15 Fun & Frugal Memories To Make With Your Kids This Summer
Written by Stacey T, Contributing Writer
I want to take you back for a moment… What are your favorite summertime memories from when you were growing up? What were you doing? Where were you? Who were you with?
Some of my favorite summertime memories from growing up were running through the sprinklers, sleeping out on the tramp, watching the Fourth of July fireworks and having bonfires at the ranch with my family.
My favorite memories were very simple activities but there is two common threads among them: They all include being with people that I love, my family and my friends, and they didn’t cost a lot of money.
Sure I have good memories from family vacations and other more expensive activities, but the things that have stuck with me and mean the most to me now are the fun yet frugal activities I did while growing up.
Summertime is the perfect time to be creative in the activities you do with your kids. School is out and you have a little more time to be together (hopefully!) and the season of summer brings a natural feeling of fun and relaxation.
Here are 15 fun & frugal memories that you can make with your kids this summer:
Go on nature walks
Get some exercise and some fresh air by going on a walk. But rather than just walking around the block, go on a themed nature walk. For example, go on a Bug Walk where everyone keeps their eyes glued to the ground looking for bugs and other fun insects. Other ideas include a flower hunt by looking for and identifying flowers (don’t pick the flowers unless it is legal to do so); a bird walk as you look for birds, etc. You and your kids will be amazed at all that’s around you once you start looking more closely.
Whether it’s in the back yard or in the basement on a rainy day, get blankets and chairs and build a fort. Younger kids will especially find this fun. Read or watch The Swiss Family Robinson about a family that lived in one of the best forts, a tree fort!
Most public library’s have story times throughout the year but during the summer is an especially great time to take advantage of story times offered at other locations as well. Check for free story times at museums and bookstores too.
For just the cost of some paint and paint brushes, rocks of all shapes and sizes around the yard can be turned into bugs, animals and even landscapes. It’s a creative and unique activity, and a fun way to decorate your yard and garden as well.
Dinner at the Drive-in
Pack a picnic dinner and head to the drive-in to watch a family flick. Admittance to drive-ins is typically much less expensive than admission to the movie theater and you often get to see two features, rather than just one. Make sure that bringing food into the drive-in is allowed.
Have a Game Night
Pop some popcorn and get the board games out for some good old-fashioned frugal fun. You could even invite another family to join in on the competitive fun and play, family against family, or boys against girls.
Play Hide and Seek or Sardines
Speaking of old-fashioned frugal fun, get the whole family involved (even mom and dad!) in a game of Hide and Seek or Sardines. The best way is to play in the yard after dark!
Host a cooking show
Pretend that one (or all) of your kids has just won the next Food Network Star competition; what will they make for their cooking show debut? “Air” the show in front of the whole family who can also be taste-testers. For even more fun and giggles, get out the video recorder and record it.
Have a Scavenger Hunt
Depending on your family’s ages, you can play in teams or as individuals. Come up with a list of items to gather or take photos of, and see who can complete the list in the quickest time. This is another great opportunity to get together with another family or families who can join in on the fun.
Write a book
Assignments for writing and illustrating could be done individually or the entire book could be one collaborative effort. Whether simple or involved, long or short, this activity is creative and fun! And it also can help your kids practice and strengthen some of the writing skills they are learning in school.
Have a Backyard Campout
Even camping can get expensive these days but you can still enjoy camping without having to pay for a tent site if you camp in your backyard. Make oven s’mores and look at the stars, just as you would if camping in the woods.
Go Fly A Kite
Kites can be purchased inexpensively and make for timeless fun. Or if you’re really adventurous, you can make your own kite! Older kids especially might get a kick out of making their own kites.
Make Homemade Popsicles
You can buy inexpensive popsicle molds or simply use Dixie cups and popsicle sticks to make popsicles at home. If you’re interested in a non-toxic but also reusable options, check out Tovolo molds. There are flavor possibilities galore but for a naturally sweetened option, puree fresh peaches, a tablespoon of honey and a few whole blueberries (or Strawberry Coconut Cream or Limeade). Mix, freeze and enjoy.
Make an Obstacle Course
Turn your backyard into an obstacle course using things from around the house and yard. Family members could hop in the kiddie pool, crawl under the picnic table and barrel down the slip and slide to the finish line, just as an example. Whoever gets the best time wins! Your obstacle course could be as simple or elaborate as you want but it’s active fun for all!
Volunteer as a Family
Find volunteer opportunities in your community for the entire family. A few examples would be to help a widow in your neighborhood with yard work, volunteer at a local soup kitchen or try to get involved with Habitat for Humanity or The Ronald McDonald House. Whatever you do, whatever service you perform, if only once or throughout the summer, is guaranteed to be memorable for your family.
Thank you for such wonderful ideas. Plus, it really gives me hope that summer is right around the corner. It has done nothing but rain the last week, and I can’t wait for sunshine. 🙂 My son would love the obstacle course, so I’m sure we’ll be trying that this year.
@Amy, lots of rain here too so yes, i’m really looking forward to the summer! 🙂
My kids just got out for summer yesterday. We have many of the same plans as you said but I like to include free things like Shakespeare in the Park and concerts. We will go to parks and playgrounds we hardly go to for something different. I also like to take advantage of the low cost activities like the $1 movies when the weather is rainy or just too hot.
We do a lot of the things you have written about. But I like to add a few, going to the free concerts and Shakespeare in the Park. A child is never too young to be exposed to culture and outside is the perfect place for that to happen. Over the summer will we search out some favorite and less visited parks. When the weather is bad or just too hot we will head in doors to the free or $1 movies that are around town.
