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Kid-Friendly Summer Activities

20 Affordable, Kid-Friendly Summer Activities 

Ah, summer break! The possibilities are endless: sleeping in, backyard BBQ’s, and content kiddos playing the days away. The reality, though, is often a bit more challenging. My kids typically make it about one day before proclaiming, “I’m bored.” 

So, what to do? Check out these inexpensive – or free! – ideas to keep everyone entertained this summer: 


  • Try your hand at geocaching: Who doesn’t love a treasure hunt? To get started geocaching, download the free app and go! You’ll use GPS coordinates to find hidden containers, with any number of surprises inside. Learn more about the process here. 
  • Go camping—at home: Heading off on a camping trip is an amazing activity for kids, but not everyone has the gear – or the time. Backyard camping can be a great alternative. Set up a tent or sleep under the stars, roast some s’mores in a fire pit (and if you don’t have one – use the grill), and swap ghost stories once the sun goes down. Bonus: if the kids lose patience, you’re steps away from a real bed! 
  • Cool off: Ditch the neighborhood pool for a day, and try out a new water sport! Consider a float trip, white water rafting, canoeing, or stand-up paddle boarding. Or, plan a “beach day” – pack a picnic, and head to a local lake or river. 
  • Stamp your (National Parks) Passport: Purchase a passport booklet through the Passport To Your National Parks® program, and gift your children a keepsake they can contribute to for years. Then head to your state’s National Park to secure that first stamp!   


  • Browse the Farmer’s Market: Farmers’ markets are a perfect place to spend a weekend morning. Pick out some produce and sweet treats, enjoy a sample or two, and grab some lunch at a food truck. Here’s a list of markets to get you started.  Tie this into an add-on activity and prep a recipe from all the tasty market finds! 
  • Bake up a Masterpiece: Use those berries from the market to whip up a cobbler or crisp! Or, set up a cupcake or cookie decorating station. Your kitchen helpers can also assist with dishes, so don’t be afraid to make a mess! 
  • Grow Your Own: Maintaining a small garden means homegrown produce + a great learning opportunity! Start with simple, hardy plants like tomatoes, pumpkins or herbs. Then put your kids in charge: they can plant, water and weed all the way through harvest. 
  • Join the Club: For a reasonable investment, the America’s Test Kitchen Young Chefs’ Club is an amazing program for the aspiring chef in your home. 


  • Build a time capsule: Grab a shoebox or plastic bin, and have your kids create a collection for their future selves. A “letter to me” is a great inclusion. Then tape up the box and label it with an open date – try to wait at least 10 years! 
  • Plan a family movie night: Have everyone vote on a flick, then make it an event. Pop some popcorn, set up an ice cream sundae bar, and bring out blankets and pillows for a comfy night in. 
  • Go Retro: In the heat of summer, bowling alleys and skating rinks are a perfect escape. Head to either for air-conditioned exercise, nostalgic snacks, and a few hours of family fun. 
  • Host a chalk art festival: Pick a sunny summer morning, and challenge your neighbors to create driveway masterpieces. Set a time frame, and find a few judges as well. Afterward, walk the block and enjoy! Here are some tips to get planning.    
  • Head to the Fair: County or state fairs are inexpensive and endlessly entertaining for kids. Think: amusement park rides, animals of all kinds, decadent treats, games, and more! 
  • Pack a picnic: Picnics are an oldie but goodie. Grab fried chicken and sides from the store, pack up games, and head to the park. Scan local listings for free outdoor concerts – many areas offer them in the summer.


  • Foster the love of reading: Join a summer reading challenge, like this one from Barnes & Noble (earn free books!) or this option from Scholastic. Many local libraries have challenges as well. 
  • Learn a new language: Get a jumpstart on the school year and have some fun with Duolingo – a free, interactive app that teaches language from beginner to advanced. 
  • For the future day trader: Check out TD bank’s virtual stock market program, which allows children to fund a portfolio using virtual cash. 
  • For the future chemist: Try a DIY science experiment, or check out any number of kits that can be delivered to your door.  


  • Form a baby-sitting co-op: Babysitters are saviors, but they also come at a cost. One solution is to form a co-op with friends or neighbors. Most systems use tokens or points to track hours, like this one. Save yours up for a big night out – or even an overnight trip! 
  • Check out TULA: Reading this list and thinking – cool, but we don’t have time?! TULA can help! Pass off your to-do list to your very own, on-demand personal assistant…and free up some hours for summer fun!