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Summer is upon us! I’m already dreaming of long, hot days spent doing all the outdoorsy things with my family. And at the beginning of the season I love creating a bucket list of all the best summer activities for kids!
A lot of them are naturally inspired by all the memories I can still recall fondly from my own childhood. I like to remember that right now I’m creating the memories that my son and daughter will carry into their own adulthood. My hope is that they’ll remember the warmth of the sun on their skin, the feel of grass under bare feet, splashing in cool water, and fireflies flickering in the twilight.
And so many more! Here are our ideas for the best summer activities for kids!
1. Have a Picnic.
I don’t know why, but I’m positive food tastes better outside. And a picnic can be as simple as taking your lunch outside and eating it on a blanket in your backyard. Were you already planning on eating lunch today? Great! Take it outside.
If you’re feeling up for a little something more, pack up your food (or pick it up somewhere along the way) and take it to the park.
Sit and feel the warmth of sun on your skin. Look around and admire the trees or appreciate the sound of leaves rustling softly in the breeze. Get up and play a game of tag with your kids afterwards. Be present and just exist fully in the moment.
2. Water Balloon Fight.
Obviously, the best summer activities for kids involve different ways to play with water. And good ‘ol fashioned water balloon fights are a classic! My three-year-old son has been intrigued ever since he discovered the concept of filling balloons with water, so this is our year to make it a reality for him!
3. Star Gazing.
Try this in the backyard with a bunch of blankets or head over to a nearby park that may offer a darker environment for your stargazing experience.
There are also places called Dark Sky Parks that are strategically located in very dark places (maybe you guessed that?) for the purpose of excellent star viewing. Do a quick search and see if any of these exist near you!
For something extra special, pay attention to any astrological events that may be occurring soon. Here’s a 2021 calendar of astronomical events!
4. Tell Stories Around a Fire.
I LOVE telling stories around the campfire. It’s a great way to re-live some of your best (and worst) memories! It’s also fun when you add multiple generations and get them talking about the past. These are my favorite story-telling prompts for the campfire:
- Talk about your worst vacation (honestly, these are some of my personal favorites).
- What’s your most embarrassing moment?
- Talk about something interesting/unique that you lived through and describe what it was like.
- Tell about a time when you got in trouble.
- What’s the scariest thing that ever happened to you?
- What are your favorite childhood memories?
- How did you meet your significant other?
5. Camp Out.
Another staple when it comes to summer activities for kids! And if you’re not much of a camping person, let me recommend a backyard sleep out. This is still loads of fun, but without all the the trouble of packing and actually going! Not to mention that the comforts of home (and your own bathroom) are still available to you.
6. Go Canoeing.
This can be great with kids who are a little bit older. Not only does it get you outside learning a new skill, it’s also a great lesson in teamwork. Just ask my preteen self who was forced into a canoe for the first time ever with her younger brother.
It may or may not be a great fit for toddlers/younger kids, but you never know until you try. When our son was almost two, he enjoyed sitting on our lap and watching us paddle along. I should mention it’s essential that your child is able to sit still unless you want to add swimming (and perhaps water rescue skills) to your list of activities for the day.
7. Build a Fort.
Among the classic summer activities for kids is fort building! And don’t limit yourself to just one! Try several with with different materials, like branches, boxes, blankets + clotheslines, etc. We have this fort building kit that can be used indoors and out!
8. Make a Lemonade/Flower/Fruit Stand.
The actual selling of your wares is optional. But pretending can be just as fun! And if you go that route, YOU get to enjoy all that delicious lemonade!
9. Have a Backyard Concert or Play.
I use to love coming up with plays and acting them out! My little guy has been asking to make a music video, so one of the things I want to do this summer is set up a fun little stage outside with string lights and some decorations for him to play on. Then, we’ll pop up the tripod and record!
10. Pick Wild Flower Bouquets.
Pick whatever you can find in your yard or on a hike, then make some pretty arrangements! And this isn’t just limited to flowers. Green things and twigs can make pretty bouquet additions too!
