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51 Fabulous Ideas for Fun and (Slightly Funned-Out) Moms!

by Melissa Caddell


July 24, 2014

51 fabulous ideas for fun (and slightly funned-out) moms!

Yes, momma, it’s summer. Still. That time of year when you suddenly realize:  1) in your more-relaxed summer schedule, you haven’t done any of the fun summer activities you wanted to (except for the pajama day and/or 2), You have done nearly every fun summer activity you can think of, and you still have a month until you settle back into a fall schedule.

In either case, I am here to help. Because I love you, I have spent many, many, many hours poring through Pinterest for you (I have a totally numb bottom and bleary eyes to prove it), and I have culled out some interesting things to do with your kidlet(s) as summer starts to hit its downhill side. (I’m not calling it a bucket list because, let’s be honest, do you actually want to explain that term to your child?)

Please note: these 51 fabulous ideas are safe for the Pinterestly-challenged mom. Because I am one of the challenged ones.  Most of the things are free (yay!) or seriously cheap (also yay!) and don’t require weird things you have never heard of and don’t have.  Also, all the recipes, tips, tricks, printables or whatever you need for the activities are located on a Pinterest board I made just for you! I have included reading as an activity with every age group. Since you likely have read the same three favorite books to your child 100 times today, I have also pinned some book lists on the board. Check for age-specific book lists on Goodreads as well. I love using my library hold system to find specific books—a couple clicks during naptime and the nice librarians will find the books for me and hold them for a few days for me to pick up. I know, right? Check your local library to see if they have this service. It’s usually free.

Okay, mommas, let’s do this thing.

Age 1

1)      colored ice cubes in a ziplock bag (or float in water table or bath)

2)      colored spaghetti

3)      air fort tunnel

4)      DIY ball pit  

5)      paint in a box

6)      sensory bag

7)      sticky star post-its (simple yet amazing)

8)      pillow/pool crawl (pillow obstacle course, in a blowup pool!)

9)      driving up the wall (not driving YOU up the wall…)

10)   read! Book ideas for your one year old

Age 2

1)      pom poms in tubes

2)      build a fort under the dining room table (add a flashlight for extra fun!)

3)      chalk art in a box (to the mom who thought of the box-thank you!)

4)      build a racetrack/town for $1

5)      connect 4 game (who knew?)

6)      i-spy bottle (clever! good for travel and quiet time, too)

7)      spin art (use paper or rocks!)

8)      silky soft playdough

9)      action words

10)   read (Also, don’t forget those helpful librarians and the hold/reserve system.)

Age 3

1)     cut the grass 

2)     playdough and straw letters

3)     fizzy painting 

4)     set up the camping tent in the backyard or living room—insta playroom!

5)     bubble snakes (cool, not scary)

6)     easy toddler car wash/doll wash (genius, and good training for dishes in a few years)

7)     games three year-olds play

8)     cut and paste (use some of the tissue paper you are saving!)

9)      color and shape jump

10)  read!

Age 4-5 

1)      water balloon target (and a tip on how to have kids help fill them!)

2)      rock painting (a low-ish mess method!)

3)      board games for 4-5 year olds

4)      marshmallow structures (try gumdrops, too) 

5)      color scavenger hunt and outdoor scavenger hunts of all kinds

6)      easy melted crayon art (and lunch, too!)

7)       drive-in movie theater (a little set-up but super fun)

8)      flashlight games (is there anything more fun than a flashlight?)

9)      laser obstacle course (try crepe paper streamers)

10)   read! (I pinned some read-aloud lists for you, too. Also, there’s that thing where the librarians find the books FOR you…)

Family fun

Note: any family activity that ends at the local ice cream shop is a good activity. Trust me — just ask your kids.

1)      search Pinterest for ‘family fun + your city’.  Or search ‘staycation’ ideas for your city.

2)      letter boxing or geocaching

3)      look through scrapbooks together, watch video clips or play a slideshow of the photos from your phone.

