As a mom of two young kids, summer can often slip by in a blur of summer camps, cookouts, and long afternoons of cartoons when its too hot to play outside. One of my personal mom goals is to have as much fun with my kids as possible before they no longer think it's cool to hang out with me.
This year I'm determined to bust boredom in creative ways that are also low-effort and hopefully leave us all with some summer memories. In other words, this is my summer bucket list! It includes some summer classics like lemonade, a few quick recipes (including one for bubbles), and a few field trips too. Here's how you can get in on the fun.
1. Make pitcher after pitcher of homemade lemonade.
I have a secret hope that my husband will build a cute lemonade stand for us to set up this summer, but realistically my kids will be perfectly happy to make a few batches of lemonade to enjoy and share with friends.
Get the recipe: How To Make Lemonade from Scratch
2. Cover the sidewalk with homemade chalk paint.
Cornstarch plus water and food coloring makes for an easy afternoon of sidewalk painting. You can supply brushes, sponges, or spray bottles for painting.
Get more detailed instructions: Sidewalk Chalk Paint from Happiness Is Homemade
3. Blow homemade bubbles in the afternoon.
Yes, you can make bubbles at home! You just need dish soap, water, and corn syrup. My kids love to help make this as much as they love to blow the resulting bubbles. A good ratio is 1 cup of dish soap to 1 cup water and 2 tablespoons corn syrup. Try not to overmix or you'll have suds instead of bubbles!
4. Milk paint the rainy days away.
This is a really great activity for a rainy afternoon that requires just milk, food coloring, and paper. I love using a 13x9 baking dish for each kiddo so they don't have to take turns. Dried pages can be used to make cards for grandparents (another good rainy-day go-to).
Get more detailed directions: How To Make Milk Art from Say Yes
5. Make no-churn ice cream in a pinch.
I really love making ice cream from scratch, but my children just don't have the patience required for that. Luckily this two-ingredient recipe can be made with their help and without dragging out the ice cream maker.
6. Set up ice excavations for hot days.
Freeze a few of your kids' favorite toys inside a block of ice (an 8x8 pan works well for this) and then set them to work trying to excavate those toys by pouring, squirting, or spraying water into the ice block. This can be done at the sink if it's rainy or on the front stoop if it's hot and you need to cool down too.
7. Have a spray bottle water fight.
I have zero interest in wasting money on water guns that will fall apart by the end of summer, so I head to the dollar store for cheap spray bottles that mean easy, fun water fights every afternoon if my kiddos want.
Buy similar: ChefLand Spray Bottles, $9 for 3 bottles
8. Make popcorn and put on a movie.
You've got to have rainy-day plans. Yes, we've already watched Coco 25 times! What's one more?
9. Grill some Rice Krispies treats.
My 6-year-old can pretty much make Rice Krispies treats on her own, so she will and then we stick them on the grill after cooking out one night. This is the recipe I'm most looking forward to this summer.
Get the recipe: Grilled Rice Krispies Treats
10. Go for sprinkler runs in the evenings.
There will be trips to our local municipal pool and the nearby river for cooling off, but when it is late in the evening and everyone needs to cool down and get out the last-minute wiggles, this $5 sprinkler will be there.
11. Catch bugs!
My 3-year-old is bug-obsessed so we'll be capturing as many roly-poly bugs and fireflies as we can this summer.
12. Make your own Jell-O Jigglers.
You can make Jell-O Jigglers from any fruit juice you have plus gelatin. This is another great no-bake dessert to serve at parties, and something my kiddos can do with minimal supervision.
Our tried-and-true recipe: How To Make Jello Jigglers
13. Picnic in the park or just the front yard.
14. Fire up s'mores.
I'll be making s'more's bars for the July 4th holiday but we'll eat our share of roasted marshmallows in the backyard where everyone can get as messy as they want enjoying this summer staple.
15. Cool off with water beads.
Water beads are small cellulose beads that absorb water and grow 10 times bigger. Because they need water to grow, water beads are one of those great outside water activities. My 3-year-old can spend time sorting and smashing them while cooling off in a tub of water.
Find them here: MarvelBeads Water Beads, $6
16. Hit up the farmers market.
We will be in search of both the perfect peach and the juiciest watermelon this summer. Many farmers markets have a kid program you can sign up for, which gives tokens to kids to buy fresh fruits and veggies at the market.
17. Make our own park map.
I read this ingenious idea in Family Fun magazine: As a family we're making a map of as many city parks as we can get to — noting which one has the tallest slides or the coolest splash pad. This will force us to explore more local parks and make park trips more exciting!
18. Make your own face masks.
My 6-year-old sees my occasional beauty mask and wants to play along. This summer I want to DIY some kid-friendly (think: yogurt or honey and oats) face masks with her!
19. Have a backyard camp-out.
I love big, long weekend camp-outs in the woods, but our kids still need some tent sleeping practice so we'll be doing two overnights in our backyard.
20. Make Popsicles when the craving strikes!
Popsicles require no forethought (like remembering to put the ice cream maker in the freezer) and can easily be made and eaten the same day. We will buy our fair share of freezer pops too, but at least one homemade batch is on our to-do list.
We love these stacking molds: Faith's Favorite Popsicle Molds Solve the Biggest Problems
21. Devour an easy icebox pie.
In case you were worried there aren't enough sweet treats on this list, this easy icebox pie that my daughter and I discovered last summer is another great rainy-day activity.
The 4-ingredient recipe: Easy Rainbow Icebox Cake
22. Build a fort and hang out under the sheets.
My husband is the best fort builder, and this summer he is tasked with building the biggest indoor fort he can for a summer sleepover.
23. Make slime.
Oh how I wish my kids were over making and playing with slime! Luckily this recipe is really easy to make and clean up, so we'll make it once this summer.
Get the recipe: How To Make 3-Ingredient Slime Without Borax
24. Go out for ice cream for dinner!
Food Editor-at-Large Christine Gallary gave me this brilliant idea: "Just once or twice a year, when it's super hot, we go out and have ice cream for dinner! The best places to do this actually are the diner-style old-school soda fountains, where we can grab savory food first."
25. Puddle jump and rainbow hunt after a rainstorm!
Summer is about the only time it's warm enough to play in the rain and hunt for rainbows post afternoon storms. Bonus: This activity requires zero supplies or planning! Just wait for the rain to roll in.
What is on your kid's summer fun list? How are you busting boredom this summer break?