99 Ideas for Summer Fun
written by Christina Katz
photos by Chubby Cheek Photography
Camp, road trips, and family visits do a great job of keeping everyone engaged throughout summer. But what about those lazy days when nothing is planned? Every parent wants to enjoy kicking back when school is out, but too much lollygagging can lead to listlessness, and even squabbling.
Staying engaged this summer does not have to mean over-spending. Galvanize attention by keeping a fun list of summer projects that can be done with scant money and planning. Many of these projects encourage upcycling household items or picking up a few inexpensive items up at the dollar store or resale market.
Consider any projects that may interest your children, and print out instructions you find online. Then pull all your summer projects into a folder, make a list of supplies, and pick them up to have on hand. Once the first chorus of “I’m bored” begins, you’ll be ready to dive into plenty of hands-on summer fun ideas.
1. Plant vegetable garden starts that everyone will enjoy eating.
2. Assemble a fire pit to fit the size of your family.
3. Make a beanbag toss ladder game for playing after dinner.
4. Sign up for a far-away pen pal and write weekly letters.
5. Create a sizeable stack of summer reading books by purchasing them used in stores or online.
6. Grab binoculars, a guidebook, and a notepad and take a bird watch walk.
7. Bake homemade granola for energizing yet economical breakfasts.
8. Create an ultimate croquet game with obstacles impeding each wicket.
9. Make a bug, worm, and caterpillar circus for the day, and then let them all go.
10. Plant a flower-cutting garden from annual seeds for future bouquets.
11. Make sock puppets and construct a theater for performing with them.
12. Fill a window box with herb starts (except mint).
13. Blow bubbles with kitchen items and homemade bubble formula.
14. Create bedroom window banners with craft supplies you have on hand.
15. Research edible flowers and plant seeds in a sunny container.
16. Pack a picnic, a blanket and some outdoor toys to take to a new park.
17. Purchase an oversized bag of birdseed to make fresh bird treats all summer long.
18. Pull some ho-hum wooden furniture outside and give it a colorful makeover.
19. Host a neighborhood badminton competition.
20. Construct a runner bean and morning glory tee-pee with long sticks and twine.
21. Mix up a batch of strawberry shortcake biscuits and serve with homemade whipped cream.
22. Put a hinged box in a nice cool place and make a worm box.
23. Plant sunflowers in cups on a windowsill and then transfer them outdoors once they have sprouted.
24. Build butterfly ponds to attract winged friends into safe spaces.
25. Give outdoor mani-pedis on lawn chairs in the yard while listening to summery tunes.
26. Fill a large garden container with several types of mint.
27. Start a homemade instrument band.
28. Court hummingbirds with feeders filled with homemade syrup.
29. Paint colorful garden rocks and encircle the house with them.
30. Create grab-and-go tote bags with engaging activities for each family member.
31. Gather items that signify your era and bury them in a time capsule.
32. Export table, chairs and china to host an outdoor tea party.
33. Add water to dirt piles and see who can get the muddiest puddle jumping.
34. After you get dirty, wash the cars, the dogs, and yourself.
35. Melt old crayons into rainbow crayons using muffin tins.
36. Make a watch-me-grow-up slideshow and send it to far-away relatives.
37. Gather seashells from old beach trips and embellish thrift store frames and mirrors.
38. Make enough desserts one morning to last a full week.
39. Research totem animals and paint faces and bodies to match.
40. Plan, price and construct a tree house or outdoor fort.
41. Have pets pose for photos you can use to paint watercolor portraits.
42. Construct a composter for turning grass, leaves, kitchen scraps, and twigs into potent fertilizer.
43. Have a paper airplane making and flying competition.
44. Once it’s warm enough, camp out overnight in the yard.
45. Recycle whimsical items into a fairy garden in a shady spot.
46. Make homemade ice cream in a creative way.
47. Spray a glow-in-the-dark mazes onto the lawn for evening fun.
48. Put on an outdoor play-original or adapted.
49. When a rainstorm is forecasted, don old bathing suits and swim goggles for a squirt gun fight with washable paints.
