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Searching for ways to keep kids entertained this summer without breaking the bank? It’s not as hard as you think. For me, coming up with summer activities for kids is always stressful. Between the cost of summer camp to keeping them off their devices, kids (especially young ones) need something to pique their interest.

Since summer crafts can get costly, here are some general money-saving tips and toy deals to help you. These summer activities below are for indoor and outdoor fun, and you can even learn how to make new snacks.

Graphic with title, "Kids Summer Bucket List

Download your free Kids Summer Bucket List printable here.

 

1. Include an ice block treasure hunt to your summer bucket list for kids.

Little girl using a hammer to break apart ice with frozen toys inside.

Summer activities wouldn’t be complete without water, right? Freeze Dollar Tree toys in varying weights in a large container of water. Challenge kids to find the toys by carefully chipping away at the ice with a hammer.

Toys on a sidewalk and a bucket with ice that has toys frozen inside.

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.

Need toys to freeze? You and your kiddos are going to love these toy deals.

 

2. Recycle an empty water bottle by building your own sprinkler.

A water bottle with holes drilled into it that has been attached to a hose to make a DIY sprinkler

Looking for an easy summer craft 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.

Someone drilling holes in an empty water bottle, then using waterproof tape to attach to a hose.

 

3. Glow-in-the dark sand is one of my favorite summer crafts for kids.

A little girl playing with colorful sand and someone putting paint into a ziploc bag with epsom salt.

Seriously, guys — 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 per paint color. Seal the bag, and mix until the salt color is evenly distributed.

A swirl of colorful sand

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 summer activity.

marshmallows being put into a sugar cone with chocolate chips and a girl eating a messy cone

This is a must-add to your summer bucket list ideas! Fill sugar cones with mini marshmallows and chocolate chips, wrap in aluminum foil, and grill for 7-10 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).

Before you hit up the grocery store, check out these food coupons and deals!

 

5. Create a jar of summer bucket list ideas using popsicle sticks.

Someone writing ideas on popsicle sticks then placing them in a jar.

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 ring toss as a summer game for kids of all ages.

Glow sticks stuck in a lawn with glow necklaces being tossed

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 2-3 bracelets together (vertically).

Assemble the glow-in-the-dark bracelets (check Dollar Tree for glow-in-the-dark bracelets too) using the connector provided. With the rings formed, toss and play!

Someone tying glow sticks together then sticking them in grass

Dollar Tree deals are usually unbeatable — and they get better with coupons!

 

7. Turn a pool noodle into a racetrack for marbles and more!

Someone slicing a pool noodle lengthwise and two kids rolling marbles down a halved pool noodle.

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.

Need more ways to repurpose pool noodles?

 

8. As a creative summer activity, prepare writing prompts and have kids start a summer journal.

Someone writing notes on paper and placing them in a bucket.

Writing prompts for kids — a.k.a. creative writing projects — build writing and reading skills and can really spark 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, copying 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. Combine cornstarch, water, and food coloring for a summer chalkboard idea.


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 paint brushes and sponges to decorate the sidewalk. The paint washes away with water.

 

10. Make window clings using Kool-Aid and glue for a colorful summer craft.


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.

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 bucket list using empty cans, socks, and rice.

A boy throwing a bean bag at a stack of cans in a yard.

If you can’t go to the bowling alley, bring the bowling alley to your backyard! This is one of my favorite summer bucket list ideas.

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 with a water bottle and glow stick for a fun summer game for kids.

If you have leftover glow sticks from Tip 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 by filling balloons with baking soda and vinegar, then watching them inflate.


Summer science experiments are some of the best kids’ activities! You’ll need vinegar, baking soda, balloons, and empty water bottles.

Directions

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

3. 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.

 

RELATED: 24 Easy Summer Science Experiments for Kids

 

14. Create a summer kids’ craft for less than a $.20 – penny tap shoes.

Pennies that have been stuck to the bottom of a kids shoe and a boy tapping with the shoes on.

Gotta love a cheap summer activity that’s also an impromptu music class. 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 a fashionable summer craft (costume jewelry) using colored hot glue.

Someone using colored hot glue to create jewelry and a little girl wearing a hot-glue necklace.

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 edible summer treats with grapes, chocolate chips, skewers, and cake icing.

A woman holding a snack made of grapes and chocolate chips to look like a caterpillar.

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. Repurpose a shower curtain into an art-inspired summer craft for kids.

A boy playing on a shower curtain liner that has drawings of a town and roads on it.

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 Dollar Tree shower curtain liner. Let your kiddos get busy drawing their heart’s desire.

See more incredible ways to use a shower curtain liner!

 

18. Turn ice cream sandwiches into a cool summer activity for kids.

Someone slicing a quart of ice cream and placing the slices on cookies.

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.

Someone sticking plastic spoons in a cups of yogurt and a boy eating the frozen yogurt.

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 3 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.

Here are more homemade popsicle recipe ideas!

 

20. Fill a binder with free coloring pages for kids on road trips.

A boy coloring on a page placed in a binder with games in a pencil pouch nearby.

Road trips and kids typically hit annoyance at the 30-minute mark, so you’d better pack more than enough summer games 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 audio books, 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 for a summer activity for toddlers.

A girl throwing eggs full of paint at a canvas in a yard.

Here’s a summer bucket list 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 paint through, then watch your kids have fun creating modern masterpieces!

 

22. Painting with flowers should be on every summer bucket list for kids.

Kids using flowers as paint brushes to create art.

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.

A bucket of sponges that have been cut to look like balls in a bucket of water.

Head to the dollar store to gather ingredients for this craft, because there’s no point in spending a lot. 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:

Someone cutting sponges vertically then stacking them on top of other cut sponges.

Place a rubber band tightly around the center of all the pieces, then manually move the pieces to form a star shape.

Someone tying the cut sponges together and placing them in a bucket with water.

Fill up a couple 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. Set up a tent in the backyard as a summer “camp” activity.

A tent set up in a backyard with a sleeping bag nearby.

As a DIY summer camp activity (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.

Need to know more about summer camping hacks or easy camping food ideas? We gotcha covered.

 

 

25. Cook up a summer kids’ craft using Kool-Aid-scented play dough.

Green playdough being stretched out with packets of Kool-Aid nearby.

Mix the following in a medium-sized pot:

  • 1 C. flour
  • 1/4 C. salt
  • 1 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 Kool-Aid packets
  • 3/4 C. 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 with fabric paint.

A boy placing his painted hand on a white shirt to create an American flag design

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 6 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. Invent a summer game for kids using balloons and toilet paper tubes.


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 for the ultimate summer game for kids.

Two kids tossing frisbees on a big tic tac toe board in a yard.

As a summer activity, tic-tac-toe isn’t just for kids! 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!

28 Easy & Fun Summer Activities for Kids