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Searching for ways to keep kids entertained this summer without breaking the bank? It’s not as hard as you imagine, but it can take some serious brainstorming. For me, coming up with summer activities for kids is always stressful. Summer camp is expensive, and finding ways to keep them uninterested in their devices can be a challenge. Kids, especially young ones, need something fun to pique their interest, ignite their imaginations, and hold their attention for more than a few seconds at a time. That’s where these fun summer activities for kids come in!
Whether you’re in the mood for crafts, being outdoors, playing games, or creating fun science experiments, these ideas have you covered! We even throw in a few fun snack ideas for when kids need a full belly before they continue with their summer play.
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Where to buy supplies for summer activities for kids.
The beauty of these activities is that they require very few supplies, and the ones you need are super affordable. Your first stop should be the dollar store. Stores like Dollar Tree will likely have the best deals on supplies for these summer ideas. If you strike out at the dollar store, try craft stores like Joann or Michaels. You can also find cheap supplies at Walmart or Target’s Dollar Spot.
You don’t have to spend a ton of money on new toys to keep your kids entertained this summer. Just get a little creative, a little crafty, and have a good time.
1. Create an ice block treasure hunt.
Summer activities wouldn’t be complete without water, right? Freeze Dollar Tree toys (or toys you already have) of varying weights in a large container of water. Challenge kids to find the toys by carefully chipping away at the ice with a hammer.
To release ice from the container, you may need to submerge the container in a sink of hot water for a few seconds.
Tip: Avoid injury by having your kids wear safety glasses.
2. Recycle an empty water bottle by building your own sprinkler.
Looking for easy summer activities for kids that will also cool them down? Try making a homemade sprinkler!
Help your kids with a drill to create holes wherever they want water to squirt out. Then using waterproof tape, attach an empty plastic bottle to the end of a hose.
3. Make glow-in-the-dark sand.
Seriously, y’all, this one is so easy. Add Epsom salt or another salt variety to a zip-top bag, and add a squirt or two of glow-in-the-dark paint or fluorescent paint. Use a different bag for each paint color. Seal the bag, and mix until the salt color is evenly distributed.
Once the color is distributed, open the bag and allow the salt to dry for 24 hours (lay the salt on a cookie sheet to dry faster). Once it’s dry, let kids play with their new glow-in-the-dark sand.
Since this is a rather simple activity, it’s a great summer craft for preschoolers. Need more storage bags? Here are some Ziploc coupons and deals.
4. Make s’mores cones as a tasty ice cream alternative.
This is a must-add to your summer activities list. Fill sugar cones with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips, wrap them in aluminum foil, and grill for seven to 10 minutes. Keep the cones away from open flames. Unwrap and enjoy!
These can also be made in the oven (at a temperature of about 350 degrees).
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5. Create a jar of summer activities using popsicle sticks.
Brainstorm a bunch of summer activities, and write them down on popsicle sticks. When boredom strikes (because it will), choose a stick and complete an activity. You could even add colorful washi tape strips or glitter glue to make the statements more special.
6. Play glow-in-the-dark backyard ring toss.
Glow sticks are party tools that both kids and adults can enjoy. To make this summer activity come alive, stick a sturdy 12-inch glow stick in the ground or use a rubber band to tie two to three bracelets together (vertically).
Assemble the glow-in-the-dark bracelets using the connector provided. With the rings formed, toss and play!
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7. Turn a pool noodle into a racetrack for marbles and more!
Adults, use a sharp knife to cut a pool noodle in half lengthwise. Open it wide enough so that it’s still intact (not separated) and wide enough for a Hot Wheels car and marbles to slide down. You could even create a Start and Finish line with index cards and toothpicks. Attaching an empty shoe box at the end will stop runaway cars and other racing objects.
Now you’re the coolest adult these kids know. It’s an easy indoor summer activity for toddlers too.
We’ve got even more ways to repurpose pool noodles!
8. Prepare writing prompts and have kids start a summer journal.
Writing prompts for kids, aka creative writing projects, build writing and reading skills and can really spark their imagination. Expand on this semi-educational summer activity by having them choose a new prompt every day to encourage creative play.
Writing prompts could include things like:
- Checking out poetry books at the library and finding a poem they like. Then copy it into their journal. They can circle words that are fun or meaningful.
- Going outside and writing down what they hear, see, smell, and feel.
- Finding a recipe with an adult and making something special.
- Writing a letter to a family member and mailing it to them.
