10 Cheap Ways To Keep Your Kids Busy This Summer

School’s out for summer! If you’re a stay-at-home parent or a working parent, keeping kids busy during the summer can be a bit of a challenge. When kids are out of their regular school routine, they can easily become bored. Parents know that boredom leads to whining, constant bugging, and getting into trouble!

How can you keep your kids busy without spending a ton of money? 

1. Invest in a sandbox and/or water table

If you don’t have a sandbox or water table, invest in one ASAP. The classic backyard sandbox can be especially fun when kids add their favorite toy cars and trucks. They’ll love digging and building in this for hours on end. Alternatively, they’ll also find joy in playing with a water table where they can fill up and empty cups of water. Just be careful if you purchase a combined sand-water table as it can easily become messy.

2. Invest in a kid’s pool and sprinkler

kids sprinkler
Credit: iStock / Halfpoint

Kids will love to splash and play in a kiddie pool and/or water sprinkler. This will be the best money you’ll spend to keep the kids entertained on those hot days. You can even make your own sprinkler; take an empty two-liter soda bottle, poke holes in the soda bottle and attach it to the end of your garden hose. Throw the hose over a tree branch and turn on the water. Viola!

Add in some bubble blowers, and water balloons from the dollar store, and the kids will be splashing all day long.

3. Create an activity jar

While there’s plenty to do around your house, it’s not easy coming up with ideas on the fly. Be prepared! Write down some ideas for activities like these on little pieces of paper, and add them to a jar or basket. Let the kids choose one activity each day, and make it happen.

This could include things like baking cookies, building a fort, or playing hide-and-seek. Come up with some ideas together for the activity jar; make sure the activities are doable and you have materials you hand, especially if they’re things the kids can do largely unsupervised.

4. Have an arts and crafts station

kids crafts
Credit: iStock / SeventyFour

Your children will be home all summer, so you may as well plan an area of the home where you can stock and kids can easily access materials. Take a trip to the crafts or dollar store, and buy an assortment of items; think construction paper, colored pencils, paints, scissors, glue, and fun items like pompoms, glitter, stickers and buttons. Collect old egg cartons, paper towel and toilet paper rolls, and leaves and flowers.

Having basic supplies at the ready will always come in handy when boredom strikes. Use social media sites like Pinterest or activity books like Boredom Busters for inspiration on projects they can create.

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5. Explore new parks and trails

Bored of the local park? Make it a fun mission to explore a new park once a week this summer. You might be surprised to find each park has something new for your kids to discover. Pack snacks and drinks, and either drive or ride your bicycles to the new park. Or take a nature walk; discover new walking trails, and have your kids on the look-out for various plants and insects. Consider some bug-catching equipment for kids who show an interest!

6. Visit the local library

child at library
Credit: iStock / tatyana_tomsickova

Visiting the library makes for a fun outing, and kids can spend some time perusing books. Check your local library to see if they are running a summer reading program, too. Your local library will host many free events for children and teens during the summer months. Of course, your kids can also borrow some great summer reads too!

7. Check out your local parks and recreation department

Summer camps can be pricey, but often local community centers and parks and recreation departments run activities that are relatively low in cost. If your kids can swim, check the public swim schedule which would cost a few dollars for admission.

8. Check out Town events

child walking with mom
Credit: iStock / LumineImages

Most towns do offer free events during the summer, such as a summer concert in the park, an antique car show, or a 4th of July parade. You can find out about most of these local activities by checking the local paper, or joining a local Facebook group.

Also, look out for discount days or coupons for local attractions, which may offer discount days throughout the summer. These days will help you get the kids outdoors but without breaking the bank.

9. Snuggle on the couch

When you’re too tired from all the outdoor activity, or if it’s raining or too hot outside, have a movie day at home. Set up pillows and blankets on the family room floor, make popcorn, and watch a movie. Also, have some playing cards and board games on hand when it’s time to shut the TV off. Keep an eye out for sales, and stock up on a good selection throughout the year to have when boredom strikes.

10. Let them be bored!

child bored
Credit: iStock / max-kegfire

Kids are over-scheduled during the school year with homework and extra-curricular activities. Summer is the time for them to be bored! When your child complains that they’re bored, you’ll be armed with a handy list of chores they can choose from! Your child will run off so fast and find something to do before they have to wash the car, or clean their rooms.

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