Are you dreading those long summer days with the kids – with the inevitable chorus of “What can we do, Mom?” Is money tight too? (Believe me – I was there for the last four years when a coffee from Tim Horton’s was an exorbitant treat!)
Although there’s always Netflix, if you’re like me – you feel a little guilty when the screen time starts adding up….
Today I’m sharing with you my top 7 favourite cheap summer creative play ideas for kids ages 3 to 10 for the summer break.
Best of all, these activities encourage imaginative thinking and are fun! They will keep the kids busy for hours and require little to no prep or money. Sound good? Read on!
7 Cheap Summer Creative Play Ideas
Along with these 7 activities – I’m recommending some fantastic books that will help inspire your kids to play. After all – a trip to the library is another fantastically inexpensive way to keep the kids busy and stimulated.
1. Raid the Recycling Box
Start saving up those paper towel rolls, empty cereal boxes, ribbon spools, and plastic food containers and challenge your child to create a new “invention”!
- Be sure to have lots of tape available, as well as scissors and maybe string.
- When the inventing starts to slow down – pull out the crayons/markers and prompt your child to decorate and name their invention!
Also Check Out:
This delightful story is guaranteed to get kids of all ages thinking differently about the “junk” we throw out and how it can be upcycled in creative ways.
A hilarious story of an ingenious mouse named Wendel whose robot creation ends up causing trouble around the workshop! This book ends with a wonderful lesson about recycling and upcycling that will get kids creating their own robots.
2. Cardboard Box Fun
If you don’t have a large empty appliance box – hop over to your local hardware store and grab the biggest moving box you can find for days (or weeks) of fun!
- Challenge the kids to turn the box into something new – a favourite vehicle, castle, fort – whatever they want!
- Give them markers to decorate the inside and outside
- Have scissors and duct tape ready!
Also Check Out:
The title of this new picture book says it all! Whimsical and full of beautiful pictures – you’ll enjoy this one as much as the kids.
3. Artistic Bonanza
Help your kids think outside of the box by suggesting a different “canvas” or tools for some open-ended art!
- Provide papers of different sizes – think mural paper, coloured papers, small papers like sticky notes (always a huge favourite!) and tags
- Think of alternative “canvases” like: the driveway, the walls of the house, the deck, the sidewalk, the sandbox, a cheap plain t-shirt, a mirror, garden rocks, sticks, plant pots, shells, etc.
- Try drawing/painting with: chalk, washable poster paints, plain water, large markers, stamps and an inkpad, watercolour paints, paint in a spray bottle, coloured string and glue
- Try drawing with: paintbrushes, sticks, sponges, paint rollers, utensils, pom poms, etc.
Also Check Out:
An entertaining story about a young girl who loses the privilege of using her beloved crayons after being caught drawing on the walls of her bedroom. After heading outside, she discovers how she can still make art – by thinking beyond crayons!
4. Nature-Inspired Art
- Collect stones, rocks, flowers, sticks, pinecones, grasses, leaves, shells – whatever is abundant and on the ground and create!
- Look for certain colours, or shapes (rounded, smooth, rough, skinny, sharp)
- Create temporary outdoor art pieces or bring the art inside in an empty bottle or jar, or by gluing into a collage or to make into a mobile.
A beautiful new book for all ages full of photos and colourful illustrations of the unique wonders of nature that can be found just outside your door. The author’s text and prompts will get you and your children wanting to take a walk and create a natural masterpiece of your own!
5. Go on a Photography Hunt
Give your child your phone or the family tablet or a kid-friendly camera and send them into the backyard or local park to “collect” photos of…
- Objects with different textures
- As many things as they can find that are a certain colour
- Up-close “mystery” pictures
- Things that look like letters or numbers
- Things that come in twos, or threes
- Their favourite stuffed animal or toy going on adventures!
This award winning picture book will appeal to kids of all ages and will inspire them to look closely at their surroundings for hidden surprises!
6. Fort Building 101
Kids love making forts – inside and out. Suggest these fun ideas to get your child’s creative juices flowing!
- Find a forested area with lots of long sticks to create teepee style forts. Check out this post to see how we did this! (picture above)
- Build an indoor fort with pillows, blankets, couch cushions, etc.
- Give your child a camping tarp and challenge them to create a water-proof fort in the backyard with lawn chairs, umbrellas, and toys, etc. When they’re done – get them to climb inside and test the fort with the garden hose!
- Got lots of boxes? Have the kids construct a gigantic fort with all the boxes like my friends’ family did – isn’t it awesome how the kids decorated their mini-home with art?
This new picture book is guaranteed to get kids ages 3 to 8 motivated to create their own outside fort full of exciting homemade gadgets and features. A must if you want to get the kids outside!
A charming new picture book aimed at 4 to 6 year olds that shows how a blanket and a little imagination can turn an indoor fort into an exciting journey! Perfect for those rainy days…
7. Create a Miniature World
Inspire your child to create a miniature world either inside or outside.
Check out these ideas:
- Use a collection of small empty boxes, one large shoebox, or an empty milk carton to make a miniature home for dolls or other small character toys.
- Create a peekaboo box by creating a small world inside a shoebox, then cutting a hole in the lid to let in light and eyeholes in the end to view the scene! (Loved doing this as a kid!)
- Head outdoors to design a fairy house in a corner of your garden.
- Break out the Lego, Magnatiles or other blocks without instructions to design a home, recreation complex, or miniature town.
An adorable new picture book that celebrates the imagination and creativity of children. Guaranteed to get kids wanting to make their own versions of a miniature world!
Want Even More Summer Break Ideas?
Check out these other blogs with fun ideas for the summer!
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Wishing you a wonderful summer break!