36 Free Ways to Entertain Your Child Over the Summer

Fun and free ways to enjoy the summer break with your kids.

Do you ever wonder how you’ll keep your kids entertained all summer?

Being a work at home mama – I sure do!

After the first few days of freedom, my kids are sure to be saying ‘mommy, I’m bored!’

And they’ve still got weeks of summer left to go!

I’m all for kicking them out the door to play outside, but when I see my twins putter around with nothing to do I know I need to help them enjoy the summer and get the most out of it!

But, I don’t want to break the bank! I want summer activities that are free!

Don’t you?

So, to make sure this summer is full of fun and happy memories, I’ve curated a list of 36 ways to entertain our children ALL summer.

Best of all, they’re all completely free!

Some Tips to Get The Most From Summer Activities

Isn’t it frustrating when you spend ages organizing an activity only for your child to do something different with the activity? Don’t worry – this is completely normal. And it happens to us all.

So focus on enjoying the activities without getting stressed out about doing them ‘right’.

But what if your kids ignore your carefully planned activity completely?

Don’t force it, mama.

Try leaving the activity for a while and your child may come back to it on their own. Or you could pack it away for another day.

And if you’re trying to keep your kids entertained while you work at home, don’t forget to check out this list of 21 clever ways to keep your kids entertained while you work.

If you have a good space for your toddler to run around, you can definately create a kid zone for the entire neighborhood to enjoy! Take a look at these free backyard summer activities for your kids.

1. Mud Kitchen

Did you know that June 29th is International Mud Day?

No, I didn’t either! But it is. And what better way to celebrate than creating a Mud Kitchen for your little ones outside.

Yes, this one is going to get very messy. But I think it’s going to keep my little ones entertained for hours and hours!

You just need a few resources you’ve probably got around the home already to get you started. And here’s a fun tutorial on how to create mud kitchen food rocks.

2. Outside Painting

Sidewalk, big pieces of paper, feet. That’s all you need for your child to have hours of fun.

After a long winter, I know I’m going to be taking every opportunity to get outside with my little ones. And this HUGE list of homemade paint recipes is sure to be a winner. You can get some big pieces of paper for your kids to paint on.

Or let them paint on recyclables like ripped up cereal boxes or Amazon boxes – I know we always have some of those lying around!

3. Grow Vegetables from Leftovers

Do you ever dream of growing your own food?

I know I do – but, I just don’t have time to get started!

So why not set aside some time this summer to see what you can grow. You can start easy – and for FREE –by replanting vegetable scraps.

If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous, why not try an entire vegetable patch?

And kids will love helping out with a watering can made from a recycled milk carton.

4. Bug Hotel

This is a craft you just can’t get wrong!

And it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a small garden or a huge one – a bug hotel is a great way to teach kids about the wildlife literally on your doorstep.

5. Bean Plant Teepee

I’ve wanted to do make a bean plant teepee for ages!

And I know my kids are going to LOVE playing in this – it’s perfect for a Teddy Bear’s picnic, right?

6. Water Fight

I had to include this one, right?

What could be more fun than a water fight on a hot summer’s day. But who’s got the patience to fill up countless water balloons or the money to buy expensive water guns?

Here’s a great DIY option that you’ll be reusing ALL summer.

7. Make a Dinosaur Garden

If your kid loves dinosaurs, they’re going to love this small world idea from the Imagination Tree. It’s easy and can be adapted to the resources you have on hand.

And don’t stop there! Here are lots more ideas for small worlds that will have your kids’ using their creativity and imagination.

8. Tuff Tray Activities

If you don’t know what a tuff tray is, it’s just a large builders’ mixing tray.

But tuff trays are a great way to set up activities for your kids. Best of all, you can just let your kids play while you get on with some chores or catch up on your reading!

You can get a tuff tray here if you don’t already have one.

Or any large flat surface will do – a tray or whatever you have to hand.

Now, here’s the fun part.

Check out this list of 44 tuff tray activities to get started!

Or start really simple with some dry porridge, rice or pasta. Throw in some plastic cups, spoons, measuring cups and let them have fun pouring and scooping.

