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Hooray, it’s almost summer! Time to relax, have some fun in the sun + enjoy a more laid-back schedule. Whether you’re planning on chilling at home or heading out to the pool, beach or on vacation, here are some summer activities with kids + some tips to play it safe inside the house, out in the yard + while roaming.
Create a Summer Activities Bucket List
The first thing I do with my kiddos when it’s summer break is make a Summer Activities Bucket List. This, in + of itself, is such a FUN activity. We break out an old fashioned pen + paper + we set to work using our imaginations to conjure up all of the summer activities we can try to accomplish over the summer.
You can get fancy + creative with the design of your bucket list of summer activities but you certainly don’t have to. It can be a standard check to-do list.
Lauren + her 3 kiddos over at Mrs. Weber’s Neighborhood create a handmade summer bucket list. You can check out her ideas for adding summer activities to your bucket list, too.
The Best Ideas for Kids offers a free download of a summer bucket list. Click on the picture of her bucket list to download it from her site.
Check out summer activities throughout + at the end of this post for ideas to add to your own summer activities bucket list.
Summer Activities with Preschoolers
My kids are 5, 3 + 1 so we have to find a range of activities that are fun for everyone. Sometimes, the activity is a bit more focused on one or the other, though.
Some summer activities with preschoolers + toddlers can be just as fun for the Kindergartner, though.
Some of the simpler BUT SO MUCH FUN summer activities with preschoolers that you can do at home:
- Bubble gloves
- Drawing with sidewalk chalk
- Throwing water balloons (especially at their sisters)
- Playing in the water table
- Running through the sprinkler
Another activity that my kids love is to have a summer outdoor movie. Steph over at Dresses and Dinosaurs says to set up a screen + projector, put out some fun cushions or chairs (sometimes she + her kids even use water floats) with blankets + pillows. Steph puts together some fun snacks like snack mixes or popcorn + watches a movie with the kids once the sun goes down!
Slight variation on this. My kids have made “cars” out of cardboard boxes, plates, colored duct tape, markers + more to sit in while they watch the movie. This is what I call a two-fer because you get two activities out of it–making the cars + watching the movie. Woo hoo!
Another slight variation is to seat them in one of their play “car” vehicles. Here is the baby in her sister’s Frozen Jeep. (OK. She’s actually standing.)
I don’t know about your kids but my girls LOVE to play in the mud. Alexandra over at Scissors & Glue suggests setting up a mud kitchen in your back yard + letting your kids go to town digging + playing in the mud.
Alexandra also shares how to serve tea time treats from a mud kitchen. My girls would be in total heaven. Tea + mud, oh my!
Time at the Pool
Swimming is usually high on the list of fun summer activities with kids. My older girls are taking swimming lessons + the oldest is getting ready to participate in the swim “team” for 5 + 6-year-olds in our neighborhood.
For adults + older kids, swimming is a great workout for your heart + lungs + a HUGE stress reliever. If you do head out to the pool with the kids, take the necessary safety precautions no matter what your age or the age of your kids.
Swimming + Pool Safety is a Must
- Always swim with a buddy. The buddy system is important so you can look out for each other while in the water. If someone starts to feel sick or loses control while swimming, his or her buddy can call out for help. If your buddy knows CPR, all the better!
- Take breaks. Swimming + splashing around in the pool is tiring. Swimming takes a lot of energy + muscle power. It’s a full cardio workout, which means your heart + lungs are giving it their all. If you start to feel tired + like you can’t keep up, sit this one out. Just a few minutes of rest may be all you need before you’re back in line at the diving board.
- Don’t go in without a lifeguard on duty. Lifeguards are trained to keep people of all ages + sizes safe in the water. They are required to take water safety courses + undergo CPR training. If you’re at a pool or lake, the best way to keep your entire family safe is to look for a life guard before heading in together for a dip.
- Invest in swim lessons. Anyone at any age or skill level can learn to swim. Once your child masters being able to tread water + swim in the deep end, you’ll feel so much more at ease while at pools, lakes + beaches. It also opens the door to all sorts of fun, warm-weather activities such as boating, kayaking, wave running + more. Knowing how to swim assures a safer + more enjoyable summer for everyone!
