Frugal Summer Activities for Active Kids

by Rachel

Both of my children love to be active but with one of them there is no other option! My oldest is happy no matter where she is as long as she has a book. She will however put that book down when there is fun involved. There is seven years difference between my girl and my boy and when he came along I was that much older. Little did I know he was going to come out running. I should have had an inkling when he would not be still in the womb. Nonetheless, we had to change a lot of the things we did and how we did them to keep up with his energy.

I was a working mother so my children stayed at home with my mother during the week. My mother was so creative when it came to inventing new and different activities for the kids. There was never a dull moment. After they helped her with chores then she would surprise them with something new almost every day.

I remember coming home one day to an elaborate rope and pulley system going from one large tree to another across the yard. There was a long rope hanging off the pulley with an old canvas bag filled with rags tied to the end. As I came out the back door I saw my son climb up the step ladder, dive onto the bag, wrap his legs around it, and sail across the yard! I was a bit anxious about what would happen at the end of the ride. Was he going to smack into the other tree? Nope, mom had set up a stopper of sorts on the rope before you got too close to the other tree. I should have known. I cannot tell you the hours of joy that this brought to both of my children and the neighborhood kids. They played on this until it began to wear out well into their teens. As a matter of fact I also took a spin or two!

Another thing my children loved doing in the heat of the summer was playing with water balloons and water guns. We had a pool that we would put up each summer, about three feet deep and six foot wide. They loved playing in the pool and running back and forth filling up water balloons and water pistols. There is no better way to stay cool than playing in the water. We also had a slip and slide but you have to move it around quite a bit or it will ruin your yard.

Something else that is a lot of fun is day trips. Look up interesting places to go that are within a couple hours of your home and take the kids on a field trip. My children loved to fish so we were always looking for new places to go and drop our lines. We are blessed that we live close to many lakes and even the ocean. If you are not so fortunate many times they have catfish farms or trout ponds you can take your kids to. They usually charge you a small fee or charge for the fish you catch. It is so much fun to watch children catch fish; it seems to give them a great sense of accomplishment too!

We live fairly close to a safe form of rock climbing. It’s not a mountain, more of a hill and is not one of those straight up climbs. It was just a gently sloping, smooth and climbable hill that the kids loved. It is interesting to watch the thought process involved in which way to get up to the top, it does take concentration and thinking to find the best way up the hill. It also expends a great deal of energy and by the time you get home you will all need a nap! My children really enjoyed this activity. Not too far away from here was a natural spring and small waterfall which we would dip our toes into when we were done. The water was ice cold and so very refreshing. There were several farmers’ markets between the hill and the spring where you could pick up cold watermelon or peaches. Yum!

When we wanted to take a little more time off we tried our hand at camping. We did a
little research and got together everything we knew we would need, including the tent. We had a lot to learn about camping, for instance, you have to get your food locked up before you go to sleep. And I do not mean bringing it in the tent with you. We tried that one. We did not get much sleep that night. We finally got a clue and put it in the van but we forgot one single box of cookies in the corner of the tent. We had a very persistent critter that dug all night even with me punching at the tent and even with me running out with a flashlight doing some kind of a ritualistic Indian chant it was to no avail. By morning when we could see better we found the cookies we missed and the small hole that the critter managed to make in the corner of our tent. Ah, camping. We still laugh about our first camping trips as we look back.

If you cannot get away to camp during the summer we found that it was great fun to camp in the back yard. My children dearly loved it when we would set the tent up in the back yard and have an overnight slumber party of sorts. Sometimes, especially for birthdays, I would let my older daughter have some of her friends over and set the tent up and have a camping party. They had a blast. This I would recommend to those of you who have very responsible children with responsible friends or you plan to stay up all night keeping an eye on them. My daughter and her friends were fine and had a great time. I still found myself up off and on checking that everything was okay.

For that matter, if you have a big enough house or a small enough tent, you can set it up in the family room or the living room and be a huge hit with your children. For some reason kids all love tents. I would set up our three man tent in the family room and my son, daughter, and I would sleep in there on the weekends sometimes. Or we would put two pieces of furniture together and use sheets to make a tent.

Something my son loved to do was to build things. My husband was the superintendant on large construction jobs and would often bring home wood, wire, pieces of plastic pipes, large wooden empty spools, etc. and my son would build forts for himself and the neighbor kids. One time my husband brought home the bottom to a shopping cart, just the base and wheels and my son made himself a go cart. My daughter would help him with the design, she was sort of the brains and he did the labor. It was so cute to watch them work together inventing and creating some really neat things.

Many times my mom would take the kids fishing and end up hiking through the woods somewhere. She was quite the adventurist and still is. She bought my son an axe (but was very careful to supervise him when he had it) so that he could go through the woods and chop up every dead tree limb and trunk he came across. He felt like quite the man! My mother taught the kids the names of trees, plants, flowers, and they spotted many animals that live in those woods. My kids know so much about nature because of mom and their adventures.

There are so many things you can find to do with your children that do not need to cost a fortune but make a big impact on your children and stay with them forever. When my kids were young I did not have a great deal of money but I spent as much time with them as I could and we always found really fun, exciting things to do. You would be surprised how the simple things please your children; often more than the expensive, exciting events, because those are the times they really get one on one time with you.

Author Bio:

Rachel is an ex-babysitting pro as well as a professional writer and blogger. She is a graduate from Iowa State University and currently writes for She welcomes questions/comments which can be sent to @

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