2023 Summer Bucket List: Fun and Frugal Summer Activities

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Family Summer Bucket List Ideas
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Ah, summer. Sunny days, grilling out, and fireflies at dusk. Longer days and summer vacations also mean more downtime, play time, and hopefully more family time!

A while back we started the tradition of creating an annual summer bucket list. Even if we don’t do them all (the list is getting long), this summertime family tradition is a great way to remember what we’ve enjoyed in the past as well as think of some new fun summer ideas to try.

More on what we came up with for this year in a bit…

How to Make a Fun Summer Bucket List

Even though we homeschool, summer means a more relaxed schedule (in the name of time at the beach!). It’s inevitable though that when the routine changes, eventually I hear… “Mom I’m booored.” (I’m sure this sounds familiar?)

We’ve come up with a few different solutions to this over the years, but one of the best is to write down a physical summer bucket list. It really motivates us to think of a few new things to try that are out of the norm and bring back a few old favorites. And when boredom strikes, it’s the perfect time to point to the list.

A word of advice: make a first draft of a summer bucket list before involving the kids. That way you’re clear on priorities before the kids add their “contributions.” (And there will be many!)

Summer Bucket List Brainstorming

Some questions to get the ball rolling are:

  • What are our favorite things to do? What leaves us feeling recharged? How can we do more of those things this summer?
  • What are our least favorite things to do? What do we need a break from? How can we minimize or manage those things this summer?
  • Which skills or subjects do we want to learn? What do we need to get started? (I like this question for kids in particular so they can learn what goes into executing their ideas.)
  • I also keep a running note in my phone of all our favorite activities, so we can revisit old favorites.

From here, I narrow down to the ones that fit our current family priorities. This is the list we take to the kids so we can add their ideas (some of them, anyway).

We write the final list and put it on the fridge for everyone to see.

Find a Theme

Sometimes as we look over the list a theme emerges. If that’s the case for you, consider coming up with a simple word or phrase that captures your goals for the summer. Display the word around the house to build excitement and remind you to look at the list!

Think Through Summer Routines

Studies show that routines increase a child’s sense sense of independence and control. It also cuts down on parental nagging. This is one big reason we do the summer bucket list.

Sitting down to plan the summer is a great time to think through new routines and put a few visual reminders in place. Here are some we’ve used or want to try:

The above will definitely vary depending on what ages you have in the house. I’m soon to have teenagers, so I’d love your ideas on that front!

On to the summer bucket list…

Summer Activities Checklist for Families

Here’s our ultimate summer buck list, with a few new ones added for this year. The best part? Most of these are free or very low cost.

Of course, the kids suggest more than a few things that aren’t realistic (“buy a horse” comes to mind), but with a little redirection they come up with some really great ideas!

If your family is the competitive type, check out this adventure points system to go along with your summer bucket list. It keeps kids motivated to try and do new things on their own.

Our Ultimate Summer Bucket List:

