Summer Bucket List

Ideas for a low-cost and fun summer right in your own backyard.

Article by Kati Cahill

Photography by Kati Cahill, Jeni Fleck, Jenae Lopez

Originally published in Parker City Lifestyle

While we may not have had the typical transition from the school year to summer this year, that time that every kid looks forward to is here! Summer is officially NOT cancelled and I am here to help you create the ultimate summer bucket list for kiddos of all ages that can happen right in your own backyard and neighborhood. 

Engaging your children in this process through brainstorming and creating a big summer bucket list that they can check off as you go can be helpful in getting their buy in and including activities that relate to their personal interests. Take the bucket list one step further by taking pictures of all of the activities they complete and creating a photo book at the end of the summer. 

Take a look at these fun ideas to get you started for a variety of ages from toddler to teen. All of the bucket list items presented are low cost, things you can do at or close to home, and often use materials you can find around the house or at nearby local businesses.

Rain or shine, these non-screen activities provide opportunities for kids to move their bodies, get creative, learn new things, solve problems, and connect with you! 

Are you ready for a great summer that your kids will never forget? Let’s go!

#1: Cook Together

Cooking with kids is a great way to get them interested in what they eat and to try new things. Invite your child to choose a recipe and cook it together. Take it to the next level by choosing three to four ingredients and challenge your kids to come up with a meal that uses them all! Try out a kids cooking subscription that provides recipes, games, and cooking tools that can be delivered monthly. Don’t forget to shop local for ingredients! This provides a great opportunity to talk with your kids about where their food comes from! 


#2: Positive Rock Art

Collect rocks of varying sizes and grab some acrylic paints and paintbrushes and let your kids’ creativity flow. Have them paint positive pictures and words. Once dry, go on a walk around your neighborhood and have them leave their rocks in different places for neighbors to find. Need more kindness/positivity ideas? Check out randomactsofkindness.org.

#3: Backyard Camping

Connect with the great outdoors right in your own backyard. Set up a tent and unroll those sleeping bags. Use a fire pit (check current outdoor fire ordinances) or grill to make dinner and s’mores. Pull out yard games, sing songs, and tell stories around the campfire before snuggling up under the stars. We love stargazing during backyard camping. You can get books or download an app like Skyview to help you figure out what you're seeing in the night sky. 

#4: Take a Hike

Hiking is a great way to get outdoors with kids. For younger children, make sure to choose a trail that isn’t too steep. Keep them moving with tools and activities to engage them throughout the hike. Pack a small backpack just for them with things like a magnifying glass, binoculars, a compass, a sketchbook and colored pencils. Sometimes we opt for more of a nature “stroll” and stop along the way to read books about animals we might see, watercolor our surroundings (put water in a jar and pack some paper towels), or do a nature scavenger hunt where we look for different objects or colors as we go. Don’t forget snacks, water, sunscreen, and band-aids!

#5: Art at Home

Get creative with art projects at home. Consider creating a canvas and mocktails night where you paint as a family. For younger kiddos, create opportunities for kids to engage their senses through “busy boxes” or “invitations to play”. To do this, collect a variety of supplies and see where their imaginations go. An example box could include playdough, small animal toys, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, cut up paper straws, sequins, and small rocks. Often these become a whole world of entertainment for little ones. Older kids can engage in similar set-ups using items such as small canvases, paints, different objects to act as paintbrushes (q-tips, feathers, etc.), and magazine clippings. Display their artwork around the house.

#6: Backyard Frisbee Golf

Have your kids plan out a frisbee golf course throughout your yard. Use trees, chairs, buckets, and other objects as targets. Have the kids make signs or mark the targets with ribbon or yarn and then play a game as a family. The person with the lowest score wins!

#7: Homemade Cards

Everyone loves receiving snail mail. Pull out the art supplies and construction paper and have your kids make homemade cards and stationery. Write letters to friends and family and send them the old-fashioned way to make someone’s day!


#8: Tie Dye

Who didn’t have a tie-dye shirt in their wardrobe as a kid? Share this summer classic with your family using store bought dye or make your own using water and food coloring. There are many DIY tie-dye tutorials that you can find online. Make sure you wash your masterpieces separately for those first few washes to protect your other clothes!

#9: Virtual 5K/Neighborhood Walk & Talk 

Sign up for a virtual 5K that supports a good cause! Map out a route through your neighborhood and walk or run as a family. Another great resource is Marathon Kids and their Walk and Talk program. Sign up on their website and receive 26 conversation starters to talk about with your kids. Each conversation takes place while walking 1 mile. By the end of the program, you have walked a marathon with your child while also getting to know them better! Conversation topics cover wellness, hopes & dreams, books & movies, and so much more. 

#10: Backyard Obstacle Course

Use objects that you already have to create a ninja warrior obstacle course right in your backyard. Start at one end of the yard and set up challenges that lead to the finish line. Favorites at our house include: dribbling a soccer ball around cones, jumping rope, throwing a football at a target, summersaults/cartwheels from one spot to another, climbing a play structure, running around trees, and swinging. When these are spread out, you can create hours of fun as they try to race one another or themselves using a timer. 

#11: Neighborhood Nature

Explore the natural settings in your own neighborhood. Visit a creek, pond, or garden nearby. Have kids learn about the natural habitat of these areas and then go explore. Bring along a bug net, magnifying glass, handheld microscope, notebook and pencil. Talk about what plants/animals they might see before they go and then compare it to what they actually find. Have kids connect with their inner scientist by making observations and drawing what they see. 

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