We just finished reading “Little Pilgrims Progress” as a family. Then we headed out to the “swamp” behind our house to pretend that we were Christian and Christiana traveling on the dangerous path to the Celestial City. It was the greatest swamp walk ever, because all of the “dangers” were just part of the adventure. I liked all of your ideas, and I think that the main point is just to take some time between gardening and housework to play with your kids! We shouldn’t under-estimate how valuable it is!
@Betsy, i read recently that playing pretend with your children actually strengthens your relationship and the bond you have together! i should update the post to include playing pretend after reading that. 🙂 and i think you’re absolutely right, time with our little ones is short and precious, we should make the most of what time we have.
We love flying kites! Last summer I put together a similar list of frugal activities and love seeing all of your suggestions…can’t wait to use some with my family 🙂
These are such great ideas, Stacy! We’re also planning to do a lot of library trips, park visits, hikes, and just backyard play (my kids adore playing house with water or doing their own gardening).
Another thing that we will be doing is some of the history and science lessons that we didn’t have time to do during the school year. As homeschoolers, we like to keep learning through the summer because learning is fun and doesn’t need to stop. 🙂 Summer is a perfect time for nature walks, learning about bugs, doing messy science experiments on the lawn… I can’t wait!
I just wanted to drop by and let you know how much I enjoy your site! I love it so much that I reviewed you on my blog! You can find the review here: http://www.imsewcheap.blogspot.com
Oh, I love this list! I don’t know what I love more … the frugality or the fun! Hey, another great thing (seeing the painting rocks project reminded me) for little, little ones (like mine – 4, 2, and 1) is to grab a bucket of water, some paint brushes and cups – head out to your porch or driveway and let them “paint” the driveway/porch for you. Tons of fun and no paint stains! 🙂
@Ellie, great idea ellie! that would even help to wash my patio. LOL 🙂
Oh summer is so fun for making great memories. We lived next to a very affluent neighborhood when my daughters were young and although we did not have the money for trips to Hawaii and Disneyland, we worked hard to make fun memories during the summer. On the first day of summer we always put a piece of paper on the fridge that said “Fun Things We Did This Summer”. Each day we would jot down the simple, but fun activities like strawberry picking, weekly trips to the library for the summer program, hike to the waterfall, fingerpainting the outdoor glass top table with shaving cream, etc. At the beginning of summer my husband would bring home some huge heavy duty cardboard boxes, the kids would decide where they wanted the door and window to be, he cut them out and then their imaginations went wild. The boxes moved around the yard, sometimes serving as stores, houses, condos, post office, bike repair shop, gas station…. The props that they used came from inside the house, or from their creative imagination with toilet paper tubes, wallpaper, cardboard, scissor, markers etc. We always planted some seeds–the mammoth sunflower being the most amazing and gathered tadpoles and watched their transformation all summer on the kitchen counter. When school was beginning we would review the pages of fun activities as we relished and remembered a great summer. Oh we remember those days very fondly – makes me look forward to grandbabies.
Came here form Simple Kids . . . love your ideas, we totally agree. My kids are already begging for the tent so they can sleep in the backyard overnight — but it’s still a bit too cold at night.
I’d love it if you visited my backyard obstacle course post –http://imaginationsoup.net/2011/04/a-backyard-obstacle-course-for-your-kids/ — I list lots of ideas to get started.
Summer’s here, hooray!
This is the first “here come summer” post I’ve read!!!
Fun ideas and got me excited for the adventures around the corner!
Thanks for all the wonderful ideas. As a mom of 4 from teenager to age 3, these ideas really lend themselves well to a variety of age ranges. I look forward to doing some of these activities with my kids.
Thanks for this post! It gave me a good kickstart for the 2011 summer. Last year we made a list of things we wanted to do that summer, and if you can excuse the fretful summer-is-almost-over tone of the post, you can click on the picture to see what we did. Some were “big” (water parks, etc.) but others were easy. We found that the local convenience store had a “make your own milkshake” machine, so that was a fun one; others were at-home fun, like “play jewelry party.” (I had hosted a jewelry sale fundraiser at our house, and the kids were fascinated, so we had a pretend “jewelry party” with all my old costume jewelry spread out on a tablecloth on the dining room table. My kids loved it but so did I–there were quite a few things I hadn’t really seen since the early 90s–WOW did I have big earrings then!) Site here: http://memegrl.blogspot.com/2010/08/mpm-dwindling-days-of-summer.html
Thanks for all the fun ideas!
I love these ideas! Especially painting rocks. My kids like to paint just about anything, and they love collecting rocks. Thanks!
I especially love the painting rocks idea, that’s something we’ve never done and they will love it! My kids love jets like I do, so another fun thing we do is take a picnic to the park by the airport and watch jets take off and land. (I think I love that one more than them!)
Soon we’ll have our annual chat about the things we’d all like to do this summer. I write down everyone’s ideas, and normally these things ALL end up being FREE. Kids are pretty easy to please, and as you said, they love the simple stuff. 🙂
Excellent ideas! I’m pretty sure my kids would love all of them. Especially a backyard camp out.
I LOVE these ideas! I actually just posted about our library storytime..great minds think alike! 🙂 Love the homemade popsicle idea and painting rocks the best..so fun!! Can’t wait to use these!! 🙂
Great suggestions that brought back so many memories- and you’re right- the reason they are such great memories are because of the people that helped to make them! Loved the different popsicle ideas.
i love these ideas! we go to the lake often because it gets so hot here. i love the idea of a backyard camp out! we will have to do it!