Ideas for Inexpensive Summer Fun

Nothing says summer like catching lightning bugs in a jar, eating hot dogs at birthday parties on the river, spending the afternoon in the garden or running barefoot through the yard during a summer rain.

We are quickly approaching our move to Los Angeles. While I’m certain that move will bring a load of new adventures, we are soaking up all the feels of a Tennessee summer with our extended family.

I keep hearing comments like “Oh, this summer we are trying something new,” like letting your kids run through the backyard sprinkler or barefoot through a creek isn’t the norm. To each their own, but I want my kid to be a KID for as long as she possibly can. Since the day my daughter was born, taking her outside has always provided an instant calming atmosphere. Now, as a toddler, I have to drag her inside the house, kicking and screaming, for bath time and bed.

We take our time outdoors very seriously. Even though my toddler isn’t on a break from school, I still have joined the ranks of moms everywhere looking for inexpensive ways for our kids to enjoy summer.

Summer Bucket list Challenge

Right before school let out for summer, my cousin gave me ideas for a Summer Bucket list Challenge.

She inspired me to not only make my own list, but to see how many things we could check off. Nothing on the list will drain your bank account and, because I have a toddler, most are fun ideas for families. Here are some simple ways to enjoy summer with your kids after work, on the weekends or, as a stay at home mom, ways to fill your day.

Backyard Garden Projects

Thanks to my parents, my daughter has adopted a love for gardening. In our kitchen we save vegetable waste for compost. We even make special trips to Whole Foods and Starbucks for their coffee grounds and juicing pulp.

Why waste all of that when we can have the most rich dirt for our backyard garden! We started composting several years ago. It has become a way to teach my daughter about reducing waste and not further polluting the air, land and water. Gardening can be done anywhere. I have learned that even in big cities there are options and ways you can create your own little green space oasis.

If you live in a big city with less options for backyard space, I have learned there are rentable spaces, community gardens and even urban garden options like vertical and wall planters. Madison has learned the process of prepping the ground, planting seeds and providing the care the plants need to flourish. So far, her favorite part is picking vine ripe berries and digging potatoes out of the dirt. A backyard garden project is typically something we begin each season and find ways to make it better. Even the puppies get their paws dirty and play.

Exploring the Great Outdoors

Campfires, s’mores and lightning bugs are a true sign of summer. Our family loves to hit our favorite campground but, if that’s not an option, we are always down for a backyard campout. Start the evening with the sending your kids into the yard with a mission of filling an old mason jar full of lightnting bugs just as the sun begins to go down. This is an activity that’s sure to keep them busy. Don’t forget to poke holes in the top of your lid for bug breathing (no bugs were harmed in the making of this post). Sometimes we make homemade pizzas on the grill, or simply roast hot dogs. We pitch our tent, make our s’mores and enjoy life under the stars. I try to pick a night closer to a full moon; the kids love watching it come up.

Grab your shoes because whats a camp out without a nighttime nature hike? Grab your flashlights and tape a red filter on top. This will shed a little more light without messing up your eyes natural adjustment to the dark. Before heading out on your walk, research owls that may be in your area and see if you can master the call. If you do, you might be surprised what will call back at you.

Impromptu Rain Showers

When the random summer shower hits don’t let it put a damper on your day. There is nothing like running barefoot in the yard, and fat rain is the best. You might even get jealous of all the fun your kids are having and join in.

Cooking Classes

If you didn’t know, most grocery stores offer cooking classes. I know that Publix has Aprons cooking classes. They offer everything from Girls Night Out to a Junior Chef Camp. While my daughter isn’t old enough for this yet, every momma needs a girls night out and “You had me at Merlot” sounds like a right fit.

Check the Publix website or check your local grocery store for details on offers in your area.

Local Attractions

There is no better time that summer than to renew or begin memberships to museums, zoos, or aquariums or other local attractions. We always take advantage of memberships because these are great ways to get multiple days throughout the year without having to rush through the exhibits.

Don’t forget about local libraries. I have found, in multiple cities, the local library is the best place to find inexpensive special events like art class or toddler time.

Stores like Michael’s and Hobby Lobby often offer kids craft classes that are hands on. Sometimes they are free, or as little as $5.00.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Enjoying an evening at the ball field doesn’t have to come at the MLB price tag. There are farm league, single, double and triple A teams everywhere. Tickets are usually cheap enough that even if you don’t make it to the 7th inning stretch, it’s still been worth your money. Parking, food and kids entry prices are significantly lower as well.

Drive-in Movies

What better way to enjoy family time or a date night than a drive-in movie? Majority of time, moviegoers have the chance to catch multiple movies under one carload ticket. Most drive-in theatres even allow you to bring in your own food, drinks and snacks. Catching a movie under a starlit sky provides a change of environment and even a touch of nostalgia. Such a simple way to catch a movie with family and not spend a chunk of your summer bucket list cash on one outing.

Simple Backyard Ideas

Don’t forget about all the ways you can enjoy the summer sun without even leaving your own backyard.

  • Recycle old water bottles or clean household containers and make a water wall.
  • Make a bird feeder and hang it outside the window to see who all comes over for a snack.
  • Make Slime! Apparently it’s all the rage and there are so many tutorials on YouTube.
  • Bubble party. Blast your kids favorite dance mix and hang kiddie-poolside with the bubble machine. That’s what my toddler calls a party.

Lemonade Stands and Summer Sleds

Lastly, don’t let those Amazon Prime boxes die in vain. With any leftover boxes, you can throw together a summer sled and find the closest hill to slide down. Maybe even with a little extra effort, repurpose, assemble and paint them for a lemonade or bake sale stand. My daughter loves to help in the kitchen and baking is a favorite pastime. We make cookies for grandparents, neighbors and friends because, goodness knows, I don’t need all that temptation sitting on my kitchen counter.

I call this two birds, one stone. Disguise online order boxes and give your kid something fun to do in the process. You are so welcome.

Now go make some summertime memories!

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Jessica McClendon

This is me, an East Tennessee transplant to Los Angeles, California, wife to Jacques McClendon, my handsome better half and mom to baby girl Madison who is two.

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