Simple, Green Summer Activities for Kids

Now that the crush of my work as a teacher is done for the summer, we suddenly have lots of unstructured playtime on our hands. My kids still enjoy imaginative play (they spent the morning yesterday pretending to be prairie dogs in a fort made of blankets), but it’s nice to get them out in the sunshine without having to buy a heap of materials or make elaborate plans. Following are some incredibly basic activities for semi-lazy parents like myself who want to enrich our children’s summers without a lot of effort.

Bug collecting. This requires one applesauce jar and nothing else. My children have spent hours overturning rocks in search of the most beautiful beetle. Of course, this requires a short education about “catch and release” as my son killed a centipede or two in the beginning in his efforts to adopt insect pets. Still, it keeps them busy and entertained for quite some time!

Berry picking. In the Northwest we have a wealth of free fruit available in mid to late summer. Blackberries, huckleberries, and even fruit trees on public lands offer food and fun. We also pay to pick blueberries, raspberries and strawberries and mix up batches of jam to enjoy all winter long.

Fairy House Building. While I’m pulling dandelions in the backyard, my kids carefully construct a home for fairies out of flowers, bark, and sticks. Sometimes this will grow into an entire city with streets paved in moss.

Playdate picnicking. We head off to the park with a basket of sandwiches and meet other families for a long summer evening of play. The parents socialize, the kids get to enjoy each other, and everyone sleeps beautifully.

Rock painting. My children wander into the driveway to find interesting stones of every shape and size. Then we set up an art area on the deck and slather the rocks with tempera paint. We then scatter the stones in the garden. This is followed by some runs through the sprinkler for quick clean up, and the afternoon is a huge success!

What are your favorite easy summer play ideas? Are you a proponent of independent play or do you plan out your days? Is it even possible to get outside where you live in the summer or is heat a factor?


  1. Easiest idea? Lock my kids in the backyard. I usually bribe them to go out there with a snack. My kids are very into (informal, container-free) bug/ snail collection and observation. I love the sprinker clean-up idea. Might inspire me to break out the paints.

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