/ / 13+ Educational Summer Bucket List Activities for a Stay-at-Home Summer

13+ Educational Summer Bucket List Activities for a Stay-at-Home Summer

This Summer Bucket List is full of Easy, Educational, and Mostly Free Activities. Includes the Free Printable Bucket List plus many other printables that coordinate with these educational summer activities that don’t break the bank.

Every year in the late spring, my kids like to make a bucket list of summertime 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 all of the shutdowns. And because there is so much uncertainty about 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
So, we’ve made a new summer bucket list of activities that fit all of these criteria:
  • 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 🤫)

Be sure to read through each section below to get more free printables and fun summer activities ideas!

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Click on a topic to go directly to that activity:

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

#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.

Read a book outside. Take a blanket or a hammock outside to the yard to enjoy the summer breezes and escape into a story.

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    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
    Snow Cone Math

    Whether you call them snow cones or shave ice, most everyone loves these cold treats on a hot summer day!

    Find out what everyone’s favorite flavor is and more with the Snow Cone Summer Math Activities Post.

    snow cone math worksheets
    Slushie Science: 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 popsicle icees” 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 (-er) popsicles.

    #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.

    Learn more about cookouts, campfires and s’mores in the S’mores Mini Unit Study for Preschoolers & Kindergartners.

    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.

    #13 Do a fun summer family-style unit study to keep on learning.

    Educational Targets: All Subjects




    lighthouses unit study

    Lighthouses Unit Study Coming Soon

    Free Summer Bucket List Printable


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      More Great Summer Homeschooling Ideas

      I know that we all dread hearing those 3 words out of our kids’ mouths, “MOM, I’m BORED!”

      So I teamed up with a bunch of my mom blogger friends to find the best summer ideas for your kids so that they won’t ever have to complain of boredom AND you don’t have to spend hours trying to find something for them to do!

      Fun Summer Learning Ideas

      Summertime STEM Activities from Hess Un-Academy Big compilation of STEM projects and activities for everyone age 4 to 19 to promote those critical thinking and problem solving skills.

      10 Unusual Ways to Homeschool Over the Summer from In All You Do Does your family do Summer School or school year-round? Even if you don’t, here are some different ways to keep learning throughout this season.

      How to Use Classic Board Games as School Review from The WOLFe Pack Learn new ways to use these classic board games to help promote academic skills when it’s too hot to be outside!

      Educational Summer Ideas for Kids from Making Room 4 One More Even more ideas for those days that the kids just need something to do–and these ideas are educational and fun!

      Fun Seashell Identification Activities for Kids from Homeschooling 4 Him Print and go pages for seashell identification; perfect for your next trip to the beach!

      7 Ways to Encourage Summer Reading from Heart and Soul Homeschooling Just because it’s summer, don’t skimp on the reading time. Find out how to keep your kids engaged in reading.

      Use Morning Time to Beat the Summer Slide! from Everyday Graces Homeschool Morning Time is a great way to stay connected with your kids and to prevent the usual slide that happens every year. Plus, Morning Time will keep your kids so occupied with fun learning, they won’t have time to say “I’m bored!”

      Summer Music Lessons for Holidays & Special Days from Music in Our Homeschool 12 short music lessons that coordinate with each of the holidays of the season.

      5 Awesome Ways to Learn Parts of Plants for Kids from Julie Naturally Find out how to teach your kids the part of plants, along with plant identification and knowing edibles from non-edibles.

      Life Skills Mega List for Kids from Stand Up, Reach Out This is the perfect time to work on those practical arts skills like mapping, cooking, communication, problem-solving, and more!

      Summer Slide Activities for All Ages from The Homeschool Cafe This big printable pack has all you need to prevent that dreaded summer slide: games, treasure hunts, worksheets and more for reading, writing, math and critical thinking

      6 Summer Family Activities to Keep Learning Fun from This Bit of Life These 6 family activities will create an atmosphere of learning that (hopefully) will keep the boredom at bay.

      Insect & Bug Activities for Kids from My Joy-Filled Life Huge list of activities and crafts to help your kiddos learn all about entomology (the study of bugs!)

      Summer Read Alouds for Kids from Simple Living Mama The best books for summertime read alouds–don’t miss these recommendations!

      Summer Tips For Moms

      21 Fun Summer Homeschool Ideas for Work From Home Moms from Thrive at Home Do you need to keep the kids entertained while you work from home this summer? Here are 21 fun ways

      How to Take Inexpensive Road Trips with a Large Family from With the Huddlestons Michelle’s best tips for a memorable family vacation that doesn’t drain the bank account.

      25 Cheap & Easy Summer Meals for Families from Orison Orchards Do you hate cooking when it’s hot out too? Get this this list of delicious, nutritious, cheap & EASY summer meals handy. No stove required!

      Pack The Perfect Backpack for Special Needs Summer Adventures from Our Crazy Adventures In Autismland Make sure your backpack has everything you need for a melt-down free adventure.

      Homeschool Schedule: Our Summer Routine from An Off Grid Life Learn how we homeschool year-round in Canada’s subarctic as we focus on foraging, northern gardening, homesteading, and self-reliance skills.

      Just Plain Summertime Fun

      STEAM Subscription Boxes for Summer FUN! from Homeschool On the Range Coupons and reviews for Hands-on projects that are delivered to your door.

      40 Boredom Busting Summer Ideas and Activities for Families from Geez, Gwen! Keep this list handy throughout the summer to keep your kids busy with fun activities.

      Budget-Friendly Summer Fun (for you and the kids!) from Hope In The Chaos Are you looking for ways to entertain the kids this summer that don’t break the bank? Check out these ideas!

      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 pin

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