cheap activities

Budget-Friendly Kid Activities for Summer

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Summer is coming!! Here are some cheap and fun ideas to keep the kiddos crazy busy so you don’t go crazy!!

Host a Backyard Getaway

Camping is tons of fun for kids of every age, but when you can’t get out in the woods, how about bringing the campout to your own backyard? Every kid enjoys sleeping outside and doing some of the traditional camping activities, even if the house is only a few feet away.

Erect your tent and pile in the sleeping bags and pillows for all the campers. If you don’t have a tent you can even sleep under the stars. Just be sure to put a tarp or cushiony blanket under your sleeping bags to keep the moisture from the ground from getting into your sleeping bags throughout the night.

Light the Fire

Having a warm, toasty fire is one of the things camping activities revolve around. If you have a fire pit to use, that’ll make the activities more authentic and fun. Be sure to check the laws in your area before building a bonfire, because some municipalities regulate the use of fire pits.

Fireside Dinner

Prepare a dinner of fire roasted hot dogs. If you don’t have hot dog sticks you can make your own out of a switch from a tree. Cut any twigs off the body of your stick and sharpen the end to a point. Put your hotdog on long ways – push the stick through the length of the whole hot dog. This will help ensure your hot dog doesn’t fall into the fire.

Stories around the Fire

After dinner it’s time to get the kids’ excited with some age-appropriate stories. No camping trip would be complete without a few scary stories, just make sure you don’t frighten the little ones, or they’ll be back in the house in no time.

Campfire Songs

Want a little lighter mood? Have a sing-along. Most kids love to sing and this will give you an opportunity to share new songs with them. Some classic campfire tunes include:

  • Do Your Ears Hang Low?
  • Found a Peanut
  • He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands
  • I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing
  • You are My Sunshine

Late Night Treats

Before you settle in for the night, there’s time for one last tasty campfire treat. Two great desserts that are easy to make over the fire are S’mores and Banana Boats.

To make S’mores you’ll need:

  • Graham crackers
  • Plain Chocolate Bars
  • Marshmallows

Roast your marshmallows over the fire until they are gooey and done to your liking. Then smoosh it down on one of the graham crackers, top with a square of chocolate and pile on the other graham cracker to make your S’mores sandwich treat.

For Banana Boats you’ll need:

  • 1 ripe banana per serving
  • Plain chocolate bars
  • Marshmallows
  • Aluminum Foil

Slice each banana down the center from end to end without piercing the skin on the bottom side. Remove a small strip of peel from the cut side. Break up the chocolate bars and add a few pieces down the center of the banana along with a few marshmallows. Replace the strip of banana peel and wrap tightly in foil. Lay directly on coals for 8-10 minutes. Carefully remove from fire and dig in.

You don’t have to travel far or spend a lot of money to have some fun camping with the family. A simple tent pitched in the backyard, a fire pit, and a few snacks is a great way to “get away” for the evening and have some fun with the kids.

Budget-Friendly Backyard Fun and Games for Every Age

Coming up with fun activities to keep your children busy during the summer without going broke can be quite a task. You don’t have to stock up on expensive toys or resign yourself to a summer of endless video games, though. There are plenty of fun, outdoor activities you can organize on the cheap.

Soap Boat Races

To make your soap boat course all you need is a rain gutter and garden hose at one end of it. Your soap boats, as you can probably guess, are made out of a bar of soap with a toothpick for the mast with a piece of fabric glued to the toothpick for the sail. Turn on the hose and it’s off to the races!

It’s so easy to make and the kids will spend hours chasing after them to do it all over again.

Gunny Sack Races

Invite the neighborhood kids over to join in an old fashioned gunny sack race. You can, of course, substitute gunny sack with pillow cases, if you don’t mind a little grass stains. Have everyone put their feet inside the sack and on your go, hop to the end of the course. Whoever gets their first wins!