- Never leave children in the water unattended. No matter how strong a swimmer your child may be, you should never leave him or her unattended in the pool, at the lake + especially not while swimming in the ocean. Station your group in close proximity to a life guard + put an adult in charge of overseeing the water activities.
- Floaties are everyone’s friend. When in doubt, grab a flotation device. Kids’ life jackets, water wings + pool floaties should be worn according to age, size + weight. Adults too, should check the maximum weight capacity on their flotation device. No shame in taking a rest on your pool raft if you feel the need 🙂
- Observe the water depth. Teach kids to be mindful of the number printed on the side of the pool. Teach them early so they know that 3′ is the safe zone but 5′ is the deep end where only the expert swimmers can go. Even if the deep end is roped off, it’s best to make children aware of water depth.
- Mind the rules of diving + swimming. Teach your children that the adults who are in charge of the pool should be respected. If the sign says NO DIVING, NO RUNNING, NO HORESPLAY then follow accordingly. If kids can’t read yet, take a moment to explain the rules of the pool + that the rules ensure everyone’s safety.
- Keep sun exposure to a minimum. Vitamin D is definitely important, so a little sunshine is okay. But if you plan to be out for several hours, be sure to apply a good, waterproof sun block. Brimmed hats, awnings, umbrellas, rash guards + beach cover ups are other, less messy ways to stay shielded from those UV rays.
- Take a rest after eating before you get in the pool. Some say that you should wait at least a half hour before heading in to take a dip after eating. This is mostly for swimming so you don’t get cramps. Frolicking in the water doesn’t really count so you don’t have to follow this rule to a tee, but it’s good practice to “rest while you digest” so you won’t end up overexerting in the water.
- Keep water horseplay to a minimum. If someone seems scared or uncomfortable, let them be. Teach kids to respect the space of other people. Of course, some splashing + frolicking is great provided everybody’s enjoying it. But if there’s an uncertain swimmer in your midst, or someone who’s afraid of the water, be mindful of their feelings + safety.
For more pool safety tips, check out Pool Safety 101 from Ashley at Irish Twins Momma.
Summer at the Beach
Probably only second to the pool is heading to the beach for a day trip (if you’re lucky enough to live near the beach) or on vacation. In my book, (I’m from Florida but live in Virginia now) the beach is #1 on my summer activities’ list.
The list of things you can do at the beach with the kids is almost endless.
- Playing in the sand
- Building sand castles
- Burying sisters in the sand (Keep their head out, please)
- Carrying a million buckets of water back + forth from the ocean
- Flying a kite
- Having ice cream from a vendor on the beach or nearby
- Blowing bubbles or bubble gloves
- Surfing (for older kids)
- Boogie boarding
- Playing in the surf/waves
- Playing in the tidal pools (be careful of jellyfish + other sea animals)
- Hunting for shells
- Riding bikes
- Taking a walk along the shore
Safety: Fun in the Sun, Safe in the Surf
Whether you’re a year-round shore dweller or someone who just vacations there during the summer, it’s always a good idea to take necessary precautions at the beach. Here are some tips for making your trip to the ocean a fun + safe one.
- Sunscreen up! The white sand + the reflective ocean water, plus the general lack of shade at the beach make for some quick + painful sunburns. Be sure to apply a good, waterproof sunscreen with a high SPF. Those with fair skin may also wish to bring along a beach umbrella, tent +/or hide beneath the wide brim of a floppy beach hat. If you do manage to get a sunburn, use aloe vera after a bath or shower to soothe + moisturize.
- Avoid going in the ocean without a lifeguard present. The undertow can be extremely strong + waves can overwhelm even an expert swimmer. Beach life guards are there for everyone’s safety + enjoyment, so make sure you’re near one if you’re thinking about taking the plunge. (I know I need all the hands + support I can get since my kids outnumber me + my husband!)
- Stay within designated safe swimming areas. At the beach, you’ll often see colorful flags posted every few hundred feet or so, close to the shoreline. This serves to mark the designated safe swimming areas. Usually, a life guard station is between these flag markers. That’s how you know that this is an okay spot for you + your family to swim.
- Swim with a buddy or in a group. It can be a lot of fun, bobbing up + down in the crashing waves, diving into the foamy surf, being thrashed around by the mighty ocean. But ocean swimming takes the most physical effort + is the most dangerous of all types of swimming or water activities. Bring along a swimming partner or entourage if you plan to go in. Always keep your eye on your buddies while in the water, to make sure everybody’s staying safe.
