15 Cheap & Fun Summer Activities For Kids

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For kids, summer means long, beautiful days of doing whatever their little hearts desire. For parents, summer means somehow keeping the munchkins occupied when the moans of “I’m bored!” begin. Here are some fun summer activities that will keep your children occupied but won’t leave you broke:

1. Slip’n Slide

A Slip’n Slide is the perfect way for kids to cool off during the hot summer afternoons. If you don’t want to buy one, it’s super easy and cheap to make your own. All you need is heavy duty plastic sheeting, some pegs to hold it in place, and a hose!

2. Get Involved at the Library

When I was a kid, I would always look forward to joining the summer reading program at my library. Most libraries offer summer reading programs for kids that are free to join and have fun prizes as rewards for lots of reading. Most libraries also have read aloud Story Time, which is perfect for younger children.

3. Go Bowling

Other than bowling, when else do your kids have express permission, even encouragement, to throw at something for no other purpose than to make a mess? Bowling can be expensive, but this summer it’s free for kids at select bowling alleys around the country. You can check out KidsBowlFree.com to find one near you.

4. Do A Treasure Hunt

This one takes a little preparation on your end, but it could keep your kids occupied for a while and it’s free! Hide small toys around the house, then make a treasure map leading your kids to the hidden “treasure.” For older kids, a scavenger hunt is also a good idea. Bonus points if you get the whole neighborhood involved!

5. Build a Pillow Fort

Encourage your kids to grab some couch cushions, pillows, and blankets to create their pillow fortress. Once it's done, a pillow fort is a great place to read a book, have a top-secret meeting, or even watch a movie. Don't want to pull the couch apart? You can create an air-fort with a fan and a sheet! Here's how .

6. Get Crafty

A table of craft supplies can keeps kids entertained for hours as they create their own little worlds. If you have random craft materials in your house, and maybe some milk jugs (no glass, of course!) and cereal boxes from the recycling, set it all out and let your kids’ imaginations run wild. If you don’t have craft materials, you can get them cheap online at AfterSchool.com (and it’ll be cheaper if you use a coupon) or at your local Lakeshore or Michael’s.

You can also take your kids to your local Lakeshore store every Saturday for free kids activities and crafts! Find out more about it here.

7. Sculpt with Salt Dough

Some clay and some creativity can keep kids busy for hours. The clay you buy at the craft store can be kind of expensive, but it’s easy to make salt dough (which has a consistency pretty much like Playdough) out of things you already have in your kitchen. After your kids are done making their creations, you can bake them and then they can paint them if they want. LocalFunForKids.com has an easy recipe for salt dough and some creative ideas.

8. Finger Paint

What kid in this world doesn’t love getting totally messy with finger paint? You don’t even have to buy any finger paints, you can just follow these directions from La Jolla Mom to make your own finger paints out of ingredients you already have in your kitchen.

9. Go Hiking

It may be hot during the day, but summer mornings are a wonderful time to get outside and get some exercise. If you live near a state or national park or even just a nature preserve, take your kids out for a hike! Even if the closest thing you have is a park, go take a walk there – big or small, parks are great places for kids to explore nature, discover, ask questions, and just run around.

10. Volunteer

It’s never too early to teach kids the value of giving back. Get your kids involved volunteering at your local animal shelter or soup kitchen. You can check out VolunteerMatch.org to find age-appropriate volunteering opportunities in your area.

11. Play With Water Balloons

When I was a kid, if someone had water balloons, we all knew it was going to be a good day. Water balloons can mean more than just a water balloon fight, too – try making a water balloon toss by cutting holes in a sheet of cardboard, or maybe playing water balloon basketball.

12. Start a Lemonade Stand

This is a classic summer afternoon activity with a practical outcome – earning some money! Grab some lemons and disposable cups from your grocery store and help your kids make some delicious lemonade. Then they can draw up a sign and head out to the corner to start their business.

13. Make Bubble Blowers

Bubbles! Does the fascination with bubbles ever really end? Go beyond those little bubble wands and help you kids create bubble blowers with plastic water bottles, old socks, dish soap and water. Get directions to make them from WonderfullyChaotic.com.

14. Get Into Show Business

Do you have some little movie stars on your hands? If your kids are interested in singing, dancing, or acting, encourage them to create their own show. They can write a play, choreograph some dances, write a song, whatever they want! Then they can create their own costumes and perform their show.

15. Learn Something New

Most cities offer fun summer activities like swimming lessons, gymnastics, dance, and art classes, and sports camps through the community or recreation center. See if your city offers any classes that your child might be interested in – they’re usually quite affordable. It also won’t hurt to join sites like Groupon and LivingSocial to find discounts on classes and activities for kids in your area.

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