15 Budget Friendly Summertime Family Activities

summertime activities family friendly

“Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom.”


“I’m bored…”

Could there be a more annoying summer anthem than the all too familiar “I’m bored” whines from the kids? What happened to the days of running around the neighborhood all day long, reluctantly coming in for dinner, and then heading back outside until the street lamps kicked on?

Skip the mind-numbing influence of TV and video games and get busy with the kids this summer to create some real family fun!

Here are fifteen frugal and fun family activities to entertain the troops with this summer!

Cowboy Cooking

Break out the pie irons and cook up some gooey, toasty goodness in your backyard fire pit, or build a wood fire in your charcoal grill! There are great Pie Iron (aka: Pudgie Pie) recipes online ranging from the traditional hobo fruit pies you remember from your childhood to main-dish toasted cheese, pizza sandwiches and even tacos. Our kids absolutely love making their own creations and cooking them over the fire!

Don’t limit the campfire cooking to just dinner! We’ve made it a family tradition to cook breakfast over a campfire at least once a year. Scrambled eggs and pancakes are easy in the cast iron skillet and go great with foil packets of potatoes, onions, and bacon!

Outdoor Olympics

Get the neighborhood kids together and host some backyard olympics! See what back yard games each of the families have, and pool them all together for competitions in basketball, baseball, croquet, badmiton, bocce ball, etc. Organize sprints between neighboring driveways, build some obstacle courses and be sure to get the kids involved with competitions they come up with on their own!

Backyard Beach Party

Living in the landlocked midwest isn’t very conducive for a simple day at the beach if you’re not lucky enough to live on a lake. But we don’t let that stop our family from having some sandy fun! We’ve been known to set up the lawn chairs next to the kiddy pool and have sand castle competitions in the sandbox! Add some fun umbrella cocktails for the grown-ups, popsicles for the kids and some reggae music on your Bluetooth speaker for the full effect.

Drive In Movies

Popular mid-century, Drive In Movies have been a long-time summer favorite for families everywhere! While many drive-in theaters have gone dark, many others are being restored and making a nostalgic comeback. Go “star” gazing at your favorite celebrities under the stars, and enjoy the savings of two movies for the price of one since many drive-in theaters offer two movies a night!

If there are no drive-in theaters in your area, project a movie onto the side of your house, or gather the family on a blanket in the backyard and watch a movie on your laptop.

Scavenger Hunt

Make a list of things for the kids to find. Use photos for smaller kids who cannot read. Nat from Crafting Crazy did a blog showing a cute photo scavenger hunt, which is available to download.

Or get more elaborate by collaborating with other parents in the neighborhood for a scavenger hunt that takes kids on an adventure from house to house.

Backyard Camping

Pitch a tent, grab a sleeping bag, a flashlight, and sleep outside! My kids love to do this several times a summer! Make it complete with some S’mores and scary stories! For little ones who are not big enough to sleep outside alone, have mom and dad join in the fun, or let them fall asleep outside and then carry them in for the rest of the night.


Gardening and kids were made to go together! Digging in the dirt, planting seeds, and watching them grow is a magical experience. Clear a patch of ground in the backyard to plant your kids’ favorites such as strawberries, peas, peppers, tomatoes, and herbs. If you don’t have land, opt for a container garden on the patio instead. Extend the fun all season long by including them in the weeding and watering of the garden and letting them help harvest some goodies for a dinner salad or snack!

Bowling for Free

Many bowling places participate in a program called Kids Bowl Free, which offers kids the ability to bowl two free games each day, during the summer. Perfect for those rainy days and super hot days when you crave a chance to cool off in the air conditioning!


Check your local library for a calendar of summer activities. From summer reading clubs, story hours, pajama parties and more, the library is a great resource for frugal fun. Local museums and zoos often have summer-time events for kids as well. (My girls enjoyed a fun “Night at the Museum” event a few summers ago.)

DIY Workshops

Do you have a Handy Manny fan in your house, or a kid who goes loopy for Lego? Home improvement stores and hardware stores often host free weekend workshops in the store to get kids involved in building simple DIY projects.

Craft Club

My favorite part of summer camp was making crafts! Get your kids creative juices flowing with some fun summer crafts you plan ahead of time. Pinterest is a fabulous resource for cute craft ideas to do with the kids.

If you’re not the creative type, check out day-camp activities through your local park district, church, or YMCA. Many of them offer parents the chance to drop their kids off for a day of fun, without committing to a whole summer of camp. There are also fun craft classes at stores like Michael’s and Hobby Lobby!

Water Wars / Water Works

Chill out on the hottest of days with a water fight! Grab a super soaker or a garden hose with a sprayer, set up sprinklers in the yard, fill up the water balloons and set off on a mission to get everyone wet in a battle of the grown-ups against the kids!

Other wet and wild ideas are to put their pent up energy to good use and set up a neighborhood car/bike wash, or let the kids “paint” designs on the driveway with a paintbrush and water.

No-bake Baking

I always think of baking during the winter months, but goodies don’t have to be for the holiday’s only. There are a lot of no-bake fun recipes the kids can make without heating up the kitchen! Let them pretend they’re gardening while making pan of “dirt” (gummy worms included), or have them make some yummy ice-cream desserts for the ultimate cool-off treat! Here’s an awesome list of 50 no bake dessert ideas to get you started.

Oh, and you’ve got to try making some home-made ziplock bag ice cream! We did this in girl scouts and the kids had a blast!


Kids love to see themselves on camera, be it a video or still photo! Give them your old digital camera or phone or buy them an inexpensive kids digital camera and let them get click-happy! With no film to develop, they can practice their craft without draining your cash!

Set them on a mission to photograph something that starts with each letter of the alphabet. Have them do a “study” on their favorite color. Have them photograph each other, or the family dog. Challenge older kids to try some photography techniques like creating optical illusions, playing with shadow and light, or close ups of every day items that become artistic designs when cropped.

Rainy Day Activity Box

Rain happens. So be prepared for it. Create a rainy day activity box full of fun things to do that will keep the kids from zoning out in front of the television. Kids will get excited about a collection of games, puzzles, art supplies and books that are off limits unless it’s raining. Even a simple deck of cards can lead to an afternoon of fun, learning magic card tricks, building card houses, or playing a heated game of spoons.

Above all, I encourage you to join in the fun with your kids this summer. We are only given 18 summers with them before they’re grown and heading off to college, so let’s all take advantage of the time to make some fun memories and create summer traditions that will transcend generations.

:) Heather

What other fun summertime activities come to mind for you? Please share them in the comments below!

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