Tween and teen

50 essential summer activities

Get your family active this summer with this selection of kid-friendly ways to have fun together.

By Kelsey Miki

50 essential summer activities

Photo: iStockphoto

50 essential summer activities

Build your own backyard waterslide

On the next sweaty summer day, beat the heat with your very own backyard waterslide. All you need is a plastic tarp, a grassy lawn and a hose and you and your little ones will be slippin’ and slidin’ the day away. 

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Make your own boxcar

You know the saying “Give them a toy and they’ll play with the box”? Here’s your chance to take it one step further for hours of creative fun.

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: Roberto Caruso

Play Buggy I Spy

Hide some plastic creepy-crawlies around your garden and pass out the magnifying glasses, or have the kids look for real bugs if you have a very buggy backyard. Send your scavengers on the ultimate bug hunt with this printable Buggy I Spy checklist and see who can collect the most critters! 

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: Today’s Parent

Take a family road trip

Take the family on the road this summer. Between playing car games, discovering new places and spending time together, it will be an experience you’ll remember forever. 

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Make maple leaf Popsicles

Celebrate 150 years of Canadian summers with these delicious maple leaf Popsicles. They’re so good, they’ll be eaten up before you say “O Canada”!

Red and white popsicles with maple leafs on them lying on parchment paperPhoto: Tony Lanz

Make a Mason jar terrarium

A great way to bring the fun of gardening indoors, these Mason jar terrariums make the perfect rainy-day craft. 

three terrariums with little gnomes on topPhoto: Today’s Parent

Build a sandcastle

Sandcastles are great because they can be as modest or as extravagant as you like—and have the patience for. Plus, they’re so much fun to smash! Get your pail and shovel and head for the beach.

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Go stargazing

Looking up at the stars on a clear night is beautiful and fascinating, especially if you have a telescope in tow. See how many constellations you can find or how many different shapes you can spot in the night sky.

little girl star gazingPhoto: iStockphoto

Make a bird feeder

These milk carton bird feeders are a fun way for little ones to do some nature watching. See how many species you can spot visiting your bird feeder in a day! 

Colourful bird feeders made out of milk cartonsPhoto: Erik Putz

Go to the zoo

Learn about your favourite animal at the zoo this summer. Many zoos have special activities planned for little ones, so make sure to look up what’s happening ahead of time to maximize your fun. 

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Plant a garden

Growing a garden with your kids is a great way to get them to learn how to nurture something from seed to bloom. There is no better feeling than seeing your hard work pay off with a beautiful flower or a delicious vegetable. Get your kids involved by letting them pick out their favourite plants and helping you out as much as they can.

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Make your own ice cream

Try making your own ice cream this summer! Spend the day experimenting with flavour combinations and crazy ingredients (gummy bears, anyone?) with your family. Once you’ve created the perfect concoction, reward yourself with your delicious treat. 

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto courtesy of Chatelaine

Build an indoor fort

Gather all your pillows, blankets and campers and build an indoor fort. Get cozy with a good book or spend the day telling each other ghost stories and eating s’mores over an imaginary fire. The possibilities are endless!

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Try paddle boating

If you want to get out on the water without having to travel, try paddle boating this summer. It’s a great way to get the kids on the water—especially if it’s their first time—and it’s easy to do in a pond at a park. Don’t forget your life jackets, a whistle and a small scoop to remove excess water. 

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Break out the berry sangria mocktail

Is there anything that tastes more like summer than sangria? Make a batch of this refreshing, non-alcoholic beverage and serve it after a long day of soaking in the sun. Cheers! 

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: Roberto Caruso

Camp in your own backyard

Grab the marshmallows and sleeping bags and have a fun camping trip in your own backyard. This is also a great option for younger kids who might not be ready to spend a night in the woods.

two boys making some easy camping foodPhoto: iStockphoto

Cook up some campfire bananas

A new take on classic campfire cuisine, these marshmallow and chocolate bananas are sure to be a hit with your little campers. Bananas still count as a serving of fruit when they’re coated in chocolate, right?

grilled bananas with chocolate and marshmallowPhoto: Roberto Caruso

See a fireworks display

Fireworks are quite the surreal experience. With their beautiful colours and interesting shapes, both adults and kids can appreciate them when they’re done right. If there isn’t an event hosting a fireworks show near you, don’t be afraid to purchase your own and put on a great show in your neighbourhood. Sparklers work in a pinch, too!

