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Summer is right around the corner, and that means the kids will be out of school and looking for things to do.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to entertain them with 50 ideas for frugal summer fun for kids.
Kids look forward to summer break, but parents can dread it. Three months is a lot of time to fill, and it can get expensive if you fill their days with things like theme parks and summer camps.
But kids don’t have to have those kinds of big adventures every day to have a good time and enjoy some summer fun. Lots of fun to be had the frugal way!
Make a Little Money
Depending on the age of the children, there are lots of ways kids can earn a little money and learn some valuable lessons over the summer.
1. Earn Extra Cash With Surveys
2. Pick up Trash
Take your kids out for walks armed with work or gardening gloves and a trash bags. Pick up any litter you see and toss it in one bag. Pick up any recyclables you see and toss them in the other.
Hopefully, you won’t come across even recyclable trash to make much money, but this exercise teaches kids some valuable lessons.
Our world is prettier when we clean up trash, our world is healthier when we recycle, and recycling can be a way to earn extra money.
3. Sell Lemonade
Create an old-fashioned lemonade stand!
4. Odd Jobs
If your kids are old enough, help them make up some flyers for services like babysitting, car washing, lawn mowing, or any other kind of odd jobs neighbors might hire teens or pre-teens to do.
5. Sell Online
Have your kids go through their belongings, toys, books, clothes, etc. and decide what they want to get rid of. You can either plan a yard sale together or sell the items online on a site like eBay or Amazon.
Take advantage of the long, warm days and get outside! When I was a kid, we were out at first light and didn’t come home until the street lights went on.
6. Backyard BBQ
Let your kids help you plan a backyard barbecue. They can help with the guest list, the menu, activities, and make invitations.
7. Build a Fire
Build a fire in the backyard fire pit and roast marshmallow and hot dogs.
8. Scavenger Hunt
Create a nature-based scavenger hunt.
Make a list of things like a red leaf, a lightning bug, a smooth stone, a feather, an acorn, a dandelion and let your kids compete to see who can find all of the items on the list first.
9. Star Gazing
Borrow a book on constellations from the library and take your kids star gazing.
10. Play Volleyball
Play volleyball! You don’t need a real volleyball and net to play. When I was a kid, we played with a regular rubber ball and a clothesline.
Play foursquare. You can make the court with sidewalk chalk in your driveway. If you don’t have a paved driveway, you can line up stones to make the court.
12. Pick clovers
Pick clovers and tie them into a chain to make a necklace or a headpiece.
13. Free Outdoor Events
Lots of towns, big and small offer a variety of free events over the summer including outdoor movies, concerts, plays, fairs, and festivals. Find one near you and bring the whole family.
14. Drive-in Movie Theaters
There are still about 330 drive-in movie theaters in operation in the United States so you may have one near you. Pack some snacks, pillows, and blankets and let the kids stay up late.
15. Local Little League
If your kids are too young or just not interested in playing organized sports, you can take them to a local little league or intramural league baseball, kickball, soccer, or volleyball game. Cheaper than tickets to a pro sporting event!
16. Chip Away to Find Jewelry
Fill a small cooler or large container with water and fill it with little “treasures” like play jewelry or other toys. Freeze the container solid and let kids excavate the ice block to retrieve the treasures with tools like hammers and screwdrivers.
17. Find Treasure
Fill a small kiddy pool with sand and bury similar treasures. Give kids little beach spades to excavate with, and little paint brushes to dust off the treasures the way real archeologists do.
This activity is even more fun if you show your kids a video or book about archeology first. Make sure some of the buried toys are dinosaurs!
18. Make a Photograph Book
Let your kids make a themed book of photographs. They can choose any them they want, puppies, flowers, farmer’s markets, bugs.
Give them your phone (or their own phone if you’ve given them one) and let them take pictures of their theme.
Help them go through the photos, choose the best ones, and make a photo book complete with captions through a site like Shutter Fly.
These books are a fantastic way for children to document their summers and will be treasured possessions for years to come. If you choose just one thing on this list to do with your kids this summer, let it be this one.
