marshmallow roasting over fire

40 Epic Summer Bucket List Ideas

Summer is (unofficially) upon us! I’m already dreaming of long, hot days spent doing all the outdoorsy childhood things with my boy. And one of my favorite things to do at the beginning of the season is create a summer bucket list!

Admittedly, this summer is going to look a little different since the protocol on public outings is a little uncertain. I know a lot of people are bummed about tons of events that have already been cancelled and places that are closed. But I still plan on having the fullest summer possible!

Perhaps it won’t be full of super public events, but it will be full of spending time and making memories with my family outside. Most of these summer bucket list ideas can be done right at home or in a place where social distancing is still possible.

Take a peek at some of our ideas, then create a summer bucket list of your own!

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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.

Mom and small boy sitting on picnic blanket with basket- summer bucket list

2. Water Balloon Fight.

Obviously, a big part of any summer bucket list is going to be 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 2020 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 summer bucket list staple! 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.

Summer bucket list- small boy opening doorway of tent while camping out

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.

small boy sitting in front of a canoe- summer bucket list

7. Build a Fort.

A great activity at any time of year, this one definitely belongs on any classic summer bucket list. And don’t limit yourself to just one! Try several with with different materials, like branches, boxes, blankets + clotheslines, etc.

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.

If camp was part of your summer bucket list but isn’t an option anymore, 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 😀

small boy washing car- summer bucket list

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?

small boy holding a sparkler- summer bucket list

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 watch 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 😀

Sunrise over lake- summer bucket list

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.

close up of small hand pointing at  ripe blackberry- summer bucket list

19. Climb Trees.

Classic, essential, timeless childhood entertainment right there. That’s all.

20. Create your own Parade.

Since I’m pretty sure parades won’t be a thing this year, 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!

Small boy smiling up at camera while doing sidewalk chalk- summer bucket list

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 any summer bucket list!

Mom and small boy eating popsicles- summer bucket list

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.

25. Set up a Hammock.

This is one of the more relaxing summer bucket list activities for days where you just need to slow down. 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.

Mom and small boy peeking over the edge of a hammock- summer bucket list

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.

Mom and small boy walking on path in woods- summer bucket list

28. Launch Rockets.

This is something I’ve never done, 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 summer bucket list!

We’re looking at getting something like this. Our little guy already loves rockets and even watches launch videos with my husband on YouTube. I know he would absolutely love this activity!

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!

small boy painting picture on an easel out in the yard- summer bucket list

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!

small boy crawls through tunnel as part of obstacle course- summer bucket list

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 summer bucket list essentials.

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.

Mom and small boy wearing flower and feather nature crowns- summer bucket list

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.

Decorate your yard for summer! For some fun ideas, try pinwheels, these sun catcher wind chimes, and some garden craft ideas!

37. Host a Backyard Party.

I know social gathering protocols are still a bit uncertain, but this one is adaptable to your circumstances and whatever you’re comfortable with. And backyard parties are such a fun summer bucket list activity!

So whether that means a few close family members and friends or literally just your own family unit, have a least one backyard gathering with a party vibe. Everyone needs something special to look forward to!

small boy sits on chair outside surrounded by balloons and presents- summer bucket list
Our excuse for at least one summer backyard party is this dude’s birthday!

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!

small boy and mom pose while holding kite- summer bucket list
Obviously not taken during the summertime, which is why it’s on our summer bucket list!

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!

Whew! After writing out all my ideas I get so excited to go out and make them happen. Hope you have fun creating (and completing) your own summer bucket list this year!

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