Frugal Dad’s 14 Inexpensive Summer Activities for Kids

“I’m bored!”  It’s the two words every parents dread as school lets out for summer.  Fear not;I’ve put together two weeks worth of fun summer activities for kids to keep them busy, and their parents sane.

The list of summer activities ranges in cost from free to frugal, but each requires extra quality time with kids – something we can all afford to spend more on!


Day 1. See a “one dollar” movie at the theater. Many theater chains around the country offer summer movie programs for kids where they offer a “one dollar” movie every day for a week, or on a particular day of the week all summer.Alternative: Have a movie day at home by streaming a classic from Netflix.

sprinkler funDay 2. Sprinkler day.  Delay your sprinklers for one day so they come a little later in the morning.  This way everyone can get on their bathing suits and have fun jumping through the sprinklers on a hot day.  But not for too long!  This is a good time to teach them about conserving water, reducing utility costs, etc.

Day 3. Attend “story time” at your local library.  My kids love to check out books on all kinds of subjects.  My son currently has three library books on swimming, pirates and going to the dentist (quite a diverse reader, huh?).  Many libraries also have a story time to encourage a summer reading program.  Stories are read out loud and the kids have a chance to interact with the story-teller and answer questions about the book.

lemonade standDay 4. Set up a lemonade stand. This is probably my favorite idea because of the lessons in entrepreneurship involved.  Loan your kids $10 as “seed money” for supplies, or better yet, let them use their own money from savings.  This way they don’t get used to the idea that borrowing leads to prosperity.  Take the kids along to the grocery store one morning and let them pick up the lemons, sugar, cups, and a couple bags of ice to keep in a cooler.  Yes, Crystal Light lemonade works, too, but is less authentic and more expensive.  This is a great way for neighborhood kids to work together, as they can divide into teams to man the lemonade stand, make the lemonade, handle the money, etc.  Please remember that an adult needs to be with the kids at all times, both inside and outside the house, so have a neighbor help.

Bonus: Use the money your kids earn to open a Kids Savings Account at ING Direct, where they can begin to understand the mechanics of banking, compound interest, etc. while earning a decent return on their money.

Day 5. Teach your kids to fly a kite. Check your 10-day forecast and look for a windy day in the coming week.  Pick up an expensive kite for the kids.  I even recommend springing for the extra spool of kite string on a roller because the string and handles that come with the kites are lousy.

Day 6. Make homemade play-doh.  I haven’t run a cost analysis on this recipe to determine it’s “frugalness,” but I can tell you it is a lot of fun!  I suppose the next best option would be to pick up some commercial Play-Doh on sale, but what fun would that be?

pirate birthday cakeDay 7. Bake a cake.  I remember having a ball helping my mom bake something when I was young.  And not all the fun came at the end when I got to lick the icing from the bowl!  Let your kids help bake a cake, and surprise mom or dad when they arrive home that afternoon.

Plenty of teachable moments here with opportunities to teach fractions (four 1/4 cups equals one cup, etc.).  By the way, my wife made this pirate birthday cake for my son’s birthday last week.  Arrrgghhh!

Day 8. Build a “fort” in the living room.  When my son was smaller he got the biggest kick out of playing in giant cardboard boxes.  We would color them, and cut “windows” out for him to look through.  A living room “fort” could be as simple as a few kitchen chairs gathered in a circle with a large bed sheet thrown across them and draped to the floor.  The kids can hide from mom and dad, read books, or pretend they are camping out in the living room.

Day 9. Go bowling. My grandfather and I spent many hot, summer afternoons bowling a couple games at the local bowling alley.  These days, bowling can be an expensive activity.  Call the lanes ahead of time and ask if they have any summer specials (certain days may be cheaper). Also check those coupon mailer packs for coupons for free games.  To keep costs down, just let the kids bowl – you can work on your game another time.

candy landDay 10. Declare a “bored” game day. I learned to play chess, checkers, backgammon, and poker (my mom wasn’t thrilled with that) one summer while staying with my grandparents.  Few kids today don’t realize you can play games without a computer.  Most of these old board games are inexpensive in their basic form – skip the “deluxe” edition, and check out the board game selection at to save even more.

Day 11. Have a water balloon fight.  My son attended a birthday party recently and the parents had filled several dozen mini balloons with water.  The kids participated in games like a water balloon toss – they start close together, but take a step back with each toss to increase the distance.  The last one to break the balloon is out.  With that was left, the kids had an all-out water balloon battle.  Lots of fun, but be sure to pick up the balloon remains, especially if you have very little ones or pets as they could be a choking hazard.

Day 12.  Create a “mini-me.” Find a piece of large poster board, or large heavy-duty paper (such as a butcher paper) wide enough for your kids to lay down on.  Use a dull pencil (less chance for boo-boos) to trace their entire body to the paper from head to toe.  Now let the kids decorate the kids to look like themselves in the same clothes they are wearing, same color eyes, hair, etc. When they are finished, help them cut out their mini-me for proud display.

Day 13. Pajama day.  I feel like having these days as an adult!  Stay in your pajamas all day long.  Make pancakes in the morning, bake a pizza for lunch, and lounge around watching movies.  Use your Netflix subscription to have a couple kid-friendly movies on hand.

relay for lifeDay 14. Spend a day volunteering your time. A good way to wrap up your two-week blitz of summertime fun is to allow your kids to donate their time to a worthy cause.  Contact a few local charities and find out which ones will allow kids to volunteer some time over the summer (under your supervision).  My daughter has worked with Project Linus in the past – an organization that makes blankets for children who’ve suffered a traumatic experience.

Bonus tip: Get your kids to come up with their own shirt designs, then have a custom t-shirt printing service bring them to life. It’ll be a thrill for your kids to see their ideas put on clothing they can enjoy throughout the summer.

So there you have it; fourteen days of frugal summer fun!  I’d love to hear your ideas as well.

Photos courtesy of StormyDogrochelle, et. al, Mrs. Frugal, daveparkerskennel




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