Homemade Slip & Slide

Take a large tarp or two smaller ones and lay them end to end, securing with tent stakes pounded all the way into the ground. For extra protection you can cover the tent stakes with sand, dirt or even a towel.

Saturate the length of the tarps with water from a garden hose. Let the hose continue to run along the beginning of the slide. To make it extra slippery add some tear free baby shampoo down the sliding area and spray with water. You may have to add more shampoo now and then to keep it slipping and sliding.

Flashlight Tag

This game is fun for older children since it is played in the dark. It’s a combination of tag and hide and seek. The seeker has the flashlight and counts to 50 while the other players hide.

The object of the game is to have the seeker find one of the other players and when the light is shined on them then they become the seeker. The only rule is that the seeker must keep the flashlight on at all times while he is seeking out the other players. It becomes a continuous cycle.

Freeze Tag

Another fun tag game that’s suitable for all ages is the game of freeze tag. In this variation the person who’s “it” has to tag all of the other players and the last person tagged becomes “it”. Once a player is tagged they have to freeze in the spot where they were tagged. They can be rescued by another player who has not yet been tagged by touching the frozen person and they can continue playing. A good variation for older children is to have them run through the frozen person’s legs rather than just touching them.

Summertime Activities to Get the Creative Juices Flowing

Worried that a whole summer out of school – and doing little more than sitting in front of the television – is turning their young brains to mush? Time to come up with some crafty activities to help stimulate their creative genius. Not only will it help keep their minds active, but creative activities will keep everyone from falling victim to the most dreaded of summertime troubles: boredom.

Life Size Portraits

You can do this in a couple different ways:

  1. Get large pieces or rolls of paper from the craft store that you can lay out on a flat surface. Have your child lie down on the paper with his arms just a little apart from his body so you can outline his whole body with a marker. After you’ve outlined him let him fill in the details of hair, clothes and facial features with crayons or colored markers.

After he’s all done working on the project, help him to write his name on it and hang it on his bedroom wall. Your child will love to have his own artwork where he can admire it and show it off to his friends.

  1. Get a tub of sidewalk chalk. Sweep off a space on a patio or driveway where it’s safe for your child to play. Have him lie down on the cement in such a way that you get a chalk outline of his entire body. Then let him work on adding details. You can assist with picking out colors to help him learn those as well. Or make this fun and different by allowing him to make himself into a funny monster or other creature.

Pasta Bead Necklaces

You could make this a little less messy by preparing the pasta bead ahead of time. Then you could just allow the kids to have fun making the necklaces, rather than messes.

Items you’ll need per color:

  • 3 tbsps. white vinegar
  • 3 drops of food coloring
  • 1 cup pasta (macaroni salad type)
  • Sandwich size plastic bags
  • Tin foil sheets
  • String

Place the white vinegar and food coloring in a sandwich-size bag to combine. Then add pasta, gently mixing and shaking the bag to coat well. Dump out the liquid and place on a sheet of tin foil to dry overnight.

You will want to make at least 3 colors of pasta beads but you can make as many as you want. The more colors you create, the more combinations the kids will be able to make.

Once you’re ready to have the kids start making the necklaces, cut a piece of string long enough to easily fit over their heads once it’s tied. Thread the string through a cotton ball on one end to keep the beads from sliding off as the children string the necklace. You can then let them get to work.

Candy Bracelets

This might be an all-time favorite for the kids because when they’re done they can eat it. You need any type of candy with holes that your children like to eat and elastic string (you can get this at the fabric or craft store). Lifesavers, Twizzlers (cut into smaller pieces), and candy beads are all good choices. Follow the same instructions as above for stringing your bracelet. The kids will love it!

Fun & Easy Science Experiments Kids Will Love

School may be out, but science experiments are still fun – especially when you can see the results right in your own kitchen. These experiments are fun enough for young children, and the scientific explanation of the results will fascinate the older kids as well.

