5 Super Fun Summer Vacation Activities for Keeping Your Kids Busy

It's time to embrace summer with open arms.  Mighty Mommy has five super fun summer vacation activities to keep your kids busy and your sanity intact.

Cheryl Butler
8-minute read
Episode #532

Summer vacation has arrived! Although some families are totally ready for some much-needed fun in the sun, there are many parents who stare at their calendars wondering how in the heck they will keep their cherubs busy for the next ten weeks. Let's talk about some fun summer vacation activities to keep kids engaged and out of trouble.

When your kids step through the door on that last day of school, get ready to embrace vacation with open arms. Remember, you don’t have to entertain your kids around the clock. Although younger kids definitely need supervision, kids of all ages should learn to occupy themselves. Mighty Mommy has six super fun ways to encourage them to stay busy without you losing your summer sanity.

#1 - Brainstorm your ideal summer vacation.

Before the summer season takes off, spend some time brainstorming what your ideal (or close to it) vacation looks like. This will differ for families with parents who work outside of the home as opposed to those home with their kids 24/7. Before one of your kids has the opportunity to announce “I’m bored,” lay out a plan that addresses the following.

Unstructured time

As much as we feel the need to keep our kids occupied all summer long, The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children have an hour per day to unwind, relax, and have some simple creative playtime. Pre-school kids might have time right after breakfast to play quietly while you clean up the dishes. Toddlers might have regular rest-time right after lunch in their bedrooms just like they would in daycare. School-aged children might have a couple hours before dinner to play video games, hang out with neighbor friends, or get their laundry put away. Do you have quiet activities (coloring, books, arts and craft items, video games, an audio book subscription such as audible, blocks or card games etc.) on hand that your kids can enjoy while you’re checking emails, paying bills, or planning dinner?

Do you have quiet activities on hand that your kids can enjoy while you’re checking emails, paying bills, or planning dinner?

Planned activities

Depending on your children’s ages there will be plenty of times throughout the week that you’ll need to have activities or outings planned to keep boredom at bay. Create a list of all the fun things you’d like to do this summer including trips to the library, the beach, summer plays at local community theaters, trying new ice cream shops, getting a summer pass to the nearby zoo or museums, paint-your-own-pottery shops, kayaking, roller skating, ferry rides, the movies, visiting the local aquarium etc.  Each year our family creates a “Summer To Do” list where everyone lists at least two or three things he/she would love to do over the summer. I type the list on a piece of fun, summery stationery and post it in the kitchen so we can take turns doing these items. Some of these scenarios are just one-on-one time with mom or dad, but other items have included a white-river rafting trip for the entire family, a cooking class to learn how to make homemade pasta, and sporty items like archery and snorkeling lessons.

Summer rules and chores

Many families decide summer time should be laid back and carefree. When my kids were younger, although we weren’t following a school schedule, we still kept our bedtime routines as close to the school year timeframe as possible. When I was tuckered out at the end of a long day, I knew the kids would still be in bed at a reasonable hour and I could have some downtime. It also helped tremendously when we had to ease everyone back to the school routine in the fall. Because I have been raising a family with eight kids, I also had to be consistent with chores throughout the year. Decide if your kids will still be responsible for helping with dishes, taking out the trash, babysitting younger siblings, and caring for their laundry during the summer months. Or will the rules or curfews lighten up a bit?

Summer camp

Are you on the fence about sending your child to a summer camp? Start chatting it up with other parents, neighbors, and folks in your community to get their recommendations. There could be a great camp option that fits your family’s schedule and budget. In my post, 5 Reasons Your Child Should Attend a Summer Camp, I explored the many pros of a structured camp experience. Most of my kids attended one or two weeks of camp each summer. It was something for them (and me!) to look forward to after being home for a few weeks. It really broke up some of the monotony brought on by too much time at home with their parents and siblings.

Home alone

As your kids approach their tween years, you’ll begin to wrestle with the notion that it just might be time to let them exert some independence and stay home alone for a portion of time. In my episode, 5 Considerations When Leaving Your Child Home Alone, I discuss that pivotal milestone when you and your child decide the time is right for letting them stay home without adult supervision. Summer vacation is often the time when many families try this scenario on for size. Start thinking ahead to when you might be able to let your child give it a go.

Now that you’ve got a pretty good idea about how you’d like to see the upcoming weeks of summer unfold, no doubt you’ll still be looking for some super fun ideas to keep your kids busy when the beach or pool isn’t an option.

#2 -Think outside the box.

One of my favorite places to gather creative ideas is Pinterest. There is no end to the variety of great crafts, games, recipes, and daydreaming you can do on this site. When my kids were in elementary school, building forts kept them busy for hours. This was typically a rainy-day adventure, but even when the temps got a little too hot for outdoor play, they’d gravitate to making cool and comfy forts with all kinds of items like blankets, beach towels, pillows, chairs, tables—basically anything I would allow.

