“I’m bored!” says every child three days into their summer vacation. While it’s not our job as parents to be cruise directors, here we offer alternatives to the default response of “Go outside and play!” Unlike elaborate Pinterest-inspired activities, we tried to keep this list to activities that most children could do without too much adult intervention. Of course, please use your best judgement when selecting activities that are both safe and age appropriate for your kiddos!
Screen-Free Summer Activities for Kids
1. Water Balloon Fight
Why a water balloon fight vs. a squirt gun fight? Time! The kids will have a blast filling and making the balloons… which also incidentally kills more time. If you’re worried about clean up and the environment, know that you can find biodegradable water balloons — 500 for less than $10!
2. Sidewalk Chalk Obstacle Course
Have your kids devise an “obstacle course” with sidewalk chalk. It could be one that they skip, hop, and jump through or use with their bikes, trikes, or scooters. This activity is a great way to get them to use their imagination and get some exercise!
3. Sprinkler Fun!
Sprinklers are a classic summer boredom buster for kids! A great alternative to splashing in a pool, running through a sprinkler will amuse your kids for hours, especially when you combine the activity with others like water balloons and squirt guns. Inexpensive and quick to set up, apart from supervision, this activity takes minimal effort.
4. Sun Tea
Sun tea is a quick and easy activity that is especially amusing for the younger set. Select a tea with a vibrant color, preferably a fruit tea, like passionfruit, peach, or mango. Place several of the bags in a large, clear, glass pitcher or mason jar for a big batch. Fill it up with water and set it in the sun to “brew.” After an hour of playing, the kids will return to find a brightly colored pitcher of tea waiting for them — made by the sun!
5. Plant and Bird Identification
Plant identification is a great activity for younger children who are excited about reading and science. Give them a plant or bird guide that is specific to their region and encourage them to find and identify different birds, flowers, shrubs, or trees in either their backyard or a local park. Increase the “science” factor by giving them magnifying glasses or binoculars to examine their finds with more detail!
6. Backyard Camping
Can’t drive out to the wilderness for the weekend? Camp in the backyard! Have the kids set up a tent, wear their favorite pajamas, and sleep outside in the great outdoors. Even if they’re not keen on spending the night outside, they’ll have a blast pretending to camp all day long. Perfect for kids who enjoy imaginative play.
7. Nerf Blaster Target Practice
If your kids love Nerf blasters, set up “target practice” outside. Give them plastic cups to stack and knock over. Another option is to have them draw and hang paper targets. If they’re of the age where they enjoy competition, encourage them to keep score and practice their math skills while they’re at it!
Another old school rainy day classic, find dominoes and teach your kids how to set up trails of falling dominoes. Look at YouTube videos of dominoes falling to get inspiration for epic examples of what people have created. Take videos of the final result and maybe post it on the web for other domino enthusiasts to enjoy!
9. Make Popsicles
Popsicle molds are pretty common these days and can purchased on Amazon or in stores like Target or Walmart. While there are a lot of “recipes” for popsicles that involve fresh fruit and a blender, simplify the activity by purchasing an armful of fruit juices. Have kids combine their favorite juices into fun new flavors!
10. Crayon Rubbings
Send your kids outside with pad of paper and a box of crayons. Show them how they can make “rubbings” of their favorite leaves and flowers to create fun and original artwork. Simply place the leave under a piece of paper and lightly add pressure with the crayon to create an imprint of what is beneath. Works best when you take the wrapping off the crayon and rub lengthwise.
11. No-Bake Baking
It’s too hot outside to turn on the oven! Search the web for “no-bake desserts.” Since these recipes don’t involve an oven, they’re often easier for younger children to make from start to finish. Great for building kitchen skills and confidence!
12. Make Collages
Drawing, coloring, and painting are a great way to pass the time. If you have a lot of magazines and junk mail, give the kids some age-appropriate scissors (or help them cut!) and encourage them to enhance their artwork by collaging.
13. Squirt Gun Painting
Using squirt guns, water, and food coloring, your kids can make paintings outside. Set up large pads of paper at a distance and fill various water guns with different colored water. Let them fire away and create!
14. Water Xylophone
Fill several tall glasses with various amounts of water. Using a spoon, tap each glass. Show your kids how filling the glasses with more or less water creates a different sound. This is a fun way to experiment with music in your kitchen!
15. Living Room Fort
In many regions, summer has no shortage of rainy days! When your kids are trapped inside, let them build the living room fort of their dreams: no chairs, bedding, or pillows are off-limits! They’ll have a blast building the cozy castle of their dreams. Later that night, host a family pajama party in their “new home inside of home.”
For more ideas for summer family fun, visit The Pajama Company at our blog, thepajamacompany.com/blog.