  1. Hike a new trail.
  2. Create a scavenger hunt.
  3. Try a new food at the farmer’s market.
  4. Visit a nearby nature center.
  5. Camp in the treehouse.
  6. Finally go check out the state parks near our house that we’ve never visited.
  7. Build a sandcastle as a family (and enter a sandcastle contest if we can find one!).
  8. Have our version of a water balloon fight in the backyard (using sponges, not balloons, to avoid choking hazards and plastic waste).
  9. Go to a matinee or drive-in movie.
  10. Pre-make a bunch of frozen meals for friends who are expecting babies.
  11. Put bubble solution in a kids’ pool and use a hula hoop to be inside a giant bubble!
  12. Make a lemonade stand.
  13. Catch fireflies.
  14. Make popsicles from fruit and chia seeds.
  15. Have a luau for neighbors and friends.
  16. A projector + outdoor wall = outdoor movie!
  17. Teach the kids to make homemade ice cream (handy when the ice cream truck rolls around).
  18. Have a picnic.
  19. Get in on the fairy garden craze. (Challenge: Make as much as we can from natural materials!)
  20. Look up local outdoor concerts (many of these are free.)
  21. Stay up late and try to find constellations. (Have you stargazed with an app yet? Gamechanger!)
  22. Go wildcrafting for herbs and plants with a local expert.
  23. Collect seashells at the beach.
  24. Make real-food snow cones. (May invest in a snow cone machine this year!)
  25. Go fishing and learn how to clean the fish.
  26. Visit a local museum (these are usually free) and learn about the history of our town/neighborhood.
  27. Play frisbee.
  28. Turn on some oldies and have a dance party in the living room.
  29. Make a slip and slide in the backyard.
  30. Go to a baseball game.
  31. Run through sprinklers on a hot day (Mom and Dad too).
  32. Play wiffle ball in the backyard.
  33. Learn how to make simple origami.
  34. Take a road trip somewhere we haven’t been.
  35. Finger paint outside.
  36. Draw with sidewalk chalk.
  37. Have a puppet show.
  38. Make necklaces with homemade clay beads.
  39. Make a birdhouse.
  40. And a bat house.
  41. Visit the fire station.
  42. Make slime.
  43. Go to the zoo.
  44. Play in the sprinklers.
  45. Visit a retirement or nursing home and make cards for the residents.
  46. Learn how to score a baseball game.
  47. Make a DIY beauty recipe and have a spa night.
  48. Go to the lake.
  49. Ride a ferris wheel.
  50. Try out a free kids’ workshop at your local home improvement store.
  51. Learn new card games.
  52. Have a backyard campout.
  53. Teach kids how to jump rope (and practice it myself… yikes).
  54. Make some healthy ice cream sandwiches.
  55. Take a nap! (Maybe in a hammock?)
  56. Fly a kite.
  57. Build a fort.
  58. Play Capture the Flag.
  59. Climb trees.
  60. Join the library’s summer reading club.
  61. Make paper airplanes and race them.
  62. Let the kids plan and cook dinner.
  63. Pick an empty wall in the garage and paint a family mural. (Or in the house for other braver/more artistic parents!)
  64. Play flashlight tag.
  65. Make root beer from scratch.
  66. Learn how to crochet or knit.
  67. Try an online class from Udemy.com and learn a new skill (many are only $10).
  68. Learn to walk a slackline.
  69. Find a maker’s space or attend a mini-maker’s faire.
  70. Go to a fruit farm U-pick and make homemade freezer jam.

Have Fun!

Making a summer bucket list is always fun and never a chore. The important part is to look at it as family inspiration and not a “to-do” list. Even if we don’t get to all of our wish list, this summer bucket list reminds us to spend quality time together and try new things, whether we’re out adventuring or at home.

I’ve shared mine… I’d love to see yours! What will your family be up to this summer?

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


30 responses to “2023 Summer Bucket List: Fun and Frugal Summer Activities”

  1. K.S. Avatar

    Ice in a blender with a little water can also create “snow” for snow cones. Nice article, thanks!

  2. Jody Avatar

    These are such great ideas, Katie! My kids are grown adults and three of five are parents so as a Gramma, I’m planning some fun things with my grandkids this summer.
    These are some of my ideas.
    Paint rocks (the kids love to do this).
    Go bird watching (the older two grands and I are having a Big Year (counting birds). The movie, The Big Year is so worthwhile and clean enough for kids and grandparents!
    Pinch pots (with clay) and then paint them.
    Paint on Freezer paper for painting big!
    Whiffle Ball (when our kids were young, we mowed a baseball diamond in the lawn)
    Weenie roast over the fire pit, and make s’mores
    Make popsicles
    Squirt gun fights.
    Afternoon ice cream cones
    Ride bikes together

    Happy Summer!

  3. Janet Fazio Avatar
    Janet Fazio

    What great ideas! I love being outside in the summer and some of these would make great girls’ night out events as well.

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