When my kids were in elementary school, building forts kept them busy for hours.

On that note, an alternative to forts is allowing your kids to construct cool items from cardboard boxes. You’ll find a great selection of cardboard box projects to choose from on Pinterest.  Favorites in our house were garages with ramps for hot wheel cars, pretend house items like a stove, fridge, and washer and dryer, and cardboard box cars and firetrucks.

#3 - Encourage your entrepreneur-in-the-making.

Several of my kids have always gravitated to projects that will help them earn a little spending money. Like many, mine started with lemonade stands at the end of our driveway. These were always cute and lasted a few hours with our wonderful neighbors buying more lemonade in a short time than they’d normally drink all summer! One year, my two oldest organized their very own garage sale. Thankfully, I salvaged a few items they borrowed from our family room before the first customers arrived! Recently, one of my computer-savvy teens advertised her services to small businesses who needed help keeping their social media platforms updated. These little business ventures not only kept my kids busy on a hot summer’s day, it also gave them their first taste of experiencing money management, the importance of good customer-service skills, and even how to deal with rejection and disappointment.

The Penny Hoarder’s Is Your Child an Entrepreneur? 14 Brilliant Business Ideas for Kids and Teens has more great ways that your kids can try their hand at earning some cash and with summer on tap, this could be a fruitful and fun way to beat the summer boredom blues.

#4 - Develop summer fun menus.

One thing kids seem to do more than ever in the summer is eat! With more free time on their hands, it’s understandable that their appetites are a bit heartier. They seem to graze all day long. One of my favorite ways to make summer vacation meals a bit more exciting was to create menus for my gang to order from. This took a wee bit of planning ahead, but it was totally worth it because the kids were so excited to not only eat on a regular mealtime schedule, they also enjoyed helping prepare some of the menu items.

The kids were so excited to not only eat on a regular mealtime schedule, they also enjoyed helping prepare some of the menu items.

I simply picked a handful of their favorite meals (chicken mac & cheese, tacos, homemade pizza, quiche, chicken parm) as well as a few new items to try (different pasta sauces, fajitas, chef salad) and created weekly menus on the computer that they could order from. As long as I planned ahead and had the ingredients I needed, I could offer a few different items for breakfast (Belgian waffles with fruit or scrambled eggs) or dinner (chicken tacos or chef salad) and then have a surprise dessert like an ice cream sundae bar. I did this a couple times a week to break up the ho-hum summer meal routine.

#5 - Grow a Garden.

With so much of our children’s time and attention devoted to their electronic devices, there is no better time to encourage a love of the great outdoors and all that Mother Nature has to offer than the beautiful summer season. Regardless of whether you live in the city or the suburbs, teaching your child how to grow a garden offers many benefits beyond sumemr entertainment. If space is an issue, consider a container garden of summer blooms or juicy tomatoes. Or you could go all-out by planning and planting an entire garden patch of cucumbers, watermelon, green beans, and sweet, crunchy carrots.

The Goddard School for Early Childhood Development shares several reasons that gardening is beneficial to kids. One reason is keeping your child active in the outdoors where he/she will enjoy fresh air and get down and dirty by digging and planting. Your child will also learn the process of growing fruits and vegetables and have a better appreciation for what farmers do to help bring healthy food to families. Caring for a garden also teaches children responsibility. They have to water, weed, and care for the plants in order to see the fruits of their labor result in delicious food or beautiful flowers.

Don't forget to schedule me-time

As exciting and carefree as summer vacation can be, let’s keep it real—it’s also exhausting. As I mentioned, just because your kids are on summer break does not mean it’s your job to keep a three-ring circus in motion until those school bells ring again in the fall.

In order to stay fresh, and dare I say happy, throughout the summer, don’t forget to schedule regular time for yourself and for you and your spouse.

In order to stay fresh, and dare I say happy, throughout the summer, don’t forget to schedule regular time for yourself and for you and your spouse. Line up a babysitter, grandparents, or a kid-swap with other parents so you can head to the beach alone with a great book, have a date night with your honey, catch a matinee movie (don’t forget the popcorn!), or even retreat to your bedroom for a Netflix binge or an afternoon nap. However you decide to break away from the regular routine of having kids home 24/7 for ten full weeks, be sure to make time for yourself at least once a week, if not more. Your kids will thank you for it because you’ll stay refreshed and have a lot more energy to spend enjoying the time they’re home this summer.


What are some of the fun ways you keep your kids busy during summer vacation? Please share your thoughts in the comments section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy, post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page or email me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com. Visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT.

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All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.