Easy, Educational, and Mostly Free Activities for a Stay-at-Home Style Summer Bucket List {Plus the Free Printable List}

Every year in the late spring, my kids like to make a summer bucket list of activities they want to do that summer.

Usually, it includes things like

  • go swimming at the lake
  • eat corn dogs at the state fair
  • pet the manta rays at the zoo

However, most of the things on our typical summer bucket list have a question mark this year. Because of the uncertainty of things opening back up, we don’t want to have our hearts set on doing something that just isn’t possible right now.

Stay at Home Style Summer Bucket List
Scroll to bottom of post to get your copy.
So, we’ve made a new summer bucket list of activities that
  • don’t depend on things being “open”
  • don’t cost much, if anything at all
  • are FUN
  • are educational (but don’t tell the kids 🤫)

Some links in this post may be affiliate links. This means that if you click on them, I may make a tiny commission, at no extra cost to you.

Summer Bucket List Activities

#1 Float Duct Tape Boats

Educational Targets: Engineering, Math, Language, Science
Cost: Just the cost of duct tape.

This one has actually been on our list every year for the past 7 or 8 years. My big kids love it just as much as the littles!

We invite friends to our duct tape boat race. Next, construct your duct tape boats ahead of time. Let your older kids figure out what materials they want to try using from your recycle bin.

Then we head to a local creek with friends. Have races to see whose boat races down the stream the fastest without capsizing.

The best time of summer to do this depends on where you live, we like to go in late June or July. The creeks around here are too high in May and early June and too dried up in August. Just don’t go the day after a heavy rain. The creek will be too high and unsafe for play.

You can make a traditional folded boat like this one from Julie Measures.

You can challenge your kids to build a float-able raft with these instructions from KidsCraftRoom.

Or let them use their imagination (and the recyclables in your can) to construct a boat. Check out this post from There’s Just One Mommy for inspiration.

summer bucket list

#2 Build a Zoo

Educational Targets: Engineering, Language, Science, Cooperation
Cost: Free up to a few dollars, depending on what toys/supplies you have on hand.

One of my kids’ favorite things to play is zoo with the small plastic zoo animals that you can get in small bags at the dollar store.

First, we use masking or painter’s tape on the floor to create the animal pens. If you want to get really creative, make walkways between the pens for the visitors. Older kids may even want to make buildings out of cereal boxes for zoo staff and visitors.

Next, we cut craft foam sheets to make the different landscapes needed for the different types of animal habitats. If your kids aren’t sure what habitat that animals lives in, this is a great opportunity to look it up with them.

We used dark green craft foam sheets for the jungle, light green for the savannah grass, white for the snow, light blue for fresh water, and dark blue for salt water.

Here’s a picture of my youngest girls a couple of years ago with the zoo they’d made that day.

zoo summer bucket activity

#3 Make Bubble Snakes

Educational Targets: Engineering, Science, Language, Sensory (& Heavy Work)
Cost: Free

I’d bet you already have everything you need to make a few of these bubble snake makers at home! You’ll need an empty plastic (water or soda) bottle, a clean old sock or washcloth, a rubber band, and some dish soap and water.

My kids (even the big ones!) will play with these outside for at least an hour each time we make them!!

What they don’t know is that blowing the snake bubbles is considered “heavy work” from a sensory standpoint, which means that it’s gonna wear them out! Talk about win-win! LOL

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of sensory play, read this.

Get detailed instructions on how to make your Bubble Snake, read these from Mum in the Mad House.

summer bucket snake bubbles

#4 Stargaze in the Backyard

Educational Targets: Language, Science, Sensory
Cost: Free

Pick a clear night to go out to your backyard and check out the stars.

Grab some blankets to lay on (and maybe some bug spray too!).

If there’s too much light pollution where you live and it’s not dark enough to see the stars easily, hop in your car and drive out to a park or to the outskirts of town. You’ll be better able to see the stars where there aren’t street lights.

If you need to drive to a darker location and you have access to a pick-up truck, throw an air mattress in the bed of the truck to lay on while you look up at the stars.

