The longer days of summer are like a wonderful, annual gift for families. With three or four hours more daylight each evening, we have so much more time to do things together!
In honor of all this great together-time (and as a means to stave off boredom), here’s a list of 25 fun, FREE activities you can do with your family this summer. No tickets to buy, no admission fees, no need to rent a motel room or eat at a restaurant – just lots of family fun!
- Take a Walk
- Play in the Water Hose
- Look for Cloud Shapes
- Go Bird Watching
- Make Homemade Freezer Pops
- Have a Water Balloon Fight
- Make Leaf Rubbings
- Go On a Scavenger Hunt
- Sleep in the Living Room
- Hold a Summer Reading Contest
- Have a Popcorn & Movies Pajama Party
- Visit a State Park
- Go on a Picnic
- Play in the Rain
- Hold a “Name That Tune” Challenge
- Look for Constellations
- Tell “Round Robin” Stories
- Open a Window and Let Your Kids Order Their Lunch at the “Drive Thru”
- Take Off Your Shoes, Turn Up the Music, and Dance!
- Catch Lightning Bugs
- Watch for Bats
- Play Blind Man’s Bluff
- Make Homemade Fudge Pops
- Camp Out
- Have a Campfire
Taking a walk is such a simple delight, but when was the last time you did it? Head out with the whole family and take a leisurely walk around your neighborhood. Don’t have a good place for walking near home? Walk in your city park or even a local cemetery (might sound weird, but they usually have good roads with very little traffic).
When the days get too hot to even sit in the shade, turn on the water hose and cool things off! Take turns spraying each other or twirling the water like a rope and trying to jump over it.
On a sunny day when puffy clouds are trailing across the blue sky, throw a blanket or sheet onto the grass and lie down with your kids. (If you’re brave, lie down right on the grass!) What shapes do you see – dogs, dolphins, dragons?
Whether you live in the city, the country, or somewhere in between, summer is a great time for bird watching. How many different kinds can you spot around your house? The Great Backyard Bird Count takes place in February each year, but you might want to try their year-round eBird count. You can find lots of info for identifying birds at their website too.
Super simple, super fun, super yummy! To make your own homemade freezer pops, you can use plastic molds bought from a store or paper cups and wooden popsicle sticks. You could even use your ice cube tray for mini-pops. For the liquid/yummy part, use your kids’ favorite flavor of Kool-Aid or fruit juice. (My personal favorite is orange juice … I rarely drink it but love orange juice pops.) Simply pour the drink into your molds or cups and put them in the freezer. Let them freeze for around an hour or so until the liquid is slushy; then insert the popsicle sticks and continue freezing until hard.
There’s not a better or more fun way to cool off during the long hot days of summer than a water balloon fight. Fill up as many balloons as you can and pile them carefully in buckets before you start … then ready, aim, fire!
Collect as many different leaf varieties as you can find, gather crayons and paper, and make leaf rubbings. Just lay a leaf on a table, place a sheet of plain paper over it, and color the entire page using the wide side of a crayon. The veins and texture of the leaf will show through, and you’ll have lots of pretty pictures to display.
Make a list of things for your kids to seek: 2 feathers, 3 different flowers, 4 different leaves, and a pine cone, for example. Give each one a bucket and send them out for the search.
Why would anyone want to do this? I have no idea, but my kids act like sleeping in the living room is as exciting as a trip to Disney World. At least once this summer, let your kids take their sleeping bags or a bunch of blankets and make a camp in the living room floor . . . only here’s the catch for extra summer fun: Mom & Dad should pile in too! (You can always sneak back to your comfy bed after the kids fall asleep.)
Most public libraries offer a summer reading program for kids of all ages, or you can set up your own reading incentives at home. Make a list of books that you’d like to read as a family this summer or that your kids would like to read on their own. You could offer a prize for every five books read and hold a celebration after you reach your family goal.
Pop some popcorn, put on your pajamas, and pop in a movie. How many movies can you watch before all the kids fall asleep?
State parks are full of fun for families, and nearly all of them are free for day use. You could watch for birds, have a picnic, or take a hike along a winding path.
Another simple activity that your kids will thoroughly enjoy! Take your lunch to a nearby park or just take a blanket into your yard. It doesn’t take much effort to have a backyard picnic, but your kids will treasure the memories forever.
Yes, really! Next time a hot summer day turns a bit cloudy and brings a nice drizzle, grab your umbrellas and head out for a walk in the rain. Your kids will love it!!
Use a free music service such as Spotify to find instrumental versions of songs that your family enjoys. Play a song without revealing its name and see who can identify the title, artist, or lyrics first!
Take advantage of the warm evenings to sit outside with your family and gaze at the stars. How many constellations can you find? Get some help at the Sky Watch site.
Round Robin storytelling is good for lots of laughs! One person starts a story but then stops after a few sentence. The next person then tells a few more sentences and so on until someone manages to wrap up the tale. My family once told a round robin story about a man named Al who was visited by invading aliens. Things were going along all right until the two-year-old had a turn . . . “And the owl jumped around saying Hoo Hoo!”
You might want to make a simple menu to limit their choices, but your kids will think this is the most fun ever!
Whether your family enjoys classical, Christian, country, contemporary pop, or oldies, everyone will enjoy a dance off!
I can remember doing this almost every night when I was a kid. Just grab a jar and head out shortly after sunset. The lightning bugs (or fireflies) will start to light up around your yard or near the trees. It’s pretty easy (for anyone over age six anyway!) to walk quietly toward one and catch it. Did you know that lightning bugs tend to congregate in the trees when it’s going to rain?
Not too long after sunset, you might be surprised to see that the creatures flying over your house aren’t birds; they’re bats. You can tell by the silhouette and the more “darting” flight pattern. Don’t let the bats make you nervous – each bat eats about a third of its weight in insects every night, including close to 10,000 mosquitoes. Thank you, Bats!
After it gets dark, turn off all the lights in your house and blindfold one family member. Everyone else should stay as quiet as they can and move around the house while the “blind man” tries to find them. Usually, everyone will end up laughing as they keep dodging out of the blind man’s reach.
Who doesn’t love fudge pops? I almost fainted when I first saw a recipe for homemade fudge pops. I can make these at home??? Oh yeah! You’ll find lots of recipes if you search the ‘net, but some are pretty complicated; I prefer the simple fudge pop recipe here.
If your family owns a tent, you don’t have to visit a campground to enjoy a camp out this summer. Just set up the tent in your yard and have fun! (Don’t own a tent? Well, if you’re really, really brave, you can always sleep under the stars!) The Great American Backyard Campout is scheduled for June 23 this year, but you can sleep in the great outdoors anytime, of course.
Whether you decide to camp out or not, having a campfire is some of the best fun a family can have and something your kids will never forget. Grab some hot dogs & marshmallows for roasting and settle in for a nice evening of telling stories around the fire. (Most localities allow backyard fires in contained fire pits, but it’s a good idea to check out your area’s regulations before lighting the wood.)
Cindy and her husband, Jon, live in beautiful West Virginia with their three sons – Nick, age 11, James, age 8, and Robert, age 4. They homeschool with a relaxed, eclectic style and enjoy reading great books together as a family, geocaching, and visiting historic and scenic places. Along with teaching Sunday School, knitting, and baking, Cindy loves geography and is the author of Expedition Earth: My Passport to the World. Visit her blog at Fenced in Family.