Cost-Friendly Summer Activities for Kids

Child care costs are rising, but summer can still be full of fun for kids.

With summer in full swing and inflation rising rapidly, the importance of keeping your costs down is more prevalent than ever. It can be difficult to entertain children on a budget, and the costs of summer camps are steadily rising. The average cost of summer day camp in 2022 is $178.49 per day, doubling from 2021 prices, while sleep-away camp costs $448.53 per day, tripling since last year, according to the American Camp Association. The cost for summer camps vary and may be higher than the averages suggest, especially if you want to send your kids to a specialized camp, like music or sports camp.

When it comes to finding fun activities to do with your kids, Shannon Doherty, mother of four, family influencer and founder of the At Home with Shannon blog, says not to put too much pressure on yourself. “Think outside the box! Your kids ultimately just love to spend time with you, so anything you are doing together will be fun!” she wrote in an email. Here are 11 cost-friendly summer activities you can do with your kids this summer.

Bake with your kids.

Let your kids pick out a baking recipe to try out together. You can decide how involved you want to be, and you can alter it depending on how old your kids are. You can buy a simple boxed mix for younger kids, or choose a more complex recipe for older kids to make from scratch. Your kids will enjoy choosing a baked good to make together, and it will keep them occupied and entertained from start to finish. As a bonus, the whole family gets to enjoy a delicious homemade treat together.

Paint, draw and make art.

Go to the arts and crafts store and pick out some activities for an art day. You can get some inexpensive art supplies like small canvases, acrylic paints, finger paint and tie dye paint. If you don’t want to buy these things, you can also research how to make things like chalk and paint at home. There are so many different art projects you and your kids can do; you can paint pictures on canvases, paint rocks and draw with chalk on the sidewalk. You can even take your kids outside to your backyard, park or beach and draw inspiration from nature.

Make crafts together.

If you want to do some art projects with your kids that aren’t as messy as painting, try simple crafts like drawing or making paper bag or sock puppets. All you need are supplies you may already have at home such as crayons, markers, construction paper and glue. Doherty says that versatile ideas are important. “Being able to come up with reusable ideas has been huge,” she says. “You need to be creative and find ways to repurpose and reuse things in your home!” Your kids will have fun creating their own artwork, and you can even decorate the house or their rooms with it. With these simple supplies, your kids can make different projects for days, keeping it fun even though they’re using the same materials.

Do science experiments.

If you want to both entertain and educate your kids, look up some at-home science experiments to do together using basic household items and ingredients. These experiments can be as simple as mixing water, cornstarch and food coloring to make oobleck. It’s fun to play with, and it gives you everything you need to teach your kids about non-Newtonian fluid while experiencing it firsthand. There are tons of online resources you can use to find easy experiments to do at home with your kids. They’ll learn something while they have fun, and having fun with your kids is one of the best teaching methods.

Have a movie night.

Settling down with your family to watch a movie and munch on some popcorn never gets old. This activity is great because you can do it with your kids as often as you want, be it a nightly or weekly activity. Your kids can take turns choosing movies to watch, and you can even take it up a notch by making some fun snacks or watching the movie outside by projecting it onto a sheet. “We also love family movie nights outside,” Doherty says. “I have some easy hacks for setting that up with a blow up pool and bed sheet.” Movie nights are versatile and fun for the whole family.

Host a game night.

Host a game night for the entire family, complete with themed snacks and maybe even some fun homemade decorations. Game nights are extremely versatile; you can play board games you already have or play more involved games like Family Feud, Jeopardy or charades, maybe even offering a prize for the winning player or team. You could even create your own games together. Game nights are a great way to bond and have fun with your kids, and it’s up to you what games you choose to play and how competitive you make it.

Have a water day.

Waterparks are fun, but they can be expensive. If you want to provide your kids with some outdoor entertainment on a hot summer day, there are a lot of fun activities you can do at home, like making your own Slip ‘N Slide, crafting together reusable water balloons and even building water guns with PVC pipes. “We recently made reusable water balloons out of sponges,” Doherty says. “Anything outdoor with my kids is fun.” Water activities will keep your kids entertained, active and cool in the sun and heat. It’s also very simple to make your own water-filled fun in the comfort of your own backyard, especially if you don’t have access to a neighborhood pool for the summer.

Complete an obstacle course.

Have your kids make an obstacle course outside, either in a park or in your backyard. Ariel Fulmer, mother of two and host of a parenting podcast called Baby Steps Podcast, says that the most cost-effective way to entertain your kids is to take a look at what’s in your home. “I’m always trying to come up with ways to use the things that we already have to kind of foster a sense of wonder in kids without having to buy anything,” she says. Obstacle courses are great because your kids can make them using household items like cardboard boxes, books and pillows. If you want to take it to the next level, you can buy some cheap items like pool noodles, swimming rings, balloons and Hula-Hoops. Turn it into a friendly competition. Have your kids take turns running the obstacle course and time them; the winner can receive a small prize. Your kids will have fun finding household items to make the course, and they’ll have even more fun getting to compete and see who can run the course fastest.

Have a bonfire.

Bonfires are a classic summer activity that will get all your kids excited. Oftentimes, parks will have fire pits available for campers to use. If you want to do it at home, make your own using rocks and either buy firewood at the store or forage in your backyard for sticks. You can even make a meal of it by roasting hot dogs over the fire and making delicious s’mores for dessert. Bonfires are a perfect activity for a cool summer evening, and your kids will have a lot of fun sitting around the fire and making fun snacks for themselves.

Camp out.

Research free or inexpensive campgrounds near you and take your kids on a weekend camping trip. If you don’t have the correct gear, you can rent it online. Camping is great for getting the family out of the house for a couple days. If you can’t sacrifice an entire weekend, simply set up a tent in your backyard, and if they want to, let your kids have a sleepover in the tent, complete with books, camping stories, snacks and games. An activity like this will help get your kids out in nature and experiencing new scenery, as well as help you bond with them.

Go on an adventure.

If your kids are getting cranky and stir-crazy in the house, go on an adventure. Tailor your adventure to your kids’ interests and what they enjoy. Fulmer says that this is her go-to activity whenever she’s out of creative ideas. “It doesn’t have to be a huge trip or like a beach day or anything like that,” she says. “It could just be getting out. You could just go to a local park. Kids will find their own things to do. Just treasure the time that you have with your kids, because they grow up so fast.” You can even let your kids choose what adventure to go on, be it a neighborhood walk or a visit to a local garden, free museum or playground.

Cost-friendly summer activities for kids:

— Bake with your kids.

— Paint, draw and make art.

— Make crafts together.

— Do science experiments.

— Have a movie night.

— Host a game night.

— Have a water day.

— Complete an obstacle course.

— Have a bonfire.

— Camp out.

— Go on an adventure.

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