The long, unstructured stretch of summer can feel intimidating, to even the most seasoned of parents. After the initial bliss of tossing backpacks in the closet for the fall, the dog days start blurring into one mass of amorphous time.
Planning for a great summer involves the whole family, not just younger kids. It's about learning how to connect, create meaning, and maybe have some fun along the way.
Fun things take planning. Every parent understands the importance of preparation, and summer break is no exception. Creating a summer bucket list for kids is a great place to start.
First, the research stage is a great way to teach children the value of prep. Hula hoop contests don't happen on accident. Take an afternoon, and maybe a trip to the local library, to carefully craft your own bucket list.
Being involved in crafting their own summer bucket list is a first step toward instilling responsibility to the shared joy of summer. That way, when the tie dye shirts are drying in the backyard, cleanup becomes a natural extension of the activity.
If an amusement park visit makes the list, then picking up some chores around the house might be a practical way to save up for money to spend on carnival games.
Here are some of our favorite fun ideas fit for any kids summer bucket list.
Build Paper Airplanes
Building paper airplanes is the simplest version of any DIY craft. Pull up a Youtube video, reference a book, and grab a fistful of printer paper from the office. Document your young aviator's progress with a measuring tape for a bonus math lesson.
Try a Bird FeederInstalling a bird feeder is a lovely way to keep kids entertained. Plus, you never know who might be a budding birder. Borrow books from the local library on birds local to your region or even take a nature walk to try spotting them in the wild. Make a list for kids with birds that might make a home along the way.
Create an Obstacle Course
f you're avoiding a water balloon fight for its particularly painful clean up, considering adding an obstacle course to your summer bucket list.
You can create an obstacle course out of items sitting in your garage, even tools used to clean the family car. Arrange a hose as a starting line, a broom as a halfway mark, and get create.
Keep a Summer JournalWriting a list for kids is not only a perfect frame for summer fun, it's also a perfect way to start practicing the art of journaling. Head to the craft store or repurpose something at home as a summer journal.
After completing an item from your summer bucket list, take time to write about it. What went well? What was your favorite part? What do you hope to remember for next time? Plus, the journal will only help when it comes time to assemble next year's bucket list ideas.
Curate a Time CapsuleConsider this an ultimate summer bucket list item. It's a chance to freeze time in the middle of summer break. Your time capsule can be a video or a physical box where you collect artifacts from your life at that very moment.
Of course, add a copy of your summer bucket list, but why not add some of your favorite projects from the school year, too?
Make Homemade PizzaYou'll want to avoid this oven-centric activity on a hot day. Start with a farmer's market visit to gather the freshest ingredients for your pizza. Practice rolling out the dough on a floured surface, but also know that frozen is just as good, especially for younger kids. Pair with fresh lemonade for ultimate summer fun.
Plan a Road TripGive your kids creative license to pick a location within a two-hour radius, and start packing your bags. By entrusting older kids with creating an itinerary, you'll welcome responsibility in the form a family fun. Bonus points for creating a scavenger hunt once you're there. A road trip belongs on every bucket list for kids.
Visit a Local FarmEver wonder where your fresh fruit comes from? Do some research to find a local farm nearby that welcomes visitors. Try berry picking for something active. Maybe there's a watermelon patch nearby? Once you're home, make some homemade ice cream to round out the bucket list activity.
Put on a Puppet ShowThis is another DIY project with minimal supplies. Constructing a theater can be as simple as placing a broom between two chairs with a bedsheet for a curtain. Craft sock puppets out of unmatched socks from the dryer. This is an ideal summer bucket list item for those already signed up for theater camp.
Attend a Ball GameIndulge in some old-fashioned Americana with a root beer and a hot dog at your local baseball diamond. You don't have to swing for the fences with this one. Check your local high school's schedule before committing to an MLB baseball game.
Try Mini GolfIf your kids are into sports, but maybe with less running, mini golf is the perfect summer bucket list idea. Try adding this onto a local amusement park visit or join another family after dinner one night. Every round of mini golf is made sweeter by the promise of ice cream sundaes after.
Braid Friendship BraceletsThere's nothing quite as wholesome as braiding friendship bracelets, except making time to catch fireflies or make root beer floats. Head to a local park, set up shop at a picnic table, and get started on braiding. If your older kids are looking for something more advanced, there's no shortage of Youtube tutorials.
Make Grocery Shopping a Group EffortSure, it's a less glamorous addition to the summer bucket list, but that doesn't make it any less important. Summer planning involves plenty of grocery runs. Why not make it a team sport? There are lots of free printables that offer organized grocery lists easy for kids to follow.
Encourage Outdoor PlayPlay hide and seek! Go rock hunting! Whatever it takes to get kids moving outside is a great place to start. Add lots of outdoor time to your summer bucket list for happy kids and well-rested adults.
Print Coloring PagesWhen summer bucket list ideas start to run out, it's time to call in help. Grab a pile of markers or crayons. Plug in your printer and start searching your children's favorite characters plus "free coloring pages." You'll find lots of free printables that will keep them coloring for hours.
Find a Drive In Movie TheaterThis ultimate summer bucket list item feels retro and darling, making it an ideal outing for the whole family. Pile into the car with plenty of snacks, and make your way to your nearest drive in movie theater. It might turn into a bit of a family road trip, but that's what makes it such a great summer bucket list activity.
Paint RocksThis activity might seem very 1970s upon first glance, but it's a great way to get kids outside and in their creativity. Try a visiting one of many nearby local parks and setting up shop there. You'll need some paint and brushes, some rocks, of course, and lots of clean up supplies.
Leave your rocks in the sun to dry before adding them to your time capsule or simply making a home for them in your garden.
Find Snow ConesThere's nothing quite like a snow cone on a warm day. Adding this simple adventure to your own summer bucket list is a sweet way to end a day in the sun. Other bucket list ideas can be complex or involve lots of prep. This only involves a quick Google search and some cash.
Go For a Bike RideBucket list ideas can be as simple as going for a bike ride. If your kids are just learning, head to a local park to practice. Once they've nailed their form, throw on some helmets and explore all the fun things within biking distance.
Build Paper BoatsSummer bucket list ideas involve getting near the water, in whatever way you can. Try building boats on a nearby lake. If you're landlocked, a bathtub will do the trick. it's a lesson in engineering with minimal tools and lots of teamwork.
Visit the Children's MuseumSummer break is your local children's museum's time to shine. Check scheduling online before heading in. You might be surprised at offerings. Some museums offer a guided nature walk, a scavenger hunt, or even summer bucket list ideas of their own.
Have a Slumber PartyThis bucket list idea can be tailored for your kids and their ages. Invite the whole family for a slumber party in the living room on a Friday night. Watch a family-friendly movie, opt for an easy dinner, and make a sleepable fort for all. Sometimes summer bucket lists are the simple moments of falling asleep in the same room.
Enjoy the Local FairNo true summer bucket list is complete without a trip to the local fair. Whether it's the state fair or a county fair, your kids will love the chance to enjoy the magic of livestock, fried food, and all kinds of people, in one place.
Creating a bucket list for kids is a great way to build anticipation for the summer. Once school starts again, the summer bucket list remains as a heartfelt reminder of your time together.