Inflate Balloons with Pop Rocks

Pop Rocks are fun to eat because they snap and pop and fizz in your mouth. But you may not know that they can inflate a balloon, too, by releasing carbon dioxide trapped in a bottle of soda.

You will need:

  • 1 – 16 oz bottle of soda (any flavor will do)
  • 1 pouch of Pop Rocks
  • 1 balloon
  • A funnel

How to make it work:

Use the funnel to pour the whole container of Pop Rocks into the balloon. Twist the end of the balloon just a little so you’re holding the Pop Rocks inside the balloon while you stretch the end of the balloon over the top of the soda bottle. You don’t want the Pop Rocks to drop into the bottle before you’re ready to start. Once the balloon is firmly in place on the bottle let it go. Watch the Pop Rocks work in the soda and the balloon start to inflate.

Make Giant Gummy Worms

All you need for this little experiment is gummy candy (worms or bears will work fine), water and a container. Fill the container with about 2 inches of lukewarm water and drop your candy in. That’s it! Now you just have to wait 8-12 hours while your giant gummies grow. It’s much more dramatic if you do it overnight so your little ones have a great surprise to look forward to in the morning.

Your gummy candy will be much larger than the original but it will be very fragile so handle with care when taking it out of your container. Let the kids oooh and ahhh  over their creations before eating them.

white flowersDye White Flowers Pretty Colors

Making colored flowers is easy and fun. Just take several small jars or glasses and fill them about one-half full with water. Then drop in several drops of food coloring and add your white flowers. Carnations work nicely for this experiment.

Leave in the water overnight for a faint color change or several days for a more dramatic color. Your kids will love to see how the flowers change from day to day. Take pictures to chronicle your experiments and drop it in the scrapbook for fond memories when they’re older. For older kids, help them hypothesize about how the effect will change based on stem length, the amount of dye in the water, or the type of flower used.

Summertime science experiments are a great way to keep the kids entertained on rainy days. Kids can dive into these experiments on their own, or mom and dad can help the younger children. With a little imagination, the kids can even come up with their own experiments. And the best part? Your kids won’t even know they’re learning stuff on their vacation.

Fun Water Balloon Games Take the Heat Out of Summer

No pool? No problem! Fill a couple dozen balloons with water from the hose, and you’ll be beating the summer heat in no time. Even better, add a few “rules” to create an engaging, entertaining game that will keep the kids occupied all day long.

Even the Set Up Becomes a Game

No need to stand around waiting for all the balloons to be filled. Instead, make a game of it.

Give each child the same amount of water balloons and an outdoor faucet. The first to fill all their balloons is the winner. Once you have all the balloons filled you can use them to play other games or let the kids go wild tossing them at each other.

Big Balloon

In this game each child is given one balloon. When it’s his turn, the idea is to see how full he can make it without letting it pop. He can fill it as full as he likes, but if the balloon pops he is out of the game. The one with the largest balloon wins.

Balloon Toss

This game is always a hit. This works the best in pairs but if you have an odd number of children simply have them stand in a circle. At the beginning of the game, the kids will be very close to each other, but after each successful toss they should take one step backwards. Eventually someone will miss the balloon and it will break or the distance will be so great the force will break the balloon. Either way the end result is lots of wet fun!

Balloon Fight

This game is fun for older children. Set up barricades of some sort in a few different spaces around the playing area. Break the kids into teams and give each team the same amount of filled water balloons. On your go, let them see how many of the other team members they can get wet.

You could also set this up dodge-ball style. The teams face each other across the lawn from behind a barricade and try to get as many of their opponents wet as possible. When the balloons are gone, the team with the driest clothes wins.

Water Balloon Football

Just like in real football, the goal of this game is to get your ball across the goal line. But unlike the familiar pigskin, water balloons are a bit more fragile. While the offensive team is busy trying to protect their precious cargo, the defensive team does everything in their power to break the balloon.

