No-Spend or Low-Spend Summer Activities for Kids!

Fun Activities for Kids That Won't Break Your Budget!

Arts & Crafts, Outings, and More!

To most kids, summer is a highly anticipated break from school and the responsibilities that come along with it. They look forward to a few months of fun activities, play, and freedom.  However, not too long after the start of it, summer vacation can look a whole lot like boredom.

For parents, it is a delicate balance of keeping kids entertained, out of trouble, and at the same time, not breaking the bank with expensive activities and outings. In some cases, it is hard to think of something that kiddos of varying ages will all enjoy together and not cause sibling bickering, and doesn’t involve plunking them in front of some sort of electronic. (Electronics are not necessarily a bad thing, but mixing it up with other indoor and outdoor activities gives an opportunity to discover other interests.

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The BIG Idea, Idea Jar

This idea, though not new, is a great way to have an impartial activity chosen at random without argument. It is literally, the luck of the draw. On small slips of paper, write down multiple fun low spend activities ideas, fold them up, and then mix them.  Each day you are looking for something to do, or you hear “I am bored, there is nothing to do” - keep your “Idea Jar” on standby to choose from.

Take turns each time drawing one slip of paper from the jar, and that is the activity to be done that day.

Need ideas for your paper slips? The Ask Cathy Team has put together a list of activities that perhaps you may not have thought of to keep everyone entertained with either low spending, or no spending.

A word of caution: It also may be a good idea to keep your Idea Jar in a hidden place for when it is not in use, so that “get a puppy” “go to the amusement park” or other budget-approved ideas aren’t magically turning up as selections!

Summer Outing Kit

One tip that is useful is to create your “summer outing kit” that stays in your car throughout the summer. This enables you to be prepared for impromptu outings and have some summer basics in your car close at hand. Adapt this kit to your own needs but some items to include are as follows:

  • Water
  • Sunscreen
  • A picnic blanket
  • An umbrella
  • A change of clothes (per child)
  • A bathing suit (per child)/towels - in case of an impromptu splash pad or community pool. For a list of area splash pads, view here.
  • Non-perishable/no-melt emergency snacks

Arts and Crafts

  • Paint rocks to decorate your garden with. This can be a fun activity that combines arts and crafts with creating a beautiful and memorable garden space with your kiddos.
  • Have everyone draw/paint a picture of the house from the outside. Later, hang them up together in your entryway.
  • If you haven’t already, start a measuring wall. In a non-prominent area of your home (garage, closet, laundry room) measure each family member and mark on the wall with a pencil. Put the name and date of the measurement. Compare differences and heights at the beginning and end of summer, on birthdays, etc. Some families even have a special board to do measurements on that they can take with them in the event of a move.
  • Make a family tree. Drawing out the history of your family for multiple generations can be a fun way to introduce children to their ancestry. You can even parlay this into learning about your family's nationality and culture. Use pictures if you have them to decorate your family tree. This is also a fun opportunity to talk about the meanings behind your children’s names and why you chose them for them, and if they have any family significance.  Want to delve deeper into family history, be sure to check out the Midwest Geneology Center in Independence, learn more about it here!


