What to Do this Summer?? 20 Free or Low-Cost Activities For Families with Kids

When I’m not messing up dinner completely by roasting a whole chicken low and slow in the oven in time for a hot dinner for my family of 6 without unknowingly having the gross absorbent pad still attached, I usually am a pretty decent cook. I totally just did that…rookie move.


For a couple of summers I have even hosted a cooking camp for kids.  This was sparked from the realization a few years back that summer camps were very expensive.  Our city mails these really cool magazines with seriously hundreds of summer fun and learning experiences for kids.  I scoured those pages with my two oldest and we tried to narrow down options to two choices each, tallied the prices and wow, we were into the $1000 range for two kids to do a few camps.  Wowzers! We couldn’t stomach it.  Well the price was one thing, but I was pregnant at the time and had a toddler that was too young for camps so having to chauffeur two kids to different camps and chase a two year old and paying astronomical amounts of cash seemed like a hurdle I couldn’t jump.


So I got creative, I decided that I would let my kids invite a few friends to our house that summer during a specific week and they could have a camp-like-experience at home.  I contacted a few close friends and asked if their child(ren) would be interested in joining us for a few days.  Well I was hoping out of those that I texted that a few would bite off on my idea and leave their kids with us for my lil’ experiment…we were super stoked that everyone, EVERYONE, loved the idea and our tiny idea blossomed into a wonderful experience.  The first year the program was full of adorable guinea pigs.  I made a cook book for the 15 tiny chefs and they had structured groups and recipes to follow…it turned out amazing. We ended up having so much fun that I hosted it again the following year but had to open up an additional week to fit in all the friends that were interested (29 kids)  New recipes were created and the kids were really growing in confidence.  

 When I was a kid, my mom put on summer fun for my cousins, siblings, friends and I. Two separate years parents dropped off their children at our house and my mom ran through a play script with us for hours on end while we memorized lines. I can only imagine how much work that was and let’s get real…frustrating. But after a couple weeks we had more or less memorized the play, gathered a costume from items in our closets, painted a set out of refrigerator boxes, invited family and friends and put on a show. We had a bake sale during the play and all the proceeds went to a Chuck E. Cheese pizza and arcade outing to celebrate our theatrical success.

Summer is once again approaching.  The brochure with all of the camps has already made its way through the mail and kids are already signing up for summer fun.  I want to encourage you, if you are in the same boat as us, it is o.k. to get creative.  There is some pressure on keeping your kids involved all year long, many parents continue to work over the summer, so camp is a great way to keep kids safe and active while mom and dad work their 9-to-5’s.  The Junior Life Guard Program is a highlight opportunity in our beach town, and there are surf camps, a camp for every sport imaginable, legit cooking camps, space camps, Lego camps, painting and CPR instructions…seriously hundreds of options. If sending your kids to camps over the summer isn’t feasible for your family, you can design your own experiences. You can get together with a few close friends and plan out a week’s worth of activities, rotate houses, do crafts with kids, park day, back yard water fun, etc, while your mommy friends get a lil’ break.  


Here are 20 Ideas to keep summer fun with kids.  

(Invite friends for even more fun!)


1. Cooking Camp- teach a few kid-friendly recipes.

2. Exercise Day- healthy obstacle courses and snacks.

3. Bowling

4. Slime Day- ugh slime is evil on carpets…but kids love it.

5. Painting (I found some postcard sized canvases in three-packs at the dollar store recently)

6. Playdough (so easy and cheap to make)

7. Science Camp- make a baking soda/vinegar volcano, learn some elements on the Periodic Table or learn why Mentos make soda explode.

8. Lego Day

9. Mini Golf

10. Park Fun

11. Water Day- visit a splash pad or put a sprinkler or slip-n’-slide out back.

12. Movie Theater Outing

13. Library Field-trip (sign up for cards and check out the local library)

14. Girls’ Spa Day

15. Cooking Competition (for more skilled bakers)

16. Dance Routine Camp (talent show finale)

17. Back yard movie night

18. Ice Skating

19. Make Ice Cream in a Bag

20. Learn and perform a Play with friends


There ya go.  It’s work, but it’s memorable, entertaining and usually more budget friendly to create your own fun.  

Summer is almost here, time to make those memories.