Family Life

20 Free and Low-Cost Summer Fun Ideas

20 FREE and Low-Cost Summer Fun Ideas

I just realized we’re already most of the way through July, and we haven’t even started organizing our camping trip yet. Better get on that! In the meantime though, I’ve put together a quick list of some other free and low-cost ways to keep the kids amused this summer. Here are some of the things we’ve been doing to keep the kids busy, and some ideas suggested by my awesome readers on Facebook.

Draw with chalk. Chalk drawing keeps my girls and all the kids in the neighbourhood busy for hours, and you can pick up a bucket of sidewalk chalk for cheap at your local dollar store.

Try chalk drawing in the rain at least once! When chalk gets wet it goes on brighter and spreads like paint. If there’s no rain in the forecast, soak the chalk in water for 5 to 10 minutes (add a little sugar to the water for even brighter colours!)

Draw with chalk

Discover your neighbourhood splash pad or wading pool. Visit here a lot. Resolve to put aside your self-consciousness and bring your own bathing suit to play with the kids and cool off too!

Go stargazing. If you’re in a big city, you may need to drive out a little bit to get away from the light pollution. Bring a blanket to lie on and a second blanket to curl up under. What constellations can you find? offers great mouse over maps to help you identify the constellations visible in each season.

If you’re in the northern hemisphere, be sure to check out the Perseid meteor shower. While technically visible from July 17-August 24, the shower will peak on the nights of August 12 and 13 with 60 or more shooting stars per hour. Don’t forget to make a wish!

Go star gazing.

Perseids” by USDA/NASA is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Spend the day at the beach or lake. Bring buckets and shovels for making a sandcastle. Collect shells or pretty rocks. If you don’t have access to a lake or ocean, visit your local community pool and see how long you can hold your breath underwater.

Go berry picking. Depending on where you live, berry seasons will vary. Here in the Lower Mainland of BC, strawberries generally ripen in June and July, boysenberries in July, blueberries and raspberries in July and August, and Saskatoon berries late July-August. Pick wild blackberries and huckleberries in August and September.

Go berry picking

Explore nature. Plan a nature walk or hike for the whole family. Visit nearby forests, rivers, or lakes and see what animals, birds, insects, or fish you can find. If you’re feeling ambitious, make it a scavenger hunt (use pictures for pre-readers). Tip: take a plastic bag with you and make a point of picking up a few pieces of trash while you’re out there.

Visit your local playground. If you don’t have a playground near you, consider if there are any nearby fast food restaurants that might have a play area.

Make a trip to your local library. I remember how wonderful it was to curl up late at night with my favourite books, knowing I didn’t have to get up early for school the next day. Most libraries offer summer reading programs and story times for the younger crowd. Call or go online to find out what your library offers.

Enjoy an ice cream cone or gelato at sunset. This is a family tradition for us. We like sharing lime gelato while watching the sun go down over the water at White Rock Beach.

Plan a camping trip. If time is short or you’re not ready for roughing it, pitch your tent in the backyard. Borrow a tent if you don’t have one.

Blow bubbles. Make your own bubble solution and set the kids loose.

Blow bubbles!

Have a backyard picnic. Spread an old blanket on the grass and make up a plate of apple slices and other fresh fruit, cheese, crackers, and other kid-friendly finger food. Jazz up some ice water with citrus slices. Alternatively, make it a tea party with iced tea in a tea pot and finger sandwiches, complete with fancy hats. Pinkies up!

Learn a new sport! Disc golf or Frisbee golf is quickly gaining in popularity. Disc golf courses are usually free to play, and the game is accessible to most ages and ability levels.

Go geocaching. I’ve been hearing more and more about this modern day form of treasure hunting. Using a GPS, geocachers hide and seek caches using coordinates and clues found on geocaching websites.

Set up an old-fashioned sprinkler or Slip ‘N Slide in the backyard. Get all the neighbourhood kids in on the fun. You join in too!

Ride bikes or go inline skating after dinner. Take advantage of the lingering daylight and cooler evening weather to get in some fun exercise.

Go to the movies. Look around for movie theatres offering cheap children’s movies in the mornings during the summer. Many communities also organize free outdoor movies at local parks.

Visit your local children’s museum. See what’s available in your community. Don’t forget to check out what’s happening at the science centre, planetarium, or aquarium. Kids love the interactive, hands on displays, and many facilities offer special programming through the summer months.

Visit the dog park. Even if you don’t have a dog, the kids will love watching and playing with the dogs there.

Visit the dog park.

Go ice skating. No matter how hot it is outside, it’s always cool at your local ice rink! Kids often skate free, so take advantage of the opportunity to cool down and have fun at the same time. When you leave, see if you can find the Zamboni pile outside and have a summer snowball fight!

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