33 fun summer activities for kids & families

Kids playing with a DIY cardboard fort and costumes
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Kids playing with a DIY cardboard fort and costumes
Photo by seventyfourimages/Envato

Not long after school gets out, the lazy hazy days of summer begin — and pretty soon, your kids may start saying they’re bored and have nothing to do.

But you know there’s never really nothing to do! Here are some easy and fun summer activities for kids and families that will allow you to spend time together as you keep your kids busy — and learning.

33 fun family activities to keep kids busy & prevent boredom

To get you started, here are some easy ideas for summer amusement we have discovered, based on suggestions from Cornell Cooperative Extension and other sources in the business of fun.

1. Trace shadows on the sidewalk with sidewalk chalk. Trace your own shadows or shadows of trees, cars and other objects. Chalk drawings wash off in the rain or when hosed down.

2. Collect smooth stones at the beach. Take them home and make rock critters by painting them with acrylic paint and adding wiggle eyes, yarn hair, felt paws and feet, etc.

3. With your finger, trace a design on your child’s back. Ask them to guess what it is. If they can read, try spelling out words. Then let them draw or write on your back and see if you can figure out the letters!

4. Cut out some headlines from a newspaper or magazine. Use a mirror to reverse the words and see if your child can read backwards. Or write some messages backwards and “decode” them in the mirror.

5. Collect different sizes and kinds of paintbrushes, then paint the house or sidewalk with water. (For more ideas, see Sprinkler games & other summertime water fun.)

6. Make an indoor fort. This is a fun way to use their imaginations! The kids won’t want to take their creations down.Use blankets and sofa cushions, tables and boxes — and you can even string up some kid-safe Christmas lights inside!

Father and son playing in a blanket fort at home
Photo by Wavebreakmedia/Envato

7. Play tabletop soccer. Pick teams and have teams sit at opposite ends of a table. Use a ping-pong ball for the soccer ball. All players must put their arms and hands under the table. Players move the ball by blowing it. To score a goal, a player must blow the ball off the opponent’s edge of the table.

8. Have an indoor campout. Hang sheets or blankets over tables or chairs. Let children nap on sleeping bags in the “tent.”

9. Make a water piñata! Outside, fill a plastic grocery with water from a hose, then tie the top tight, and hang it from a tree or other overhang. Using sticks or branches, the kids will love bursting this balloon and getting an instant waterfall.

10. Make an easy kite. Tape the short edges of a sheet of construction paper together to make a cylinder. Add some cellophane or crepe paper streamers to one end. Punch two small holes in the other end (reinforce these with tape or looseleaf paper reinforcers). Tie kite string through each hole and then together (leave about 15-18″ between the kite and the point where string is tied together). Keep the remainder of the string on the ball so you can let some out to fly your kite.

11. Go hiking in a warm summer rain (when there’s no thunder or lightning). Slickers and galoshes are optional, but be prepared to splash in every puddle.

12. How tall is the table? How big around is the tree? How wide is the sidewalk? Give your child a tape measure and work together to find out.

13. Trade toys or games — dolls, building sets, soccer balls or other sports equipment — with a neighbor’s child for a day or two. There’s nothing like novelty for some playtime excitement!

14. Make a puppet theater by turning a card table on its side or by draping a sheet over a length of rope tied between two chairs. Make your own paper puppets, simple ones wita paper bags and/or socks, or use dolls and stuffed animals.

Sock puppets you can make
Pictures by belchonock/Deposit Photos

15. Make paper airplanes. Get a book or look up instructions online about the various methods. Fold some paper planes and hold a contest to see which flies the farthest or stays aloft the longest.

16. Go on a safari. Hide stuffed or toy animals around the house or yard. Try to find or identify them.

17. Do fence weaving. Take yarn, crepe paper streamers, string, ribbon, fabric strips and weave them in and out of your picket or chain link fence.

18. Have a hide-and-seek picnic breakfast. Hide small boxes of cereal, juice boxes and fruit in the backyard. Kids can find their own breakfasts, then eat picnic-style on the grass.

19. Go on an alphabet scavenger hunt. For example: Find ten things that begin with the letter A. Or find one item for each letter of the alphabet.

20. Make sun prints. Place some objects on a piece of dark-colored construction paper and place it in the bright sun. After an hour or two, the outline of the object will be imprinted on the paper. (You can also buy SunPrint paper and SunArt kits.)

21. Take a hike and collect sticks. You can make a friendship stick by painting the sticks with tempera paint or wrapping them with different yarns.

22. Do blind taste tests. Gather different foods and drinks — oranges and grapefruits, apples and pears, white cake and yellow cake — and blindfold the taste tester and see if she or he can tell which is which. Alternatively, try a comparison contest and have people choose between two foods (made with different recipes or by different people) without knowing which is which.

23. Bike together. Grab your bikes and take a family bike tour this weekend. Explore new neighborhoods or peddle to a new park for an afternoon of play.

24. Give your kids a jump rope. It’s an awesome way to have fun and stay active. They can go solo or encourage others to join in on the fun.

Kids outside playing jump rope
Photo by Freepik

25. Play the rainbow game: How many different colored fruits and veggies can your child eat in a day? Write down their totals on the fridge, or create a rainbow chart for the summer. (YMCA)

26. Read all about it: Set aside time each day for the family to read, either together or separately, and discuss what you read over dinner.

27. Have a family car wash. Get the kids to do the dirty work. It will be much more fun as a family activity.

28. Play dress-up. Allow children to rummage through closets or their own dress-up drawer. Have a fashion show with the results. (Little Gym)

29. Make a flag! Cut a large rectangle from an old white sheet or pillowcase. Use markers and paint to make your own family flag.

30. Explore the local town. Head to the nearest park and make some new friends. Stop by the local fire station and bring the firefighters some homemade cookies or brownies.

31. Camp-inspired crafts include making a compass, building firefly jars, making leaf crowns, and making awesome friendship bracelets. Camp art projects include a wide varieties of crayon rubbing ideas, sun prints, stick art, mandala art, and a fantastic giant fence art project. (Kids Activities Blog)

32. Try team-building games and nature hunts. Making bird-watching books and archery games are among the kids’ favorite outdoor projects. Camouflage science projects are perfect for younger as well as older camp enthusiasts.

33. Visit the water. Summer is the perfect season to use local lakes — so go swim, kayak, canoe, or try paddleboarding. Check out the resources in your local community to see if there are rental options. (University of Wisconsin Hospitals)


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