9. Make sidewalk paint with cornstarch, water, and food coloring.
A summer project isn’t complete without some sort of chalk, right? Here’s a DIY summer chalkboard idea with ingredients from around the house.
Mix 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup cornstarch in a blender, and blend on low speed until smooth. Transfer to a plastic bowl and stir in 12 drops of food coloring. Use paintbrushes and sponges to decorate the sidewalk. The paint washes away with water.
10. Use Kool-Aid scented, colorful glue to make window clings and art.
Pour a packet of Kool-Aid (go crazy with loud colors) into a bottle of school glue and mix thoroughly using a thin, long utensil like a chopstick or wooden skewer. You can also skip the Kool-Aid and just buy colored glue.
With your colored glue, create art on a canvas or paper. Or try making designs on stretched plastic wrap (tape down the sides to remove creases) that can be dried and used as window clings.
Tip: When using more than one color per gel-cling design, allow each color to dry first; otherwise, the colors may run together.
11. Add backyard bowling to your kids’ summer activities list.
If you can’t go to the bowling alley, bring the bowling alley to your backyard! This is one of my favorite summer activities for kids.
Fill small socks with rice and tie the ends with rubber bands and ribbon. Then cover six empty, clean 15-ounce cans with colored tape, making sure the tape covers any sharp edges.
Set cans up in a pyramid, and have kids stand several feet away. Whoever knocks down all the cans within two tries wins!
12. Play glow-in-the-dark bowling.
If you have leftover glow sticks from No. 6’s activity, here’s another chance to make your summer nights better. Insert Dollar Tree glow sticks into bottles filled with water, replace the cap, and use a ball to knock them over. You could also arrange them for indoor hallway play.
13. Conduct a summer science activity with balloons, baking soda, and vinegar.
Summer science experiments are some of the best kids’ activities! You’ll need vinegar, baking soda, balloons, and empty water bottles.
Using a funnel, fill an old water bottle about 1/3 of the way full with vinegar. Dry the funnel, and use it to pour baking soda into a balloon. Fill the balloon up halfway with baking soda.
Cover the top of the bottle with your baking-soda balloon, but make sure you don’t let the baking soda spill into the bottle prematurely.
When you and your child are ready, lift the balloon and let the baking soda fall into the vinegar.
Since baking soda and vinegar create an acid-base chemical reaction as soon as they’re combined, the balloon will start to inflate, filling up with the carbon dioxide gas created by the reaction in the bottle.
14. Create penny tap shoes.
Gotta love cheap summer activities that are also impromptu music classes. Grab a few pennies, a pair of old sneakers, and a hot glue gun. Use hot glue to attach pennies to the bottoms of your child’s shoes for instant tap shoes.
15. Make hot glue costume jewelry.
Do you still have your glue gun hot from Tip 14? Using colored glue sticks (or regular ones), create one large blob of glue on a silicone baking mat, then a line roughly 13 – 15 inches long (or the length needed to fit around your child’s neck), with a second large blob at the other end.
Then fashion whatever design you’d like in between the blobs, and allow the glue to dry. Punch a hole in each end’s big blob, and use string to tie ends together.
Check out more hot glue gun hacks to feed your creative animal.
16. Make caterpillars with grapes, chocolate chips, skewers, and icing.
Summer activities for kids are even better when you can eat them (the activity, not the kid)! Wash a container of grapes and skewer them from end to end. To make a caterpillar face, use a toothpick to dab vanilla icing on the end grape. Add mini chocolate chips, and there you have an edible caterpillar for a healthy summer snack.
17. Create a custom play mat.
When money is tight, you gotta take the cheap route to keep these kids entertained. Dollar stores are a gold mine for inexpensive summer kids’ craft ideas. Use colored sharpies to draw on a clear shower curtain liner. Let your kiddos get busy drawing their heart’s desire.
Related: See more incredible ways to use a shower curtain liner!
18. Make ice cream sandwiches the easy way.
After all of your hard work with kids, don’t you need a sugar break? Grab a pint of your favorite ice cream and cut the container horizontally into 1-inch-thick circles. Then push the label off. This shape just so happens to be the perfect size to fit between two giant cookies. Now, go smash your treat (forget the kids) — you deserve it.
Pssst … we’ve got ice cream coupons too.