11. Create Your Own Backyard Summer Camp.
Summer camp is one of the most classic summer activities for kids! If actual camp isn’t an option, create your own out in the yard! Include the obvious stuff life campfires, s’mores, tent sleeping, etc. And make sure to throw in some classic camp games and crafts like archery, friendship bracelets, tie dye t-shirts, or twig picture frames.
12. Play in the Sprinkler.
This one is the perfect remedy for hot summer days and another quintessential childhood favorite!
13. Wash the Car.
A great combination of productivity and fun water play! Who could argue with that? You can even have the kids pull out their own bikes, trikes, play cars, etc. and wash those. Our little guy loves washing his own and helping with ours! But really, what he loves is playing with the hose and getting wet 😀
14. Play Flashlight Tag.
Staying out and playing games after the dark is another one of my personal favorite childhood memories. And flashlight tag is only one of many options! Here are more fun games you can play after dark.
15. Catch Fireflies.
If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere graced by the presence of these glowing little creatures, hang around after dark on warm nights and chase after them. Or just watch.
As a kid I used to love catching them and smearing their lit-up behinds on my arm so that I could glow too. However, I have reformed my ways and now advocate only for catch and release 😜.
16. Play with Sparklers.
Because what kid can resist running around with a stick that has fire on the end?
17. Watch a Sunrise.
You may or may not be an early riser, especially in the summer. But I’ve never regretted getting up early to see the sun come up over the horizon and watching the start of a new day. Even if if means going back to sleep afterwards or taking a nap later 😀
18. Pick Berries.
‘Tis the season of buckets filled to overflowing with ripe little fruits and sweet berry juice bursting on your tongue. Whether you choose a u-pick farm or know of a wild berry patch, the excitement of picking berries is something that doesn’t fade over time.
My little boy is quite zealous about the process of picking (but mostly eating) berries. First, we confirm that we’ve correctly identified a bush and make sure he knows what to look for.
Then I watch his expression of joyful contentment while his plump little fingers readily pluck the berries and pop them into his mouth. The juices stain his face and hands, evidence that he’s partaking in one of summertime’s greatest and simplest pleasures.
19. Climb Trees.
Classic, essential, timeless childhood entertainment right there. That’s all.
20. Create your own Parade.
Parades can be super fun, so why not create your own? Around the holidays like Memorial Day or 4th of July would be extra fun, but any time would work. Decorate your bikes, wagons, strollers, and what have you, then parade around the block!
21. Draw with Sidewalk Chalk.
I love this one because you can do it over and over again and it never really gets old. And here are more fun chalk ideas if you want to go beyond just drawing!
22. Read Books Outside.
As a kid, reading was a huge part of my summer bucket list! I was usually involved in some sort of library reading program where you would get a prize for every ten books you read, or something to that effect.
Create your own rewards program for your older kids and encourage them to read outside! Have them find or set up an awesome spot in a tree, fort, hammock, on a bunch of blankets, or comfy chair in the shade. For younger kids, have story time outside!
23. Eat Popsicles.
I mean, do I really even need to convince you on this one? Eating frozen sweet treats outside is a must for our list of summer activities for kids!
24. Play in the Rain.
As I started writing this one, I was trying to figure out what makes this activity so memorable. I think it’s simply the sensory overwhelm: the sound of pounding droplets all around you, the smell of wet earth, and the feeling of being soaked to the skin. Playing in the rain is definitely an activity your kids will remember!
25. Set up a Hammock.
Why shouldn’t your summer activities for kids involve some relaxation? Some days, you just need to take it easy! If you have a young child who wouldn’t normally stay still in one, try having them take a hammock nap for the day. Or read and sip a cold drink together while lightly swaying in the breeze.
26. Play Capture the Flag.
This is one of my favorite games of all time! If you have enough people and a large patch of land, try this game on a grand scale! Otherwise, a smaller game out in the yard can be just as fun and more conducive to younger kids.