9. Backyard Camp

Did you know August 10th is International S’Mores Day?

What better way to celebrate than a camp out in the backyard? You can keep this as simple as you like. Or go all out.

And what a great way to spend some quality time together.

If you’ve got older ones, how about making s’mores with this Nasa-approved STEM activity.

10. Car Wash

Here’s another one that will keep kids entertained for hours. Just a bucket of soapy water and a few sponges is all you need. And with a bit of luck the kids will be washing your car in a few years! Hahah!

Don’t limit yourself to cars – washing dolls, plastic animals or dinosaurs is great fun for the little ones too.

11. Backyard Scavenger Hunt

Here’s a great idea to get your kids running around – and burning off all that energy for bedtime.

You could adapt this scavenger hunt activity in so many ways: to look for colors, things that begin with certain letters, or shapes.

The possibilities are endless.

Sensory Bins & Activities

I recently shared about sensory tubs in this post on how to keep your children busy while you blog.

I first came across sensory bins when I worked with children with special needs. And they’ve always been a hit with my kids too – keeps them entertained for hours.

You could use a tuff tray for these types of activities.

But any plastic drawer, tray or bowl would be ideal.

And if you find one with a lid, like this one  you can always pack it away and have it ready to go when you need an activity for the kids. Can I say ‘life-saver’?

13. Sensory Soup

What is it with kids and water?

But it’s a free way to keep your kids entertained for ages! Where I live, spring is usually cold and the winter snow is melting.

My twins like to take debris like leaves, grass, sticks, rocks, pinecones and fruit and veggies from the house like carrots and apples to make their concoction of snow soup.

Here’s an awesome list of 20 sensory soup tub ideas to help your kids learn practice fine motor skills and cool off in the hot summer weather.

14. Unicorn Sensory Tub

My daughter is OBSESSED with unicorns – and I can’t wait to throw her a Unicorn Party.

And I know she is going to love this find the unicorn sensory bin – and I love how it can be adapted to help teach letters and numbers!

15. Alphabet Sift & Find

This ABC sensory find is so simple and uses things you’ve probably got in your kitchen already.

And the key to these sensory tubs is to adapt them to suit your circumstances. So if you don’t have cornmeal, feel free to use flour, rice, lentils, couscous or whatever else you have to hand.

I love how this activity can be extended to cater to older children’s learning too.

16. Rainbow Noodles Sensory Activity

Doesn’t this rainbow noodle sensory activity look fun!

And if you’ve got older ones too, they’ll love doing this one as a science experiment before the little ones get to play in it.

17. Rainbow Rice Sensory Bin

I bet you’ll be wanting to get down and play with this one too – don’t those pretty colors look so fun!

I’d probably start off with a smaller quantity of rice than this post suggests – but you do whatever’s going to work for your kids.

Please don’t go crazy and add too much dye though – or the rice will take forever to dry!

18. Shaving Cream and Ice Sensory Play

This is an amazing sensory experience using shaving cream for little ones – and you can do this in the bath for an easy clean up.

You could switch the shaving cream for whip cream, if your little one is in the habit of sticking things in their mouth.

19. Ice Bath Fun Sensory Activity

This sensory ice bath tub takes minimal preparation – so it’s a good one to have up your sleeve if you need a quick activity to keep the kids occupied for a while. Or need that ‘emergency’ cup of coffee.

And what could be nicer on a hot summer’s day than playing with ice.

20. Antarctic Jello Sensory Play

This is sticky, messy and edible fun!

There are so many ways to customize this Antarctic jello play too. How about green jello for an Amazonian theme? It’s a great way to teach kids about our world and have lots of fun at the same time.

21. Garden Sensory Bin

This garden sensory bin is minimal prep too – just grab some stuff from the garden and you’re ready to go.

Indoor Activities

Sometimes summer gets so hot – or so rainy – you’ll need an indoor activity.

Here are a few suggestions to make sure you still make the most of the summer vacation.

 22. Summer Coloring Pages

Never be without a quick activity with this awesome list of free summer coloring pages.

