When the school year ends and summer break arrives, so does the excitement for summer days at the pool, vacations to the beach, movie nights outside… fun summer activities with kids can be just as much fun for you as they are for them!
But as parents, we know that there’s definitely a balance when it comes to planning summer activities for kids: you don’t want to be so busy that everyone is overwhelmed, but you don’t want to be so unstructured that kids are bored (or getting into trouble)!
Thankfully, there are so many great ways to fill up that time, knock out that summer bucket list, and plan a fantastic summer break that the whole family will enjoy. And yes, YOU should also be enjoying summer time with your kids. Don’t forget about some mama summer fun too 😉 It’s such a precious time, so savor every minute of it, especially while your kids are little!
(Because then those teen years hit and before you know it they start driving and going out with friends! Talk about bittersweet!)
I’ve got some great tips on how to plan a great summer, including what our summer schedule looks like along with a list of summer activities with kids that are free, cheap, or just worth the investment! No matter what, summer is the perfect time to plan extra fun activities that kids of all ages can enjoy and a great opportunity to bond closer as a family!
Disclaimer: post contains affiliate links.
How to Plan Summer Activities With Kids
Despite what our kids may think when school lets out, summer is not a free-for-all where they get to do whatever they want and stay up as late as they want. But it IS a wonderful time for making memories, doing fun things, and enjoying the time off from school! There needs to be structure, and I promise, your kids WILL be happier for it (and so will you).
I have 4 kids of varying ages. When there’s no structure during summer break, they end up bickering a lot and driving Mommy C-R-A-Z-Y. Plus a tired and cranky kid makes any summer activity miserable instead of fun. Well, no more!
One year, I started implementing a block schedule and I’ve never looked back. It was a game changer and made our summers so much better because we were able to balance structure with fun!
You can check out my full summer schedule with 4 kids post for more ideas on how to structure your days!
Pro mom tip: Do not try to cram every fun summer activity into every day of the week. Allow down days for rest. For boredom. I have a typical daily routine we follow and I plan one to two kids fun activities each week. It helps keep balance and structure while still having lots of family fun too! And be sure not to leave Dad out either – go over gameplays with him to make sure to keep some of the summer activities kids love on the weekends when he can be part of the moments!
Planning Cheap or Free Summer Activities
I have a post with a full list of my favorite cheap or free summer activities with kids, but here are my top 5 just to help get the gears turning!
Community Helper Visits
Our yearly tradition is to visit our local fire station. I call the station a couple weeks in advance and we typically have a pretty decent size crew of friends who join us. They go over fire safety and give us a tour of the station. But the best part is the firetrucks!
They let the kids climb in the trucks and even get to spray the water hose. It’s a summer FAVORITE for our family. My oldest has been going since he was a toddler and it’s still the thing he is most looking forward to this summer!
I have called around and tried to do something similar at a police station but haven’t had as much luck here locally… but it wouldn’t hurt to try. Hospitals may also provide tours (I know ours has a miniature ambulance they use for kids to teach them about what they do).
By giving advance notice the fire station will often also hand out fun fireman hats or coloring pages for the kids to take home. We like to use this as an opportunity to also show our appreciation for all they do for our community by bringing along donuts as a thank you gift!
Our local library has many events during the week such as story times and craft times and even movie times. A visit to the library is a great chance to keep up the skills kids learn during the school year with their reading and to help foster a love for books.
Many libraries do reading competitions and the kids can earn prizes throughout the summer for their reading achievements. Ours often also hosts a fun scavenger hunt or even science experiments to get kids engaged!
I did a little challenge with my kids one summer for them to read 100 books during the school break and in exchange we’d all get to go get donuts one morning. It was a great incentive and something I plan to do again this summer as well!
Even older kids will enjoy this challenge – got a middle schooler? Be sure to see this post for the best books your middle schooler will love!
Have a local airport? Train station? Ship dock? It’s a GREAT fun activity that kids really enjoy. We have gone out to our small local airport and enjoy watching the planes land and take off. We’ll bring a lunch and make a picnic out of it.