My family uses the book, Eyewitness Explorer: Night Sky Detective: Explore Nature with Loads of Fun Activities by Eyewitness Explorers to study and learn the constellations. It’s an excellent addition to your homeschool library that you’ll use over and over.

If you’d like to learn more about stars or astronomy (like why Pluto was demoted), check out our {FREE} 8-week Astronomy & Astronauts Unit Study.

summer activities stargazing

summer stay at home bucket list alternatives

#5 Make a Process Art Rain Painting

Educational Targets: Language, Science, Art
Cost: Free

If a rainy day is keeping you inside, put the rain to use with this process art painting. You can use watercolors or washable markers to draw on heavy paper. Then set it outside during a light sprinkle. Here are detailed instructions to create your own Rain Painting at Rhythms of Play.

summer bucket list rain painting

#6 Write a Play and Perform it for Your Family

Educational Targets: Language, Fine Arts
Cost: Free

Let your kids’ imagination soar while they create an original story to act out. If they’re little, have them narrate the story while you write it down for them, or you could even draw pictures to help them remember if they aren’t yet readers.

If it’s hard for them to come up with their own story, try reading a couple of different versions of a familiar fairy tale and let them add their own twist to it.

Fractured fairy tales books are easy to find at your local library in the non-fiction section. Some of our favorites are Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems, Cindy Ellen by Susan Lowell, and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka.

As far as acting out the story goes, they could either dress up and act out the play themselves, or they could use puppets, or dolls, or Legos to tell the story.

girl telling story with puppet summer activities

#7 Have an Old-Fashioned Field Day

Educational Targets: Language, Math, Physics, Gross Motor
Cost: Free up to a few dollars for supplies

A few years ago, we planned an old-fashioned field games day with our friends to celebrate the end of the school year.

Each family planned and brought the supplies for one or two yard games. Everyone brought their own sack lunch for a picnic outside.

Here are some of the games we played:

Stick Horse Races: Some of us already had stick horses and some made stick horses out of pool noodles. Use these directions from GingerSnapCrafts to make your own.

Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest: See who can spit their watermelon seed the farthest. Use a tape measure to measure the distances. Or give everyone a slice of equal size and see who can eat it the fastest!

Fly a Kite: See who can keep their kite up in the air the longest.

Tug of War: Use a length of clothesline from the dollar store.

Relay Races: Have lots of different types of relay races, or try some traditional races like the three-legged race or potato sack races. Need inspiration? Here are 20 different types of relay races from Mommas Like Me.

Water Balloon Volleyball: If you’ve never played water balloon volleyball, here’s instructions from It’s Always Autumn. It’s perfect for warm days that you don’t mind getting a little bit wet!

summer bucket list watermelon eating contest

#8 Enjoy the Wild Outdoors

Educational Targets: Language, Science, Sensory, Fine Motor, Gross Motor
Cost: Free

Go on a Nature Scavenger Hunt. Use one of these free printables to help you explore the great outdoors!

Play in a Creek. Find a small creek and explore what is in and around it. Take a change of clothes so you don’t have to worry about anyone falling down and getting wet (always happens!).

nature journal printable summer activity

Start a Nature Journal. Record what your senses experience while you are outside this summer. Use the Summer Time Nature Walk Journaling Page in the Free Resource Library to help you get started.

summer creek activity

#9 Make A Cold Sweet Treat

Educational Targets: Language, Science, Math, Sensory, Practical Arts
Cost: Free-ish, depending on what is already in your pantry

Make homemade snow cones. We have one of those Snoopy snow-cone makers that one of my kids got as a birthday gift years ago. But you can also use a blender or even just the crushed ice from your fridge. We like the re-usable silicone snow-cone holders to make it seem more authentic, but plastic cups work just as well. Here are some recipes to try:

After you make snow cones, sneak in a bit of math by graphing everyone’s favorite flavor. Use the Snow Cones Favorite Flavor Tally & Graph for Primary Learners in the Free Resource Library to work on counting with tally marks and graphing.graph everyone’s favorite flavor

snow cone math summer activity

Do you prefer slushies over snow cones? If you have an ice cream maker, try this recipe from Love From the Oven for Blue Raspberry Slushies. Or do it the old-fashioned way that’s also a science experiment! Use these instructions from Fav Family Recipes to make 5-minute “Magic Slushies”.

