As an adult I occasionally daydream about certain times during my childhood. When I’m in my cubicle on a summer afternoon, it’s not nostalgia for Nintendo, Gameboy, or shows from TGIF that puts a smile on my face; it’s the more homegrown fun we had. I can remember my father playing badminton with us in that tantalizing late evening dusk when the sky is halfway between nighttime and day—the playful flicker of lightning bugs all around us captures this moment with their flash photography. There were many a baitcaster fishing reel in our cabin in the mountains, and diving in our swimming pool one last time before sitting out in the grass to eat Mom’s strawberry shortcake. On our vacations in Ocean City, MD our parents were not busied by jobs and everyday chores so instead they could focus on a game of Scrabble with us, keeping us engaged and thrilled for hours.

                The inspiration for this article and for a wonderful afternoon spent daydreaming was from a tip I read in Woman’s Day magazine about an awesome idea for some frugal family fun (included below, with source). I hope you enjoy my own ideas, and I would love to hear yours!

  1. Glow in the Dark Magic (From Woman’s Day, April Issue): Buy tubes of glow-in-the-dark sticks ($1 each for a tube of 15 at Michael’s) and let your kids run around in the backyard at night. Try a game of nighttime freeze tag!
  2. Paintball in the Backyard: Ever notice how cheap water guns are? Purchase one each for every member in your family, and then dye the water a different color for each member. Fill up the water guns, put on old clothing, and play a game of “paintball” in your backyard.
  3. Night Under the Stars: Buy a map of the stars you can see with your naked eyes (I personally have the Klutz Guide), and grab a blanket. Check out the following summer nights when there will be meteor showers: the June Bootids shower on June 22nd and the Perseids Meteor Shower on August 12 (for more information, check out MeteorBlog).  For even more fun, pitch your tent and camp out for the night.
  4. S’Mores: Have a fire pit, chiminea, or can you make a fire pit? Have your kids hunt for their own sticks, break out the graham crackers, chocolate bars, and marshmallows and take the dessert outside. For more stick-friendly foods, try wrapping sausage or hot dogs in crescent rolls, roasting apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar, bannock, or kebabs.
  5. Friday Night Sparklers: Or Tuesday night sparklers…or Sunday night sparklers. Who said sparklers were just for once a year on July 4th? Sparklers are inexpensive, and will light up your child’s face.
  6. Go Treasure Hunting: Grab a compass, and try out Letterboxing, or borrow someone’s metal detector and take it outback with your kids.
  7. Start a Family Collection: The idea with this is to have a collective goal to bring your family together. This family goes on walks and collects change to donate to charities. If you live near the ocean or water of any kind, purchase a fish net to hang on your wall (perhaps in your family room) and go on walks to gather things to nestle into the netting, such as shells, driftwood, etc. Collect neat-looking stones and look them up on the internet.
  8. Pick Your Own Food: Almost nothing is more fun and immediately rewarding than gathering your own food. Try picking strawberries, peaches, apples, etc. Check out this website to find a pick-your-own farm near you.
  9. Feeding Ducks: This is still one of my favorite activities, even as an adult. I save the ends of my bread loaves and put them into the freezer. When I have enough, I find a duck pond and spend a half an hour or so engaged in nature.  

What are some of your favorite summer activities, either ones you remember, or ones you enjoy with your own family?

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16 replies
  1. Budgeting in the Fun Stuff
    Budgeting in the Fun Stuff says:

    I liked that water gun paintball idea! We also feed the ducks. Other frugal activities could be scavenger hunts, night-time hide-and-go-seek, or homemade carnival-like games.

    I used to set up laudry baskets (tilted a little by putting shoes under one side) and my little sisters and I would try to get the tennis balls to stay in the baskets we threw them at…closest basket was 1 point, furthest was 3. The winner got to pick the dessert that night or whatever…

  2. BluSky
    BluSky says:

    Re: #3, there’s an app for that 🙂 It’s rather cool too. It’s called Google Sky Map and is free in the Android app store. What you do with it is hold your phone up to the sky and where ever you aim your camera lens, a map of the stars, planets and constellations in that direction appears on the screen.

  3. Squirrelers
    Squirrelers says:

    I like this list, and the topic. Thanks for reminding me about feeding ducks. When my daughter was between 2 to 4 years of age, we would occasionally let her feed ducks at a local park. Haven’t done that in a few years, and that hasn’t been top of mind for me. I might just revisit that, to see if she still gets excited to do that now that she’s 7.

  4. Amanda L. Grossman
    Amanda L. Grossman says:

    BluSky: Wow–that is super cool, and super tech. Have I mentioned that I normally run about 10 years behind the tech age:). Thank you for sharing!

    Squirrelers: You are most welcome. I hope you enjoy! Thank you for the comment.

  5. Joe Plemon
    Joe Plemon says:

    Thanks for the great list. Our kids are now grown, but it brought back lots of memories – S’mores are indeed addictive. One frugal family fun thing we often did was take a walk around the neighborhood. We would visit with other families who were out walking or simply enjoy being out together.

  6. Miss Oz Fan
    Miss Oz Fan says:

    These are such great ideas! My kids are grown but the grandkids would LOVE the S’Mores and paintball ideas especially.. Ok, I would love the SMores idea too 🙂

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