Summer is finally here! The kids are out of school, the sun is showing itself more often, and I’m ready to get adventuring! A lot of kids spend their summer days in camps, but my kids are happy to spend a majority of their time playing outside. We mix it up with some visits to their grandparents, a few camping trips, and maybe a road trip. But this year we’re staying pretty close to home, looking to make everyday adventures and have fun in simple ways. If you need some inspiration, here’s our Ultimate Summer Bucket List with 40 ideas to take your summer from ho-hum to happy fun! Be sure to get your FREE printable list at the end of the post.
Ultimate Summer Bucket List
1. Catch and release bugs
This is tops on my kids list! They love to catch a bug and put it in their insect magnifying kit to inspect it up close. My only rule is that they can’t bring the bugs in the house!
2. Ride bikes (wear a helmet)
Whether it’s in your neighborhood, on a paved trail, or out adventuring on a single track, buckle up your helmets and get out there! Riding bikes is a great way to get in some exercise, explore new places, and have fun as a family.
3. Spend a day at the beach
Play in the sand, explore tide pools, get your feet wet! There are so many different options!
4. Cook a healthy recipe
Look through different recipes with your kids and help them pick a recipe. Let them take the lead and you be the helper. It can be hard, but it’s great to let the take try out this responsibility.
5. Have a picnic
We have a lot of picnics and tea parties over the summer. Sometimes I have to remind my daughter to not go overboard every time with her food prep, presentation, and well, mess-making! But it’s pretty easy with a big reward to make lunchtime a special treat by turning it into a picnic.
6. Eat an ice cream cone
Take a special outing to find the biggest, best, most goofy treat ever! Maybe you pick a more expensive ice cream shop, or one out of the way. Maybe you go to the same place every year. Whatever makes your kids happy! We have a tradition of taking a short ferry-ride to a small town across the water where we get a huge ice cream cone, then walk down to the local park and play for awhile. The ice cream outing is a half-day long event, but one we look forward to every summer.
7. Read a new book
Whether your kids are reading on their own, you read to them, or both, have your child pick out a new book for summer reading. It could be from the store, a yard sale, the library, or borrowed from a friend. Help them set a goal for daily reading amounts, and track their progress. Many schools and local libraries also offer summer reading programs you can check out.
8. Have a water balloon fight
Not just any ole’ water balloon fight, an epic one! Fill up a huge amount of balloons and let your kids plan their own attack! It’s fun to see their strategies. Just make sure to match up ages/levels so one team isn’t overpowering the other.
9. Lay in the grass and imagine the clouds as animals, people and things!
This activity can really spark a lot of great conversations. Talk with your kids about what they see, ask them to describe it, and help them create a little story about it. It’s a nice opportunity to slow down for a minute and have some calm time to talk with your kids.
10. Climb a tree
My daughter is a monkey and more than once I have found her 20 feet high in one of the trees outside. While she was perfectly content, I quickly realized we needed to set limits! It seems that wherever we go, if there’s tree, she’ll climb it. Climbing trees is a fun activity for kids, but do set a top height limit for their climbing. Kids don’t fully understand the dangers in climbing high and how significant their injuries could be.
11. Paint and hide rocks
We’ve been out on numerous urban hikes and found painted rocks. My kids thought it was so fun so we have since painted our own rocks and plan to hide them around town. There are Facebooks groups dedicated to painted rocks where you can post pictures of the rocks you find or leave clues to where you hid one. It’s a pretty simple, but fun activity and a great way to encourage the kids to get outside for a walk.
12. Visit the zoo
Whether you have a yearly membership or just plan on going for the day, the zoo is a great place to wander and explore with your kids.
13. Campout in the backyard
Maybe camping in the woods isn’t quite your thing- but backyard camping could be! It’s a great way to prep for actual camping and make sure your supplies are ready. Have your kids help gather items and make a list for packing if you do plan on taking your camping to the next level.
14. Build a fort
Fort building outside is such an awesome activity for kids! It allows them to think about design, use compromising skills to agree on a plan, and determine what roles each will take on. Plus, it creates hours of imaginary play! If you don’t have access to an outside space for fort building, pillows, cushions, and blankets work inside!
15. Go on a boat ride
Depending on where you live, you may have lots of different options for a boat ride. In the Pacific Northwest, we have access to ferries, boat rentals, kayaks, and more. This year, I opted to get a Stand Up Paddleboard and I think my daughter loves it just as much as me! I love a day spent out on the water (with sunscreen and PFD’s of course). Spend more than one day trying out different modes of boat travel if you can!
16. Spend a day in the mountains
There are so many different ways to spend a day in the mountains. Hiking, biking, bird watching, picture taking, and more! Talk with your child about how they would like to spend the day in the mountains and help them pick the location.
17. Go swimming
One of the best thing about summer and the great outdoors is that you can probably find a free place to go swimming! If you have access to a pool, great, but you may also want to look into the possibility of finding a lake to hike to for swimming. Check out my top water safety tips first.
18. Fly a kite
While most people associate kite flying with wind, my kids have proven that you can get a kite in the air if you run fast enough! I prefer to have the kids use the frameless kites so that if they smack into the ground, they aren’t ruined. Someone (a’hem, it definitely wasn’t me) crushed our good kite on a beach trip when the wind suddenly died down.