4)      board game or puzzle night! Check the family puzzles with multi-sized puzzle pieces (big pieces for the kids to do, smaller for the grownups, good for ages 3+)

5)      stargaze in your own backyard, easy and magical

6)      family picnic and pool night (check the Board for simple picnic food ideas)

7)      family dance party! Take turns picking the song. (I have forbidden that one about letting it go #icanttakeitanymore…)

1)      glow in the dark bowling (well, pretty much anything with glow sticks) 

9)      new park hunt! See how many new parks you can visit in your area. Search playground + your city on Pinterest.

10)   read!

Okay, and here is #51: Anything where the mom gets to pretend to be sleep. For example, you act like the baby and your child acts like the adult and takes care of you (rubs your back to settle you down, snuggles you in a blanket, etc). Ask for a drink of water. Say you have the wrong stuffed animal. You’re hot. You’re cold. You’re hungry.  Or mom is a hibernating bear. Yes, I know, it’s not a usual summer activity — work with me here, it’s for a pretend NAP!

Hang in there, mommas! Enjoy the last few weeks of summer together!


Melissa is a writer and stay-in-the-car mom who lives in Los Angeles. She and her husband, Casey, are raising (and driving around) their three daughters.  You can find her wherever strong coffee is served.





Love One Another Tear-and-Share Page Book provides creative play with Biblical inspiration.  Fun-filled activities help children learn biblical truths with coloring fun.



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these are great! not just for summer, but they work year-round, especially since none of mine (4, 3, 1.5) will be in any sort of daycare/preschool. :) thanks for grouping these by age!


Jane, I'm glad these tips are useful! Thanks for the comment!


Our library also has different programs/shows for the kids during the summer. And throughout the year, our library card gives us access to a program called Discover and Go, which gives discounted or free tickets to museums in the area.


Wow! That's great! That is also nice to know that with a little digging maybe we can find out the different perks our library card gives us!


Going to the library today! We've been in this town for awhile and I've yet to go, so today's the day. I hope to relax there for an hour while the kids explore.


I hope it was a success and you were able to find some great books to read to the kiddos!


Water balloons and scavenger hunt! We have spent a lot of time this summer hunting for bugs and wildlife at home and wherever we visit. Bug box for $5 has been priceless this summer!


That sounds like a lot of fun, Becky.


I love these ideas. Thanks for grouping according to age.


Glad that was helpful, Kristie!


We have done the water balloons, built several forts, and have read lots of books so far. My little girl loves the forts the best.


Forts are so fun!


We did the build a fort one. But, we built it in the living room using the couch and the kitchen chairs (had to be plenty big enough for four girls and all their stuff). We didn't use the flashlight (will do that next time), but we had a "picnic" and watched a movie. The girls loved it and played in it for 3 days! (yes, our living room was converted into a fort for awhile) :-) They even slept in there. :-)


I love it, Lena. It sounds like it was a success.


DIY BALL PIT for sure. So excited to try it. My son will love it.


That was my favorite as well. Such a fun idea.


We already have a ball pit. We used an old play pen and I bought 125 colorful balls...which are currently all over my living room and NEVER in the play pen, but the kids love it! We also have a Reel Mower so my 2 year old daughter loves to "help" her daddy mow the grass. We have also made ooblec this summer and I have given my kids a bowl of water and a paint brush to paint the sidewalk with. :)


Sounds like you are a really fun and inventive mom!


I like the car wash idea- right about now we could use it!


Yes, that does sound like a good one!


Water balloons


We tried this the other day! It was super fun!


We might try the salt-chalk art!


That sounds fun! Let us know how it goes!


I try to read a lot to our lo. So excited for a book list!


It's always nice to see a new list of books to read to the kids! I'm glad you found it useful!


A ball pit!


Yes, the ball bit looks like a lot of fun! I hope you can try it.


The ball pit!


Great list! Summer is flying by- I would like to try the fizzy paint.


That sounds fun! I'm glad you liked the ideas.