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Visit a new playground

Kids love playgrounds. Not only are they a great way to burn some of that bottled-up energy outside but they’re also a good way to meet new friends. Instead of hitting the same playground every time, try to mix it up a bit for variety. 

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Set sail

Ahoy there! Help your sailor build his very own sailboat and bring it to your local pool, beach or fountain. Make the sea vessels with a group of friends, have a boat race and see who will be crowned champion of the seas. 

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: Tony Lanz

Make ice cream star bars

Cool down with these cosmic creations! Ice cream star bars make a yummy treat for those warm summer nights spent galaxy gazing and constellation hunting.

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: Erik Putz

Throw a family game night

For a wild night in, gather up the snacks and host a family game night! Whether it’s Monopoly, Snakes and Ladders or Clue, board games are a great way to catch up on family time. They’re also a fun way to teach kids the important lessons of winning and losing gracefully.

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Visit a theme park

There’s nothing more thrilling than riding a roller coaster. Even little ones get a kick out of the kiddie rides. Theme parks are a perfect way to spend a summer day because there’s usually something for everyone, including the less-adventurous thrill seekers in your family. If it’s a really hot day, don’t forget to check out the water park!

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Put on an outdoor concert

Make a playlist of all your favourite summer songs, grab your disco microphones and throw your own outdoor concert! Invite family and friends to be entertained by the musical stylings of your young stars in the making. Add synchronized dances for a little extra wow factor. 

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Make a maple leaf tote

Tote bags are handy in the summer for family outings to the park or beach. This year, make your own sun-dried maple leaf tote so you can carry your sunscreen and water bottle in style. It’s a fun DIY project the whole family can try! 

craft supplies, tote bag, leaves, card stock, paint, paint brush, tape and spray bottlePhoto: Today’s Parent

Play with sidewalk chalk

The best part about sidewalk chalk is that there is usually a big, empty canvas available in your neighbourhood, and it’s quite easy to erase and start again when you’ve run out of room. Play games like hopscotch and four-square or draw an unrivalled masterpiece—with chalk, you can let your imagination run wild.  

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Make your own foosball table

For those rainy summer nights, make this awesome foosball table out of cardboard and let the tournament begin! It’s so much fun, you won’t even miss the sun. 

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: Today’s Parent

Read outside

It has been proven that reading is an important way to keep your child engaged and challenged over the summer break. To keep your kid’s brain sharp, try our weekly reading challenges, updated every week with fun and rewarding ways to get the most out of your books. Reading time can quickly become family time if you take turns reading a couple of pages out loud to each other. You can even make it more challenging by starting a story of your own invention and letting the person to your right take over midway through.

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Take in an outdoor concert

There are so many great outdoor events happening this summer, no matter where you’re from. Try to make it to at least one this season and it will be an unforgettable experience for your family. Who knows, it may become a tradition.

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Visit one of Canada’s national parks

In celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday, Parks Canada is offering free admission to all national parks—from Point Pelee to Jasper—with the 2017 Parks Canada Discovery Pass. Take advantage and bring your family to explore one of these amazing environments this summer.

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Learn a new sport

Sports are a great way to keep kids physically and mentally healthy. Take summer vacation as an opportunity to try something new and play a sport you never have before. Whether it’s badminton, golf or tennis, gather a team and let the games begin.

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Go for a bike ride

Learning to ride a bike is a milestone in most kids’ lives and a skill that they will never truly forget. Whether your little one is still riding around on training wheels or not, get some exercise this summer by taking a bike ride as a family to a new park, a local library or even the perfect picnic location.

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Pick some berries

Spend some time outside this summer by picking some berries. Not only does your family get to come home with fresh, juicy fruit but you get to sample what you’re picking as you go. The kids will be surprised to see how many berries it takes to make their favourite jam or pie filling.

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Host a drive-in movie

Summer nights are perfect for watching a movie outdoors. Host a drive-in movie night for your kids and their friends by hanging a thick white cloth (or shower curtain) outside and setting them up with their own cardboard cars. Pop some popcorn and let the movie magic begin!

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: Roberto Caruso

Make s’mores

The combination of chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers is a classic, especially when there’s a campfire around. Try one (or more!) of these delicious recipes next time you’ve got the bonfire roaring.

