Ah warm weather. Why is it that our thoughts immediately turn to having love of fun as soon as we put our jackets up for the summer? Maybe that’s a silly question. There are just so many things to do!
One challenge that we’re continually faced with is that so many of those fun things are expensive, and while making memories together as a family is worth spending money on, it’s not worth blowing the bank – unless you want to make some not-so-great family memories afterward. 😉
Something we’ve found to be delightfully true, is that for children, especially kids as young as ours, the “fun-ness” of an activity is dependent as much on the parents’ approach to it, as the activity itself. And that’s actually a great reason to keep your fun activities inexpensive – the stress level of spending a lot of is a fun killer!
It’s okay – in fact, it’s a good thing – to hype up a fairly low key activity, and turn it into the most fun you’ve ever had. I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of memories of things we did together as a family, and do you know what the best ones are? The ones that took place right in our own back yard. The slip n’ slide, the sprinkler, going down to the “swimming hole” some local teenagers had dammed up/dug out in a nearby creek, bike rides. Those were the best! Sure I remember going places, but while Wisconsin Dells water park was pretty cool (tidal wave pool = awesome!), my memories of that are mostly of bewilderment, whereas the swimming hole was a fun family time.
The most important thing is to be together, doing things together. As a child, just the fact that your parents are out there with you makes the activity fun.
Inexpensive Summer Fun For The Family
Fly A Kite. Flying is a mystery to most, and especially kids. I haven’t met a child yet who wasn’t fascinated by it. And flying a kite? Well, you might not have wings of your own, but getting to control something that is flying makes for an experience that the word “fun” doesn’t even begin to cover!
Have a picnic. What could be more fun than spreading a blanket out on the ground to serve lunch on? Even if it’s just in your backyard, it’s a special experience. I remember we children (and there were a lot of us) begging mom to let us eat outside all summer long. So much fun!
Go Camping. As an adult, I admit that camping has lost some (not all) of it’s appeal, because now I’m the one who’s responsible for cooking over a campfire, and setting up tents, but it can still be fun for you when you do some planning ahead, and it’s such an adventure – kids love it!
Go camping in your backyard. If you can’t get away to a “real” campsite, what’s the next best thing? Your backyard to course! You kids likely won’t even care about the difference, they’ll be thrilled just to be sleeping in a tent!
Build a bonfire in your backyard. Campfire food is so fun! And while you’ve got a fire going…
Make gourmet s’mores. Try using mint chocolate, or spreading peanut butter on your crackers (for us gluten-free folks, here’s a allergy-friendly “graham” cracker recipe). Try using flavored, or even homemade marshmallows. Check out these ideas. The possibilities are endless!
Go horseback riding. If you have kids, chances are that at least one of them is horse-crazy. Look up local dude ranches in your area and give your kids the experience of a lifetime! And speaking of horses…
Go to local equine sporting events. Rodeos are going on all year long of course, but in the summer, local horse enthusiasts saddle up for local competitions at smaller arenas. usually, if there’s any fee at all for getting in to watch, it’s a small parking fee. Ask around in person and on Facebook, or try googling the name of your city + saddle club, or event that you want to watch such as barrel racing, team roping, dressage, etc.
Visit an Amish community. Exposing your kids to a different culture is never a bad thing, but be warned, you’ll have a hard time not stocking up on homemade jam, bread, and candy. 😉 If you manage to strike up a conversation with an amish person, you may even be able to score a buggy or wagon ride! You can visit AmishAmerica.com to find community locations.
Find a local creek and explore. There are so many fascinating things to see. Minnows, crawfish, water striders, interesting waterside plants, plus, the water level in an average creek is the perfect depth for little ones to wade in. And don’t forget to teach them to skip rocks. (picnics by a creek are awesome too!
Visit a U-Pick farm. Take a picnic basket and have a good time! It’s a great way to get reasonably priced produce, and introduce your kids to their food source!
Host a squirt gun war. Have a blast soaking everybody in sight! You can use strips of cloth or bandana’s for armbands/team colors. So. Much. Fun!
Go Clamming. my dad use to take us clamming with him in the Illinois river. While I don’t recommend getting in that particular river at all (our hands and feet use to turn orange from all the pollution), it was lots of fun hanging out with dad at the river, and learning about the different kinds of clams.
Catch Lightning Bugs. Look at them with your kids, and watch them light up. They’re fascinating to watch!
Visit the Zoo. You get to look at amazing animals, reptiles, and fish. Plus there’s usually a petting zoo, and a playground. What could be better? Don’t forget to take a sack lunch and make is a day. Look up your local zoo’s website to find specials and deals. For instance, the Dallas zoo occasionally has dollar days (though I’m sure those days are ridiculously crowded!).
Go Biking. Find a trail with a view, or interesting things along the way. Take a sack lunch if you want, and have an adventure!
Nature Hike. Hiking for the sake of covering miles doesn’t usually go well when there are kids along, but what about looking at wildlife and native foliage? Most kids are fascinated with those things, and taking a reference guide along to help you identify the various critters, plant, and bugs, can help make it a fun day for every one.
Visit Downtown Areas. So many towns and cities have fascinating downtown areas that are just filled with interesting history, antique shops, and boutiques, not mention, often host free community events. So far this year we’ve been able to attend a car show (which our son loved), and antique fair downtown, but missed the steak cook-off (Booo!), and look forward to many more community events here in our small town.
See a movie at a drive-in Theater. Drive-ins are usually a fraction of the cost of regular theaters, plus you can bring your own snacks, set up a blanket, or comfortable lawn chairs, and move around freely without bothering anyone. Check for specials like flat fee nights (one near us does $10 per vehicle on Monday nights).
Go canoeing. This can be inexpensive if you take your own life jackets, and it’s lots of fun!
Go for a nature walk. You may not think nature walks are our “thing”, but just take your kids out there to explore and point out a few interesting things. They’ll make your job easy by asking lots of questions!
Go bug hunting. Similar to a nature walk, but it involves looking under rocks at all the creepy crawlies. Mind you, pill bugs are about the only thing I’m willing to touch myself, but I’m happy to look, and google search bug names. 😉
Visit a fire station. Right now, I can’t think of anything my kids would love more. Fire trucks and fire stations are so fascinating!
Explore a cave. In some areas, there are lots of caves, which can be dark and creepy if your a young kid going in with just few other young kids (ask me how I know), but it can be a great family adventure too!
Blow Bubbles. It’s an oldie, but a goodie. Take it a step further by making giant bubbles. So much fun!
Make homemade ice cream. Nothing quite beats homemade ice cream! You can get an ice cream maker like this one fairly cheaply, or you can get your kids involved and try making it using the zip-top bag method.
Above all, get creative! Life is meant to be fun, and fun doesn’t have to be expensive!
What are your favorite ways to have fun during the summer?