If your original plans for the season are totally off the table this year, don’t worry! You can still have a fantastic time with these family-friendly activities for summer. Take a look!
Summer vacation can be a huge source of anxiety for parents in even the most normal of years, and this year is anything but normal! From canceled getaways to closed-down theme parks, many of our original plans hit the chopping block hard. That doesn’t mean summer is ruined, though. Far from it! These family-friendly activities for summer prove that you can still have a blast. Bonus- they’re all super budget-friendly, too.
1. Pitch a tent!
While many vacation resorts are either closed or operating at extremely limited capacity, camping getaways are still very much on the table. Camping isn’t just fun, it’s also one of the best ways to bond as a family. Think about it- no distractions, no crowds, no technology. Just you and your kids, enjoying fresh air and getting to know each other better.
FYI, If you can’t afford (or don’t want to visit) a major campsite, you can always mimic one in your backyard. Declare the house off-limits for everything except bathroom breaks and lock those phones inside to get the full experience.
2. Start your own family club
This is one of my favorite family-friendly activities for summer that engages everyone both near and far. In other words, it’s a great way to keep in touch with far-off friends and family. Whether it’s a book club, a film club, or even a cooking club, choose something that your whole family enjoys. Then, each week, choose a new book, movie, or recipe to read/watch/try. On Sundays (or whatever day works for everyone), get together in group chat or Zoom to talk about it.
3. Take mini vacations
Your grand trip to Disney may be off the calendar, but that doesn’t mean you’re completely stuck at home all season long. Consider renting an Airbnb for a quick weekend getaway. Even if you just go to the next town over, you’ll feel like you’re getting away. That alone is amazing for stress relief. Plus, Airbnb rentals are often super affordable. I just saw one for $37 a night in Miami Beach. Can’t beat that!
4. Throw a backyard carnival
For many families, summer just isn’t summer without a trip to a state fair or carnival. Sure, you can’t exactly set up a Tilt-a-Whirl in your backyard, but you can still capture some of the excitement. Try setting up fun carnival games for your kids. Ring tosses, balloon darts, and the duck pond are all easy to recreate.
5. Put a unique spin on a family summer bucket list
If you spend even a second on Pinterest, you’ll see thousands of “summer bucket list” ideas. The problem? Most were written before things got so crazy, so they don’t take into account all of the limitations we’re facing.
Rather than copy someone else’s list, though, try making your own with a unique spin. Every item on the list has to be something that your family can do totally alone. In other words, no theme parks surrounded by other people. The possibilities are endless, but some ideas include:
- Build the ultimate sandcastle on a secluded beach
- Learn magic tricks and put on a show for each other
- Hike every local trail
- Spot every bird that’s native to your area
6. Plant a neighborhood garden
Want to connect with your neighbors in a meaningful way while still maintaining your distance? Consider planting a community garden. Either choose a plot of land accessible to everyone (and get the proper permits) or decide as a neighborhood to set aside a piece of your front yard for everyone to enjoy.
Everyone gets a different planting theme for their plot. For example, maybe your family plants the makings for pizza sauce- tomatoes, basil, etc. while one neighbor focuses on fruit salad ingredients and another on the ultimate herbal tea garden. The point is, everyone works together- but apart- to create something that the whole community can enjoy. Plus, while you can of course get the kids involved, it’s something that even your single neighbor who lives alone can be a part of.
7. Make a family summer blockbuster movie
Thanks to technology, making a movie has never been easier. So, get in touch with your inner screenwriters, directors, and actors and make the ultimate summer blockbuster. Not only is this a super fun way to spend time together a family, it’s actually incredibly educational for all involved. From learning new writing skills to memorizing lines to working together to build “sets,” it’s a full STEAM experience. If you’re not sure how to start, this is a really great guide.
8. Brighten someone’s day while enjoying nature together
Grab a handful of flat stones and some paint for this family-friendly summer activity that not only gets you out into nature, but also helps make a total stranger’s day a whole lot brighter. A friend of mine paints the most stunning scenes on rocks, then leaves them for hikers to find.
If you can barely draw a stick figure let alone paint a Picasso-level scene on stones, try writing meaningful and uplifting words on them instead. Then, put on your walking shoes, pack up your painted rocks, and head out to release them into the world.
9. Go on a virtual vacation
We know that family vacations make kids smarter, but with so many major tourist destinations shuttered for the season, going on an actual trip across the world isn’t exactly feasible. The good news, though, is that many museums, galleries, zoos and more opened their virtual doors to the world. The best news? “Admission” is totally free!
Go the whole nine yards with your virtual vacation by treating it like a real one. Studies show that even just planning a vacation can boost your mood, so break out the travel guides and pretend that you’re really going. Create an itinerary, plan a menu around your destination’s cuisine, and count down the days just like you would with a “real” vacation. Then, when the day arrives, declare your family “out of town” and let the fun begin.
10. Relive an era without technology
After you “get home” from your virtual vacation, toss your phone in a drawer, unplug the television set, and flashback to the 80s. The 1880s, that is! Seriously, unplugging together is one of the best family-friendly summer activities that you can do, and it doesn’t have to be as boring as your kids will inevitably make it sound.
Imagine what the world would be like if television, the internet, cell phones, or even electricity was never invented. Make a game of it…literally! Each week, “live” in a new century. Before your unplugged night, head to the library to learn more about this week’s era. Then, when the day comes, actually spend the time playing games, making meals, and doing activities that families did during that time.
Planning family-friendly activities for summer doesn’t always have to involve breaking out your credit card or hopping in an airplane. There are so many things that you can do right at or near your own home. As long as you’re spending time together, every activity is meaningful. Think of your family as the cake, and the things you do together as the icing!