Put a batch of homemade popsicles in the freezer for hot afternoons. My kiddos can’t have red food coloring (it really increases their ADHD symptoms), so the store-bought 20 for a dollar popsicles don’t work for our family. Living on a Dime has 15 easy recipes for fruity popsicles (most only have 2 ingredients!) that your kids will love making and eating! We have used these zipper bag type disposable popsicle bags and the re-usable silicone popsicle molds. Both work really well to make healthy popsicles.

snow cones summer activities
Photo cred: Meal Makeover Moms

#10 Campfire Stories

Educational Targets: Language, Math, Science, Practical Arts, Sensory
Cost: Free

Gather around a firepit for a campfire cookout and story-telling session. Many local and state parks have grilling areas if you don’t have a place to build a campfire.

Use this handy dandy Summer Time Campfire Cookout Grocery List in our Free Resource Library to create your shopping list for your campfire cookout. First, have your child determine how many people will be at your cookout. Then divide the number of servings for each item by the number of people to figure out how many packages of each item you’ll need. Next, let them guesstimate how much it will cost. After they go to the store (where you let them pay for it–in cash if you can) have them use the receipt to write down the actual cost of the items. How close were their guesses to the actual cost of the food?

After you cook hot dogs and enjoy s’mores, let everyone tell a story. My family likes to tell stories of things we remember from our childhoods as a way to pass down family stories and legacies.

What if you can’t get to a place for a campfire? If you don’t have access to making a traditional bonfire, make a solar oven to cook some s’mores. Building a solar oven is part of our Planets & Outer Space Unit Study for Secondary Learners. Use a pizza box with these instructions from It’s A Mother Thing or an Amazon box like The Craft Train uses.

summer bonfire cookout

#11 Make State Fair Food

Educational Targets: Language, Practical Arts, Sensory
Cost: Ingredients for these foods

Enjoy some of the junk foods that you only eat once a year at the fair.

Cotton candy: It’s not quite as good as fresh, but you can get a tub of cotton candy at the dollar store or Wal-Mart.

Corn dogs: Corn dogs with a strip of mustard or ketchup down the side; yum! Most stores even carry gluten free corn dogs too!

Funnel cakes: Many stores (even ALDI) have funnel cake kits during the summer. Or you can make your own. As a kid, I’d spend a week each summer with my aunt, who would make us funnel cakes for lunch one day!

If you happen to have an air fryer, you could also try these 2-ingredient Deep-Fried Oreos from Grace Like Rain or Fried Twinkies from Guide for Moms.

As a bonus activity, you could watch Charlotte’s Web (which features a county fair) or build a motorized K’NEX roller coaster.

summer funnel cakes

#12 Homemade Slip n Slide or Sprinkler

Educational Targets: Language, Science, Sensory, Fine Motor, Gross Motor
Slip n Slide Cost: $13 for a roll of plastic sheeting
Sprinkler Cost: Free up to a few dollars for supplies

Learn how to make your own mega Slip n Slide at Happy Hooligans. Don’t forget to put a little bit of dish soap on the plastic to make it more slippery!

If you don’t have a hill for a slip n slide, make a fancy sprinkler that will last for several summers with the directions from CleverCraftyCookinMama.

Just need a sprinkler for one day that’s basically free? Make this one from a recycled 2 liter bottle. Instructions at LittlePassports Blog.



What are your favorite stay-at-home summer bucket list activities? Comment below and share with us!

Be sure to follow my Pinterest board Summer Time Learning for more great hands-on activities and ideas for keeping your kids learning this summer!

Don’t forget to pin this post so you can refer back to it later!

summer bucket list printable

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