40 Ways to Keep the Kids Busy This Summer

Megan Moore

Contributing Writer
Published: May 25, 2023
40 Ways to Keep the Kids Busy This Summer

Memorize Scripture. Do this together. Write verses on the bathroom mirror with a dry-erase marker. Put sticky notes on the door and say the verse before heading outside. This practice will change lives. 

At the end of every school year, my family makes our annual “Summer Bucket List.” We all choose some activities that we would like to do before school is back in session, and we write them down. Designed to be a fun way to make decisions about how to spend our free time, the list is full of ideas that are cheap, easy, and won’t stress me out. We don’t force it, and we don’t get through everything, but we have plenty of options for fun as the dog days of summer drag on. Adjust any of these to fit your children’s ages and abilities and your family’s specific needs. Remember, the goal is fun, not more work! 

Outdoor Activities

  1. Nature walk. Try to find different shades of green, count the animals you see, or make up stories about something unusual you come across. Talk about how God created all of nature. Use Bible verses. Some good ones to consider are Romans 1:20Psalm 19:1, and Isaiah 45:12. Ask your kids how they see God in nature or what they think is the coolest thing He made. 

  2. Water. Hop in the pool, throw water balloons, wash the car, play with water beads, or make sensory bottles. Last week, I watched my neighbors use the hose to fill up plastic tubs, and they laughed and laughed and laughed. Conserving water? Great! Use some other sensory activity–rice, beans, or pasta is inexpensive and fun. 

  3. Backyard campout. Just like real camping except you can go inside whenever you want! Roast hot dogs and s’mores, tell silly stories, and sleep in a tent if you so dare. 

  4. Attract Monarch Butterflies. Plant some milkweed and watch the Monarchs come to you. Watch Flight of the Butterflies to learn more about these incredible creatures. 

  5. Exercise. As a family, do yoga in the park, go for a jog, or see who can get the farthest across the monkey bars at the playground. 

  6. Star gazing. Learn about constellations and see how many you can find. Better yet–watch a meteor show, lunar eclipse, or the Northern Lights. Check out Stellarium to easily identify stars in your area. 

  7. Flashlight hide-and-seek. If your kids are scared of the dark, work in teams. 

  8. Go fishing. If you can’t, fill up a wading pool and put objects in it, and see how many the kids can “catch.”

Indoor Activities

  1. Library. Libraries often have great summer reading programs, which I always suggest, but you can make your own fun, too. Have the kids judge a book by its cover– check out a book only because they like the cover art. Find an author with the same name and read that book. Read only books with red covers for a month and blue covers the next month. 

  2. Chores. Don’t do all the work yourself. Chores teach kids life skills and responsibility. Have them spend time every day doing something that is helpful around the house. 

  3. Board Games. Pro Tip: have them create their own game. The time spent thinking of the idea, coloring their game board, and making up the rules will occupy them for a while. 

  4. Pots and pans. Give the kids pots, pans, and wooden spoons, and tell them that’s all they can use for at least 30 minutes. Older kids might cook something, younger kids might make music. Either way, they are guaranteed to get creative. 

  5. Pillow fort. Challenge them to make it elaborate (and make them pick up when they are done). 

  6. Quiet time. Give them an hour in their rooms alone. Tell them to nap or read or be creative, then see what happens. It is healthy for everyone to have a little time to themselves, and you’ll be surprised when the kids end up liking this one. 

  7. Summer purge. Before back-to-school clothes and busy fall schedules fill our closets and calendars, make them deep clean their rooms to donate or trash what they no longer use or want.

Creative Activities

  1. Performances. The kids can sing or dance or put on a play or do comedy. There are no rules other than house rules, and they have to practice for at least 30 minutes. It will often take longer, and maybe you can actually finish a cup of coffee while they are busy. 

  2. Spend time journaling every day. There are no rules, and parents only look at it if the child shows it to them. They can draw, write, cut out words from an old magazine, or whatever they choose. Set a timer for at least 15 minutes. 

  3. Learn something new. In the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth writes that learning something new and spending time doing it every day is good for the whole family. Maybe you choose to learn how to do a cartwheel or speak a new language or draw a detailed flower. Let each person in your family choose what they want to learn and set aside time each day to practice. 

  4. Make a movie. Give them your phone or iPad, set the rules, and let them film a movie. They are responsible for the storyline, backdrops, outfits, etc. 

  5. Paint rocks and leave them for people to find. You may be able to find a local group on social media where people post where they have found painted rocks. It can be fun to track!

Community Activities

  1. Volunteer. If there are no opportunities due to your children’s ages, you can always pick up trash at a park or off a sidewalk. Blessing bags are also great for kids of all ages. Fill gallon-size sealable bags with essentials like chapstick, socks, water, snacks, and more, then hand them out to anyone in need. More ideas here

  2. Neighborhood art display. Coordinate with other families in your neighborhood to set out the kids’ artwork on a certain date and time. Everyone in the neighborhood can walk around and see the artwork all the kids created and have a nice social evening. 

  3. Ding Dong Ditch. Put together a small gift bag and a friendly note to leave on a neighbor’s doorstep. Ring the doorbell, then run and hide! 

  4. Kids versus adults. Invite friends or neighbors to join in a kids-versus-adults kickball or baseball game. 

  5. Driveway movie nights. Get a projector and invite others to bring lawn chairs and snacks. Hang a white sheet and project the movie onto it, or use your garage door.

  6. Spend time with someone older. Talking with an older neighbor, a family friend, or someone at a nursing home is a great way for kids to learn important life lessons. You can even come up with interview questions about their life. 

Local Activities

  1. Study the history of your town or nearby city. Have your children create a presentation to teach the family what they learned. Visit important or historical sites. 

  2. Farmers market. Grab some fresh veggies and have the kids help you make dinner that night. Ask the people selling the food about where it comes from. 

  3. Live like a local. Spend a day or a week doing all things local–parks, zoos, museums, aquariums, sports teams, local restaurants, and stores. Enjoy your town and show the kids that you can have a whole lot of fun very close to home. 

Educational Activities

  1. Science investigations. Compare and contrast two objects, see what happens when you mix baking soda and vinegar versus baking soda and salt, dissect owl pellets–yes, really! There are several online sites that will send you pellets and tools to dissect. 

  2. Read to them. Then have them read to you or tell you a story about the pictures in a book. Listen to an audiobook as a family. 

  3. Learn about a new country every week. Look at pictures. Make a meal from that country.

  4. Go bird watching. Take pictures and write down descriptions, then research the birds. Find out what kind of bird it is and learn something about it. The Merlin app is awesome for this. 

  5. Learn about new plants. Do the same as with birds. Picture This is an easy app for plant identification. 

  6. Memorize Scripture. Do this together. Write verses on the bathroom mirror with a dry-erase marker. Put sticky notes on the door and say the verse before heading outside. This practice will change lives. 

  7. Garage sale. Give the kids a budget and head out on a Saturday morning for some bargain shopping. 

Indoor or Outdoor Activities

  1. Scavenger hunt. Make a list of objects that the kids have to find. Then let them create lists for each other or themselves. 

  2. Minute To Win It. There are numerous sites that list these kinds of games. Kids love the light-hearted competition!

  3. Obstacle course. Create a fun course for the kids to go through, or just give them a few ideas and see what kind of course they can come up with!

  4. Family voting. My personal favorite: spend the summer taking notes on one particular thing. My family has voted on local ice cream parlors, pizza shops, burger joints, and parks. Jot down some notes and a rating after each visit. At the end of the summer, your family gets to decide what the favorite one is!

Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Ashton Bingham

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.