4 Budget-Friendly Summer Activities for Kids

Summer 2020 will go down in the books as one of the oddest times since my kids can’t do the summer activities they usually do. I’m getting refunds for my kids’ camp programs that I signed them up for. It breaks my heart because these things they enjoy and that enrich their lives have been canceled. And, selfishly, I want to stop making all these meals every day!

Instead of wallowing in my 11,000th grilled cheese, I’ve decided to invest that camp money back into my family’s summer activities. Since we’ve already budgeted that money for the kids, I’m going to spend it on them. They can still have a fun summer, even if it’s at home.

Although my husband and I did budget for this expense, we don’t want to go over that set amount. There’s a good chance it could happen as we have a long summer to fill! As I’m considering how to keep the kids busy and happy at home, I came up with four financially-friendly ideas to entertain kids this summer.


Financially-Friendly Repairs and Home Improvements

Since we’ll be home more, we’re constantly doing home improvement projects with the kids. My husband is leading a gardening effort (I have a completely brown thumb) and I am teaching them the right way to fix up things around the house.

While this doesn’t sound like a fun summer activity, you can make anything into a game with a little creativity! Teach your kids how to repair things around the house. Not only will you save money because you’re fixing instead of buying new, you will be showing your kids that you don’t just throw something out when it breaks.

It will also teach your kids to take pride in what they have. Showing kids how to maintain and care for their items will instill respect for the item itself and the energy it takes to keep it looking nice. This goes for something personal to each child, like a toy, or something that the whole family enjoys, like a nice yard.

Adding to What you Already Have

We’re lucky to have a pool and while we don’t usually buy new toys and accessories every year, we definitely will this year. We’ve already made a wish list and set a budget; we’ll get as much as we can this summer within that budget to enhance what we already have.

Think about the summer activities your family already enjoys. How can you add to it to make it even more fun? Would an expansion set for Legos satisfy your kids? What about adding to your sports equipment? Ask each kid what they would like to add and then ask them all to agree on one thing above and beyond their own wishes. Make sure you get the one thing they all agree on and add on each kid’s request as you’re able to keep the summer activities fresh.

Finding Summer Neighborhood Swaps 

I love neighborhood swaps. They’re a financially-friendly way to find things that the kids quickly outgrow (seemingly in a month!). I get skateboards, scooters, bikes, and more. And then I can swap with neighbors so they can use what my kids don’t. It’s a low-risk way to try something new.

As a bonus, swaps are great for the environment because you’re not buying new when you don’t have to. Oftentimes, the items in our neighborhood swaps are like new anyway because of how quickly kids outgrow things.

Look around on Facebook and local apps in your area to find swaps. Some will be specific items (clothing, toys, etc) or for specific ages (babies and toddlers, tweens, etc) and others will be a free-for-all.

If you can’t find one, organizing a neighborhood swap is easier than putting together a yard sale. Everyone brings clean items in good condition and trades! And you’ll all walk out with something your kids can do this summer to keep them entertained.

Using Your Imagination

Okay, this seems a little obvious, but sometimes the obvious is worth mentioning! There are tons of free summer activities you can do with kids, all with varying degrees of input from adults.

  • Play a game as a family - here are a few of our family’s favorite games that teach kids about money
  • Have a picnic - everyone has to contribute their favorite picnic food. If you do this a few times you can also rotate who curates the meal
  • Build a fort - as long as you don’t mind having your living room torn up for a day
  • Write a one-line story - one person starts with a sentence and you pass the paper around to each kid until you finish the story
  • Do the same, but with a drawing - each person adds a new piece to the picture until it’s complete
  • Go on a scavenger hunt
  • Take a walk and play I Spy
  • Make a family scrapbook with pictures, meaningful mementos, and captions
  • Have Christmas in July - make a special meal and watch your favorite Christmas movies
  • Hold a paper airplane contest
  • Bubbles - do I need to say more?
  • Learn a new skill - maybe it’s gardening, maybe it’s how to repair miniature trains (ideally, it’s anything but turning the oven on in August)

When in doubt (and you can’t keep playing the same board game), make small investments that will pay large dividends. If you’re considering whether a summer activity will work for your family, think about the cost per use. What can you get a lot of mileage out of? Is it durable and will last with your kids’ playing styles? As long as you’re purchasing the highest quality item you can, you should be set for a financially-friendly summer of activities that will entertain your kids without costing an arm and a leg!

How are you keeping your kids entertained this summer with financially-friendly ideas?

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