Summer Bucket List for Frugal Family Fun

It seems that summer is here in Northeast Ohio. Public schools are winding down, and soon Brian will be home to share in the fun for a few months. Like most kids, now that the weather is warm and neighborhood kids are out in droves, the Kessler crew moan and groan when I tell them they need to knock out their work before they head outside.

And like most kids, they come inside tired, sweaty, and filthy once they’ve run, played in water, biked, and waged war with the neighbors.

To ease the pain of still having things to finish {we took extended time off to adjust to our new addition}, the kids and I brainstormed a “Summer Bucket List” of fun and frugal things we can do this summer and created a pretty printable to hang on the fridge. I laminated ours and added a wet-erase marker with yarn so we can keep track of the things we’ve accomplished.


Summer Bucket List Family Fun Printable via


Make a Fairy Garden

Molly, in particular, is so excited about this one. She plans to create a little fairy-scape in a patch of dirt near the garage. She’s saving her money and coupons to go to the craft store for dollhouse furniture to put in her garden, hoping to attract fairies. What’s really sweet is, that despite the normal angst Trevor causes his sister, he still loves the magical and imaginary. He pulled me aside just tonight and started plotting little things he could do at night so she’d find them in her garden and believe the fairies had paid it a visit. Conversations like that give me hope among the day to day struggles. He really is a sweetheart.

Camp in the Yard

Brian – are you reading this? Trevor REALLY wants to camp outside this summer. ;-) I actually LOVE camping, but I don’t particularly love it while nursing babies. I’d much rather start hanging outside with them overnight once I’m done with round the clock feedings. The kids will have to settle for a Daddy only campout. I’ll cook a pancake breakfast for them INSIDE.

Catch Fireflies in a Jar

Sometimes it’s the simplest things. I introduced my kids to Pets in a Jar by Seymour Simon, one of my favorite nonfiction authors, and they’re hooked on catching, observing, and then releasing insects. I think we’ll catch some fireflies, read some good books in our fairy garden by the light of Christmas lights and firefly jars. Then we’ll release the lightning bugs and head in to bed.

Go to a Drive-In Movie

Trevor asked me tonight if drive-ins still existed like “in the olden days,” and if we could check one out. Sounds like fun to me. There’s one nearby, so we’ll load up our special lunchboxes we bring out for field trips and outings with snacks and head to the drive-in.

Walk Barefoot in a Creek

I have so neglected this park of my kids’ outdoor education. Coming from a science and nature writer – it’s pathetic. Since we have to drive to get to a creek, I often skip it altogether in favor of hiking trails and playgrounds. This summer, we’re wading in. I miss it, and I’m sad my kids aren’t as daring in the water as I once was.

Have a Bake Sale for Charity

We are blessed. We have health, family, friends, and faith. I’m trying to continue fostering servant’s hearts in the children, and so we’ve talked about ways we could give back. We’re going to try to organize a neighborhood bake sale and lemonade stand and donate our proceeds to a charity that the kids agree on. I think I might be looking forward to this one more than anything.

Eat Ice Cream for Dinner

One day a few weeks ago, I surprised the kids by swinging into Mitchell’s Ice Cream for “lunch” after gymnastics class. The looks on their faces were well worth the $15 I spent that day. And the giggles when I told them that our “dessert” of turkey sandwiches was waiting for us at home was priceless. I need to do simple things like this more often. And, really, what’s wrong with ice cream for dinner?

Build Something with Wood

I’m sure all the kids will love hammering away at wood scraps with real nails, but I know Trevor will eat it up. He’s had his eye on a tool set, and I think it’s time to let him build.

Play Flashlight Tag

We just picked up a set of flashlights – different colors so we each have our own. Brian’s thought was that the kids can each have one in case of power outages, but I’m thinking we could put them to use for fun, too. We’re going to equip the neighbors with flashlights too, and we’ll have two yards to chase each other through – kind of like a light-saber battle, right?

Make and Sail Newspaper Boats

Do you remember doing this? I loved folding paper to make something fun that really worked. I must have folded dozens of newspaper hats that I then floated down the creek like boats when I was a little girl.

Pick Your Own Produce

This is actually something we do every year, but I want to expand our produce choices. We pick 30-40 pounds of strawberries and bake treats, make strawberry ice cream, and dehydrate them. I want to pick blueberries and veggies this summer too.

Invent a New Recipe Using that Produce

My kids LOVE creating new recipes. You can see some of their handiwork here and here. I’m challenging them to a strawberry recipe creating contest this year… which recipe will win? Should we put it to a vote here on the blog?

Search for Cloud People

I love lying back in the grass, looking up at the sky, and picking out cloud pictures. People, animals, pirate ships, you name – I can find it. Logan already loves this relaxing pastime. We’ll all get involved in the art of cloud pictures this summer.

Roast Hot Dogs Over a Campfire

We love to entertain in the summer, but I’ve always hated missing out on the fun because I was getting everything organized and cleaned up. A few years ago we started having weenie roasts instead of BBQs or regular parties. We buy a bunch of hot dogs, buns, condiments, graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows, and mix up some lemonade for the kids and chill some beer for the grown-ups. Food goes in plastic containers, a trashcan gets set up outside, and paper plates and napkins get weighted down with rocks. We set sticks out by the fire pit, light a big fire, and everyone roasts their own dogs and s’mores, throws their trash away when they’re done, and the only cleanup is a few containers and putting the condiments away. They’re our best parties every year. And you really can’t beat the taste of a hot dog cooked over an open fire.

Visit a New Splashpark and/or Playground

A new friend just put together a list of two playgrounds a week so homeschoolers can gather over the summer, play a little, and eat lunch, keeping connections growing year round. Several of the playgrounds and splashparks are new to us, and we’re looking forward to exploring cities nearby.


It’s going to be a fun summer, and we can’t wait to use these simple and inexpensive ideas to continue to bring our family closer together. We’re learning that there is so much fun to be had without spending a lot of money.

Want to play along? Click here to download and print the full-size printable. I printed mine on cardstock.

Need some more ideas for frugal family fun this summer? A few of my friends at the iHomeschool Network have compiled summer bucket lists of their own. You may want to jump on over and check them out.

What about you? What are YOUR suggestions for frugal fun with your kids this summer? Let me know and I’ll update the list below the printable with your ideas.

Whatever you do – have fun and enjoy those kiddos. They’re only little once.