10 Screen-Free Summer Activities for Kids

Did you know that the average kid between the ages of 2-6 spends about two hours a day in front of a screen (and, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, that’s a conservative number)?  What’s more, the AAP estimates that kids ages 8-18 spend more than seven hours a day looking at screen media.


This summer, let’s shift the media imbalance, ok? Let’s pledge to get moving, go outside and make some lasting memories! Here are 10 screen-free activities you and your family can do this summer.

1. Get Creative with Sidewalk Chalk

There are so many activities you can do with sidewalk chalk. Don’t believe us? How about:

  • Create a giant artscape with your kids! Think “Sistine Chapel” size.
  • Play a few games of “hangman.” (Bonus: this game is a great way to sneak in a little learning!)
  • Have your kids lay on the driveway, outline their bodies, then have them add faces, clothing, etc.
  • Go retro: those games of hopscotch, four square and tic-tac-toe you played as a kid? Play them with your kids!
  • Make a map of your neighborhood, complete with roads, trees and houses. Your kids can then “drive” their toy cars on the roads.

2. Fly a Kite

It may be a little Mary Poppins of us, but really, flying a kite is such a fun summer activity! Go to the toy store with your kids and let them pick out fun kites. Pack a picnic, head to a park (ideally, someplace with a large, open space), and fly away!

Bonus: All of that running around will give you an excellent #dmgetsfit cardio workout!

3. Have a Backyard Campout

Don’t want to go through the hassle (and bathroom-less-ness) of camping? No problem! Pitch a tent in the backyard (or on the back deck), then grill hot dogs, have a picnic, make s’mores, catch fireflies and tell stories until it’s time for bed!

4. Start a Garden

One of the best ways to get kids to eat their veggies is to get them involved in the process. So, start a garden! Follow these directions to create a raised bed garden, then have your kids pick out what vegetables they’d like to plant. Have them water, weed, and care for their gardens all summer, then celebrate your harvest!

Make a veggie pizza! Most grocery stores carry fresh dough in the refrigerated section, which you can divide into mini pizzas for your kids. Add marinara and whatever veggies and herbs your garden yields (zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes, onion and basil are particularly tasty toppings!). Cover with cheese and bake at 350F until cheese is slightly brown. Yum!

5. Volunteer

Pick an organization that interests your child: the SPCA for an animal lover, the library for a little bibliophile, or a children’s hospital for a social butterfly. Engaging in philanthropic activities promotes a good work ethic and sense of selflessness among kids, and makes them feel connected to their communities.

Check out VolunteerMatch.org, a website that matches kids, teens and adults to local volunteer opportunities based on what they’re interested in. Here, you can get involved in disaster relief, building houses, helping the elderly, veterans’ services and even volunteer firefighting!

6. Create a Summer Journal

Get kids to reflect on their summer activities by starting a journal. Have kids write and draw in their journals regularly, then add pictures, ticket stubs and other mementos from their adventures. This is a fun way to get your child to write!

7. Play a Sport

Organized sports teach kids so many things, like communication skills, collaborating with others and work ethic. Sports help build kids’ confidence and self esteem. And, of course, sports motivate kids to be active! Above all, sports are supposed to be fun, so pick a summer league in an area your kid is interested in: swim team for your water baby, t-ball for your baseball fan or soccer for your high-energy, toddler-who-can’t-sit-still.

8. Make Homemade Popsicles

Give your kids a healthy treat by blending up equal parts fruit and liquid.

Pour into popsicle molds, freeze, and enjoy! Some combinations we love are:

Strawberries ‘n Creme
Equal parts vanilla coconut milk yogurt + super ripe, fresh strawberries
Chocolate Heaven
1 cup chocolate milk of your choice (we love almond!) + 1 large, super-ripe, on-its-last-leg banana
Blackberry Bliss
1 cup plain greek yogurt + blackberry jam (diluted with a bit of water), layered into the popsicle mold

9. Have a Carnival

We love the idea of a DIY carnival for a fun afternoon play date! Here are some ideas:

Ring toss:

Save old 2-liters, beer bottles or juice jars for a DIY ring toss! Wash out the bottles, then line them up and have kids attempt to “ring” the bottles with plastic rings.

Cupcake walk:

Make a batch of cupcakes with your kids, have them decorate them, then use sidewalk chalk to write numbers on the ground, in a circle. Play some music, have kids walk around the numbers, then when you stop, draw a number to choose the winning cake walker!

Goldfish toss:

Fill mini goldfish bowls (or even mason jars) with water, and toss a plastic sea animal in each. Have kids try and toss a ping pong ball into the bowls to win a “fish.”

Face painting:

Paint whiskers or animal stripes on kids’ faces with non-toxic face paint.

Water balloon toss:

Simple: balloons, water, kids in swimsuits!

10. Get Dirty!

Summer is all about being outside — so let your kids get dirty! Run through the sprinklers, eat an ice cream cone on a 90 degree day, play in the rain, dig in the dirt — let your kids be kids this summer! (Just stock up on stain sticks).

So get out, get creative, get working and get moving this summer! You and your kids will feel happier, healthier and all-around better — we promise!

For more summer activity inspiration, check out 50 Summer Bucket List Ideas!

Photo credits: Sarah M., Ashley Sisk
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics

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Sarah is a yoga practicing, mostly vegan, coffee chugging, Jack White-loving, stay-at-home-mom to three kids 4 and under in Cincinnati, Ohio. In her free time, she does freelance work for Cincinnati Parent, Dayton Parent and Indy's Child, and blogs about her adventures with three kids in the Queen City.

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