Summer vacation can be a wonderful time for parents and kids alike. But unless they are employed in the education field, summer vacation usually does not apply to parents. If you have to be working while the kids are on vacation, you might be wondering how to keep them busy. 

Below, we’ve crafted a list of 10 cheap or free summer activities that you can do with your kid or create for them to do while you’re away. If you need some fun new ideas for ways to entertain your kids during the summer, keep reading!

Backyard Obstacle Courses

This idea is especially great for those who might not have a park or playground nearby. Creating an obstacle course for your kids to go through is a great way to entertain them with only the things you have lying around your home. 

Using hula hoops, hoses, sticks, rocks, jump ropes, and other materials, you can create races and obstacle courses for your kids to jump and circuit through. If you agree to time your kids and make it a competition, backyard obstacle courses can entertain your kids for hours. And if you can’t be there, buy a cheap timer and let them challenge each other!

Backyard Water Park

One of the best ways to entertain your children, especially on sweltering days, is by making a backyard water park. If you have a tarp of any kind or a plastic slide, you have what you need to make this activity. 

Simply grab a tarp or slide, secure it safely (so nothing is poking out to scratch your kids), and then cover the slide with water from a hose and some dish soap! The dish soap will bubble up and allow your kids to enjoy a makeshift water slide. If your children are young, this activity could entertain them all afternoon. 

Backyard Camping

If you have a full-time job, you might not have time to take your kids on the road to go camping at a National Park or campsite. Therefore, if you want to camp outdoors as a family, you’ll need to get creative. 

If you have a tent, sleeping bags, or any other camping supplies, you can easily create a little “campsite” in the backyard and make some lasting memories together. This is a great activity for parents who work a lot and can usually only see their kids in the evenings. If you feel especially nostalgic, you can light up a bonfire and roast some marshmallows to make s’mores. 

Practice Cooking Skills

Practicing cooking skills with your children is one practically free way of letting them try a new, productive activity. So while you’re cooking dinner or prepping your lunch for the following day, let your kids help you by (safely) cutting up vegetables, pouring and measuring ingredients, or mixing things. 

Practicing these skills will not only help your child’s development, but it will also keep them entertained and make them feel as though they are chipping in. Who knows? Practicing these skills could even help your child identify a passion for culinary tasks. 

Related: Cheap Activities to do With Your Kids

Outdoor Chalk/Paint Party

This activity is great for families that might not have a lot of backyard space but have a wide sidewalk or safe, non-busy street. Having a sidewalk chalk party or sidewalk paint party can help your children feel more engaged in their neighborhood and community. 

Get some chalk or sidewalk paint and allow your kids to get wild and imaginative. This can help them harness their creative energy for something positive and non-permanent. As soon as it rains or you take a hose to the sidewalk, the art will disappear, and they can start over!

Decorate/Paint Rocks

Decorating and painting rocks is actually a widespread activity among adults and children. It’s become a trend for people to leave painted rocks with inspirational messages or images around their community to spread positivity. Teaching your children to spread these positive messages can help their development and make them feel more connected to their community. 

You’ll need to find some large rocks and gather some paint and paintbrushes. Then, after you’re finished with them, you can place them anywhere in the neighborhood. Put them on a park bench, on a table in the library, or on a shelf at your local grocery store for someone else to find and hide. 

Volunteer in Your Community

Volunteering in your community with your kids is a win-win situation and a perfect summer activity. The extra help will surely be needed and appreciated no matter where you volunteer. Additionally, your kids will learn the value of donating time to non-profit organizations and those less fortunate. Volunteering will give them perspective and boost their own sense of self-esteem.

They may balk at first. But whether you choose to volunteer at a soup kitchen, a community garden, or any other organization, your kids will feel great after helping their community. 

DIY Scavenger Hunt

Creating a scavenger hunt for your kids can be as intensive or easy as you want it to be. If you only need to occupy your kids for a little while, try hiding their favorite items around the house and giving them clues to make them search for them. 

If you have a bit more time, try leaving clues around your house and outside, or make a list of random things for your kids to find. Your children will likely find themselves competing with each other and thinking up new scavenger hunts to keep the game going. 

See Also: How to Stay Productive When Working From Home with Kids

Host a Toy Swap

Hosting a toy swap is a great way to set your kids up to be entertained with some new toys without spending any money! Put up posters around your neighborhood or text other parent friends and ask people to bring lightly used, functional toys for a “toy swap,” which will operate as a garage sale without money.

Have your kids swap toys with other neighborhood kids, and everyone will go home with something new! This idea is also a great way to teach your kids to go through their own items and decide which things they can part with and which they want to keep. 

Tour Your Town

This idea is especially good for those who have moved recently or are exploring a new area. Taking your kids on a “tour” of your town is entirely free and can give them some more perspective on where they live and give them some geographical orientation. 

Additionally, you and your kids might find new places around town you want to explore together! Drive around to visit all the parks, schools, churches, or stores in the area to truly get a sense of what exists around you. Your kids will thank you!

Related: How To Make Money Online and Travel the World

Keeping Kids Occupied Over Vacation

Keeping kids, especially young kids, busy during the summer vacation can certainly be a challenge. Summer is long, and many kids become bored quickly in an unstructured environment without their peers. But with this list of 10 different activity ideas, you can keep your kids entertained during even the most boring days of summer vacation. By using some of these fun, cheap, or free activities, your kids will be back in the classroom in no time with some incredible summer vacation memories.