Coast to coast, Canada is boiling! These few hot months are so much fun with little ones, but sometimes with nap schedules, teething, or toddler tantrums, it hard to predict what your days will look like. There’s nothing more frustrating than planning and spending tons on an activity that your baby or toddler just isn’t going to appreciate for reasons beyond your control. We once planned a huge outing to the zoo with our toddlers and after spending almost $200 on the day, we packed it in after only an hour. Diaper explosions and new teeth and a missed nap made the day too much to muscle through and we learned a valuable lesson in the drama of parenting toddlers: They don’t appreciate how much money goes into things, so don’t overspend! Also, the classic, keep it simple!
In the spirit of summer fun on a budget, we’ve come up with a list of our favourite free activities you can do in your home or your city with the kids. These won’t break the bank or even cause you to open your wallet, but they’ll make for some of the best summer memories!
1. Public Pools
If you don’t have a pool there’s no reason you shouldn’t be swimming this summer. Communities across the country have swimming pools that are either free of close to it, so get out there! Isn’t everybody’s favourite This Is Us moment when the Pearsons are all sleeping on the lounge chairs at the public pool together in a 70’s flashback? That could be you!
2. Splash Pads
Splash Pads are even easier with little ones because water safety isn’t even a concern. Splash around at the park and get wet without needing a life jacket or puddle jumper. What I love about splash pads (and public pools) is the chance to get to know other families in your area as well.
3. Water Balloons
This is a summer classic and gets more fun as your kids grow. Fill up a few balloons and let the kids try to soak you. Kids seem to like jumping on them even more than throwing them, but the point is to get wet and laugh so you’ll definitely accomplish that either way!
4. Frozen Treasure Hunts
This activity provides hours of cold fun with no clean up! In a plastic container, freeze some plastic objects that aren’t too precious to you (they might break) overnight in the freezer. Then, let your child chip away at the ice to discover the hidden treasures inside. We use second-hand cutlery and allow school aged children to use one of dad’s tools. The only mess is water which will quickly evaporate and their hands will be nice and cold as they work away.
5. Mud Kitchens
Grab some dirt from the garden and mix it with hose water and allow your children to go nuts with some plastic kitchen wares that you don’t mind getting dirty. They’ll be covered in mud afterwards and welcome the cold clean off with the hose!
6. Audiobooks and Podcasts to Unwind
In the summer we have a no-screens policy and it’s been great for our family. Instead, we treat the kids to audiobooks and kid’s podcasts if it’s a rainy day or we all need a break from the sun. Favourite podcasts include Circle Round, Adventures in Odyssey, Tales From The LilyPad, Bedtime Explorers, and Brains On!
7. Frozen Smoothie Popsicles
This is a great activity and treat to sneak in some healthy food during a season that is often marked by ice cream and s’mores. Blend greens, bananas, and berries with your favourite milk and put into popsicle moulds. In a pinch we’ll fill ice cube containers with pureed baby food and insert a toothpick for holding. The kids don’t always ask for smoothies, but they never turn down it’s frozen counterpart. Mom hack!
8. Nature Diaries
Whether you live in the country or the city, there is nature to be found, especially in the summer. Take the kids on a walk (or even just to your own backyard) and have them find objects that they’ll take home and draw in a journal. Suddenly a walk to the park is a treasure hunt for interesting leaves, stones, or lost objects. Having the kids draw their findings gets their creativity going and helps them further appreciate nature. By the end of the summer they’ll have a beautiful journal to look back on in the colder months ahead when these everyday treasures are hidden beneath a layer of snow.
Keeping the days simple, affordable, and fun is always a top priority with our kids. Their best memories are sure to be time spend with those they love, which never had to cost money. These summers will fly by before we know it, so let’s enjoy them with our little ones and make them count!
Emily is a freelance writer, blogger, and mom of three little ones. When she’s not traveling the world with her family, Montreal is home, where you can find her exploring the local markets, making a mess in her kitchen, and brewing a cup of tea. Find her on Instagram (@emmorrice) and check out her lifestyle blog, Our Nest In The City, where she documents it all.