Always make sure to check the scheduled times in advance! Many locations have a spot for people to sit and watch…our airport has a great outdoor picnic area that is perfect for this purpose and offers a great view of the planes. Even when I had a little baby they enjoyed this simple activity too!
Live in a more rural community? Or a growing suburb? Plan a visit to stop by a local construction site and check out all the cool construction vehicles at work! Ask a farmer if you can stop by and watch them work in the fields…or maybe even hop on a tractor for a ride 🙂 We have a couple of local tractor dealerships who are always happy to allow our kids to explore too!
I know many communities have movie theaters that have summer movie specials. Our local theater plays movies every Tues and Thurs morning for $2 entry.
This is a GREAT event for larger families as movies are so expensive. I wish ours did Disney movies but it’s still a fun way to beat the heat and get to have a neat experience.
If you don’t have a local movie theater that offers a special… have a movie day at home. I love to plan fun Movie Theme Days for my kids.
I’ll make food that fits the theme and we’ll do crafts (most of the time you can find free printable color sheets on paper for popular kids movies) and then watch the movie together. We do this at least a couple times a summer and it’s such a fun thing!
Even when it’s not summer I still am always on the watch for a cheap kids night. Most fast food chains and family style restaurants (especially national brands) host family nights that offer up cheap or even free kids meals. It’s a great way to feed a larger family on a cheap budget and often they have fun crafts too!
Rainy Day Activities for Summer
There are bound to be at least a few rainy days in the summer unless you live in a really dry climate – then you might have a similar problem, days that are too hot to do anything! We live in Georgia, where it can rain but it can also get HOT.
So it’s great to have some indoor activities in your back pocket when leaving the house or participating in outdoor activities just isn’t available!
I also have a full post on my favorite rainy day activities, but here are a few that I feel you can’t go wrong with!
Play-Doh is such a fun, simple thing to enjoy, and this Play-Doh Fun Deluxe Set makes it that much better!
We have the deluxe set and got it as a gift for my son’s 2nd birthday. We still have all the same play-doh that came in the set and still use all the accessories on a regular basis. The kids love to pull it out and play with it.
Once little kids are enough not to eat it then it is a really great activity for all ages. I have the kids each use a cookie sheet to play with it on and they are only allowed to use one color at a time. It makes cleaning up a breeze and keeps all our play-doh nice 🙂
I was very hesitant to invest in Magna-Tiles when I first heard about them. But then I started reading reviews and kept hearing from friends how awesome they were. I’m SO glad we made this investment.
I love imaginative play and these tiles allow the kids to really think and create in different ways. We keep ours in an easy to reach location so the kids can get them down on their own as well as put them away when they are finished building and playing.
This toy truly provides hours of entertainment and is as great toy to encourage siblings to play together too.
We have a rather long hallway in our home so it makes the perfect “bowling ally” for indoor bowling.
We set up plenty of pillows against the wall behind where the pins go so when they fall over they won’t do any damage to our walls. We take turns getting two tries to knock the pins down. Obviously, older kids stand further away from the pins than younger ones.
The ball that comes in the set is pretty heavy so we have a “roll on the ground only” rule in place to avoid any injuries or house damage! But it’s a great time that provides a lot of laughs and a little friendly competition! I like that the older kids can manage set up and clean up on their own too.
Other Fun Summer Activities That Are Worth the Investment
Sometimes, spending a little money is the way to go for some summer fun! This is also the season when many families plan their big vacation, which is a significant investment in and of itself. But you can’t put a price on those precious memories!
Here are my favorite summer activities that might take more time, money, and planning, but that are going to be totally worth it!
We are a HUGE Disney family. We visit the parks on a year basis and I have an endless number of posts chronicling our vacations, offering planning tips and travel guides for the parks, and more!
Here are some posts to get you started:
You can see my full Disney catalog of content here!
