If you’re searching for frugal summer fun activities, you’re in the right spot. I’ve got some great ideas for your summer months and the best part is, they are all either free things or very frugal. There are also free printables: a list of frugal summer fun activity ideas and a planner!
With the expense of vacations and summer camps (and food and gas, and … everything), you may be looking for cost-effective choices or completely free activities that will cure summer boredom on all the other days of the summer. This list will give you a great start to creating your own list and will probably spark some inspiration for other ideas.
Last year, we were in the midst of figuring out some health issues for my daughter during the summer. To be honest, we did not have much fun at all. So this summer, I really want to do as many fun things as possible.
Make sure you don’t leave without grabbing the free printable below – a PDF of my great list of ideas for inexpensive summer activities plus a planner to lay it all out.
Planning Your Fun Summer Activities
Whether you decide to plan out all your activities before summer starts or just plan the bigger stuff and have a list readily available for the smaller ideas to be chosen at random, you’re going to love this list. You’ll probably be sure to get a lot more squeezed into summer break if you make a solid plan. But I also think it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the hopes of checking off too many summer bucket list ideas. Plus it can be kind of a bummer to run out of time to do everything your kids were excited to do, so it might be better to manage expectations. It’s always a good idea, in my opinion, to plan for less and then add in more as a fun surprise if time allows. Do whatever works for you and your family!
If you let your kids take part in the planning process, they can tell you some of their own top desired activities for the summer, and then you can fill in from there.
Fun & Frugal Summer Activities
- HAVE A PICNIC
- GO FISHING
- GO ON A SCAVENGER HUNT
- STARGAZE IN YOUR BACKYARD
- MAKE AND FLY A KITE
- EXPERIMENT WITH GRILLING CORN
- MAKE A FORT USING BLANKETS, SHEETS, CHAIRS, ETC
- MAKE AN OUTDOOR OBSTACLE COURSE
- MAKE PAPER BAG PUPPETS
- HOST A POTLUCK
- MAKE A SUMMER PLAYLIST
- GO HIKING
- HOOLA HOOP
- PLAY HOPSCOTCH
- TAKE A NAP OUTSIDE
- DRAW AND PAINT
- RUN IN THE SPRINKLERS
- CLIMB A TREE
- MAKE HOMEMADE ICE CREAM
- HAVE AN OUTDOOR MOVIE NIGHT
- JUMP ROPE
- PLAY IN THE DIRT
- CELEBRATE HALF BIRTHDAYS
- DO A PHOTO SCAVENGER HUNT
- LOOK FOR SHAPES IN THE CLOUDS
- PLANT AN HERB GARDEN
- WASH YOUR CAR
- PLAY FLASHLIGHT TAG
- PLAY BALLOON TENNIS
- WATCH THE SUNSET
- READ TOGETHER
- PLAY SIMON SAYS
- TOUR YOUR HOMETOWN
- PLAY WOULD YOU RATHER
- PUT ON A FASHION SHOW
- PILLOW FIGHT
- HOST A TALENT SHOW
- BUILD A BACKYARD OBSTACLE COURSE
- MAKE A BIRD FEEDER
- PLAN A NEIGHBORHOOD BIKE PARADE
- MAKE CHALK BOMBS
- DECORATE ROCKS
- HAVE A BACKYARD BONFIRE
- SIDEWALK CHALK
Celebrating Summer Holidays Frugally
The summer months bring with them a couple of holidays, Memorial Day and Independence Day. These holidays are a great time to do some outdoor activities and maybe even an overnight camping trip. Camping is one of those traditional summertime activities that offers tons of (frugal) fun for the whole family. There are usually great places to camp near home no matter where you live. You could find a local county park and there may be state parks or even national parks near you as well. Camping is a great way to spend quality time together away from cell phones and other devices. The whole family can take a bike ride, make s’mores around a campfire, have a family picnic, and depending on where you camp, there may be swimming, hiking, kayaking, and more.
If you want to celebrate these holidays at home this summer, grab some Target dollar bin or Dollar Store decorations and some water balloons for a fun way to create some excitement. Have a cookout with yard games and a kiddie pool or slip and slide.
If you’re interested in keeping learning alive during those summer days, this is the perfect time to teach your kids the real meaning of these holidays and create activities around their history to make learning fun. You could create games or challenges and have inexpensive rewards to make learning more fun and incorporate it in the days’ celebrations.
