaurant. Kids love to play restaurant, and who doesn't love to play in the dirt? Send the kids outside with plastic cups and plastic spoons, a few dollar store dishes and see what kind of gourmet meals they come up with. They can make salads from leaves and flower petals, mud pies, and tree bark chicken. The kids can take turns making meals, being waiters and restaurant patrons.
9. Water balloons. An always fun, but often forgotten activity, water balloons are easy to make and cheap! Fill some balloons with water and play water balloon toss- start kids standing close together and each time the balloon is caught without breaking everyone takes a step back!
10. Go for a hike, walk or bike ride. Most towns have parks and areas that are perfect for this, but even if you have to make it a full day trip and travel a bit, this is a great activity to beat summer time boredom. Pack a picnic lunch and plenty of fluids and enjoy some exercise.
11. Oversized painting. Tape several large sheets of paper together on the backside, and flip them over on the lawn. Fill a few containers with different colors of fingerpaints, and give the kids a box of strange items to make their painting with. Try: spaghetti strainer, a balloon, a mop head, sponges, rain boots and any other objects you see lying around!
12. Bubbles. Just about every kid enjoys bubbles! Create your own bubble solution with dishwashing liquid, water, and a teaspoon of sugar. Pour into a shallow container with a wide open mouth and then use odd objects to create your bubbles. String, rubber bands, the spaghetti strainer, straws, slotted spoons and anything else you can think of make some fun bubbles!
13. Bubble art. When the kids tired of making bubbles, add a few drops of food coloring to the bubble solution and have them blow bubbles that pop onto white paper. The result will be an artistic masterpiece made from the rainbow colored bubbles!
14. Sand art. Use food coloring to color sand in ziplock bags. Pour the sand on paper plates to dry before using. Once dry, glue to paper to make cards and art; or fill plastic containers with your sand art creations.
15. Make a sandbox. For whatever reason, kids like playing in the dirt! You can make an inexpensive sandbox by filling a kid size plastic pool with clean dirt you dig up from your yard, or from sand you purchase from the store. Fill with plastic trucks and plastic cups and let the kids go to town.
16. Organize sports days. If you live in an area where there are many children, you may be able to organize a day every week to play sports. Set up a baseball team, soccer team or other sports team and get the kids active. Just be sure to have enough water near by- especially if it's hot!
17. Sidewalk Chalk. Drawing on the ground is always fun. You can let the kids make pictures and drawings, or use it to make hopscotch and other games to play on the sidewalk.
18. Create race car track. If you have miniature cars (hot wheels and others), it can be tons of fun to create elaborate race tracks in the dirt, complete with jumps, water pits and crash areas.
19. Water games. You can let the kids run through the sprinklers, wade in a kiddie pool, spray each other with the hose, or play with a bucket full of water and plastic cups. They'll be creative with it; or they'll just get each other wet but either way they'll have fun doing it.
20. Organize a bike parade. Gather as many neighborhood kids as you can, and have everyone decorate their bikes like parade floats. Parade around the driveways or through a bike path.
21. Collect cans and bottles. Take your kids through the town and collect as many bottles and cans as you can. Return them to the store and give the kids the money to buy themselves a treat. It will take up an afternoon, give the kids exercise, and help the environment all at the same time.
22. Scavenger Hunt. Create a list of 20 or more things that can be found naturally outside in your area, things like pinecones, specific flowers, nuts, etc. Send the kids on a scavenger hunt to try and collect one of each item on the list. This can be done as a group effort, or each child can compete with the other to see who can find the most objects, the fastest.
23. Set up an obstacle course. Turn your backyard into an amazing obstacle course! Let the kids create a course from toys, bikes, and other things found in your backyard. Just keep an eye on them so they aren't doing anything that would be unsafe!
24. Go to yard sales. Give each child a few dollars and allow them to make purchases at a few yard sales. The new-to-them items are always more fun than the items they already own (at least for a couple hours!) You could do the same thing at the dollar store.
25. Go fishing. Borrow fishing poles if you don't have any and spend the day fishing in a river, lake or pond. 26. Visit every playground. Determine how many playgrounds are within a 25 mile radius of your home, and pick one day a week as playground day. Try to get a few other families to join you; and visit one park each week.
