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4 Summer Adventures for the Family on a Budget

Megan Moore

Contributing Writer
Published: Jul 05, 2022
4 Summer Adventures for the Family on a Budget

There are plenty of budget-friendly summer activities to keep your family occupied and engaged, but if you are looking for something a little more outside the box than water games and ice cream, check out the activities below! 

The long summer days are often full of family vacations, days at the pool, and summer camps for the kids, but all of those activities sure can add up! Our family creates a Summer Bucket List at the beginning of every summer. Each of the children gets to choose a couple of activities to add to the list and mom and dad choose the rest. On those days when we have nothing planned, we head to the list and select an activity! The typical ideas are always on the list– a backyard camp out, sidewalk chalk competition, summer reading program at the local library. The kids definitely make sure that a visit to the local ice cream parlor is included, as well as a water balloon fight. 

There are plenty of budget-friendly summer activities to keep your family occupied and engaged, but if you are looking for something a little more outside the box than water games and ice cream, check out the activities below!

1. Local Library

Yes, libraries have fantastic summer reading programs for kids, and, yes, they should absolutely be taken advantage of every single summer if that’s your thing. But we’re talking about a little more creative suggestions here. Local libraries are an absolute gem, and the ideas you can get there are endless! Head to your local library with your kids and choose one (or all!) of these fun activities: 

1. I Choose For You, You Choose For Me

In this activity, you don’t choose the book you want to read; a family member chooses for you! Kids will get a kick out of choosing the silliest book they can find for mom or dad to read. Siblings can choose books for each other. Pre-readers can select books based on the cover image. Parents get to participate too and select a book for their children to read or for a read-aloud. The only rules are to keep the selections within the appropriate reading levels and no whining! After reading the books, everyone can discuss what they liked and didn’t like about each book. Don’t be surprised if the kids want to trade books and read the book they selected! 

2. Scavenger Hunt

When my kids were littles, we would check out ten books every week. One of my children would find one desired book and then select the books on either side of it as well without even looking at them. Another would have searched the library until closing time for the “right” book if he had been allowed. To counter both of those actions, I started a library scavenger hunt. I would give the kids something to hunt for– a letter, a topic, a picture, etc. They would have five minutes to find a book that fit that theme and bring it back to me to get the next theme. This expanded and varied the books they were bringing home and also focused our library time better. Some ideas for the scavenger hunt are letters, numbers, colors, animals, or by an author with your first name or your last name. The possibilities go as far as your imagination and maybe the kids have some good ideas, too!

3. Cookbooks

Libraries have so many cookbooks! This is often a neglected section of the library, but it is perfect for a summer activity. Have the kids look through the cookbooks and select one that they would like to check out. At home, they can find a recipe they like, help you make a grocery list, head to the store to buy the ingredients, and help make the meal at home! While messy, this activity lets kids feel some independence and teaches life skills, and they will be so proud of themselves while your family enjoys their dish!

2. Serve 

It can be difficult to find opportunities to serve with children under the ages of 18, but it isn’t impossible. Our local shelter allows families to make sack lunches at home for the shelter to pass out to those in need. You can always take a walk around a local park or your neighborhood and pick up trash– just remember to bring a trash bag and plastic gloves! Shelters, nursing homes, military installations, and schools enjoy receiving homemade cards and words of encouragement. Leaving a secret gift or sweet note at your neighbor’s front door is sure to bring a smile to their face! You can let them know who it is from or leave it anonymously. You don’t even have to know the neighbor to leave something that will brighten their day! 

3. Family Challenge 

Another great summer-long activity is a family challenge. Everyone can do the same challenge or they can be individualized. Each family member chooses a challenge, either for themselves or for another family member, and works toward that challenge for as long as you choose. A month is a great timeline for most challenges, but it can be longer or shorter than that depending on what works best for your family. Some challenge ideas are push-ups, cartwheels, or some other type of physical activity; art, music, journaling, or some other type of creative activity; random acts of kindness, etc. 

Once the challenge has been decided, everyone works on it a little each day. You can do regular check-ins and give updates on progress and encourage each other through the challenge. At the end of the allotted time, each family member can talk about what was hard, what they learned, and what they liked. You can accomplish something, learn something new, and grow closer as a family by completing challenges together! 

4. Neighborhood Art Show

Our lovely neighborhood hosts holiday block parties and impromptu driveway get-togethers. It is so nice to be with those who live around us, send their kids to the same school, and wave as they drive down the street, and it’s as simple as pulling out some chairs into the driveway. But my all-time favorite neighborhood event is the annual art show. 

Held over a weekend, every family that wants to participate simply creates any kind of art to put on display. We have seen everything from beautiful canvas paintings to restored furniture to Lego creations. Place all the artwork outside– on the driveway, the porch, the lawn– so that your neighbors can wander through and check out your creations. Some people choose to sell their artwork- Great! Others just want it to be observed. Kids get a kick out of showing off their painting, drawing, coloring, Lego, mosaics, rock paintings, or more. This is such a laid-back way to involve your entire community! 

You can pass out flyers with the information or even a map, or you can use your neighborhood social media page. During the weekend or day of the art show, everyone walks through the neighborhood chatting, enjoying the talents of their friends, and forming stronger relationships. Perhaps you even want to have a neighborhood cook-out or bring in a food truck. Hosting an art show gives your family a project in the weeks leading up to it as you create your art and on the day of the event as you share with others.

Related: Listen to Our FREE New Parenting Podcast! Christian Parent/Crazy World with Catherine Segars is now available on Click the play button below to listen to an episode now:

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/jacoblund

Megan Moore is a military spouse and mom of 3 (through birth and adoption). A speech-language pathologist by training, she now spends her time moving around the country every couple of years. She is passionate about special needs, adoption, and ice cream.