Kid's Summer Activity Guide for Parents

Family bonding together in the living room, dad teaching son how to play guitar and mom teaching daughter how to paint.
Mieke Vanderborght

Keeping Kids Busy– and Caregivers Sane– Over the Summer

We’re inching closer and closer to summer. Or maybe it feels more like a sprint! Regardless, it’s the time of year when caregivers are suddenly on the line for figuring out how to fill the summer with activities to keep their kids meaningfully engaged. Looking for a little help? Read on!

First, let’s just take a moment to remember the value of play. There’s no need to structure and organize every minute of the summer. Play is meaningful all by itself and having lots of opportunities for open ended playful exploration is a gift that’s easier to achieve during the summer. 

It’s also the perfect time to appreciate the beauty of unscheduled days. Relaxed downtime has its place. And it’s absolutely legitimate to allow kids to unwind, free from the busy pace of the school year. Of course, that doesn’t mean they have the right to laze around on the couch the whole summer. 

The key is balance of course, and with the summer there’s a great opportunity to tap into it all. Kids probably don’t need much help to know how to revel in downtime or how to play. But when it's time to do something a bit more structured, they may need a little guidance. 

Tips to Structure in Activities for Kids on Summer Days

Personalize Your Schedule 

Start with a schedule. Make it daily with clear time slots for what will happen and when. Or make it loose, with general themes such as Mondays are craft days, Tuesdays are outdoor days and so on. Keep sleeping and eating schedules as close to their school year times as possible – or at least consistent throughout the summer. Make the schedule visual if necessary so kids can easily take a look and know what’s going on when.

Create Your Activity List

Next, create an activity list – even better if you create it together. Make it a mix of activities that are fun, things that have to happen (think chores, homework, and so on), goal-oriented projects, and whatever else seems appealing and interesting. Throw in some activities that are quiet (drawing), active (watch an exercise video), solo (reading), or group (family board game night). Kids can refer to this list whenever they’re looking for something to do.

List of Activity Ideas for Kids at Home This Summer

Here’s a list of some activity ideas for inspiration for items to put on that list.

Get Outside 

Set up opportunities for outdoor and/or water play. If you don’t have space near your home for water play outside, lay out a big towel on the floor, some toys, and a small tub of water. Or just put kids in the bathtub!


Go out for nature or neighborhood exploration. Get out of the house and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of nature. Don’t have easy access to the great outdoors? Even a city park can do the trick. Tie in some extra challenge and make it a geocaching adventure.

Get Crafty

Get involved in hands-on projects. Your particular project will depend on interest and available materials. Try crafting, cooking, art, knitting, friendship bracelets, clay modeling, there are so many possibilities!


Have kids tell the story of their summer. If they prefer to write, they can keep a journal. Crafters can create a scrapbook. Include photos, mementos, shells you found on the trip to the beach, or whatever else represents the summer.


Read. A lot. Visit the local library to sign up for their summer reading program at the local library. Start a book club with family, friends, or neighbors.


Plant and tend to a garden. Summer is a great time to grow, from pots of herbs on the windowsill to a full-blown vegetable garden in the backyard. 

Scavenger Hunt

Create a scavenger hunt. Take turns being the creator and the finders. Make it in your house, in your neighborhood, in a park – wherever you can get to!

Game Night

Play board games, card games, other rule based games. Put it on the schedule and make every Friday night family game night.

      Practice Homework

      Practice math skills with a shopping trip. Go to the supermarket (or any store) and give kids a bit of cash. Help kids figure out how much they can buy, calculate how much they’ll pay for what they’ve chosen, and how much change they’ll need when they pay. Make it long term by committing to give them a small amount every week and have them practice budgeting and managing their own money. 

      Start a Project

      Become entrepreneurs. The lemonade stand is a classic for a reason! But there are other things kids could make, like crafts, car washes, ice cream sundaes, or whatever they’re interested in. Kids can have great fun managing a project from start to finish, and seeing what they can earn. 

        Give Back to the Community 

        Find a community service project. The reward of giving back to the community is an important lesson in giving.

          Get Active

          Just get moving – in any and all ways possible. Without the daily opportunity to run around at recess and with a break from organized sports, it may be easy for kids to become sedentary over the summer. But keep them moving! Utilize outdoor space if you have it. Or, if you prefer to stay inside, have a dance party, put on a kids’ exercise video, or just do a bunch of jumping jacks.

            Screen Time 

            Oh yes, and screens are okay too. As long as they don’t dominate the entire summer, there’s a place for movies, video games, computers, and tablets. Just make thoughtful choices, find screen experiences that have purpose, and find the right balance for your family.

              Final Thoughts 

              In the whirlwind of summer, remember the value of play and unscheduled days. This will help the natural balancing act between structured activities and free exploration. No day will be perfect but that's okay– the best summer family moments are always the unexpected ones. 

              Have fun and enjoy the special moments that summer brings!

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