- Don’t bring kids in to swim in the ocean until they’re strong swimmers. The shore line is the perfect spot to wade up to your ankles, build a sand castle, collect some shells + splash in the foam. But kids shouldn’t go all the way in until they’ve taken swim lessons + are proven strong swimmers. If your family or friends plan to be near where the waves break, it’s a good idea to have kids don some swimmies, a floatie tube or properly sized life jacket to ensure that water play stays fun + safe.
- Mind the tide. Year-round beach dwellers often pay attention to something that vacationers may miss: the tide. When the tide is high, the undertow becomes stronger + that can mean more difficult + strenuous swimming/water conditions. Check posted signs so you pick the best time to swim + be on the beach. Or you can always ask a life guard.
- Keep an eye out for jellyfish. Jellyfish prefer warm water, so if you want to avoid them then head out for an ocean swim earlier in the day before the water heats up. If you’re planning a beach vacation, June + July mean less likelihood of encountering jellyfish on the shore line because the water is still on the chilly side. Where there’s one jellyfish there are usually more. If you spot some, maybe take a break on the sand. If there are tidal pools on the beach, be careful there are not jellyfish or jellyfish tentacles in the pools. Even if the tentacles are no linger attached to the body of a jellyfish, they can still sting! (If you do get stung by a jellyfish, here’s what to do. Immediately rinse the sting with sea water + attempt to scrape out the stinger using something with a dull edge, like the edge of a credit card or a child’s sand shovel. Once back at home or at the place where you’re staying, treat the wound by rinsing with vinegar. Apply a baking soda paste. Hot baths + ice packs may also ease the pain. Finally, relieve itching + discomfort with calamine lotion or lidocaine.)
- Don’t forget to hydrate. Tiredness, confusion + headache are all signs of dehydration, but it’s easy enough to avoid, even at the beach. Take along a small cooler filled with bottles of ice water. If you don’t have water with you, stop for some refreshments on the boardwalk. Remind kids to have a drink every so often after playing. Ice pops are another fun way to stay hydrated on a hot, summer beach day!
- Pay attention to landmarks. One funny thing about the beach is that every entrance looks exactly the same as the last one. Teach everyone in your group to pay attention to landmarks, such as special signs, flags, or a particular building that may be within view. This way, if anyone becomes separated from the group, they’ll be able to find their way back easily.
Summer Camps for Kids
My kids attend (or attended) the summer camp at their preschool. My middle daughter is there right now! Summer camps for kids are a great way to occupy their time (for at least half a day, if not a whole day).
Summer camps for kids can range from general day camps to super-specific camps. Our summer camp for preschoolers is general but each of the teachers has a theme.
For example, the teacher that is in charge of my daughter’s camp does a camping theme with them. All of the activities over the course of the two-week camp is centered around camping.
When she was my older daughter’s summer camp teacher, she did an “around the world” theme. They had passports that they made + they did different activities centering around different terrains + areas of the world (desert, wetlands, Antarctica, etc.) to get their passports stamped each day.
I’ve also seen super-specific camps such as science camp, where the kids focus on science-related activities + learning experiences the entire time they are attending the camp.
Summer Camp Safety
Whether it’s the very first camp experience, or your kid is a seasoned camper, sleep-away or weekly day camp… you definitely want to remind your child of some safety precautions to take before embarking on the summer adventure that is camp!
- Get a referral. A familiar summer camp that your child looks forward to having fun at is probably your best bet. This is my girls usually attend the camp at their preschool. Another good idea is to find places you go with your child (My Gym, the local rec center or a local museum, for example). If this is your child’s first experience at a camp they’ve never been to before, try to get a personal recommendation from a friend whose child has already attended, if possible.
- Take a tour. If it’s a brand new + unfamiliar summer camp, be sure to take a tour with your child. This way, you can get to know the counselors + caregivers while getting a feel for the types of activities they offer.
- Use the buddy system. Whether the day’s activity is hiking in the woods, lake or pool swimming, arts + crafts, or sports… encourage your child to hang with a buddy + stay with the group.