27. Build a rock garden. For some reason, kids really enjoy rocks. Let them collect various rocks and arrange them in a nice garden. For added fun, they could paint the rocks.
28. Visit a local farm. You can probably pick fresh berries at the start of summer, and apples towards the end of summer. Some farms have activities like hay rides, horseback riding and a petting zoo.
29. Make a slip n'slide. Use an old tarp as a slip n' slide, or buy one. The kids will enjoy this activity for a few hours on a hot summer day.
30. Go to drive-in movie. While you don't want to spend all day every day in front of the TV or movie theatre; there is no harm in catching a movie or two. Drive-in's are less expensive and you can enjoy the outdoors while you watch the movie.
31. Stargaze. Take a blanket out after it gets dark, a flashlight and an astronomy guide. See if you can find all the constellations.
32. Go horseback riding. Most towns have a horseback riding center within a day-trip distance. It's not a free activity (unless you know someone who owns horses and will give you a ride!) but it's a very fun experience the entire family can enjoy.
32 (bonus!). Have a campout. You don't have to actually go anywhere to go "camping". Pitch a tent in the backyard, build a fire (if local laws allow), toast marshmallows and enjoy camping in the backyard.
33. Crafts. You can purchase a bunch of craft supplies and let your children's imaginations lead them to the creation of masterpieces. The local dollar store often has a good selection of craft supplies, and if not- Wal-Mart or the craft store have a good variety that won't hurt your wallet too much. Alternatively, you can probably dig up enough craft-stuff from around your house for a few hours of creating: buttons, glue, string, macaroni noodles- if it can be glued, it can work!
34. Indoor camping. Throw a sheet over your kitchen table and camp out underneath. You can sing campfire songs, make smores in the microwave, and pretend to go fishing. If you have a small pop-tent, these can be set up indoors temporarily, too and provide hours of entertainment.
35. Make a puzzle. Draw a picture or cut one from a magazine. Cut it into puzzle shapes and then put it back together.
36. Play volleyball. Yes, you can play this version of volleyball inside. You just need a blow up beach ball and your couch. Pull the couch into the middle of the room so you can stand on either side of it, and use it as your volleyball net. (You could also drape a sheet over a couple of chairs to create your net)
37. Papermache stuff. Mix water and flour in a bowl to create a paste. Cut up strips of newspapers and make papermache objects. You can make piñatas, decorative items or animal creations. Just remember it takes several days for it to dry before you can paint and decorate it (or before you can break it open if you've made a piñata!)
38. Make puppets. Use socks and craft supplies from around the house to create puppets and put on a puppet show.
39. 5-Minute Make-Your-Own- Ice Cream. In a quart ziplock bag, put in a cup of milk, a teaspoon of vanilla and a teaspoon of sugar . In a gallon ziplock bag, put in a 1/3 of a cup of salt and fill the bag 3⁄4 of the way full with ice cubes. Place the smaller bag inside the larger bag, and shake for 5 minutes. Open and serve!
40. Become a dancing fool. If you feel like you've been cooped up inside for too long due to bad weather or other reasons, put on some upbeat music and dance until you're too tired to dance anymore! The sillier you are, the better!
41. Create the beach. If the beach is too far away or the weather causes you to stay inside, turn your bathtub into the ocean! Younger kids will get a kick out of this activity. Fill your tub with some cool water, play some beach tunes and give the kids the sand toys to play with in the tub in their bathing suits. Blow up a beach ball for some extra fun.
42. Café Kids. Let the kids create restaurant menus of items you have in your kitchen and then take turns taking lunch orders from each other (or you). Let everyone be the kitchen staff to prepare the lunches, and then switch to become the customers who get to eat the delicious meals they've ordered!
43. Draw mazes. On paper, create mazes and let your kids try to get to the end point. If you have a hamster or guinea pig, create a maze out of cardboard and see if it can find the end of the maze.
44. Start an activity co-op. If you are good at arts and crafts, your friend is good at yoga, someone else knows gymnastics or plays an instrument, etc- you could all get together and start an activity co-op. Once a week, each parent could host an activity at their home for everyone's kids throughout the summer. It's a low cost way to keep the kids involved in various activities.
