Savoring the Last Weeks of Summer: Carbon-Free, Low-Cost Entertainment for Kids

As a child, I remember being thrilled to escape school in mid June—but by August, I was bored to tears. Now as a mom I realize how tough it is to find quality entertainment for kids without spending money or driving all over town. This week we’ll revisit a few of our best posts on entertaining your brood for less.

For toddlers:

  • Homemade Finger Paint: These days we just head outside with Roscoe and avoid worrying about the ensuing mess. We use the back sides of household papers and just hose Roscoe down when he’s done! You can find a link to Rebecca’s post on fingerpainting here.
  • Homemade playdough—including an edible variety! For a very small price, my toddler stays happily entertained with his little blob of playdough. Again, check this vintage post for some great links.
  • Homemade popsicles. This entertainment-food will help you clean out your produce drawer, soothe teething gums, and sneak spinach into your child’s diet. With recipes for tofu popsicles and fruity-veggie popsicles in my repertoire, my skills in creative desserts have hit a whole new high!
  • Homemade bubbles. Once you make up the bubble solution, you can experiment with pip cleaners, coat hangers, and other household objects to create enormous bubbles. Visit another post of ours here for tips on how to get started.

For older children:

  • Cat’s cradle. I still sometimes catch my middle school students enjoying this simple but mesmerizing game. If you’re not sure where to start, this site provide pictures to illustrate each step.
  • Paper games. Origami is a great way to provide kids with some quiet, focused crafts—and a great way to recycle junk mail. It may be easier to use a book, but this site has some simple origami shapes that kids can do with limited adult help.
  • Hula hoops. I spent years of my life trying to perfect this art—and I still find the hoop down around my ankles most of the time. You can find hula hoops at garage sales and thrifty shops used for cheap.
  • Playtime outside. There’s no better way to connect with nature—and one’s desire to protect it, than be spending some time outdoors.

What else do you do to inspire entertainment that doesn’t have to be plugged in?We’d love to hear your Thrifty Green ideas.

Remember that you’ll find a whole slew of frugal, eco-friendly tips below with links back to some fabulous blogs. This week we’ve finally added Mr. Linky.  Please jump into Thrifty Green Thursday whenever you’d like. For directions on how to start, just click here. Thanks for visiting!


  1. Jump rope & Chinese jump rope, if you have enough players.

  2. One inexpensive set of sidewalk chalk goes a LONG way. We play endless hopscotch.

    I like to set up a little course that my kids have to run – like I give them certain trees they have to touch in a certain order as fast as they can. This game will tire them out in no time.

    We found a cheap croquet set a few years ago and the kids LOVE it. Even very little kids can manage hitting the ball with the mallet.

    Joy, on the hula hoops, I recently found out that adults need BIGGER hula hoops. I was at the fair a few weeks ago and they had some adult-sized ones and I was amazed that I could actually do it! I was thrilled because it is a fun way to exercise – I need to find one now.

  3. looks like you can make your own adult-size hula hoop:

  4. Love this list! So reasonable and doable. We made play dough this summer and our next project is to make paper.

  5. Yah for Mr. Linky!

  6. I’ll definitely have to check out the bubble recipe. We made playdough this summer, too, and I’m never going back to the store-bought stuff.

  7. Just stumbled on your blog today. Love this list. It’s so easy to get kids into having fun on their own with out a lot of direction from adults. Just give them a few pails of water and see what happens!

    Our upcoming book, Celebrate Green! has lots of of other hints.

  8. We tried our hand at some homemade fingerpaint the other day. I had read a recipe in a mag but couldn’t find it so I just improvised, it sort of worked. Now I’ll be rechecking your posts. We have lots of big paper from my husband’s work (architectural plans) and we plan to put it to good use!

    I haven’t done this myself but I imagine that a nature scavenger hunt would be fun.

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