If you’ve got kids, you’re probably all too familiar with the summertime blues—that is, the constant, annual struggle to think of fun kids’ activities, preferably that don’t involve screen time, to help you and your family enjoy a simple summer together. Fun activities for kids’ summers don’t have to be elaborate, and they definitely don’t have to be expensive—in fact, most of our ideas below are perfectly free. Read on for 40 family fun ideas that are sure to engage kids of all ages, and parents, too!
1. Sign up for Walk and Talk, a free program for parents and kids to connect and get to know each other better while they take a walk. Marathon Kids provides the conversation starters and mileage logs to help you cover a full marathon together by summer’s end.
2. Have a jump rope contest—see which family member can jump the most times in a row, who can jump the highest, or who can achieve two turns of the rope in one jump.
3. Have a dance party in your living room, taking turns playing each family member’s favorite tunes.
4. Go hiking together at a state park or greenbelt.
5. Take a family walk after dinner, or even after dark (bring flashlights!).
6. Find an online kids’ yoga video so you can stretch and build strength together.
7. Make coffee filter art: Draw on a white coffee filter with washable markers. Then use a spray bottle filled with water to spritz your creations and make the colors run. Let the filters dry and then hang them in the window to enjoy their colorful beauty.
8. Make up your own ghost stories, and take turns telling them—at bedtime with a flashlight, if you dare.
9. Make puppets out of socks, gluing on googly eyes and yarn for hair or drawing faces on with markers, and then hold a puppet show.
10. Make a fort using couch cushions or dining chairs draped with sheets, and have snacks or just hang out inside.
11. Clip paper to an easel and fill water guns with watered-down paint to make squirt-paint art.
12. Make your own bean bag toss by cutting holes in a cardboard box and filling socks with dried beans or rice.
13. Linger outdoors at dusk to catch fireflies.
14. Stay outside past dark to gaze up at the stars and see how many constellations you can find—or make up your own.
15. Get a pack of sparklers and use them to trace your names or the words “I love you” in the air—even if it’s not the 4th of July.
16. Head to the park for swinging and sliding fun.
17. Roll down a grassy hill with your kids—it’ll make everyone giggle.
18. Hold a scavenger hunt in your yard or neighborhood, or make up a treasure map for your kids to find “treasure” that you’ve buried (think plastic beaded necklaces, pennies or cool erasers).
19. Blow bubbles, and see who can catch or pop the most.
20. Have a water balloon fight.
21. If you have a trampoline, toss water balloons while jumping!
22. Run through the sprinklers together.
23. Visit your local splash pad. Don’t forget to bring water bottles and snacks!
24. Visit your neighborhood pool and do “whale rides”—a kid or two riding on the parent’s back while the parent swims (head above water, to keep everyone safe!).
Get Out of Town
25. Take a quick day trip to a nearby town.
26. Visit an antique store or swimming hole that’s far enough away that you normally wouldn’t make it a priority.
27. Go camping at a state park.
28. Visit a state fair in another city or county.
Get Comfy Indoors
29. Set up your camping tent in the living room for a family sleepover, and enjoy true “glamping” with all the comforts of home.
30. Have a family card or board game night.
31. Play hide-and-seek. Switch it up by playing a zombie or reverse version of this timeless game. (In reverse hide-and-seek, only one person hides, while everyone else seeks. When someone finds the hider, they join them by squishing together into their hiding space—no matter how small it might be!)
32. Head to your local public library for new books, magazines, videos or music to enjoy, or check their schedule for story times and other family fun listings.
33. Attend a reading by a children’s or young-adult author at a local bookstore.
34. Write a story or make a picture book together, collaborating on words, plot and artwork.
35. Have a family book club—everyone reads the same book, either together or independently, and then meets up for snacks and discussion about what they read.
36. Make s’mores together in your back yard, or simply over the stove.
37. Make lemonade from scratch. Mix it up by adding fresh orange or lime juice, strawberry slices, or frozen berry puree.
38. Find the nearest fifties-style diner where you can enjoy a slice of pie, or make your own pie at home from scratch.
39. Make simple popsicles: Freeze a mixture of pineapple and orange juices, or any juice you enjoy, in popsicle molds, and enjoy their sweet, drippy goodness together.
40. Have a blindfolded taste test with ice cream treats, or have each family member review their ice cream like a professional food critic.