19. Go To Yard Sales
Make a list of local yard or estate sales and take kids shopping. It teaches them that not only can we often find less expensive, higher quality items when we buy second hand, but that doing so also helps the environment because an object is getting a second life rather than being dumped into a landfill.
20. Summer School
Go old school! What did you do in the summers as a kid? Play Red Rover Red Rover, freeze tag, hopscotch, kickball? Introduce your own kids to those old games. They’re still fun even if they are no longer popular.
21. Swing at Water Balloons
Fill some balloons with water and tie them to a clothesline. Give your kids a plastic whiffle ball bat and let them swing at the balloons. Water balloon pinatas!
22. Ride a Bike
Take advantage of the longer days and get your family into the habit of taking a walk or a bike ride together after dinner. It allows everyone to get a little exercise, to spend time together, and to wind down the day before bed.
And don’t end the practice once summer is over. Start it now but carry it on all year. All families need exercise and time together; you just need more to wear more layers after summer.
23. Local Tours
This is a good one for the very hottest days of summer. If you have local caverns nearby that offer tours, take the kids to that. No matter how hot the day is, those caverns are cool and dark and quiet. Mammoth Cave in Kentucky which is the one I went to as a kid offers tours for just $12.
24. Pack a Picnic
Pack a picnic with all of the best summer delicacies, strawberries, peaches, watermelon, and some picnic staples like deviled eggs and cold chicken and head to a park. Food eaten outside just tastes better!
Fun with Food
Letting children get involved with different aspects of food helps them develop their palates and teaches them to cook so you don’t end up with kids who turn into adults who still won’t eat anything but chicken fingers and pizza.
25. Make Jam
Turn those summer fruits into a simple jam or chutney, no canning equipment required.
26. Local Farmer’s Market
If you don’t have a pick your own farm in your area, take your kids to a farmer’s market. Let them pick out a new fruit or vegetable to try. Farmer’s markets often give away samples and have live music, so it’s a great way to spend an hour or two.
27. Make Whipped Cream or Butter
Make your own whipped cream or butter. You don’t need fancy equipment to do it. All you need is some heavy cream and a mason jar.
Fill the jar halfway up with the cream and shake for two minutes. Two minutes will give you whipped cream. Shake for three to five minutes more, and you have butter. I did this as a kid and felt like Laura Ingalls Wilder!
28. Plant a Garden
Plant a garden. Even fussy eaters will be more willing to eat their vegetables when they’ve helped to plant, tend, and harvest them.
29. Prepare a Few Dishes
Summers are less busy for many of us, and it’s easy to forget just how hectic things can get when everyone goes back to school. To help ease the pace, take the time you have no and make a few dishes that freeze well with your kids.
When things pick up again, you’ll be glad to have a few meals ready and waiting.
30. Film a Show
Let your kids pretend to be the host of a cooking show. Film them on your phone, so they can watch themselves later.
This is something I used to do as a kid although there were no smartphones then to film it. I still do it sometimes if I’m honest and imitate Julia Child while I’m doing it. It’s still fun.
31. Berry Picking
Find a local pick your own farm and take your kids to pick blueberries, strawberries, or peaches, whatever is seasonal and local to your area.
You don’t have to be Martha Stewart to whip up some arts and crafts with your kids.
32. Free Home Depot Workshops
Many Home Depot stores offer free workshops for kids where they will learn to build things like birdhouses. Check your local store and see if they participate.
33. Use Modeling Clay
There are all kinds of recipes on the internet to make your own things play-dough, slime, modeling clay, and finger paint and most of them are made using everyday things most of us already have in the house like flour, glue, and food coloring.
Let your kids choose a recipe and make their own fun!
34. Tie-Dye T-Shirts
Make tie-dyed t-shirts. All you need are some white t-shirts, RIT dye, rubber bands, and a clothesline. I did this in high school with kids I babysat for, and they loved it.
35. Make a Gratitude Book
Buy your kids blank notebooks to make a gratitude book. They can decorate the cover with drawings or cut out pictures of things they are grateful for. Get your kids into the habit of listing five things they are grateful for every day.