19. Insert a plastic or wooden spoon into yogurt cups and freeze for easy yogurt pops.
Here’s another cool summer activity that even the kids can help with. Have your little ones pick their favorite yogurt, stick a food-grade popsicle stick in the middle, and freeze it. After at least three hours, pop them out and enjoy! Want to prevent the yogurt from dripping? Slip a cupcake liner through the stick so that it lays underneath the frozen yogurt.
20. Fill a binder with printables, games, and other fun things to do on road trips.
Kids typically hit the annoyance stage at the 30-minute mark of a road trip, so you’d better pack more than enough summer activities for kids. Get a big binder and put each child’s name on it.
Then fill it with fun things: crayons and coloring pages (Amazon has coloring pages for kids), scavenger hunt checklists (license plates, landmarks, and animals are all great), bingo scoreboards, finger puppets, activity printables, small books or audiobooks, and other surprise goodies.
Give it to them as soon as you set off, and pray that they don’t finish too quickly.
21. Throw eggs filled with paint.
Here’s a summer idea that can get a little messy, but it’s so fun. Plus, toddlers like to throw things anyway.
Drain a dozen eggs by using a push pin to make several small holes on top of each egg. Once you’ve made enough push-pin holes, you should be able to easily break away a portion of an egg. Create a large enough hole to pour the paint through, then watch your kids have fun creating modern masterpieces!
Use the drained eggs to make a quick omelet or scramble for breakfast the next day.
22. Painting with flowers should be on every summer activities list for kids.
Daisies, mums, and carnations create interesting patterns and shapes when dipped in acrylic paint. Just cover your table with brown kraft paper, lay out white construction paper or printer paper, and set up cups of paint. Using real leaves, have them dip them in paint and create artwork on their paper.
Try asking a local florist for wilting flowers; most are happy to give them to you for free if they know they’re being used for educational purposes.
23. Instead of water balloons, throw sponge balls this summer.
Head to the dollar store to gather ingredients for this craft; there’s no point in spending a lot on this one! You’ll need two plain sponges per ball. Cut each sponge into six long strips. Then stack six strips on top of six strips like so:
Place a rubber band tightly around the center of all the pieces, then manually move the pieces to form a star shape.
Fill up a couple of buckets with water, soak the sponges, and throw them around for fun on a hot summer day. Or you can have the kids wash your car!
24. Camp in the backyard.
As a DIY summer camp activity (with a true emphasis on “camp”), this couldn’t be easier. Just set up your gear in the backyard with all of the accessories — snacks, pillows, sleeping bags, and a tent. Don’t forget the s’mores! Bring your portable speaker and phone to have a dance party before bedtime.
25. Use Kool-Aid to make scented play dough.
Mix the following in a medium-sized pot:
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4 cup salt
- 1 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 Kool-Aid packets
- 3/4 cup water
Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring until the dough clumps together and reaches play dough consistency. Repeat the process for each color.
26. Have kids make their own shirts.
Here’s another one of my favorite summer crafts for kids. We do this every year for the 4th of July. Take any old white T-shirt (or buy a cheap one), have them paint six red strips horizontally, and finish with their handprint in blue (as shown).
This makes for an excellent summer craft for preschoolers!
Tip: Make sure to use fabric paint so the design will last longer.
27. Make marshmallow shooters with balloons and toilet paper rolls.
You’re just three items away from one of the best summer games for kids: marshmallow shooters. Use an empty toilet paper tube and fit a balloon around one end. Add a couple of mini marshmallows to the balloon end, and watch out as your kid shoots them at you!
28. Play tic-tac-toe in the yard.
As a summer activity, tic-tac-toe isn’t just for kids! Plus, it’s perfect for the park or your backyard. Make a reusable tic-tac-toe board with an old shower curtain liner, duct tape, and frisbees. If you only have one frisbee, just toss plastic picnic plates instead!
29. Create a DIY Slip and Slide
Use landscape anchor pins or tent stakes to pin down heavy-duty plastic sheeting in your yard. Use a hose or sprinkler and some baby soap to create a slippery slide for the whole family!
30. Bubbly ball pit
Use a plastic kiddie pool, plastic ball pit balls, and some dish soap to create a fun and foamy activity for kids.
31. DIY Chalk Bombs
Mix up a washable chalk paint mixture using one cup of water, two tablespoons of corn starch, and a few drops of food coloring. Fill balloons with this chalk paint and let kids throw them at targets or at the sidewalk.
Tip: Use a clean soap-dispenser pump to fill water balloons with the washable chalk-paint mixture.