- Teach your child about privacy + personal space. If it’s sleep-away camp, your child is going to change into sleepwear, swim wear or day wear, take showers + use the facilities. Teach her the difference between good touching + bad touching. Let her know that she has a right to her own space + privacy. Make it known that if someone makes her feel uncomfortable, she needs to tell you right away.
- Make sure your child knows where the infirmary or nurse’s office is. Bee stings, skinned knees, poison ivy + heat exhaustion can all be a routine part of camp life. Encourage your child to tell his or her counselor if he’s been injured or has any symptoms that may need to be treated. If your kiddo has allergies, be sure that your child’s counselor, camp nurse + caregivers know what the allergies are + how to treat the symptoms.
Amusement Park, the Zoo + Carnivals
Summer time offers its share of fun in the form of carnivals, zoos, amusement parks + water parks. In our area, we have both paid + free options.
One of our summer vacations with the kids is to take them to Hershey Park, Dutch Wonderland + Sesame Place. Being from Florida, I have been to Disney about 101 times (maybe more). Check out my article on 4 Tips to Prep for Your Disney Trip with Kids.
We have the National Zoo (free) + Frying Pan Park Farm (free) nearby + Roari’s Zoofari (paid) that are usually on our list of summer activities with kids.
We tend to make a day (or a half day) out of going to the local farms + zoos. We get in the car + head to the place by around 10 am. We pack snacks, drinks (especially water) + sometimes even a lunch.
We take along a blanket to sit on the ground for a picnic on the ground. If there are picnic tables or general tables available, we, of course, snag one of those instead.
Amusement parks are more of an all-day affair. Before you pile all the kids in the car, take some of these safety tips into consideration to ensure the most enjoyment with the least amount of worry.
- Charge up the phones before heading out. Whomever has phones (parents, kids or both) should bring them along on your excursion. This way, if anyone becomes separated from the group, they can put in a quick call to locate the pack. Another good use of cell phones is for meet-ups. “I’ll see you over by the monkey cages at 3:15.”
- Try to keep it to an even number of friends or family. This is particularly important if you’re visiting an amusement park or carnival. If your family is oddly numbered, then bring along a friend for the day. This way, you’ll never be in that awkward scenario where one person has to either ride with a stranger or sit the ride out entirely + get separated from the group. Also, it means there is one adult per child!
- If the sign says don’t feed the animals… don’t feed the animals. Many zoos have designated petting zoo areas where you can purchase animal feed for a quarter + have a great old time letting goats nibble out of your palm. However, kids should be taught that other animals outside the petting zoo may not be as friendly + should not be offered a snack.
- Stow your valuables if you plan to use the water park. It’s helpful to bring a sleeve of quarters so you can get a locker to store your cell phone, wallet + other valuables while splashing about in the water park.
- Mind the height requirements + cautions for various amusement park or carnival rides. Usually the people who work at such establishments are pretty good at knowing when someone is too short to ride a certain ride. However, some folks are more lax about the rules — so it’s up to you to make sure that kids are safe.
- Accompany kids to the bathroom. Play it safe + keep the children with you in the bathroom.
- Take shelter from a sudden storm. Every once in a while, a brief summer thunderstorm disrupts your outing. If this happens, find the nearest place where you can go indoors, such as a gift shop or food establishment. Typically, summer thunderstorms pass quickly so it won’t be too much of a hassle. If caught outside in an electrical storm, be sure to avoid trees, tall metal structures + metal poles.
Take a Hike
Take the kiddos on a family-friendly hiking or walking trail. We recently took a vacation to Shenandoah Valley for spring break. This area has numerous trails so we were able to find a family-friendly one where the girls could walk on their own + we could push the baby in her stroller.
We also have numerous trails surrounding us in the area we live, including one in our neighborhood. Hiking or walking a trail with the kids is one of those summer activities that is great in the morning or later in the day when it is cooler.
Hiking or walking a trail is a fabulous way to introduce your kids to nature. Birds, animals, fish, plants, flowers + fauna are all typically within arm’s reach.
It’s also a GREAT way to tire the kids out so naps just might be in order — even for the kids that don’t normally take naps!
Practice Good Safety While Hiking + Exploring the Woods
While taking a walk in the woods can be enjoyable, there are definitely some things to be mindful of in the interest of your safety, as well as the safety of your kids.