This makes for kinder, less acquisitive children. You should do one too!
36. Little Free Library
Little Free Library is a program that provides plans to build small birdhouse-like structures to house books. You put the little house in front of your house and fill it with books. Anyone is free to take a book or to leave a book.
This is a beautiful program that shares books with people who might not be able to afford them and gives used books a second life. Not only can your kids help to build your Little Free Library, but they can solicit friends, family, and neighbors if they have any books they can donate to the library.
37. Start a Scrapbook
Help your kids start a scrapbook. They can fill them with anything, pressed leaves and flowers, newspaper clippings, tickets to events they have attended, their old report cards or artwork. This is another great project that kids will keep for years.
38. Make a Collage
Buy a piece of white poster board and gather up old magazines. Let kids make a collage by cutting out pictures they like from the magazines and gluing them to the poster.
Rainy Day Fun
I hope your summer fun is filled with long, sunny days but on those inevitable rainy days or sudden afternoon storms, here are some ways to keep the kids entertained.
39. Free Udemy Courses
Udemy offers some free courses kids can take online in subjects like becoming an entrepreneur, programming, chess, and cartoon drawing.
40. Family Book Club
Start a family book club. Everyone reads the same book and discusses it, chapter by chapter or at the end.
41. Tour a Factory
Tour a factory if that is something available in your area. Food factories are especially interesting. I recently toured a rice factory, and it’s way more fun than it sounds! This factory has made the entire process of processing rice almost 100% green. It was fascinating and educational.
42. Go To a Local Thrift Store
Go to a thrift store and let your kids search out items for a unique Halloween costume. Their costume will be cheaper and much more interesting than a store-bought, pre-made costume.
43. Go Outside and Play
Go outside and play in it! It’s fun to splash around in puddles and feel the rain on your face.
44. Amusement Park
If you don’t mind a little rain and want to splurge on taking your kids to an amusement park, a rainy day is the day to do it. People stay away in droves on rainy days so you won’t be stuck waiting on long lines and you won’t nearly pass out of heat stroke because you’re walking around all day with the sun beating down on you.
Wear a poncho. Or don’t. A little rain never killed anyone.
45. $1 Movies
Go to the $1 movies if you have such a theater in your town. Even if you don’t matinees are often cheaper than seeing movies in the evening.
46. Attend Free Lectures
Many museums and bookstores offer lectures or readings from authors that are free to attend.
47. Book Swap
Do a swap with some other kids and parents. Pick a theme like books or clothes or toys. Everyone brings some items they don’t need anymore, and everyone gets some new things without spending any money.
48. Learn a Language
It’s so much easier to learn a language as a kid than as an adult! Let your kids take advantage of still being a kid by learning a language for free with Duo-lingo.
49. Pick a Theme
Choose a theme for the day. Maybe it’s a country. Watch documentaries about the country, go the library and check out some books on it, and cook a dish that comes from that country.
50. Library Summer Programs
While you’re at the library, see what programs they might offer for children in the summer. Some libraries offer free story time and arts and crafts programs. And check out all the other awesome stuff libraries have to offer. It goes way beyond borrowing books!
Summer is the Best
When I think back to my childhood, most of my happy memories are summer fun memories. And while we occasionally did the big stuff like going to amusement parks or on vacation to the beach, it’s the stuff like the things on this list that I remember.
And I remember the time my parents and grandmother spent doing these things with me. I wish the same for you and your kids.
And One More Thing
While it’s great to have a full roster of fun activities for your kids to do this summer, don’t plan every minute of every day.
Let them come up with their own fun and their own way to pass the time. That’s how I came up with the clothesline volleyball court and cooking while pretending to be Julia Child.
When we let children have some space to themselves, they will come up with a hundred things to keep themselves occupied that would never have occurred to you.
Give them the space to do that. It takes some of the pressure off you and lets kids stretch their imaginations.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this list of 50 kid summer fun ideas for cheap. If you see one that’s not on the list and should be, let us know down below!