Now that the kids are out of school and the warm days are here, finding ways to keep your kids busy can be challenging. Finding cost effective (free!) ways to keep them busy can be even more challenging.
However, if you’re a stay at home mom, you need to keep busy to preserve your sanity and need to keep the cost down to preserve your bank account. Having the kids around again all the time is a big change in the schedule and life has to be adjusted to make room for a new, daily routine.
If you’re a working mom, by the time the weekend arrives, the kids might be bouncing off the walls due to being inside with a sitter or at a daycare.
Either way the warm weather, blue skies and extended daylight hours are just calling out for non-stop playtime. Check out this list of 25 free ideas to keep your children entertained this summer.
FREE Things To Do With Kids This Summer
Nature walk/scavenger hunt
You can do this on your block or in a local forest preserve. Make a list of items for your kids to find outside and collect. The items can include flowers, different type of leaves, pinecones, stones, etc. You can also go on walks to look for different kinds of the same item. My grandfather and I used to go on feather walks and see how many different kinds of feathers we could find. It’s a special memory I now cherish as an adult.
Outdoor “Old School” Games
When’s the last time you play hopscotch? I was probably about 7. This is such a fun game for kids though and is one that keeps them moving. You can use chalk and draw it on the driveway or sidewalk. You can also make your own Tic Tac Toe board and use painted rocks as your Xs and Os. My daughter loved painting her own rocks. Find a great list here.
Science at home
Just because school is out doesn’t mean the kids have to stop learning. Try a couple of science projects at home. This rain cloud experiment is perfect for rainy days or teaching kids about weather. All you need is a glass, shaving cream and blue food coloring. Drip the food coloring on top of your “cloud” and when it gets too heavy for the shaving cream, it starts to “rain.”
Neighborhood book club
Start a neighborhood book club with the kids. Create a reading list and have one book a week that that can read and then discuss over snack time at someone’s house. Or, if they are preschoolers, you can read them an early reader book during the snack time and then have them discuss. If it’s a longer chapter book carry it over from week to week and give them something to look forward to. You can find a list of preschool chapter books here.
Depending on how adventurous your child is, you can go on a bug hunt. Similar to the Nature Walk Scavenger Hunt, make a list of the different kinds of bugs you want to find. Talk about each of the bugs as you find them and use it as a learning experience to talk about how ants can lift objects much heavier than themselves of how wasps (Don’t get too close!) are different from honey bees. My daughter was so happy each time we saw a butterfly.
Make a list of all parks in your area. Check out a new one each week so you and your kids don’t get bored. You might make some new friends and discover some fun places in the neighborhoods right around your house.
Make Your Own Slime
Kids have so much fun just playing with squishy things and it’s great sensory play for them too. Use this recipe to create your own neon slime for your kids to play with. You can store it in a plastic bag or use it to make these cool slime planets.
Use old pieces of broken crayons and make new crayons of various colors. My kids loving playing with these new, rainbow color creations we made. You do need a silicone mold to make this happen. I’ve used this one and this one from Amazon on different occasions for this, but any silicone pan will do. You can find step-by-step instructions here.
Turn a water table or a large bowl into a bubble table and see how big you can make the bubbles. You can make bubble wands out of pipe cleaners. Check out this bubble recipe on Pintrest here.
We have a local animal preserve near us that takes care of animals that have been found injured or baby animals that have been abandoned. Our preserve has an indoor and outdoor area and includes things like owls, foxes and even an eagle! If you don’t know where your local animal preserve is, see if you can find one close to you online. These are usually run on donations so while you could go for free, we usually try to help them out with a donation.
If your kids are a little older, hiking can be a great way to get outdoors, spend some time together without a screen and get some activity in. We have a state park about an hour away and it has some beautiful hiking trails. It is easy to pack a lunch and spend the day there. We also have a bike path about two blocks away from our house that we use if we don’t feel like making the drive somewhere else. Look for some of these things in your local area via a quick Google search. I’m sure you’ll find them!
If you don’t have a pool or a membership to a pool, cooling off in your backyard can be just as easy. Think old school here. The kids will have just as much fun as you did when you were a kid running through the sprinkler on steamy days.
Make Your Own Animal Tracks
Kids love animals and you can make your own animal tracks with sponges and talk about how the tracks are different from each other. Talk about size, shape and the animal that makes them.
Find your local Farmer’s Markets and make it a day with the kids to get fresh fruits and veggies. The one in our town is on Saturday mornings, but surrounding towns have them during the week so this can be a great way to get out of the house mid-week. Think of a veggie recipe you want to make during the week and have your kids pick out the perfect veggies for it.
My daughter absolutely loves making these. We find flowers on our Nature Walks and then press them between two pieces of wax paper to preserve the color. Heat it with an iron to seal it altogether. It’s simple, but it’s a fun activity every time we do it. Try to find flowers in a variety of shapes and sizes. You can then hang them in front of a window and let the light shine through. It’s also an activity that works in spring, summer and fall.
Free Museum Days
Most museums and/or zoos are required to have a certain number of free days each year. Check out the local museums and zoos near you to find the dates and plan a special day out. Pack a lunch so you don’t have to worry about buying the expensive food at the venues and enjoy the day!
Paper Airplane Flight Contest
Make paper airplanes with your kids or a couple of other kids from the neighborhood and see which ones go the farthest.
Your local library will have a summer calendar. Check it out! If you younger kids there will be programs and maybe even events they can get involved in. For older kids, they might have craft classes or book clubs.
Check out children’s work shops
Your local home improvements stores or craft stores will usually have free classes and workshops for kids. During the school year these generally happen on Saturday, but during summer the stores sometimes revise their schedules. Each store is different so be sure to check with your local retailer.
Start your own garden
Whether you have a single family home or an apartment, you can make a little garden with just a few pots and seeds. Even if you only have room for one pot, plant a pea plant and together watch it grow. You can use the garden as an area of learning for so many different things – nature, farming, bugs, nutrition, etc. My daughter loved to eat the peas from our garden last year and she loved that she helped plant them too. She was a huge fan of helping me. If you have a large garden, check out this list of must-have garden items for your kids that will help keep them safe and make it feel special.
Picnics in the backyard
Make this a weekly thing at your house where you put together a picnic lunch and just eat in your back yard, or on your patio if you live in a condo. Your kids can help put fruit in bowls or use cookie cutters to make shapes. They will look forward to this change in the routine. If it rains, then bring the fun inside and have a carpet picnic!
Check with your local park district for splash park/pad playgrounds. These have begun popping up all over and are a great alternative to a water park for younger kids. They are usually free and you can spend a morning of afternoon just letting the kids get their fill of water play. If you don’t know where to find one, Google can usually help you out. I just typed in, “free splash park,” and got a list of 14!
Visit your local fire station
Call your local fire station and see what days they allow visits. They will be happy to show kids around the firehouse and the firetruck. If there is an emergency, you’ll have to wait, but usually they are really good about having little visitors.
Visit a beach or local lake
While I know everyone doesn’t have a beach near them, you can usually find a lake that allows swimming. Just remember to be safe in the water. Soak up the sun or build a sandcastle and enjoy a day of water play.
Potato stamp art
Use potatoes or any veggie to create fun works of art. With potato stamp art you can talk about shapes and colors too! Just be sure that a parent is the one to cut the shape out of the potato. Then let your kids stamp away!
I’m sure there are plenty of other ways to add to this list! What are some of the fun ways you are planning to keep your kids busy this summer? We would love to hear your ideas too.