23 Inexpensive Boredom Busters For The Summer of 2023
Here in Indiana, we're about a month into the summer. Many families with children run them from one camp to another but often, there is plenty of down time. If you need some ideas to fill summer days with fun activities when kids have nothing to do, here are twenty-three free or inexpensive alternatives to video games or TV.
- Plant a garden. Now is the perfect time to plant and watch seeds grow throughout the summer and fall. Cucumbers take 60-70 days from seed to harvest, and if you plan pumpkin seeds in the next week or two, they will be ready for Halloween.
- Go bowling. The Kids Bowl Free program allows kids to play two free games daily at participating bowling centers.
- Watch birds. Take some binoculars and a book of the state's native birds to the backyard and try to identify as many species as possible.
- Visit the public library. Public libraries often offer free summer reading programs that include workshops, movies, children's theater, puppet shows and more. Or just check out how-to books so you and your kids can learn something new together.
- Listen to a concert in park. Many cities have free summer concert series during the day or evening.
- Go to a museum. Bank of America and Merrill Lynch credit cardholders can get a free ticket on the first Saturday of every month to 150 participating museums (in 31 states). Check out the Bank of America Museums on Us program for more details. Also check with museums in your hometown to see if they offer any freebies for kids.
- See free or cheap movies. Many theaters have free or cheap ($1 to $2) showings of family-friendly movies on weekday mornings. Check our your nearest AMC, Regal, Cinemark or other theaters in your city for their program offerings.
- Take a hike along nature trails or at a nearby forest. Stop along the path to play in a creek. Wade in and try to catch tadpoles.
- Have a scavenger hunt. Hide items in your house or yard, then give the kids a list of the items and see who can find them the fastest.
- Decorate windows with washable window markers.
- Set up a spa. Paint your kids' nails, do their hair and apply makeup -- or let them provide spa services to you.
- Bake. Let the kids help you make cookies, a cake, anything.
- Create an obstacle course or water world in the backyard. Let kids race through hoops, cross logs, or battle it out with water guns and a hose.
- Play in rain. The kids will love the chance to do something that's taboo (not recommended if there is lightning or strong winds in the area).
- Have a tea party. Pull out those fancy silver trays or plates you never use (or stick with plastic for toddlers), pile on some cookies and treats, and get dressed for high tea.
- Participate in nature programs. City park systems that have nature centers usually offer free programs for children that let them explore the outdoor world.
- Play hide and seek - indoors or outdoors.
- Visit a pet store. Think of it as a mini petting zoo. Just warn the kids before you go that you won't be bringing home a pet (unless you actually want to). You also could take the kids to the humane society, which might need volunteers to walk the dogs.
- Take a trip to the dollar store. Tell the kids how much they can spend, and let them find items that don't exceed their budgets.
- Make instruments. Rainsticks are easy to assemble by filling a paper-towel tube with rice and crumpled wiring (or something to make the rice move slower) and covering the ends with paper and tape. Or get really creative and construct enough instruments for an entire band.
- Learn a language. Check with your public library to see if it offers free programs online. Or visit YouTube and type in, for example, Spanish lessons. Then travel the world without leaving home. Learn about other countries (using Wikipedia) and make their traditional meals (with help from the kids) for dinner.
- Look at the stars. A number of apps can easily help identify constellations, or check out a book from the library. If there's an observatory or planetarium in your town, see if it offers free shows.
- For teens - Create a driving obstacle course with orange cones for young drivers and award them points for accuracy (not speed).
While having children in summer camps helps parents (especially working parents) keep kids safe and entertained, there are some benefits to underscheduling children. The ability to experience boredom encourages creativity, boosts self-esteem and fosters original thinking. Boredom is uncomfortable and can feel frustrating. Pushing through that discomfort is a life skill that will help kids develop independence, explore new interests and try new things.