20 Thrifty Indoor Activities to Beat the Summer Heat

It’s July. It’s still summer break. You’ve exhausted all your in-town-fun resources. It’s sweltering outside, and your kids are B-O-R-E-D. Sounds like a recipe for disaster. Don’t fear! Just keep scrolling for 20 summer fun ideas that are easy, inexpensive, and can be done in the comfort of your air-conditioned home (or in your backyard if you choose).

1. Read Aloud

If just walking to your car leaves you drenched in sweat, skip the library storytime and make your own at home. You can read several of your children’s favorites. You can even make a themed storytime just like at the library. Try a Sandra Boynton day, Dr. Seuss day, fairy tale day, or beach book day. If your children are older, take several days and read through classics like The Wind in The Willows, Peter Pan and Wendy, or Treasure Island (these Sterling Illustrated editions are absolutely beautiful). Or check out Librivox.org for free audio versions of many classics.

2. Home Theater

Who doesn’t love popcorn and a movie? Watch old favorites, find new movies to watch, or introduce your children to movies that you loved when you were their age. You can even have theme days or weeks. Try Pixar movies, Princess movies, Pirate movies, the Harry Potter series, or Star Wars trilogies themed movie days. Your kids can even make tickets and run a make-shift ticket booth for everyone’s admittance.

3. Write Stories

Hand your kids a spiral notebook and a pencil and let their imaginations run wild. They can write happy stories, sad stories, silly stories…. Your child can be the star of a wild adventure and cast their siblings or toys as co-stars.

Then, with family and stuffed animals seated on the couch, your child can read their story aloud. Have a child that isn’t a storyteller? Try some Mad Libs. You can find free Mad Libs online, or buy a few inexpensive sets from Amazon like Goofy Mad Libs or Best of Mad Libs.

4. Puppet Show

The idea of putting on a puppet show may sound like a complicated affair, but it’s quite easy. You don’t even need hand puppets!

If you have construction paper, coloring implements and plastic utensils or Popsicle sticks, then your children can make puppets. After creating their actors, actresses, props and set pieces, simply cut them out and glue them to the sticks or utensils.

For the venue, your child can crouch behind the sofa, or line up a few kitchen chairs and throw a sheet over to conceal themselves. They can even act out a story they created (see idea #3).

5. Magic Show

If your kids enjoy performing, they can also put on a magic show. There are plenty of YouTube videos and a variety of websites that teach simple magic tricks.

A few good places to start might be 5 Easy Kids’ Magic Tricks, 3 Easy Magic Tricks, Easy Magic Tricks for Young Kids to Learn and Perform.

6. Yoga

Just because you are stuck indoors, doesn’t mean that you can’t move around. In fact, giving your kids some structured indoor activities will keep them from escalating into unstructured indoor craziness.

There are so many resources online for yoga, whether in the form of YouTube videos or websites. Just keep it simple and get started. If you want some good places to start, check out 3 Yoga Routines to Relax, Reset and Recharge Your Toddler or these Young Yoga Masters Alphabet Printables. If you are willing to spend a little money, checkout these fabulous Yoga Pretzel Cards.

7. Parachute Games

While your living room may not fit the standard size parachute, try using an old king or queen sheet, cut into a rough circle. Run under it, rolls balls around it and have the same parachute fun on a smaller scale. For more game ideas, check out PlayParachute.com.

8. Light Saber Duel

Do you have some old pool noodles, duct tape and electrical tape? Then you have light sabers! Because they are foam, pool noodles turned light sabers make great indoor toys.

Take the pool noodle, and cut it in half with a sharp knife to make two light sabers (or if the noodle is a bit yucky, just cut off those gouged parts to make one saber). Make a handle by covering a bottom section with gray duct tape, and then embellish the handle with stripes or buttons with the black electrical tape. Now just push the furniture back and host a Jedi-Sith duel in your living room.

9. Board Games and Card Games

Somewhere in your home is a large stack of unused board games and card games collecting dust. Bring out those infrequently played games and make an afternoon of it. Or, plan a board game or card game exchange—games that you are tired of might be new to your family’s friends, and vice versa. You could even host a classic game afternoon and invite those little friends over for pot luck snacks and games.

10. Treasure Hunt or Scavenger Hunt

Increase your child’s sleuthing skills and have a treasure hunt or scavenger hunt around the house. Either you can hide the “treasure” and make a map, or your children can take turns making maps and hiding the treasure.