- Select a trail that matches the ability level of the kids. Most people who hike often know that there are easy trails, where the terrain is fairly level + without obstacles. Then, there are more strenuous trails that may lead up mountains, onto rocky terrain + over sloped areas that pose risk to less experienced or less able-bodied hikers. The trails are marked by different colors, such as red, white, blue, green, orange, etc. If you aren’t sure which colors mean what, spend some time looking at the hiking trail map. Or, talk with a park ranger or hiker who is familiar with the trail + can guide you into choosing the most kiddo-friendly trail.
- Bring a charged cell phone. Keep yours charged + on your person during hiking expeditions. One useful thing about having your cell on a hike is that if you decide not to go the full trail, you can navigate your way to a shortcut that meets the road.
- Keep a back pack with plenty of bottles or sippy cups of water. It’s important to stay hydrated, especially if hiking during the summer months.
- Take along a first aid kit. Hopefully, you’ll never have to use it – but if someone gets cut or scraped while on the trail, a first aid kit with Bactine + band-aids is going to be a welcome + comforting sight.
- Dress for tick protection. Deer ticks carry the dreaded Lyme Disease + Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Take precaution by wearing long sleeves, long pants + tying up or putting a cap over long hair before heading out into the deep woods for a hike.
- If you see a bear, make a lot of noise. Hiking in Bear Country? Bears typically don’t bother humans + are typically only after a potential snack. But mother bears can become defensive if they see you as a threat to their cubs. If you spot a bear in the woods + there’s no avoiding it, spread out your limbs to appear bigger, clap your hands together + make a lot of noise. This is said to scare off bears so they’ll leave you alone.
- Avoid smoking cigarettes in the woods. Prevent forest fires by not smoking in the woods. Smoking and hiking are two activities that don’t mix anyway.
Camp in the Backyard
You don’t have to pack up for a camping trip + drive out to a campground. Turn your back yard into a camp ground — complete with tent + a campfire (Check with your local authority to make sure there isn’t a burn ban in your area).
My girls adore putting up the tent with their dad + getting their sleeping bags, blankets + pillows all set up inside. We live in a wooded area so our back yard does have a camp ground feel to it.
We have a fire pit that we (carefully) roast marshmallows over to make s’mores with the girls.
Campfire Safety this Summer
Are you a campfire person? For many of us, the cool air of a summer night conjures up memories of toasting marshmallows + telling spooky stories around a campfire. If you build a campfire, be sure to practice good safety habits.
- Add a screen. Wood fires can pop, crackle + sparks. You can use a protective screen to avoid the burn of a stray ember.
- Phone it in. Many towns have a special phone number that you can call to find out if there is a burn ban in your area due to dry conditions. This way, you know not to have a campfire if dry conditions could cause a fire outbreak.
- If you dig a fire pit, be sure it’s large and deep enough. The recommendation is 4 feet in diameter and 12 inches deep. There should also be a border of large stones around the fire, to ensure that the flames are kept to one spot. Leave 2 inches of space between the stones for proper air flow.
- Have a water source nearby. This means a working hose that’s hooked up + ready to go if necessary. Typically, you can put out a fire by shoveling dirt from the bottom of the fire pit over the burning embers + wood. But if you want to be more quick about stopping the fire, then use the hose method. This unfortunately creates a ton of smoke, but it may be your best option in certain circumstances.
- Teach kids to stay back from the fire. Also do not allow anyone to run around near the fire pit, where both the flames + the large stones pose a risk. Avoid having people wear loose clothing which could catch on fire if the individual is tending or poking at the fire.
- Don’t forget about stop, drop + roll. This is fire safety 101, taught from the beginning in preschool. Remind all of your campfire attendees that stop, drop + roll is still the best way to put out a fire in someone’s clothes catch an ember.
- Avoid smoke inhalation. If your fire begins to billow out smoke for whatever reason (green wood, spraying water on it to put it out), instruct everyone present to leave the area until the smoke clears.
- Don’t start a campfire on a windy night. If you’re not sure if it’s good campfire weather, you can consult with your local fire department to be sure. Some towns regularly post a risk of forest fire number which is good to know if you host campfires near a wooded area or in a neighborhood where the homes are closer together.
