Free or Inexpensive Indoor Summer Activities

This is the first in a 2 part series on how to keep kids entertained for minimal or no cost during the summer months. The second part, written by fellow EOD member Jessica Streit, will appear next week.

Kind of like this. But inside.

This summer is going to be a different experience for me. It’s the first summer I’ll be home full-time with my daughter (who is 5) and quite frankly, I’m already panicking. Not so much because of all the time with her (which is awesome) but because, honestly, I don’t know what I’m going to do with her.  On normal days, I have all the basics covered. Feeding her, practicing her reading, daily chores, going to the pool (our YMCA has an outdoor pool and it’s included in our membership)…those kinds of things. But what do I do when we’re can’t go out?

Where I live, it gets hot. Really hot. Some days, it’s so hot my dogs don’t even want to go outside for their walks. It’s these days that I’m worried about. We even have a budget for once a week activities like the aquarium or a movie, which, technically, can cover the days we’re stuck inside. However, even on those days, who wants to go out and deal with a hot stuffy car and throngs of other people trying to escape their homes and the oppressive heat? Not me.

I have been wracking my brain for a list of activities (because I’m like that) that we can do on days it’s too hot or too rainy to leave the house. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • Write and illustrate a book. My daughter loves to color and tells the most amazing stories about the pictures she’s drawn. I figure I can have her draw some pictures and then dictate to me what story she wants to tell. We can fold and staple the pictures, just like a real book, and we can even draw the cover and the author bio.
  • Have a fashion show.  Like most 5 year old girls, my daughter loves to dress up in her play clothes and my shoes. I can create a “runway” and let her parade up and down, showing off her new and festive ensembles. I can take pictures, just like at real fashion shows. (This can also work for talent shows where instead of showing off her new looks, she can show off her many talents.)
  • Make a movie. Whether it’s with my iPhone or with this camera thing she got for Christmas, I can let her walk around the house, filming whatever she wants and then edit it into a short movie. I can even let her narrate it and then we can upload it to our private YouTube channel so her grandparents can see her work.
  • Have an indoor picnic. I figure I can pack a “picnic basket” with her help and we can set up our little picnic in the living room. We can pretend that we’re outside and talk about all the outdoor things that we see. I can even let her draw pictures of trees and grass and ants and we can put those all over the living room to give it a more authentic feel.

This is also the perfect opportunity to start working on the activity box that I’ve been meaning to work on for the last 4 years. An activity box is basically a shoe box full of pieces of paper with ideas written on them. Some ideas can be “do a puzzle”, “watch an old cartoon”, “bake cookies”, “build with Legos”, “have a tea party”…you get the idea. The driving force behind the activity box is to always have a way to stave off the inevitable “I’m bored” whine.  Just pull out the box, let your kid or kids pick out a slip of paper and voila! Something to do!

I’m probably overthinking this whole situation. I know we’ll be fine. But I need to be prepared. Just in case.

Do you have any suggestions for indoor activities?

About Jana

4 Responses to “Free or Inexpensive Indoor Summer Activities”

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  1. Christina says:

    My son, now 6 1/2, used to love fingerpainting. I would tape wax paper to our kitchen table and give him some cardstock or poster board and let him go to town with watered down washable paint.

    I kept a tupperware bowl full of different colored, uncooked rice (take some regular rice, add a drop of food coloring in a ziploc and shake it around for the color to get on all of it- let it dry for a couple hours) I’d have him hunt for 12 blue pieces, 10 red, etc. It kept him occupied and helped him learn his numbers better. he loved to just use different cups to play with the rice too.

    Make a blanket fort and turn on a movie, have popcorn under it. Give her a rag and a regular squirt bottle with water, pick a fairly clean floor and let her go to town “cleaning” it.

    Fill the sink with water and give her a few cups, some with holes in the bottom for her to play.

    Kids love to help do grownup stuff- give her socks to sort and put away.

    Get some glowsticks (bracelet/necklace) crack them so they glow (not break), add to her bathtub and turn the lights off- GlowBath!
    You can also break one open and put the goo in a water bottle, put the lid on and shake- cool light to carry around through the dark house.
    Hope these help- I’m working on things to occupy my boy this summer as well.

    ~C

  2. Wow, Jana, it sounds to me like you and your daughter will have an amazing summer – those activities all sound so fun! Can I come over and play, too?!?!?

    One of the things that my daughter (and her friends) would do is to put together a “stuffed animal camp.” They ran the camp, and the stuffed animals were the students. Parents were encouraged to participate as well. I could either be one of the students, or I could be one of the camp workers. Or, I could trade off day to day. The best part of this was that it could be a re-occurring event. Even if it wasn’t played for a couple of days, we would pick up right were we left off. AND it can be played both inside, AND out!

    I can still see Tori and her friends each pulling wagons (camp buses) across the yard filled with stuffed animals…..

  3. On of our favorite activities here is to make dioramas. We have a strict $5 budget on all projects so we have to be inventive sometimes. My favorite one, I used dried oregano to make a leaf covered tent for our army guys to hide in. Dioramas can be tied in to an activity you did already are already planning to do, say the aquarium.

    A treasure hunt is a great thing to do. I’ve hidden a treat for the kids before and then wrote up five or six hints that led them through out the house. Hints like “Go to the place where you SHOULD put your dirty laundry.” Or “Check where I keep the mailbox key” and that would lead them to their next clue. This is great for pre-reading and also writing skills for her.

    Great start! I’ve got many ideas for next week’s post!

  4. ImpulseSave says:

    Love the idea of the activity box! What a great way to beat the indoor blues! Some of my favorite things to do when I was a kid were playing outside, building forts (inside or outside) and having a slumber party, going to the library (especially after a day at the pool or beach: pick up a movie on the way home and crash on the couch), and having play dates with friends. Of course – tea parties are a must! Hope your summer is great and that you and your daughter have lots of fun together!

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