In the end, the team that carried the most balloons to safety wins.

Whether you choose to organize a game, or just set each kid to fend for him or herself in an all-out water-balloon war, one thing is certain: water balloons are a fun way to beat the heat this summer. Best of all, mom will love the easy clean up after a day of water fun.

Get to Know the Animals that Share Our World

Kids of all ages – and quite a few grownups – enjoy meeting the local wildlife, and summer is a fantastic opportunity to get up close and personal with some furry four-legged friends. An afternoon at the zoo or a walk through a nearby preserve not only gives everyone a chance to see the animals, but is a good time to teach your children about nature as well.

Enjoy an Afternoon at the Petting Zoo

The petting zoo is a fun place to take kids of all ages. Being able to pet and feel the animals is one of the draws. Little ones especially love it because many of the animals are so small they’re kid sized. Some of the animals you’ll find are:

  • Pygmy Goats
  • Miniature Horses
  • Potbellied Pigs or Micro Pigs
  • Alpacas
  • Llamas
  • Sheep
  • Chickens
  • Peacocks
  • Rabbits

Visit a Local Farm

Take your family on a tour of a farm in your area. Many local farms welcome a chance to show off what they do to bring food to your table.

You might get to milk a cow, collect eggs or feed the chickens. Some even have patches of pick your own product so you can show your children where fruits and veggies come from.

Discover a Fish Hatchery

The fish hatchery is an interesting place to see how fish, crustaceans and shellfish are bred, hatched and reared through the early life cycles.

Many times they offer catch-and-release programs for children to see what it’s like to go fishing for the first time. Many fish hatcheries offer tours and sometimes have large events, such as a salmon festival to celebrate the salmon spawning season.

Stroll Through a Nature Preserve

Going to any nature preserve can be a whole lot of fun and educational at the same time. Many preserves cater to different things – some are for wildlife, plant life, geology or any combination of those.

You can stroll through to see nature relatively undisturbed and the wildlife roaming freely within the preserves borders. Nature in all its wonder! There are many wildlife specific preserves you can drive through as well, such as a bison range, a wild horse range or a bear preserve.

This is an activity probably best suited for older kids, as the wildlife you encounter will likely shy away from a noisy crowd. Not only that, but a bit of patience is often needed to spot elusive animals in the wild.

Spend the Day at the Aquarium

Going to the aquarium is one activity your child is sure to remember since we don’t see marine creatures every day. There are so many types of colorful fish, eels, lobsters, crabs, otters, turtles, sea lions and that’s just for starters. The aquarium is chock full of interesting creatures to let your little ones inspect.

Many aquariums offer touch tanks filled with marine life your children can touch, feel and sometimes pick up. Things like sea cucumbers, hermit crabs, and even octopus.

Getting out and exploring new places with different types of animals is something your children will enjoy and help will foster a love for nature and wildlife.

No matter where you live, chances are you’ll find several places nearby where you can see both domestic and wild animals. Not only will the kids have the opportunity to see local – or even exotic – wildlife up close, but the time spent outdoors is a healthy alternative to indoor games and television.

4 Fun Plans for a Rainy Afternoon

Just because it’s raining outside doesn’t mean you and your little ones need to sit around waiting for the sun to shine! There’s plenty to do inside – get creative and have a blast. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Shadow Puppets

These are fun for all ages but tend to really awe the toddlers. To make shadow puppets all you need is light behind your hand aimed at a light colored wall or canvas. It’s really neat in the dark but you can do it with any range of lighting, even sunlight.

There are lots of animals and people you can make but starting off with a few basics will get you going.

To make a bunny use your first two fingers to make a “V” (or a peace sign) and crook your fingers a little. You can move your fingers back and forth for the twitch effect.

Make a bird by lacing your thumbs together and waving your hands simultaneously like the flapping of the bird wings.