For a scavenger hunt, just make a list of some difficult-to-find items, or create a theme (for example: 10 items that start with the letter M and fit in a baggie), and let your children start searching the house.

11. Blow Bubbles

Who says bubbles are only for outside? Indoors, bubbles can be good, clean fun! And you probably have a bottle or two lying around collecting dust somewhere anyway. If you are worried about your furniture or carpet, just blow bubbles in the kitchen or other more waterproof area. The best bubbles come from Gymboree, or mix together these three ingredients for a quick (and large) batch of bubble liquid.

2/3 cup dish soap (Joy or Dawn) + 1 gallon water + 2 to 3 tablespoons of glycerin

12. Make Music

If you don’t mind the noise or abuse to your kitchenware, pots and pans with wooden spoons and lids make excellent drums and cymbals. If you prefer a bit more creativity and a bit less noise, empty jugs, cartons, tubes and rubber bands can be the base for instruments. You can also find cheap kazoos at your local dollar store.

13. Play-Dough

Everyone loves play-dough. Recipes for play-dough fall into two camps: cooked and uncooked. Uncooked tends to be more gritty and dries out faster, while cooked lasts longer and is smoother. You only need a few simple ingredients.

[yumprint-recipe id=’9′]Don’t stop at play-dough, though, there’s also salt dough and baking soda dough.

  • For salt dough, knead together 1 part salt, 1 part water, 2 parts flour. The upside to salt dough is that after your children are finished with their creations, you can save them, by putting them in the oven at a low temperature (around 200 degrees) for a few hours or until they are dry.
  • Baking soda dough is a variation on salt dough and uses 2 cups of baking soda, 1 cup of cornstarch and 1-1/4 cup to 1-1/2 cups water. Combine these 3 ingredients in a pot on your stove and cook over medium heat until the mixture resembles mashed potatoes. The advantage of this dough is that it’s pure white. For best results, let the creations dry out overnight.

14. Ice Cube Blocks

Instead of playing with regular blocks, cool off by playing with ice cube blocks. Freeze water in ice cube trays, or any other plastic ware—large or small, then use the pieces to make an ice castle, fort, or whatever your children can imagine.

15. Window garden

Too hot to garden outside? Grow a window box or a window sill garden. Try growing basil, parsley or mint.

16. Indoor Picnic

Instead of dining al fresco, slide some furniture around and lay out a blanket in your living room. Eat picnic fare like sandwiches, watermelon and homemade lemonade. You can even pack it in a basket for the twenty foot walk from the kitchen to your picnic spot.

17. Easy Popsicles

If you’ve got juice, you can make homemade Popsicles. You can purchase Popsicle molds, or just use ice cube trays or small cups with wooden sticks or straws stuck in them for a handle. Or, search the internet and experiment with more complicated recipes.

18. Quick Slushies

Just a few ingredients, and you have homemade slushies.

[yumprint-recipe id=’10’]

19. Frostee

If all those hot days have depleted your ice cream reserves, try this ice-cream free milkshake.

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20. Make Lemonade

Does any drink scream “Summer!” louder than lemonade? Probably not.

Making lemonade is super easy: just combine 1 cup lemon juice, 1 cup sugar and 6-1/2 cups water. Stir until sugar is dissolved. For an extra treat, add ½ to 1 cup sliced or macerated berries to infuse the lemonade as it cools in the refrigerator.

Hopefully these simple ideas will help you keep your cool during these hot summer months.

For more ideas to keep your cool, check out 15 Ways to Stay Cool Without a Pool.

Photo credit: Dr. Seuss collection by EvelynGiggles (CC BY 2.0), Yoga III by Sunchild123 (CC BY 2.0), Peekaboo Bubbles! by Donnie Ray Jones (CC BY 2.0), Herbs in the Sunroom by WalkingGeek (CC BY 2.0), Fruit ice lollies by Lablascovegmenu (CC BY 2.0), Lemonade by Rob Bertholf (CC BY 2.0)

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Stefani was raised in California; with her husband hailing from South Carolina, they've settled in the middle and are now raising three Texans. She loves classical homeschooling, great books, period dramas, modifying recipes, simple living, deep thinking, and cuddling up with her family to watch silly YouTube videos.

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