23. YouTube Channels to Get Kids Moving

We all know how difficult it is to burn off our kids’ energy before bedtime.

So here’s a list of YouTube channels to get your little ones moving – it’s perfect for when you can’t get outside. I know I’m going to bookmark this one for winter!

 24. Summer Reading Challenges

A reading challenge is a great way to get kids motivated to read during the long summer vacation. And it’s a great quiet time activity for when mama just need to sit down and take a breath.

25. Simple Projects for Beginner Lego Builders

If your little ones like building things, here’s a fun list of things you can make with Lego Duplo bricks. The videos are really helpful and the results are awesome!

And Lego is great for developing fine motor skills and creativity.

Summer Craft Ideas

My kids love doing crafts. But it can get expensive buying in lots of supplies. So I rounded up some fun but frugal craft ideas. Now I just have to decide which one to do first!

26. Make Cloud Dough

This stuff is awesome – and it’s made with only 2 ingredients! You can make different color cloud dough by grating up some chalk to throw in too.

27. Make Play Dough

My daughter loves play dough – but I hate how it drys out so quickly.

Here’s an amazing recipe for homemade play dough. And to make even more sensory fun, you can add your favorite spices – or even cocoa powder – to make scented play dough!

For a fun summer activity with play dough, you could make these play dough nature prints.

28. Painting with Sticks

This fun idea from Messy Little Monster gives me one of those ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ moments!

And don’t worry about buying in paint – go back up to number 2 on this list for some homemade paint recipes.

29. Outside Sticky Wall

This activity might be my new BFF! And you could easily turn this idea into an art project for older ones with this activity.

30. Floating Art

This is a mix of craft, art and science! There are so many learning opportunities in this simple activity. Best of all it’s free!

31. Potato Stamp Lady Bug Art

I love keeping craft simple with my kids – so this one is a winner! You could also try stamping with lemons, limes, apples, sponges or whatever you have to hand.

Don’t forget to check out the homemade paint recipes at humber 2 on this list.

32. Make a Bird Feeder

Birdwatching is one of the easiest free activities to do with your little ones, right? And with this helpful list of 12 kid-made bird feeder crafts, you’ll soon have a garden full of birds.

Just be sure to put your bird feeder away from where you hang out laundry!

Don’t forget to make yourself a pair of binoculars with this cute craft from the Art Bar.

And if you’ve got older ones too, why not turn it into a fun project with this cute free printable bird book?

33. Nature Inspired Portraits

Aren’t these fun!

If you’re doing this activity with little ones, I wouldn’t even bother using glue. And remember that collecting resources for this craft is an activity in itself – so this one could last you all morning!

34. All Natural Leaf Threading

Make a pretty garland – and get your little one practicing fine motor skills – with this fun idea from the Kids’ Craft Room.

35. Make Homemade Ice Cream

Does making ice-cream count as a craft?

I don’t care – I had to include it!

It’s way easier than you think to make delicious homemade ice cream. And don’t forget that July 15th is National Ice Cream Day!

Personally I’ll be checking out this list of unicorn ice cream recipes – for my unicorn-loving daughter!

Keeping the Kids Entertained for FREE All Summer

There ya go!

Thirty-six free ways to keep the kids entertained all summer.

What are you most looking forward to doing with the kids this summer? Do you have any tips on how to survive summer without the constant ‘mommy, I’m bored’?

Want even more ideas to keep the kids busy this summer?

Check out this list of 170 indoor and outdoor activities for toddlers

Don’t forget to pin for later.

Leave a Reply


Great ideas ? thanks for linking my rainbow rice post. It’s really not too much rice though. It was the perfect size bin for my 2 year old to play in.Reply to Jacki
These are great ideas — and it’s wonderful to see a list of “free” ideas that are actually free!Reply to Michelle
Hi Michelle! Thanks so much for stopping by! Yes, free activities are awesome for sure!!!Reply to Elna
LOVE these suggestions! My kids love outdoor nature activities so lots of these are great ideas for us 🙂Reply to Brandy
Hey Brandy! Yes! I can’t wait to try the bean pole. It looks awesome!Reply to Elna