45. Indoor picnic. Spread a blanket out on the living room floor and have an indoor picnic. No bugs!
46. Scrapbook. If you have a digital camera, consider letting the children take photos throughout the summer and get the best ones printed. Alternatively, you could buy a few disposable cameras for them to use. Using your craft supplies, create mini scrapbooks of what the kids did over their summer vacation.
47. Put on a talent show. Let the kids practice their talents, create tickets and flyers to give to the neighbors, and invite everyone to watch their performance. Let the neighborhood kids participate in the talent show, too! You can hold it inside or out; and give every participant a certificate and a round of applause.
48. Make a dream book. Using magazines let the children cut out photographs and draw pictures of things they'd like to have someday, places they'd like to go, careers they'd like to have one day and glue them into a dream book.
49. Start making holiday gifts for family. Use all the free time you have in the summer to start on your holiday gift list. The kids can make photo frames, mini scrapbooks, and craft items to give as gifts throughout the year.
50. Tye Dye. You can buy a kit or just get the colors from the craft store (or department store). You'll need socks or tee shirts or whatever else you want to tie dye, and rubber bands, as well as rubber gloves to protect your skin from the dye. Alternatively, you could try using berries to create your own dyes.
51. Marble games. Buy a big bag of marbles (really inexpensive!) and make up games to play with them. You can also search online for marble games and learn a few new ones.
52. Room rearranging. Let the children draw a new layout of their bedroom(s) on paper, and then help them move everything around into their new configuration.
53. Go rollerskating. If you have a rollerskating rink in your town or nearby, watch for special discounts. Many roller rinks offer $2 skating days, which would mean a very inexpensive outing that everyone can enjoy.
54. Organize a block party. Get everyone on your street or block together for a block party. Have face painting, activities, music and dancing, karaoke, and food (pot luck works great!).
55. Go swimming. If you aren't lucky enough to have your own pool, you can visit the park pool on a day pass, visit a friend or family member with a pool, or go to the lake for a day of swimming. Beat the heat and get some exercise at the same time.
56. Set up a net. Put up a badminton or volleyball net, or create one from clothes line and a sheet. Use a blow up beach ball to play volleyball or get a badmitten set from a yard sale and play.
57. Soccer bowling. Set up 10 empty soda cans or plastic bottles in a triangle or circle on a fairly level section in your yard or driveway. Give each child three tries to knock down as many "pins" as possible by kicking an inflated ball at them from at least 20 feet away. Keep score like bowling.
58. Make fruit Popsicles. Make your own fruit juice Popsicles with juice in paper cups and Popsicle sticks in them. Pop in the freezer until frozen and serve.
59. Host a sleepover. Let your children invite a few friends over for a sleepover. It's a fun way to break up the routine. The kids can play boardgames, watch a movie, make and eat fun snacks and enjoy some social time.
60. Act out your favorite book or movie. Get the family together and/or invite some friends over to help re-enact a fairy tale or favorite scene from a book.
61. Learn a new language. Use the internet or rent videos and/or audio instructions to learn a new language.
Educational Activities Your Kids Will Actually Enjoy Doing
62. Write and illustrate a book. With construction paper and some crayons, your children can become authors and illustrators. If old enough, let them write their own stories and illustrate them (either by drawing pictures or cutting photos out of old magazines) or for younger children, you can write down their story as they dictate it to you.
63. Visit the museum. (or the planetarium, the botanical gardens, etc) Most locations have a museum or other low- admission attraction that would make a nice day-trip. Not only is it something you don't do every day, but it's fun and educational, too.
64. Volunteering. The local retirement home and hospital often like when kids come in to help serve lunch, or read to the patients. Alternatively, your children could volunteer at the animal shelter- they always need help making sure
the dogs get out for some exercise!
65. Make your own board games. Playing board games is fun for all ages, but can get a little boring when you play the same games, over and over. Spend some time creating your own board game with cardboard, crayons and other objects- then play it! The real fun is the creation of the game itself, but you can play and save the game for future playtime as well.
66. Lemonade stand. Turn your children into mini-entreprenuers! Teach them how to figure out their profits by subtracting the cost of their materials and supplies and how many cups of lemonade they sell.
67. Yard sale. Help the kids organize a yard sale. They can price their unused toys and clothing and other items that it's time to get rid of, set up the tables outside with the items to sell, and handle the "customers". Anything that doesn't sell can be placed on ebay or another online auction site; and the kids could use the money to buy themselves a new summertime activity.
