Weekends and vacations are a dad’s time to shine. Unlike during the school week, it’s not all “Do your homework”, “Finish your chores” and “Eat your vegetables.” Weekends and summer are a chance for inexpensive fun. Here are 11 ideas for summer fun that are long on creativity, but won’t leave you short of funds

1. Community Centers and Resources

Don’t reinvent the wheel. Your local library, recreation center or park will always have a calendar of free events they offer, especially during the summer months when they know kids are out of school and restless. They work with kids every day, they know what they like and how to organize events that serve them well. Look up the neighborhood resources in your area and print and post the calendars somewhere where the entire family can easily keep track of what events are happening and when.

2. Cards or Chess

A deck of cards is one of the cheapest investments you can make that will provide hours upon hours, for year after year, of family time. There are games for every age group, so if your kids are in the Crazy 8’s, Go Fish, or Gin Rummy and 5 Card Stud phase of childhood, cards grow with them. It’s a great way to gather the family around the table to talk about what is going on with them while enjoying some friendly competition. Chess is decidedly more intense but also has the benefits of teaching your kids logic, strategy and focus that will serve them in other areas of their lives.

3. Gardening

Gardening with your kids is the summer fun that keeps on giving.  Start with a group trip to the Nursery to roam through the aisles together, deciding what you want to plant. Is it flowers, or herbs and vegetables? Then it’s time to plant the garden. It’s a great way to teach kids how to take responsibility for nurturing something. When they come over they can check on how their plants are doing and water them or replant them or pick the herbs, fruit or vegetables that have become ripe. And then, it’s time for a tasty salad or to create a beautiful bouquet from the flowers they’ve grown to adorn the dining room table. Once kids learn how to garden, they have a lifelong skill they can use to make their surroundings beautiful and to grow healthy food.

4. Swim lessons

Nothing says “summer fun” like swimming. Any neighborhood YMCA or Recreation Center with a pool is likely to offer swim lessons during the summer months. What better way to let the kids cool off from the heat while learning a new skill and getting them off the couch? These lessons will be reasonably priced, and bonus, they give you a little time to relax while chilling in the stands. Just remember to look up from your phone or paper every once in a while with a “You’re doing great!”

5. Roller skating or biking

This is a kid favorite that can be fun for dads, too. If you have one child who is a skateboarder, or another you can’t separate from her scooter, the beauty of this is every family member can pick the set of wheels that they prefer. Dad on a bike, oldest son on his board, middle daughter on her roller skates and the little guy pulling up the rear on his scooter works great as a family outing on wheels. The local park or frozen yogurt spot make great destinations.  If you’re tight on money, thrift stores or online are two great ways to snag used bikes for cheap.

6. Volunteering

A wonderful way to install the value of compassion and community while spending quality time with your kids is to volunteer at the local food kitchen, animal shelter or other cause you feel passionate about. Your kids will come home feeling grateful for what you do for them when they spend the day with those that have less, or nothing at all.

7. Karate

Both sons and daughters will benefit from learning how to defend themselves, not to mention improved self-discipline, focus, self-esteem, concentration and physical and mental health. You can support them from the side lines or join too. It wouldn’t be a bad way to lose that extra 10 pounds hugging your waistline and making your pants chafe. And you feel much less guilty about that beer with dinner when you’re working out a couple nights a week throwing kicks and landing punches.

8. Running

Running is free, and there’s always room in the budget for free. It’s easy to do just about anywhere and great for endurance and heart health. Not a runner? The kids used to being glued to the couch with their video games and a bag of chips? Start out with long walks, then work your way up to jogging part of the distance, then running the last leg. To make it more engaging, sign up for a 5k run/walk so you will have a goal to work towards as a family and will feel accomplished when you complete your first event together.

9. Write and film a short movie

Get together and come up with a story. If you get stuck on the story part, you can do a play or a script from a movie that is a family favorite. You don’t have a camcorder? No big deal, all you need for this is your smartphone and someone to hold the camera and record. Maybe Grandma or Grandpa or a neighbor can help. You can even post it to YouTube so your kids can share it with the family. No one have a smartphone? Just change it to a play that you can act out for friends and family. You can set up chairs in your living room and even sell refreshments at intermission for a dollar a lemonade or soda can.

10. Kite flying

All you need is a kite and some blowing wind to have a fun afternoon at the beach or park. Oh, and string!

11. Local Community Theater

Your local community theater may not be Broadway, but it can be a relaxing, economical night out. And you never know, you’re little guy or gal may get gnawed by the acting bug and want to audition for an upcoming play or volunteer to do lighting, be a stage hand or make props or costumes. Many a career has been born from the seats of a local theater production.

Summer Fun With Dad – Year Round

Whatever you do with your kids during the summer, be sure to take pictures and keep some tokens of the activities. When the snow flies might be a good time to work on that scrapbook together!


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