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5 Summer Fun Ideas…On a Budget

Katie Malinski

Family Inspiration, Money, & Jobs

Summer is here… your kids are surely looking forward to the break from school.  How about you?  Are you feeling ready for your family-together-time?  If you aren’t feeling so ready—consider sitting down with the kids to brainstorm fun activity ideas together.  Have the kids write out a list of things they would like to do this summer, including ideas that are free, indoors, outdoors, quiet, loud, solitary, or done in a group.  Give them a small theoretical budget (ie, $10/week) to see how they would spend the family resources on activities.  When we give kids some control and responsibility for the planning, they will be more likely to help make it happen, and be happy about it when you do!

Here are a few relatively easy ways to have quality family time together without spending a ton of money.

  • Does your town have public transportation?  If you don’t use it regularly, give it a try.  Kids love to take the bus—no carseats, not even seatbelts!  You can plan a day-long outing on the bus.  You can go somewhere specific, or just use the bus as an air-conditioned tour of your town!  Make sure your bus route is a circle if you do that, or ask the driver where the stop is that will send you back where you came from.
  • The Pool!  Your kids are probably already begging to go… take them and jump in, too.  Being in the pool is great exercise, and it’s a wonderful way to get physically close to your kids.  You can play Marco-polo or dive for coins.  Anything that has you interacting with each other and using your bodies will leave you connected, happy, and a pleasantly tired.  Don’t forget the sunscreen and the snacks—fresh fruit is especially nice poolside.
  • Visit a park.  Many state parks have activities in the summer that are fun for families—get outdoors, have fun, and maybe even learn a little something, too.  Another outdoor nature adventure idea is to find a creek somewhere and go exploring.  Can you catch minnows?  Pick different kinds of flowers?  Splash in puddles?!  Get wet and muddy, bring the dog, and make life-long wonderful summer memories.
  • Have a messy party in the backyard one afternoon.  Put down a shower curtain or some other large plastic sheet, and give the kids shaving cream, pudding, flour, Koolaid: any kind of messy/goopy/food substance.  Make sure they are wearing old clothes and then let them make the biggest mess ever!  Just make sure to have a bucket of water nearby for rinsing off before they come back in the house.
  • Outdoor bubble bath.  Clear out your shower and vanity of all the old body wash and shampoo bottles that you aren’t using or are mostly empty.  Pull out the kiddie pool, rinse out one of the bottles to get the bubbles started, and turn the kids loose with the rest of the bottles for the world’s largest bubble bath.   (this one might be a good one to do directly after the messy party!)

But mostly, take advantage of the slower pace that summer usually brings.  Spend more time cuddling, playing, and laughing.  Relax and enjoy yourself—let the summer fun begin!

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Katie Malinski

Katie Malinski LCSW is a licensed child and family therapist and parenting coach. In addition to her one-on-one work with families and children, she presents dynamic parenting workshops on a variety of topics, including: Beyond Birds and Bees, Parenting Through Divorce, Typical Parenting Conflicts, and many more. Learn more about Katie at