68. Make a Movie/Play. If you have a video camera, let the kids write, direct, act, and record their own movies. If you don't have one and can't borrow one, you can do the same thing but have a live performance- like a play.
69. Treasure Hunt. Hide a small treasure (a bag of candy, new game, etc) somewhere in the house. Then use post-its to write clues. Each clue will lead to another clue, until finally the last one will lead the children to the "treasure".
70. Simulate Stocks. For older children, use the newspaper or internet to research stocks and pretend to buy shares. Monitor the stocks throughout the summer and see whether you make or lose money.
71. Computer time. Find a few educational websites and let your children use them on a day when they can't go outside to play or are looking for something to do. Most kids love computers and there are thousands of websites designed to educate and entertain at the same time. http://www.funbrain.com/ is a good source. (You could even enroll older kids into a summer online course if you wanted- they have courses in music, writing, as well as all the typical academics)
72. Preserve the kids school work. Many parents like to keep some of the kids school work each year. Let the kids pick out a few favorites from each year they've been in school and create a book out of them. You can slide worksheets and artwork into page protectors to store in a binder; scan the documents into your computer to create a digital file, or glue a few pages onto construction paper and bind together into a booklet.
73. Make music together. Write song lyrics and come up with a melody. Record on your computer, mp3 player or tape recorder as a special keepsake.
74. Play store. Either purchase a toy cash register from the store, or set up a calculator at the check out station. Make or buy play money, and spend an afternoon buying items and making change. You could even make a pretend check register and write checks, depending how old your children are.
75. Create a chore chart. On a dry erase board or piece of cardboard, design a chore chart with the kids and give stickers or stars whenever their chores are accomplished. Set small goals and rewards for each week, and it will give the kids something to look forward to, and responsibilities during the summer weeks.
76. Teach children to cook. Use easy recipes, but take advantage of all the learning opportunities involved with cooking: creating the shopping list, sticking to a budget, using measuring cups and spoons, nutrition, and actually making the meal.
77. Learn origami. Get a book that teaches origami, or look up origami instructions online. Learn how to make several origami shapes and animals.
78. Cartoon flipbooks. Show your children how to staple paper together or use a notebook and draw images that are slightly different from one page to the next so that when they flip through the pages, they appear to be moving.
79. Start a book club. Ideally, you could get a few kids around the same age to all read the same book and get together to chat about it; but if there isn't enough participation, even a parent and child could read the same book and have a discussion about it.
80. Color carnations. Buy white carnations from a florist or grocery store, and place them in cups with food coloring mixed with water. After awhile, the flowers will take on the colors of the water they're in.
81. Play school. Take turns being the teacher and the students, and make worksheets and activities for the students to complete.
82. Zoos. Find a nearby zoo and spend a day there. The admission may be a bit on the steep side, but you can often pack snacks and lunches to prevent having to pay for anything other than the entry price and the educational and fun opportunities at the zoo are endless!
83. Geocaching: this is a free activity for older kids and teenagers- or the entire family can participate. Visit this website: http://www.geocaching.com/ and enjoy a high-tech treasure hunt!
84. Keep a Journal. Have your children write daily in a journal. They can write about what they did that day, or what they hope to do the next day.
85. Be a tourist. Pretend to be a tourist in your own town and nearby locations. Use maps to discover landmarks, attractions and parks that you've never gone to, and plan family trips to visit each.
86. Savings Account. Help your child learn responsible money skills by taking them to the local bank to open a savings account. Help them discover ways of earning money throughout the summer and teach them about saving and interest.
87. Go to the library. Visit the library once a week and allow children to check out books to read. Check into activities – most libraries hold children activities or crafts throughout the summer.
88. Toss a ball. Have everyone sit in a circle. Every time they have the ball, they say a name of a state (or animal, or food, etc) that starts with the next letter of the alphabet as they throw the ball to someone else.
89. Google earth. Use google earth and maps to explore new territory.
90. Get a Rubik's Cube. Vow to complete it before the end of summer. You may have to spend time on it every day, and it can be an individual activity or one the entire family takes part in.
Adapted from destroydebt.com