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11 Cheap or Free Ways to Entertain Kids During the Summer

It’s approaching that time of year once again, when parents the length and breadth of the country take a collective intake of anticipatory breath: the six week holidays. It’s a break from routine (and breathe); but it comes with its own challenges, namely juggling childcare and work while providing adequately entertaining summer activities for kids.

For many, the dilemma is how to entertain the brood for six long weeks (man, they’re looooong) in a wholesome and virtuous way…while all they crave is to disappear into an abyss of games consoles and Facebook. No pressure then.

Summer Activities for Kids - Children Playing

For others (by which I mean me), the difficulty is basically the same – but for an altogether different reason…

My children are still little. Their favourite days out consist almost exclusively of soft play, petting farms, parks, and swimming pools, ie. all those places that inevitably become overrun with rowdy older kids come summer. But because I struggle with social anxiety, I can’t abide crowds and the overwhelming noise that comes with them. Throw some overexcited kids into the mix, and that’s essentially our entire summer ruined.

So for your inspiration, I’ve put together a list of summer activities for kids which does not require a small second mortgage in terms of affordability.

And it doesn’t include soft play, petting farms, parks, or swimming pools. You’re welcome.

Summer Activities for Kids

The following ideas are completely free summer activities for kids that will keep your family entertained throughout the holidays!

 1. Summer Activities for Kids – A Gardening Day

Summer Activities for Kids - Child Holding Carrot

Admittedly, you’ll probably be met with a bit of reluctance here. The best way around that is probably bribery. For example: ‘If you help me clear these weeds, then you can have an ice lolly every time the van comes to our road.’ (There’s no way it’s coming more than twice. And if they properly help they can burn off the calories easily.)

Also, since it’s essentially exercise, when they get stuck in there’s every likelihood they’ll forget it’s a chore and find satisfaction in their progress.

2. Summer Entertainment for Children -A Nature Trail

Plan ahead and print off a page of several items to collect to take home for creating Nature Art, as well as critters and birds to look out for.

Top tip: keep them busy by including a couple that you know won’t be in the location you’re visiting.

 3. Holiday Activities for Kids – Cupcake-Decorating Competition

Mix, bake, decorate: CAKE. This one will satisfy everyone equally. Ahem.

Summer Activities for Kids - Baking

 4. Summer Exercise for Kids – A Bike Ride

Sunshine; fresh air; the wind in your hair. Perhaps a picnic if you can balance it on your handlebar without ending up in the stingers or the dyke…

Tip: Check out these great picnic backpacks as an alternative!

5. Summer Entertainment for Siblings – A Puppet Show

This is a good one for multiple ages: the youngest can happily make, decorate, and act, whilst the oldest will thrive in the role of director – and all you need is a spare cardboard box and a bit of imagination!

Harmonious family activity where you get to sit on the sofa with a cuppa, cast in the role of ‘audience’? Done.

 6. Summer Fun for the Garden – A Water Fight

Weather-permitting (this is England) kids of any age adore water. For the older ones the absolute most fun they could have is annihilating the ‘rents, if you let them. (Let them.)

Cheap ways to entertain kids

 7. Indoor Activities With Friends – Board Game Stations

Get some friends over and play a tournament, winner stays on. Of course it’s important to ensure there are alternative activities available for those who go ‘out’. Such as…

 8. Summer Fun for Children – Retro Outdoor Games

If you don’t have enough people for Kiss Chase or Stuck in the Mud, then how about hopscotch, skipping with ropes, or a game of badminton? Chuck a couple of large cardboard boxes in the garden too, and I bet I can predict which items the kids will gravitate towards…

9. Wholesome Summer Activities for Kids – Geocaching

This is one of our family favourites and a great way to get the littles outdoors to do some exercise, while thinking to solve clues, and being aware of their surroundings. It’s a brilliant opportunity for kids to explore the local area and get hands on with nature – it’s often necessary to get your hands a bit dirty when hunting for caches!

If they’re inclined, it’s also the perfect time to encourage an interest in sustainability and the environment.

You could take litter pickers and bin bags to clean up, and of course reward their efforts with an ice-cream later.


Cheap Summer Activities for Kids

 10. Summer Activities for Kids – Chores for Pocket Money

Ideas: washing the car; pulling weeds; painting the fence. Either way, it’s a win for you and a win for them.

11. Fun for Kids in the Sunshine – Walk Along a Pier

I’m fortunate to live close to the longest pier in England: it’s over a mile long and on a glorious day there’s nothing better. You’re rewarded at the end with fish and chips and penny slot machines, or if you fancy something sweet you can grab hot doughnuts or an ice-cream. Best of all, there’s a train to bring tired little legs back to shore.

Obviously, not everyone will have access to this local attraction, but you must be close to something similar, even if it means a little ride out to the beach. Road trip!

Summer Activities for Kids - Child Playing in Sunflowers

Inspiration for Summer Activities for Kids

That concludes my list of ideas to entice you away from the alternatives my own little ones enjoy. Of course, I’m merely trying to present options here…

It may even result in you and your tiddlywinks creating cherishable childhood memories, retro-style – made up of the quality time you spent together. I’m not even clutching at straws here, promise: good old-fashioned family fun is the foundation of a magical childhood. I’m pretty sure that’s a fact.


Friday 11th of August 2017

Older kids are spoiling your younger kids fun? Give over you have the rest of the year to infest these places, let us have our measly six weeks in peace away from your whining stinky nappied toddlers!

Kate Tunstall

Friday 11th of August 2017

Well aren't you just a ray of sunshine? And nope, they're spoiling MY peace and quiet. Besides which, it's tongue in cheek, ie. a joke. Oh, and don't forget your kid was a whining stinky toddler once, just like mine was in nappies once.

Cal at Family Makes

Wednesday 27th of July 2016

Cheap and old school sounds very good indeed! Unfortunately it requires quite significant bribes for my kids, but never mind, they are still great ideas. #TheList

Kate Tunstall

Friday 5th of August 2016

Haha, good luck in that case!

Kate Tunstall

Monday 25th of July 2016

Crowds are just awful, aren't they! I braved a soft play today and it was empty! I'm going to pretend it's because everybody read the post. ?

Kate Tunstall

Monday 25th of July 2016

I don't even like people. I jest, of course! Cool, have an awesome summer! ?

Kate Tunstall

Monday 25th of July 2016

Fab, thanks so much!