27. Go Hiking
Make sure to take along some fun things to enhance the experience! Check here for some ideas on how to build your kids their own nature explorer’s kit or here for some free nature printables to bring along!
As you walk, comment on the things you observe and discuss nature’s processes. We noticed that doing this with our little guy really increased his level of curiosity and taught him to observe and ask his own questions.
28. Launch Rockets.
This is something I didn’t do as a kid, but it was a huge part of my husband’s childhood. It was something he really enjoyed and has fond memories of, so I had to add it to our own list of summer activities for kids! Last summer, our son was able to do this activity with his Gramps and had a blast! (See what I did there? 😂 🚀 )
If you don’t happen to have a space aficionado with rockets of their own already in the family, try something like this!
29. Draw or Paint Outside.
Take a sketchpad and some paints or pencils outside. Wander around until you find something that inspires you. It could be a larger landscape or a small flower. Then pop a squat and get your artist on!
30. Ride Bikes.
I don’t know about you, but I was ALL OVER my neighborhood on my bike as a kid. And even if you’re not a fan of letting kids ride around on their own, make family bike rides a thing! Or try out a new park or trail for some different scenery while you bike.
31. Build an Obstacle Course.
These are so much fun! Include tunnels to climb through, objects to hop over, balance beams, ropes or rock walls to climb, etc. Be creative with what you have or use nature. Here are some ideas if you’re not sure where to start!
32. Go Fishing.
My dad is an avid fisherman, and he began taking me with him at a very young age. What a great way for kids to witness the circle of life first hand! Fish eat worms, we eat fish. Brilliant!
Not to mention you get to work on the skill of patience. Because you could be out there for hours….and hours….before ever getting a bite. In fact, you may never get one.
But it’s still kind of nice to putter around the lake slowly or to wander around and explore the shoreline if you’re fishing on land. And when you do finally catch one, it’s so rewarding!
33. Watch a Thunderstorm.
This is one time where I wouldn’t advise actually playing in the rain, but thunderstorms are so amazing to witness from a porch! This one is definitely one of my essential summer activities for kids.
34. Make Nature Crowns.
This one isn’t just for the kids; you deserve to be a woodland fairy too! So gather up your peoples and go outside.
Have everyone collect whatever inspires them. It could be twigs, leaves, feathers, flowers, etc. Probably not rocks. Those don’t generally work for this purpose, but by golly if your kiddo wants to try, let ‘em do it. A healthy dose of failure is good for kids.
35. Have an Insect Hunt.
It’s so fascinating to discover the small world below us that we typically don’t take notice of! Also, kids love bugs.
Grab a magnifying glass and a bug catcher and starting pawing through the grass and turning over stumps and rocks to see what you can find. Bring along an insect identification guide if you have one handy!
36. Make DIY Yard Decorations.
37. Host a Backyard Party.
What’s summer without a good backyard party? This belongs on the list of summer activities for kids because this provides such a fun environment for kids to have fun playing together! I remember backyard parties as a kid and having a blast running around with cousins or other kids!
38. Watch a Sunset.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most folks will find this one easier than watching the sun rise during the summer months.
While you may often find yourself already outside while the sun is going down, aim to be intentional about actually observing it together at least once. Find a nice spot where you have a good view, then sit and enjoy!
39. Fly a Kite.
This one’s not just for springtime, folks! Kite flying is a great summer bucket list item as well. Next time you have a windy day, head for wide open spaces and let it fly!
40. Organize a Sports Game.
Remember when kids used to get together with other kids in the neighborhood and play sports together? It’s true! The movie The Sandlot isn’t completely fiction.
Since this phenomenon doesn’t seem to happen organically these days, why not organize it? One of my favorite childhood memories is of us neighborhood kids and adults getting together to play a game of kickball! And this is a great option for kids who are a little bit older.
Whew! I don’t know about you, but I’m excited for this summer to get underway. Did I miss any of your favorite summer activities for kids? I love to hear some of your favorites!
Now go outside and have some fun this summer!
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