50. Pack up juice boxes and snacks for a long, leisurely bike ride.
51. Make a simple a lemonade stand with tables, signs, and everything for sale made from scratch.
52. Spend the day learning to juggle.
53. Lay on blankets in the yard and read books of poetry from the library out loud.
54. Make muffins or coffee cake with fresh blueberries and share some with an elderly neighbor.
55. Fill the wading pool, make fresh fruit slushies, and have a tropical beach party.
56. Wile away the day making models from kits on a porch or patio.
57. Plan a hydrated hike destination you can reach from home, then rest, then back.
58. Paint words, names or destinations on scraps of wood and make them into signposts around the yard.
59. Have a good, old-fashioned water balloon fight with the whole family.
60. Make a role model collage with images and words and then share what you admire aloud.
61. Gather all your birdhouses into one area and make a birdhouse village.
62. Fill a basket with finger foods and dine alfresco in distant view of your home.
63. Gather up white clothing and shoes, then tie-die them or decorate them with Sharpies.
64. Come up with a fantastic family vacation then start a vision board you can add to over time.
65. Research, practice and put on a magic show complete with hats and capes.
66. Create a family nature journal that includes pressed samples and photos you can add to all summer.
67. Build a little library by the curb and put your old books in it, so neighbors can trade you for theirs.
68. Cook up some spaghetti and mashed potatoes, get your grubbies on, and have an outdoor family food fight.
69. Hang rolled paper against a flat wall and let each child make a colorful graffiti statement.
70. Ask neighbors for empty water and wine bottles in a variety of colors and transform a post into a bottle tree.
71. Decorate bikes by day for a sunset bike parade.
72. Research another era and make retro paper dolls and outfits.
73. Make found-object wind chimes to hang by front and back doors.
74. Grab a couple ladders, pool noodles, and folding lawn chairs and construct an over-under obstacle course.
75. Dig up some of your sprouting flowers and transplant them into old shoes.
76. Make up photo scavenger hunts for each other.
77. Pick up a putter, sink some plastic cups and turn your yard into a mini golf course.
78. Research couple or group dances and have after-dinner practices.
79. Wrap small bouquets of flowers in moist paper towels and foil and place them on a stand by the road with a container for quarter contributions.
80. Lay on blankets by day and study the constellations you will watch for by night.
81. Make masks, scrubs and lotions and have a botanical spa afternoon.
82. Give everyone a pair of cutters or scissors and drive around town on a wildflower safari.
83. Virtually visit a far-away place of each child’s choosing by visiting the library with each destination in mind.
84. Make a family patchwork quilt by giving each family member a certain number of squares to finish by the end of summer.
85. Make homemade pizzas from scratch with your fresh veggies and herbs.
86. Make origami with waterproof paper and hang them from tree branches in the yard.
87. Practice all day for a family talent night.
88. Practice colorful cookie, cake or cupcake decorating.
89. Study fashion history and then pull together fashions out of recycled materials.
90. Design and make kites for fall winds.
91. See which board games can be played outdoors and have an all-day marathon.
92. Decorate a hat, pet leash, bike, car or yourself with fresh flowers.
93. During the dog days, go into the garage and make a scarecrow family for fall.
94. Make your yard into an impromptu water park using all the water toys you have on hand.
95. Make a colorful salad featuring veggies and edible flowers you grew.
96. Sit around the fire pit and share what you liked about books you read this summer.
97. Make mosaic stepping stones customized to each family member.
98. Brainstorm holiday teacher and coach gift ideas, then make non-perishable items.
99. Share what you appreciated about summer vacation with your family over freshly made pie.
Author, journalist, and writing coach Christina Katz remembers summer as a time when lazy days inspired imagination, creativity, and bliss, in the days long before cell phones.