Kids home for the summer? If you’re looking for free summer ideas to do with the kids, check out these fun ideas to keep them occupied, entertained and help you avoid the dreaded, “I’m BORED, Mom!” These are summer staycation ideas that I’ve used with my kids and they love and remember! Sometimes it’s just not in the budget for a big family vacation so the ultimate summer staycation with kids is easy on the wallet and still full of fun. It just takes a little creativity and planning!
Summer Staycation Ideas for Kids
Sleeping in. No homework. Warm weather and a wide open calendar! Summer at home with the kids can be a lot of fun. I’m excited about being able to relax but also worried that I’m going to have four bored kids on my hands after the first week! My plan is to get the kids on board with some special at-home events on the calendar. These summer staycation ideas could be spread out over the course of the week, leading up to the “big day”. It really gives everyone something to look forward to!
Tons of Budget-Friendly Staycation Ideas!
1. Arts & Crafts Show
Kids love to get crafty and it doesn’t have to be pricey. You probably already have some craft supplies laying around that you could dig out. Set up an area outside where the kids can get messy and creative then set them free to create whatever they want.
- Local craft stores frequently mail out 50% coupons. Or you could search for one online or shop the dollar store for cheap crafting supplies.
- Give everyone a Sketch Book and have a thirty minute session where you draw the portrait of the person next to you (this is sure to induce giggles!)
- Save your glass jars from jelly or spaghetti sauce and use acrylic or Glass Paint to decorate.
- Make sculptures out of craft Pipe Cleaners.
- Decorate a plain box and transform it into a keepsake box (see this post with instructions on how to make a Memento Box)
- Use torn pieces of tissue paper and a glue stick on velum paper to make “stained glass” images.
- Using clean paint brushes and a bucket of water outside, have kids quickly “paint” a picture on the sidewalk and see if everyone else can guess what it is before it evaporates!
- Recreate a famous painting in your own style.
- Pull out inexpensive Washable Watercolors and paint a scene from your backyard.
- Rainy day? Set up a still life on the table and have everyone draw the same scene then compare your pictures.
- Read these ideas for how to make two patriotic-themed crafts.
- Cut out pictures from magazines and Mod Podge the images onto wooden frames or boxes.
- Make paper bag puppets and have kids create a puppet show with their creations.
- At the end of the summer, display everyone’s artwork in the house and hang a handcrafted blue ribbon on each kid’s best work!
2. Under the Big Top
After we went to the circus (the animal-free variety) a few years ago, my kids were fascinated with the tricks and skills they saw. Lots of great ideas here to get you off the couch!
- Dress up like a clown in old over-sized clothing and costumes.
- A strip of blue masking tape on the patio makes an acceptable “tight rope”.
- See who can keep multiple Hula Hoops going at the same time (one around your neck and one around your arm?!)
- Practice balancing a balloon on your nose…and then walk the tight rope!
- Create an obstacle course in the backyard.
- Use Face Paint Crayons to paint each child’s face like a circus animal
- Enjoy a snack of peanuts and popcorn
3. Enjoy the Great Outdoors
- Plant seeds into cardboard egg crates with soil. Water gently and watch them grow.
- Take an early morning “sunrise walk”. This is especially great if you live where it’s very hot once the sun rises.
- Local campsites have inexpensive overnight fees. You could try to catch your dinner in the lake!
- Take a walk with Flashlights to explore the sights and sounds after nightfall.
- If you don’t want to stray too far from home, camp in your backyard instead. Pitch a tent, barbecue dinner over coals, roast marshmallows and fall asleep under the stars.
- Simply roll out the sleeping bags in the living room and “camp” in the house under the comfort of your ceiling fan!
4. Get Wet
- If you don’t have your own pool, perhaps a family member or friend will let you “borrow” theirs for the day (especially if you volunteer to bring snacks!)
- Our local YMCA has a great zero-entry pool, water slide and play area for just a few dollars per person. Check at your local pools and find out when open-swim time is available.
- High schools often open their pools in the summer for a nominal fee.
- Wash the car. There is always an opportunity for a soapy sponge fight!
- Set the sprinklers or spray the hose and run through the water. Kids get wet & the lawn gets watered…win!
- I’m not crazy about water balloons because of the mess they leave behind. However sponges soaked in water are perfect for a good super-soaking.
- Little ones love to play with the watering can. Fill it up and let them water the flowers (and themselves!)
5. A Night at the Movies…in Your Living Room
- Pull out an old favorite and host a themed movie evening complete with handcrafted posters, costumes and a themed dinner around the film. (ie: Watching Mulan? Make Chinese stir fry and rice).
- Borrow movies from the library. If the library doesn’t have the movie you want, put in a request & they’ll contact you when it’s available.
- Pull out the floor pillows, pop up some kernels and settle down together after the sun has set.
- Give the kids a task of recreating a favorite film in their own interpretation. Come up with a script and costumes and present it to parents!
6. Backyard Carnival
Gather up stuff from around the house for game play in the yard. Kids love to get in the silly spirit!
- Craft blue ribbons for the winners of the contests.
- Empty 2-liter soda bottles and a ball for a knock ’em down game. Or fill 2-liter bottles with water and use them for ring toss.
- Toss a ball into a bowl or a coffee can.
- Have a watermelon seed-spitting contest.
- Pull out the face paint for added fun!
- Have a mini-pie eating contest.
- Serve hot dogs and potato chips outside, followed up with root beer floats.
7. Sweet Treats
If you have a budding baker on your hands (or simply kids who love sweets!), this is a fun way to get creative and maybe a little messy.
- A bucket of vanilla ice cream, a few toppings and candy from the dollar store and you can all have amazing sundaes!
- Find a recipe online for making your own ice cream.
- Make a delectable over-the-top recipe from Pinterest. Did you “nail it” or was it a Pinterest “fail”?
- Bake cupcakes and have fun creatively decorating them.
- Spoon frosting into plastic baggies and snip off the corner for quick and easy pastry bags.
- Make a summer-time themed “gingerbread house” that requires no baking with graham crackers, store bought frosting and candies.
8. Build a Fort City
When it’s too hot to play outside, take refuge in the house under a homemade fort!
- Sofa pillows and blankets are fair game for fort making indoors.
- Pull out the dining room chairs, drape sheets and use binder clips to hold them up.
- If you want to get fancy, a string of twinkle lights would be fabulous.
- If you have a few cardboard boxes, take the time to paint and decorate them, cutting out windows and a door flap.
- A quiet evening of reading is in order under your forts because horseplay would make your city fall down!
9. Board Game Bonanza
One of our favorite family events is gathering around a few board games for a fun evening of competition and laughs.
- Borrow some games that you don’t have from friends or family so you have a nice variety for all ages and host a game day at home.
- Simple sandwiches make a great meal and have plenty to snack on between turns.
- Write out your own Pictionary or Charades game ideas.
- Find “Minute to Win It” games on Pinterest that use items from around the house.
10. Host An Elegant Evening
- Every kid has a dress up box or can at least borrow something fun from mom and dad for the evening.
- Have a pre-party pampering, including painted nails or mud-mask facials.
- Time to pull out the sequins, get glamorous and have a fancy night at home.
- Light a few candles at the table and elevate even the most boring weekday dinner.
- Serve up a Shirley Temple (7-up or Sprite with cherry juice) in a fancy glass and the kids will feel so special!
Updated and republished from a May 25, 2016 post