A dog is easy to do by lacing your fingers together, using your thumbs for the ears and your pinky fingers for the mouth. Move your pinky fingers in an up and down motion to look as if the dog is barking or the wolf is howling. Add some sound effects and your kids will love it!

Build a Fort

What kid doesn’t want to have his very own fort? It’s so easy to do indoors. All you need is a couch, a couple of kitchen chairs, an ottoman, a TV tray or really anything that you can use to construct your framework. Then drape sheets or blankets over your framework and voila you’re done.

Your kids and even you will have lots of fun filled hours hanging out, playing games, reading or telling stories in your blanket (or pillow) fort.

Plan Dinner and Dessert

Most kids want to get in the kitchen and help out. Take time to plan a dinner from start to finish with your children. Let them choose a dinner that they will be able to help make and a yummy dessert to finish it off.

This will not only entertain them but help them to build confidence and ability in learning to cook AND cleaning up as they go.

Family Game Night

Children love to spend fun times with their family and a great tradition to start is family game night. Plan one night out of the week (or more) to play a game with the kids. Pick an age appropriate game so the little ones don’t get bored too easily.

Spending time with your children doing basic and fun things will fill their mind with memories they won’t soon forget. Not only that, but you’ll be teaching them a valuable skill: entertaining themselves without benefit of a computer or television screen.

Teach Important Skills with a Summer Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts are not only fun, they’re educational, too. It’s easy to get creative to make up your own, or modify any of these to make it fit for your area and the age of your child. For older ones you will want to make it harder and for younger children make it easy enough to keep them interested while still teaching them important skills.

Nature Scavenger Hunts

Getting kids outside to explore is a great way for them to learn about nature and get exercise at the same time. You can create a nature scavenger hunt for whatever types of items are in your backyard, the park or wherever you choose to hold your scavenger hunt. Here are a few items to think about to get you started with coming up with your own ideas:

  • Four leaf clover
  • Dandelion
  • Large leaf
  • Small leaf
  • Sticks
  • Large flower
  • Small flower
  • Worm
  • Bug
  • Smooth rock

An easy way to create your game is to gather the items from the area you’ll be playing and take a picture of each. This way you know the items will be there and you can print off a picture of each for your child to gather. Next all you need is a basket or bag for your little one to be off and running.

Learn Numbers

Helping preschoolers learn their numbers is easy and fun with a numbered scavenger hunt. All you need is some colored paper and a pen to get started.

Cut colored paper into pieces and write numbers on them from 1-10. Hide them around your yard or house – kind of like an Easter egg hunt. Once the children find all of the numbers you can have them match them up to a sheet of paper that you’ve written all of the numbers on.

Learn Letters

Have the children search around your house for anything with words on it. Use the first letter of the word to have them come up with another word that starts with the same letter. Or if your child is a little more advanced you can give them a letter and have them find a word that has the letter within the word.

Learn Colors

You can print out a rainbow of colors and have your child find something of each color to gather. Another variation of this color game is give them a bag of a certain color and have them find 10 objects of the same color to bring back. As you help them go over their items you can reinforce the colors.

Treasure Hunt

This is fun for all ages and you can scale the hunt to fit the ages of your children. Draw a map to several different areas, when they find the first item it should include a clue to the next item and so on. At the end of the hunt they should find the buried treasure!

Scavenger hunts can provide hours of fun for kids of all ages. In fact, if you have a wide range of ages, you might even enlist the help of the older children to create the hunt for the younger ones. Each child will learn some valuable skills, and you’ll be helping to alleviate their summer boredom.

Be a Tourist in Your Own Home Town

Too often we spend the summer visiting other places, but never really get to know the town where we live. Touring your own town can be fun, educational and inexpensive in the summer months. There are lots of local attractions or public places in most cities to take your kids to for fun activities. Many are free or have children’s days or events that you can watch for to get in for free.


