Backyard Bucket List (73 Frugal & Creative Backyard Activities for Kids)

By Beth, Contributing Writer

There are a bajillion ideas out there for super-duper fun things to do in the summer with your kids. Go to the zoo, go camping, exhibitions and fairs galore, summer camps, and the list goes on.

Sometimes, though, you need to be a little more low-key. A little more mama-doing-laundry-while-the-kids-amuse-themselves-in-the-backyard. The stuff of regular-people life, ya know?

We can’t all be traipsing all over the country exploring and taking in the sights. Many of us also can’t afford a ton of expensive activities and toys and equipment, and some of us don’t even want to!

The creative value of some old plastic containers and some mud and grass and sticks is astounding, and cloud-watching is a highly underrated activity that I indulged in many-a-time in my (*cough* recent) childhood.

In March we moved into our own place after living in my sister’s townhouse for 6 months (after moving across the country last summer). This new place has a fenced backyard, which was pretty well my number one desire for wherever we ended up living. And, because I’m a busy mama with 3 kids 4 and under (plus my two-year-old niece on weekdays), I’m on a mission to make my backyard a total mecca of awesomeness for my little ones.

I want them to play outside from sun-up to sun-down (not literally, I guess, but almost!), and I want them to have permanent dirt-stained feet and fingernails from now until September.

The thing is, like many of you, I’m sure, I am a natural-minded mama and I value things like exploring nature, open-ended imaginative play, creativity, and frugality. That’s why I came up with this list. It’s for a variety of ages, so you’ll want to pick and choose what catches your eye. Hopefully you’ll find lots to add to your own Backyard Bucket List, but if nothing else – my own kiddos are gonna have a rockin’ good summer.

Need some ideas to keep your kids occupied while you get stuff done around the home? Here's 73 backyard activities for kids that are both creative and frugal!


  1. Plant a picking garden (I recently came across this idea on – where else – Pinterest… and I am in love with the idea, thus it wins the number one spot on my list!)
  2. Stone soup (container + water + dirt and rocks, etc.) served with mud pies, of course!
  3. Picnics
  4. Tag
  5. DIY sprinkler out of a pop bottle
  6. Paint – the fence, rocks, paper taped to the house, themselves…
  7. Finger painting and feet painting
  8. Cloud watching
  9. Camping
  10. Help tend the compost
  11. Raise backyard chickens
  12. Nature scavenger hunt
  13. Draw what you see – a leaf, the clouds, your house, your foot, the grass…
  14. Listen to music; lay in the sun
  15. Popsicles (these blueberry-yogurt ones look amazing – but go for the full-fat dairy!)
  16. Trampoline
  17. Soccer
  18. Sandbox
  19. Watering plants
  20. Fairy garden
  21. Build a fort
  22. Tea party
  23. Bug catching
  24. Sidewalk chalk (lots of DIY recipes on Pinterest!)
  25. Bug races
  26. Catch fireflies
  27. Low balance beam
  28. Identify plants in a book
  29. Hopscotch
  30. Reading
  31. Stacking tower
  32. Set up an obstacle course
  33. Dirt pile. Not to be confused with a sand pile, of course. There is a definite difference – just ask my four-year-old son.
  34. Swingset, jungle gym, etc.
  35. Bonfire with roasted hotdogs and marshmallows (the moderately healthy versions, of course…)
  36. Drive-in theatre – hang a sheet and project a movie onto it when it’s dark
  37. Parents play too – if you join your kids in any of these activities, I guarantee you’ll make their day.
  38. Stargazing
  39. Reading nook
  40. Make and hang a birdfeeder, then watch for birds while in your reading nook
  41. Make and bury a time capsule
  42. Spread out a big blanket and take indoor toys outside
  43. BBQ and eat it outside
  44. Have breakfast outside in your pajamas
  45. Gather a bucket, hose, and sponges and wash your bikes (dump trucks, balls, deck, etc.)
  46. Water table or wading pool play
  47. Create a nature table to display special nature treasures you find
  48. Croquet or Bocce ball
  49. Badminton or T-ball
  50. Catch
  51. Horseshoes
  52. Create a map of your yard
  53. The quintessential science project: the vinegar and baking soda volcano
  54. Backyard bowling (use items around the house like cereal boxes, spaghetti jars, etc)
  55. Play dough
  56. Backyard Olympics
  57. Paint a white sheet hung on the fence as a canvas
  58. DIY bubbles
  59. Play with scissors
  60. Pizza on the grill
  61. Ice cube paint
  62. Go garage sailing; then enjoy your new find in the backyard.
  63. Read them a chapter book while lying on a blanket.
  64. Water fight
  65. Make and eat watermelon cookies (slice the watermelon and use cookie cutters to cut out shapes)
  66. Water balloon pinata
  67. Pool noodle race track
  68. DIY zip line for toys
  69. Make a water wall
  70. Wading pool with water and plastic balls
  71. Throw paint-filled eggs at a canvas
  72. Bury some treasure and mark it on your kids’ map for them to find the next day
  73. “Badminton” with balloons and rackets made from paper plates and popsicle sticks

Still want more ideas?

There are tons of Pinterest boards that you can follow; just type “backyard activities” in the search bar. You might wanna grab an iced coffee and a comfy chair first, though. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. 

I’ve begun collecting ideas on my Summer Bucket List Pinterest board. If you’re a homesteading family, then check out this great list of 22 Activities for the Country Toddler or Preschooler.
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  1. I bet you did a lot of Pinterest devouring to come up with this entire list!! Thanks, Beth!

  2. Love #59…lol…everything look fun, I have 2 1/2 &3 1/2 year old so we would be doing some of the simpler ones on this list:-D. Thanks for all the grear ideas!

  3. Great list! Although currently my guys are content with pouring sand on top of each other & picking/eating flowers 🙂

  4. Something that worked well with us was a China hole. It was there to be dug at anytime they wanted. I choose a place close to the fence by some bushes…….object? Dig a hole to China. Proved to be a great memory maker and good workout. Nothing to do? Dig the China hole. This is stilled talked about though the youngest is seventeen Enjoy!

    1. I totally used to do this as a kid. I would always be soooo disappointed when it was time to go in and I had not yet reached China!

  5. Great list!
    It might be intended for kids, but I do believe a few of these might make fun, affordable “date night” activities for my husband and I, too!

  6. Thank you so much for featuring our picking garden! What a great list – I’ll definitely be trying lots of these this summer.

  7. Fab tips an excellent timing as the summer temps have just arrived here in Madrid and the kids are looking for outdoor fun again 🙂

  8. love this! just a heads up – the “pin” doesn’t work – I keep getting a “whoops!” error :/

  9. My siblings and I did practically every one of these ideas as kids. I can vouch for the perfect awesomeness of this list(:

  10. Great list! I’m definitely keeping this in my back pocket 🙂 Thanks for the post.

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