A stack of S'moresPhoto: Maya Visnyei

Go canoeing

Nothing says peace and quiet more than canoeing on the open lake. Of course, canoeing with kids is a little different since they don’t appreciate a difficult trek the same way adults do, but that shouldn’t stop you from taking a nice little trip together. If you’re really adventurous, you can even go on a camping trip, too, portaging from one spot to the next, if you think your little ones can handle it.

girl canoeing on a camping tripPhoto: iStockphoto

Host a BBQ

When cooking for a large gathering, there is no better way to get everyone outside than to use your BBQ to cook up some burgers, hot dogs or even dessert. Have some games set up in the backyard for the kids and you’re good to go. 

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Build a bonfire

Whether you have a large group of people coming over or a small gathering with the family, a bonfire is an amazing way to bring everyone together—and keep the bugs away. There’s nothing better than the smell of burning wood and the crackling sound it makes.

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Play with homemade bubbles

Kids love bubbles. They love blowing them, chasing them and even popping them. This summer, make giant bubbles from scratch and keep your youngsters entertained for hours.

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Film a movie

Have your kids write, direct and star in their own summer blockbuster! Not only will it get them using their imagination but it’s also a great way for them to practice some technical skills. Who knows? Maybe you’ll have the next Scorsese on your hands.

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Go birdwatching

Early in the morning, when the birds are singing, go outside with some binoculars and try to find as many avian species as you can. See if you can start to recognize which song belongs to which bird. Sing it back to them and listen for a response!  

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Make and fly your own kite

Mary Poppins said it best: “Let’s go fly a kite, up to the highest height!” When the wind is just right, there’s nothing better than watching your kite dance in the sky. Personalize the experience by making your kite by hand.

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Collect seashells

Next time you’re at the beach, go on a seashell hunt for a nice souvenir of the day. Hold it up to your ears and see if you can hear the ocean.

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Play freeze tag in the sprinkler

If you don’t have access to a pool, a sprinkler is a great way to stay cool on hot summer afternoons. Play a game of freeze tag with your sprinkler by letting your kids and their friends run around the spraying water—until you turn it off. No one can move while the water is off, and if they do, they’re out. The last one standing wins.

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Make natural tie-dye shirts

Have a groovy time while staying environmentally friendly by making some natural tie-dye T-shirts! You’ll be amazed by the colours you can get from beets, cabbage and tea.

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Run a lemonade stand

A lemonade stand is the perfect way to get your little ones to learn about how to make their own money and recognize the hard work it takes to undertake any business venture. They will love making their own lemonade and be brilliant salespeople. Who could resist them? 

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Have a picnic

Is there any better way to enjoy a beautiful day than to eat outside? Pack your picnic basket with a few of these tasty, easy recipes and enjoy a warm-weather meal with your family. Follow your feast with a walk around the block or playtime in the park. 

thick sandwich filled with ham, cheese, apple and lettucePhoto: Roberto Caruso

Visit your local library

Throughout the summer, many libraries host reading clubs and craft nights for kids. They’re a great way to keep young minds active during summer vacation and create opportunities to make new friends. Check out what your local branch is offering this summer and consider signing up your little one!

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: iStockphoto

Have a cold treat for breakfast

With the lazy days of summer, it’s fun to change up your routine. Be a hero and let your kids begin their day with healthy and delicious Yogurt Parfait Popsicles. They’ll love the sweet, fruity taste, and you’ll love the fact that it’s packed with good-for-you ingredients, such as Greek yogurt and honey! 

Yogurt parfait popsicles on a wooden platePhoto: David Zelikovitz and Maggie Naylor

Go on a scavenger hunt

Embark on a quest for hidden treasures! The next time your family goes for a hike or takes an excursion to the park, bring along one of these scavenger hunt bags and try to cross off everything on your list. Make it a race to see who can gather their treasure the quickest!   

50 essential summer activitiesPhoto: Morgan Akaleighywot

Take advantage of your summer by spending as much quality time with your family as possible. We've created the ultimate list of essential, must-do summer activities for you and your kids to try. From making your own ice cream to checking out an outdoor concert, see how many you can check off this summer!

Read more:20 great Canadian summer getaways8 fun and easy summer crafts5 fun summer math games

This article was originally published on Jun 27, 2016