- When in doubt, put it out! If you’re ever wondering if this is the wrong time for a campfire, it probably is. Best to be safe than sorry… so put it out!
My girls love to plant flowers, trees + bushes. We live in a wooded area + have had to cut down a few trees that were endangering our house + cars. We bought tons of news trees to plant with them–trying to teach them that if you have to take a tree away that you should plant at least one tree to replace it.
(We planted a lot more than a 1:1 ratio).
Every Spring we plant new flowers with the girls in our flower beds + planters. We have even gone down the road of having tomato plants.
Gardening or planting a garden is one of those summer activities that comes with a ton of benefits for you, your kids + the environment.
The girls even have little gardening sets made for kids that make planting or tending to trees, flowers or veggies easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Summer Time Gardening Safety
Did you know that good gardeners have their own set of rules that they abide by for the best yield of produce + the safest gardening experience? If you’re new to gardening, heed these wise words when growing veggies, herbs + fruits this summer with the kids.
- If it’s not in use, store it away. This means shovels, wheelbarrows, rakes + gardening shears. Tools that are left scattered about can pose a risk to the passerby who may accidentally trip + fall over them + you don’t want the kids messing around with sharp objects unsupervised. Also, tools that are left out in the rain can rust over time. Take a few minutes to tidy up after a day of toiling in the garden beds. It is safer + the garden looks tidier, too!
- Replace rusty fencing. Lots of people put up low critter fences to keep rabbits + other varmints away from their veggie gardens. We have to put up deer fencing or the deer in our neighborhood eat EVERYTHING. Over time, this fencing can rust. If someone accidentally scratches themselves on the fence, this can pose a risk. So be a safe gardener + get rid of that rusty fencing.
- Don’t pick veggies after a rain, or when it’s dewy out. The air becomes moist after the sun goes down + everything is covered in dew in the morning. This is the worst time to pick vegetables because wetness transmits mold, bacteria + viruses. Wait until the sun has been shining on your garden for a while to dry everything out, before heading in to harvest.
- Use proper form when bending + reaching to pick vegetables and tend your crops. It’s easy to strain your muscles if you reach too far while standing in an awkward position. Remember to bend your knees when leaning forward + keep your tummy pulled in so as to avoid straining your back while gardening. (This one is probably more for you than your kids.)
- Avoid using chemical sprays on your garden. This includes pest control. Most garden pests can be kept under control either by planting strongly scented herbs nearby your veggie plants, or by simply picking the beetles off the plants. Another option is to knock off garden bugs with a spray of the hose.
Summer Activities Bucket List
I mentioned earlier that my girls + I have not made our summer activities bucket list quite yet but here are some more ideas to inspire you when making your own list.
- Go to a baseball game
- Make popsicles
- Go on a scavenger hunt. Check out scavenger hunt printables) from Red Tricycle)
- Visit a foreign country (from your living room)
- Plant a garden
- Make homemade ice cream
- Check out a program at the library
- Check out books at the library
- Decorate a t-shirt
- Check out the summer movie program ($1 per person)
- Buy ice cream from the ice cream truck
- Visit a museum
- Go to a spray park
- Go to a drive-in movie (We have tickets that we bought the girls as part of their Easter basket gifts)
- Make homemade ice cream sundaes for dinner
- Pick your own berries at a local farm
- Play baseball
- Ride a bike (maybe even learn to ride a bike without training wheels)
- Visit a local book store (We found a really neat one in Old Town Alexandria, Hooray Books, where we found some of the neatest items, including the baby’s new llama Wubba Nub!)
- Act out a puppet show (My girls did this last night)
- Try a new ice cream place (We hit a local shop, Sugar Mama’s,) recently that makes their ice cream locally + it was DELISH! They also have this fabulous idea where you can buy mini scoops of different flavors for 50 cents each so you can try a variety of flavors all at once.)
- Gaze at the stars
- Watch airplanes land + take off (Dulles + Reagan National are our local airports)
- Attend an outdoor concert
- Host winter activities in the summer (See 101 Winter Activities for ideas)
- Enjoy the indoors or rainy summer days (See Rainy Day Activities for ideas)
It’s summer ya’ll so make your summer activities bucket list, start doing + checking items off your list. Have a happy + safe summer!
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