Going to the museum is always a treat for kids. Taking time to educate your child at your local museum will help her become aware of the history of your town and how it came to be. Being able to see, and in many cases touch, artifacts makes it come alive. To find out about children’s days or certain events call the museum to get on their mailing list. That way you won’t miss anything.

Farmers Market

The local farmers market offers many opportunities for your children to learn and see new things. The obvious attraction is the local fruits and vegetables brought in by the farmers or orchardists. This will give your child a chance to meet and interact with some of the people who grow food for your table.

The farmers market has much more than fruits and vegetables though. Some things you may find include:

  • beekeepers selling their honey
  • wild picked berries and mushrooms
  • homemade goodies, such as jams, jellies, kefir and kombucha
  • crafters selling their wares
  • live music and dancing
  • food vendors

Lots of vendors offer samples of their items so your child may get to try new things she may never have gotten to try otherwise. Also, many markets will have events throughout the summer to draw in more people. Keep on the lookout for upcoming happenings in your area.


Taking your child to the local library can help to foster a lifelong love of reading. Your child will be amazed at the sheer number of books and may have fun the first time just exploring.

Many libraries offer summer reading programs at no cost as well. These are where groups of kids come to the library all together and one of the library staff or volunteer will read to your children. Sometimes they offer a question and answer session afterwards.

Older children may enjoy researching particular topic and being able to get the answers from both books and internet connection offered for free.

Park Events

Summer is a big time for social events such as festivals, parades, fairs, carnivals or circuses. Children love the active atmosphere, bright colors and lots of people to see and things to do. These affairs will keep your little ones busy for hours. Another great thing about it is they are free or fairly inexpensive.

This is a great start to finding local places to take your children. But, explore your town – go to your city hall, library or check the newspaper – for other fun things to do this summer!

photo-1430462708036-7ef5363d56d8Fun and Learning at the Beach

Going to the beach is great fun if you have some foolproof activities in mind to keep the children engaged all day to ward off boredom. Be sure to bring a basket or bag for all the goodies your child may find along the beach to bring home with them.  You can get in on the action too or just sit back and watch your kids have a ball. Try these with your little explorers:

Seashell Hunting

Seashells come in all shapes and sizes. Just walking along the beach where the tide rolls in can net you lots of pretty shells. You can also hunt in the shallow area near at the water’s edge for more.

If your child is like most children you will have to help them sort through and choose the best shells to take home otherwise you may need a truck to carry them all. Teach them how to inspect the shells for defects, make groupings by color or shape, and even plan how to display them creatively at home.

Rock Collecting

The beach is wonderful place to go rock collecting. Many rocks along the beach will be smooth from years and years of rolling through the tides which makes for easy collecting for little ones. You will find many types of rocks on the beach – agates, jaspers, quartz, jadeite among many others. You could even get lucky enough to find fossils among the rocks as well.

Some of these rocks are very beautiful just as you find them. But, if you choose to take them home to clean them up or put them through a rock polisher your child will be amazed at how truly beautiful their finds are.

Beach Combing

The tides rolling in and out bring in lots of gifts from the sea that are deposited on the beach every day, such as sea glass, tropical seeds or fossils. Make it your mission for you and your children to find some treasures on the beach to take home.

Another fun thing to do after you get home is to make a keepsake out of the things you found. A few ideas to get you started are attach all your finds to a canvas to make wall hanging, make a treasure box or add your items to a net tied at the top

Metal Detecting

Most beaches have hordes of people visiting all summer long which makes for great treasure hunting with metal detectors. Older children who have the patience will be the best suited for this type of activity.

Making Sand Castles

Bring buckets, molds and shovels to create the ultimate sand castles. You can even invite other children to work with your child to build a large community of castles with trenches, moats and towers. The kids will love it and you child may make some new friends too.

A day at the beach is more than just swimming and sunbathing. With a little creativity, you can turn your beach trip into an exciting adventure – and even add a few “teachable moments” to your weekend.

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