I don’t know about you, but as a working mom (who offices from home), when summer draws near- I start to panic. I photograph a lot of weddings during the summer and so for me, it’s my busy season. Add 3 potentially bored children to that, and my eye twitch is back in full force.
So this Monday, I’m writing this list for me- so I literally have something to reference when I need an idea to keep little hands busy.
Most of these can be done at home, and I tend to favor ideas that I don’t have to monitor. I know sometimes we just need to get out of the house, so I’m including a few ideas for “field trips” as well. I’m also including a few things like pool and water toys that we like to buy at the beginning of the summer.
2) Create a pinwheel garden. Buy some pinwheels at the dollar store or create your own, and let the kids “plant” them in pots or the ground. Maximum effect and no watering necessary!
4) Do some target practice with water balloons in the backyard. Draw a target with chalk on your fence and let the kids go at it! These quick-filling water balloons are the BEST and totally worth it!
5) Paint with water on the driveway. We like to add in chalk to make it extra colorful. Have I mentioned I buy sidewalk chalk in bulk?!? Ha!
6) Print out a free scavenger hunt from my Pinterest board. There are several that will work in the car, at home, or out and about. I also love this D.I.Y. one that is perfect for younger kids who don’t read yet.
7) Blow up some balloons. And just let the kids do as they please. Somehow this is always entertaining.
8) Throw in some paper plates and let the kids play balloon tennis. Don’t forget to have them decorate their plates beforehand! More busy time. :)
9) Love this balloon puppy idea from The Craft Train. My girls would love it and Knox could probably make some Pokemon/Minecraft version for himself.
10) Water balloon volleyball with towels.
11) Create a scene on your driveway with sidewalk chalk that your kids can pose in and take pictures.
12) Make a summer movie bucket list that include some of your old favorites. There are so many great ones available on streaming services we already have. I like to use Common Sense Media to get some ideas and a run-down on the content before they watch.
13) Mix up a new popcorn recipe for movie time using these recipes from A Grande Life.
14) Create an outdoor mud kitchen. There are many elaborate ones on Pinterest but for us this usually looks like me handing the girls a few plastic kitchen utensils and bowls they don’t normally get to play with.
15) Up your game by including some pantry staples you’ll never use (rice, pasta, etc.) to use in their outdoor play kitchen.
16) Plant something and let them tend to it every day. Grass seeds grow quickly and potato vine is cheap and grows quickly. You can let each kid have a vine they take care of.
18) Have a scheduled fashion show. Assign number of outfits. Designate a stage tech who is in charge of lighting and music.
19) Give the kids a couple of old bedsheets and have them create a fort in the backyard.
20) Create an easy pulley system in the backyard and have the kids haul goods.
21) Create a care package to mail to someone. Make a card, create a scavenger hunt. Have the kids fill out this All About Me printable book and mail it to a friend with a blank one inside for them to fill out.
22) Make a music video using an ipad or a phone and send it to a friend. Assign each of the kids a job.
23) Mystery snow cones. Test the kids’ ability to try new things and have them guess the flavors of their snow cones (you’ll have to order, of course).
25) D.I.Y. Pantry popsicles. We have made popsicles many times with some cheap popsicle molds and ingredients we had on hand- powdered lemonade is a staple for us so we mix it with whatever fresh fruit we have- canned fruit works well, too! Add in sprinkles, crushed candy, yogurt- you name it, we have probably tried to make a popsicle out of it! Or you could just try these tried-and-true delicious popsicle recipes!
26) Play snow! This stuff makes a mess but brushes off the skin very easily. And one little bag makes a ton. Our kids love playing with it.
27) Play florist for a neighbor, grandparent, or friend. Buy a cheap bouquet while you’re at the grocery store, have the kids make a card. Use a leftover vase or mason jar and help the kids create a bouquet. Add ribbon. It doesn’t have to be pretty. One bouquet can make several small arrangements. Add in greenery from your backyard as filler. And deliver it!
28) Prep dinner. I have found my kids will eat so much better at mealtime if they “help” make dinner. We do a lot of crock pot/instant pot meals so I have begun appointing a helper at every meal who assists me.
29) READ. Knox is a great reader but never really wants to read, so if I give him a time requirement (usually 30 minutes) with a reward at the end (such as screentime), he’ll often read longer than he is required to.
28) For non-readers, let them “read” on youtube! Start here! Tons of great children’s books.
29) Hit up the local library, which has a lot more than books. Ours has an array of free or cheap activities for kids.
30) Wash the car! And the bikes! Good soapy fun is always enjoyed.
31) Leaf Rubbings are always enjoyed at our house. You can make people or flowers out of them.
32) We used to love making hot rocks with melted crayons. This does require using an oven but I still enjoy doing this as an adult and you’ll have some pretty rocks for your garden!
33) Make paper airplanes and have awards for most decorative, longest flying, etc.
34) Make these awesome sponge balls instead of water balloons. Reusable and cheap!
35) Paint with watercolors on a block of ice. Use cheap watercolors- they will last a long time!
36) Show them how to create a summer dance playlist on spotify or Apple Music. Make a “dance floor” in the living room. Our girls love dancing with these play scarves, too.
37) Let them take something apart. This could be an old sports ball, outdated electronic, old stuffed animal, etc.
38) Run in the sprinklers. Put a sprinkler under the swingset and BOOM! Instant water park.
39) Go geo-caching. Super fun and free! Bring a few small prizes to leave when you find something. Start here!
40) Observe the constellations on your phone by downloading the Sky View app. Our kids love this app and you can print out this free constellation map to use!
41) Give the dogs a bath. Or the baby dolls.
42) Use these free printable tangrams! These are great for a variety of ages. Our 8 year old son enjoys origami, too- find some youtube videos that teach.
43) I love this create your own paintbrushes idea! Grab some tempera paint that will wash out easily or use watercolor.
45) Get the GoNoodle app on your computer or smart TV. Tons of great songs and activities there.
46) Code.org is an awesome learning tool for school-aged kids and a lot of fun.
47) We also love Cosmic Kids Yoga, too!
48) Make (or just buy!) some different varieties of bird feed and hang a paper on the window to track which feed is most popular and what birds are eating it.
49) Make some bubble wands with pipe cleaners. We love bubbles and stock up on them always!
50) Watch some silly or interesting kid-friendly videos. We love episodes America’s Funniest Home Videos, BBC Walk on the Wild Side videos like this one, and we also love to research trips or upcoming vacations by finding informational videos on those places.
Most of these ideas have a corresponding pin on my Summer Activities for Kids Pinterest board!
I’m also planning on picking up a few items for the pool or outdoor play for the summer- here are a few of the things I’ve been eyeballing!
Hope you found this helpful! Here’s to a fun summer!