  • New Park Picnics - Have a picnic at a park you have never been to before. This is a win-win. You need to eat lunch, and doing it outdoors also makes it fun and adventurous. Lunch can be very simple, and you don’t even need a picnic table if you have an old blanket in the car.  Also, by choosing a new park that you haven’t been to before, the kids will have new obstacles to play on and you may discover a new favorite while getting to know new communities.  Need help finding a new park?  See our blog on the Kansas City Area parks. Get to know the area gardens. Look for butterflies, learn the names of flowers, and just appreciate the beauty. Have your kiddos pick a favorite flower they may want to plant in your own yard. See here for a list of area gardens to visit.
  • Rediscover Your Neighborhood - Go for a walk and rediscover your neighborhood.  Play “I Spy” while walking. Point out the architecture or the gardens of your neighbor's homes, vote on your favorites, and get some new ideas for your own home.  You may even instill a love of gardening or architecture in your kiddos.
  • The Library - Take advantage of your town’s library, and free access to books, storytimes, and other activities. Many locations have free story time and activities that kids can participate in all summer long. This will also give kids a head start on reading for the upcoming school year.  For Midwest Continental Library information see here.
  • FREE Museums - Several area museums have FREE admission. This is an opportunity to learn about art, history, or another way of life. Some of these museums include:
  1. Hallmark Visitors Center: 2450 Grand Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64108
  2. Kansas City Museum, 3218 Gladstone Blvd. Kansas City, Missouri 64123
  3. Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 4420 Warwick Blvd, Kansas City, MO 64111 - 1821
  4. Legler Barn Museum and Depot, 14907 W. 87th St. Pkwy, Lenexa, KS 66215
  5. Money Museum, 1 Memorial Drive, Kansas City, Missouri 64198
  6. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Reserve your free tickets online) 4525 Oak Street, Kansas City, MO 64111
  7. Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, 12345 College Blvd, Overland Park, KS 66210
  8. Shoal Creek Living History Museum, 7000 Northeast Barry Road, Kansas City, MO 64156
  9. Union Station, 30 West Pershing Road, Kansas City, MO 64108-2410

Want to be closer to the action of all your favorite things to do?   Set up a personalized home search that highlights the areas you may be interested in. You never know when the perfect home for you will pop up! 

In the Kitchen

  • Love for cooking or baking can start early. Learning to cook or bake can develop into a lifelong passion and also help your kiddos turn more self-sufficient when fending for themselves in later years. Even toddlers can help measure out dry and wet ingredients, learn to stir, and put the liners into muffin tins. Getting kids involved in choosing a recipe, for a meal or a snack, can introduce new foods into their repertoire, as they will be more likely to eat something new if they have helped prepare it. Recipes don’t have to be elaborate: muffins, cookies, and scones are all easy and delicious!
  • You can also take it a step further by having them help write the list of needed ingredients, then take them grocery shopping for a grocery scavenger hunt” to find what is needed. Further lessons can be cost comparisons for different brands, nutritional information, budgeting, etc.
  • Another kitchen activity is to “make up” a meal using only the ingredients found in your pantry, cupboards, freezer, or fridge.  This helps reduce wasted ingredients and sparks imagination in your blossoming foodie.

Imaginative Play

  • Build a fort out of pillows and blankets, and do a fun sleepover in it!
  • Lay on a blanket in the backyard and point out shapes in the clouds.
  • Pitch a tent and do a sleepover in the backyard.
  • Build an obstacle course in your home, and see how fast your kids can complete it.
  • Make a treasure map, and hide some “treasure” (small toys, snacks, books, etc). Alternatively, you can have a scavenger hunt.

Go Old School

  • Play in the sprinkler - you don’t need a pool to have a cool summer. If you don’t already have a sprinkler (not the inground type - those hurt!)  you can usually find them fairly inexpensively at a thrift store or hardware store.
  • Play an “old school” game with your kids like jump rope, hopscotch, “Mother May I” or “Red Light/ Green Light”. Games do not have to be complicated to have fun.
  • Do a jigsaw puzzle.  Choose a spot where you can leave it out, and go back to it during the week.
  • Teach your kids how to do simple stitching and make a fun bag to hold all their “treasures”.  You can even make a bag using an old t-shirt, and sew up the bottom, using the neck as the opening.  See a simple tutorial here.

So there you have it.  A few fun ideas to help keep everyone entertained over the summer, and maybe even discover some new hobbies.  The best thing to note is time spent together is never wasted, and that it is the ultimate free activity!

If your current home is no longer fulfilling all the needs of your family, we would love to help you make a new plan. Our experienced team can help put a plan together, that sells your current home in concert with finding the new family home you've always dreamed of.  Schedule your no-obligation with our team today! 

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