19. Go to a farmers market
You may have one in your city or town to check out or make a day of it and travel to a new farmers market in a nearby town. Luckily for us, we have a handful of farmers markets to choose from. It’s great to take the kids and allow them to pick put some fresh fruit and vegetables to take home.
20. Put on a play
Depending their ages, kids can put on some pretty great shows! While younger children may need some help, older kids can take the lead. My 9 and 6 year old love to prop us in the audience and deliver quite a performance.
21. Make s’mores
Whether you’re camping, galloping, or just in the backyard, s’mores is a summertime must-have! You can keep it simple with graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows, or you can try out some variations with different cookies and fillers. Just be sure to remind kids about fire safety while being around the camp fire.
22. Go on a hike
You can usually find plenty of information online about local hiking options. In Washington state, the Washington State Trails Association has tons of ideas and information. Be sure to bring the 10 hiking essentials for safety and check to see if you’ll need a forest pass for parking. And remember to tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return.
23. Do a random act of kindness
There are many different activities kids can do to complete a random act of kindness. Help your child choose what they would like to do and gather the necessary supplies. It may be something simple or more elaborate, a one-time deal or on-going.
24. Concert in the park
Check with your local city or town to see if they offer free concerts in the park. Our local library hosts monthly kid-friendly concerts in the daytime and the city offers evening concerts that are family friendly.
25. Go to a baseball game
It could be a t-ball game, little league, minor league or a major league baseball game. Whatever fits your family’s needs, an afternoon or evening spent enjoying this long-rooted American sport is a fun family outing. Some baseball stadiums offer kids discount tickets or special family nights.
26. Create a mini city with sidewalk chalk
Give your kids some sidewalk chalk and let them paint the town! Some good items to include are roads, a hospital, police station, school, and homes. This activity can lead to a whole afternoon of imaginary play. And if it doesn’t rain overnight, it may last into the next day.
27. Ride a ferry
In the Pacific Northwest, we have a huge ferry system getting people all across our region. We usually end up having some reason or another to take a ferry every summer, but sometimes we just pick a day for fun! Maybe you can visit a new farmers market, take a day trip somewhere new, or just get an ice cream on the other side! It’s a pretty fun ride for kids, especially if you stand out front.
28. Take a family day trip
Maybe you have a tradition of going somewhere every summer or your looking to just check out a new place. Have your kids help you determine where to go if possible, what to do, and what to bring. You can pack a lot of great activities into one day!
29. Roll down a hill
This one’s pretty simple, but really entertaining! We were actually out for a walk the other day and my daughter saw a hill and instantly dropped into a log roll. You can have fun with races or just laugh as kids roll haphazardly down the hill.
30. Go berry picking
This is a great opportunity to talk with your kids about where their food comes from and then actually take them to see and pick their own berries to take home. You could just put them in a bowl and enjoy nibbling on them or make a special treat with your kids with the fresh berries.
31. Play mini-golf
This is definitely a childhood favorite of mine and an activity that is still fun as and adult. Some mini putt-putt courses can be pretty elaborate, but simple course can be fun, too. Check out what your area offers or look into options at an upcoming vacation or day trip.
32. Blow bubbles
You can use the regular bubble wands or try out bigger rings, homemade bubble mix, or bubble blowers. Whatever you use, kids will have fun chasing bubbles around.
33. Visit a new park
While we have our favorite nearby parks, sometimes it’s fun to drive a little farther to find a new park to explore. City and county websites may have lists of parks with descriptions of what they offer. You can use this as a starting point. Ziplines and swings are tops on our list!
34. Conduct a science experiment
This can be as big or small as you choose, but let your child take the lead. My daughter had so much fun with an experiment that she wanted to do it again and had me record her tutorial for others.
35. Have a family game night
If you’re adventurous, play hide and seek in the dark outside. Or maybe your kids would do better with hide and seek at dusk! Even a board game works, but maybe play it out on the lawn or back patio. Whatever works for your family!
36. Make fresh lemonade
It actually takes a lot of work and a lot of lemons to make real lemonade! But it’s fun for the kids to get their hands involved in the process. If it works in your neighborhood, have the kids set up a lemonade stand!
37. Eat corn on the cobb
There’s just something about corn on the cobb that screams summer time! It’s a perfect BBQ side or great for any summer al fresco meal.
38. Do a scavenger hunt
Growing up, we did a lot of scavenger hunts. Often for birthday parties, but sometimes just for fun! You can make clues appropriate to the age level and have as many or few clues as you’d like. You could even have your kids complete a picture scavenger hunt where they take a picture of certain items which is a great idea if you’re out in the forest.
39. Homeade pizza night
this might be something you do regularly in your house throughout the year, but it’s also a great summer activity. You can make your own dough, use pre-made dough, or even pre-made crust. But let the kids help select and spread their toppings. Maybe that will encourage them to eat their dinner! Plus, it’s an easy yet delicious meal to feed company. Add a side of corn on the cobb and it’s summertime!
40. Play in the sprinklers
Running through sprinklers is another activity that screams summer! Kids are all too happy to play around in the water, running and playing without a care. Even if the water is cold, kids don’t seem to mind.
Summer always seems to go too fast, but hopefully your kids will be able to get active, get involved in some decision making, and have a good time doing a new or favorite activity.
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