We’re very lucky that we get to go as often as we do. For many families, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip. But as someone who’s experienced the parks inside and out, I can confidently say that if you CAN go, you SHOULD absolutely go at least once in your life! It’s a fantastic experience, especially for the kids, and it will create memories that will last a lifetime!
Our family has done lots of traveling and I can recommend tons of great destinations for families with kids! Here are some of my top travel guides:
- Things to Do in St. Augustine With Kids
- Tips for Visiting SeaWorld Orlando
- Key West With Kids
- Visiting ICON Park in Orlando
- Tips for Visiting LEGOLAND Florida
You can also check out all of our travels and browse destinations in the US and beyond!
Yes Day is a yearly tradition where the kids get to call the shots for a day. Ideas include donuts for breakfast, extra screen time or video games, a trip to the pool, picking out a new toy… just to name a few! But not to worry, there are still rules and I cover how we set up Yes Day in another post!
But it is a fun way to let kids have a little bit more freedom than normal and usually, the best time to do it is in the summer when everybody is out of school! We usually schedule our annual Yes Day for July as a perfect way to finish up the kids summer days on a high note.
You can read about our Yes Day 2021 adventures and get your own ideas for this wild and wacky time!
Summer camp is still popular for families with kids and I highly recommend researching your local summer camp options to see what’s available for different age groups!
I encourage our children to be involved in camps during the summer if they have subjects or sports they are interested in. Our kids also attend our local Georgia Bible Camp and attend local VBS gatherings if offered too.
As I sign the kids up for activities I am mindful to block off those days on our calendar too, being careful not to overbook.
Ideally, I am for one camp at a time. If the 10-year-old is at a camp one week I prefer it not to fall on the same week as a camp the 7-year-old wants to participate in. Make it easy on yourself!
If you’ve been considering getting a backyard trampoline for your kids, let me be the first to say that it is a great investment! Not only is it a fun activity, but it also encourages kids to get outside and get active! I’m all about investing in as many outdoor activities as I can for my crew!
I can highly recommend this trampoline for families. It’s the one we bought for our kids and we love it! You can also find more great trampoline recommendations in this post!
Backyard Play Set
Another worthy investment when you have several kids is a good-quality play set. It’s something that the kids can enjoy all through childhood, especially if you’re in your forever home!
Having a playground in your own backyard is also super convenient, especially when you don’t have any parks nearby or aren’t able to get out of the house easily. It encourages independent play and is a great way for kids to hangout with their friends without having to go very far!
Here is the play set that we recommend the most (it’s the one we have and absolutely love!) along with some other great options for different needs and budgets!
More Ideas for Summer Activities With Kids
Sometimes, you just need a list of ideas! Here are some other easy summer activities to put on your family summer bucket list:
- Make Ice Cream in a Bag
- Go on a day trip the beach, if available
- Go on a family bike ride
- Go swimming or cool off in an inflatable pool or with a water table!
- Make a sidewalk chalk mural in the driveway
- Visit your local park
- Go to a nearby water park
- Visit the local farmer’s market
- Backyard family shaving cream fight
- Water activities in the backyard: sprinklers, garden hose
- Water fight with water guns or water balloons (I recently got my kids these reusable water balls and they are AWESOME)
- S’mores by a backyard fire pit
- Homemade pizza night
- Lemonade Stand
- Car wash
- Sibling sleepovers
- Disney themed movie days
- Set up an obstacle course in the backyard or living room
- Go on a family walk (let the kids ride scooters!)
- Night swimming
- Buy a kit to build a bird feeder or birdhouse together
- Build a fort – a great spot for reading!
- Pull out older toys that haven’t been played with in awhile (I do this with our wooden train set – provides endless entertainment)
- Have “dates” with Mommy and Daddy (solo time with each child)
- Visit local you-pick locations for fresh berries and use them to make a summer treat
What are your favorite summer activities for kids? Are there any on this list that you’re excited to try this summer? Let me know in the comments!