If you’re not into camping, there are more expensive ways and therefore more comfortable ways to do camping… glamping.
Summer Life Skills List
Speaking of keeping learning alive for the summer, a life skills list is a great opportunity for your kids to learn new, important skills. You could give them a list of suggestions and then let them choose the new skill(s) they would like to work on. These skills would obviously vary by age, but some examples are:
- money management
- cooking a simple meal
- caring for a pet
- learn how to write a letter or email
- dressing themselves
- learn to tell a good joke
- practice carrying on a good conversation
- learn how to react to an emergency
- learn to practice good hygiene
- learn to ride a bike
- practice good manners
- complete a summer reading program
- learn to be a good host (host a slumber party or play date with friends)
Free & Frugal Local Summer Events & Activities
It’s always a good idea to check your community calendar for cheap or free summer activities. Your local news station or city website should have a calendar of events. Also check social media, since that’s the outlet most people use to promote events these days.
Places to go for free this summer:
- Your local library (check out their website or give them a call for a list of programs and events)
- Go for a nature walk or your local parks
- Home Depot or Lowes for their DIY free workshops for kids
- Local free concerts
- Free community outdoor movie theater nights (see if your town/city offers this)
- Free children’s museums and other local museums (find one near you)
- Local festivals
- Pottery Barn Book Club Story Time (every Tuesday at 11 AM)
- Local summer camps (most have a fee to attend, but there may be some free camps in your community)
- Vacation bible school (you don’t have to attend the church to attend vacation bible school)
- Visit local farmers
- The beach or a lake, if you are near either of those things
- Free classes from local businesses (availability and type will vary depending on your location, check social media or community calendar)
- Volunteer somewhere in your community
Inexpensive events or activities
- Go to a baseball game to see your nearest minor league baseball team
- Swim at your community pool
- Visit the local zoo
- Sunday matinee at the movies (or here in SWFL, we have some discounted Tuesday tickets for kids)
- Laser tag
- Putt-putt golf
Summer Family Projects
Do you have projects you would like to get done while you have warm weather? Add those to your summer plans by giving everyone a job in the project and having family project days. Examples of a fun family project could be:
- Building a fire pit
- Putting together a swingset
- Building a chicken coop
- Hanging a tire swing
- Creating a backyard obstacle course
- Building a skateboard ramp (for older children)
- Building a sandbox (for the little kids)
- Having a yard sale (kids will enjoy getting to sell some of their old clothes and toys and making a little money for fun summer activities)
Family projects that focus on every family member in some way can be lots of fun if you hype them up the right way. Your big kids might be a little harder to convince. Try tasking them with “assistant project manager” job titles, have fun planning and production meetings with the whole “team” (aka your family members), and let your kids make as many decisions as possible for the projects. That way it won’t just be fun, it will also be a learning experience!
Frugal Activities for Summer Vacation
If you’re planning big vacations or road trips, you’ll probably want some fun ideas for frugal activities while you’re on the road too.
Here are some fun ideas for keeping everyone entertained on summer vacation:
- Play car games like I Spy, Road Trip Bingo, or the License Plate Game
- Try kids’ audio books, start a new one when the trip starts
- Bring along cards or one of their favorite board games for game night in your hotel room
- Take that extra money the kids made from their yard sale items for spending on something new to play with during downtime
- Do a summer vacation or road trip scavenger hunt
- Encourage your kids to keep a travel journal. If you have multiple kids, they can share one or each do their own
- Hand out disposable cameras to the whole family, it will be so fun to see what you end up with when you get home
How to Have the Best Summer
Hopefully you found all kinds of great things here that you want to try with your kids this summer! Or maybe you were inspired to get creative with your own ideas. No matter what activities you decide to do, I hope you have a good time spending time with your family in your living room, out in your community, or on the road. There’s no better way to spend your summer than with your family doing your favorite things, plus some new and exciting things. Happy summer!
Free Printable Frugal Summer Fun Planner
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Hi, I’m Jessica! I am wife to Chris, and mom to Kaiper, Alana and Koa. I am a graphic designer, website developer and aspiring author. In this space, I share about everything from parenting, working from home, food we cook, and lots of things for kids! Learn more about me here.