Cool Ideas for Kids During the Hot Summer Months

By Mark Timm, CEO Ziglar Family

Ahhh… summer! It may not have technically arrived according to the calendar, but with school out and kids home all day it’s most definitely summer time in our household!

There are so many things to love about summer, from the relaxed schedule and pace of life, to the hours spent fishing and swimming at the lake, to the seemingly endless supply of garden-fresh produce — it’s pretty much unanimously our family’s favorite time of year.

So yes, it’s a time to relax, slow down, and really enjoy the long summer days. But one thing my wife and I have learned as parents is that relaxed doesn’t mean a complete absence of any schedule or structure.  Kids are kids, and even in the summer, they do better with some direction for their days.

How little or much structure you provide for your kids is a personal choice, and it depends on your unique family dynamics.  Some families find that just having two or three general guidelines works well enough (like limiting screen time or requiring some help around the house) while other families find that having a daily checklist of responsibilities is more effective.

One idea that has worked well for us is to have a small whiteboard for each kid (or one large whiteboard divided into sections for each kid) with a daily checklist of tasks to accomplish.

We start by giving them freedom to choose when to take care of the tasks, but if they start to neglect some items, or save them until right before bed and then do a quick, less-than-thorough job, we might set some time limits on when things have to be completed.

Another possibility is to prohibit all electronics until tasks are done, and that is definitely something we deploy if screen time seems to be taking up too much daily time.

Here’s a look at what a typical daily checklist for our kids might look like, keeping in mind that we have all teenagers!

  • Pick-up your bedroom and bathroom
  • Put away your laundry
  • Exercise 30 minutes (can be anything active, preferably outdoors)
  • Read two chapters in your summer reading book
  • Write a thank-you note to your grandma for the birthday gift.
  • Ask Mom what one chore she needs your help on today

We keep it short and sweet, and as simple as possible, so that nobody feels like the list is overwhelming. On any given day, 5 – 6 items is the most we would assign.

What’s on Your Bucket List?

Another tactic we employ to keep the kids from slipping into the dreaded “I’m bored” mode is to post a summer bucket list.  This list has tons of ideas for the kids to try, and after completing each one, they put a check-mark with their initials.  It becomes somewhat of a contest to see who can complete the most items before the end of summer, and we’ll even give some prizes to our top finishers!

Here is a sample of what a summer bucket list could look like for teens, and this can be easily modified for younger kids:

  • Watch fireworks
  • Play BINGO
  • Fly a kite
  • Wash the car
  • Go to a concert
  • Make homemade pizza
  • Go camping
  • Go to a movie
  • Catch a fish
  • Find 3 constellations
  • Make a tie-dye shirt
  • Play a board game with your siblings
  • Got to a parade
  • Make a watercolor painting
  • Make s’mores
  • Play flashlight tag
  • Volunteer somewhere for at least 3 hours
  • Water balloon fight
  • Watch the sunrise and sunset in the same day
  • Create a photo album
  • Read a whole book in one day

The possibilities are endless, and you can find tons more ideas with a quick Google search.  The best idea is for your family to create the list together, then post it in a common area for easy access and reference.

Then, get busy having fun!

What ideas do you have for keeping kids from turning into couch potatoes over the summer?  Share them below!



  1. Tricia Prues June 3, 2017 at 6:56 pm - Reply

    We’re almost all the way through a 40 day TV fast. It has been AWESOME. It’s brought us closer as a family and I love that TV is no longer our default when we don’t feel like figuring out something to do. We talk more, we laugh more, we love more. Our 3.5 yr old plays with her 1 year old brother more. It’s precious to see them enjoy each other.

    We’ll definitely be limiting TV time this summer (I’d just as soon not go back, but I think my husband would appreciate a movie night here and there.) 🙂 🙂

  2. Sandra June 3, 2017 at 9:12 pm - Reply

    We do “Adventure Points” – the idea came from a post from It is similar to your bucket list, a list of fun items to do as well as physical activities and educational activities but each has a point assignment. The goal is to do all the activities at least once and earn 1000 points. Once that goal is earned we do some sort of fun trip as a family!

  3. Judy June 3, 2017 at 11:58 pm - Reply

    Our Summers always involve lots of cleaning and organizing in our basement. I always think we will get the job done by the end of the Summer and that has not happened but there is always progress toward OUR GOAL of making it a more functional and enjoyable place to be.

    I will be working Full time this Summer for the first time since our first child was born. This will be new and different for everyone. We have lots of projects planned and some special activities for my youngest two children as the oldest children will be working. They will have lots of time at the library and the swimming pool. They will also be left some challenges to complete during the day like trying new recipes etc. I really like the white board idea:)

    We have started our weekly time around the backyard fire pit we built last year. Lots of good conversations are happening! My children also like to play the game I am going camping and I am taking…everyone has to think of something that begins with a letter of the alphabet starting with a and ending with z. It is different every time and it brings up lots of camping memories like the time my clothes did not get packed and we were thankful to find a Goodwill in the town near the campground.

    My husband and four of our children were out in canoes and spending time on the beach at a Provincial Park yesterday.

    Tonight was the “last supper” for our oldest son (22 years old) who leaves for his Summer job tomorrow and will not be back until the end of August. We started this “last supper” tradition when he started leaving for Summer training 6 or 7 years ago and every year his request is the same, bacon burgers and lots of “Mom’s potato salad.” I did not know I even had a “potato salad” until he started requesting it. Of course this meal is always better when the weather permits us to eat outside. It was a bit different this year because our 3rd Son (17) could not be with us because he was at a training weekend for his Summer job.

    We have a big front porch so there is always lots of time visiting in the evenings with the neighbors once the weather is nice.

    It has been fun sharing some of our Summer happenings.

    Have a great Summer everyone!

    • Jen June 4, 2017 at 12:42 pm - Reply

      Thanks for sharing all of this; love your traditions! And good luck with the new job!

  4. Winnifred Grant June 4, 2017 at 10:52 am - Reply

    Go to the library. Outdoor gardening are 2 of my favorites.learning a skill in cooking can also be fun. Starting a family tree would also be fun.

    • Jen June 4, 2017 at 12:41 pm - Reply

      Great ideas!

  5. Ben Langhofer June 4, 2017 at 11:52 am - Reply

    Teach them about economics and business at the same time:

    At the beginning of the summer create a list of ways they can earn money. Create a game out of it. Create a chart with each child’s name on it and boxes for each week kind of like a calendar. The goal is to see who can save the most (not earn the most) by the end of the summer. Earning the most is good but is not the goal. Remind them “It’s not how much you earn that counts. It’s how much you keep.” Create three envelopes for each child.
    1. Spend
    2. Save
    3. Give.
    Start them out with a small investment such as 20.00 or 50.00 or 100.00.
    Tell them about the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25:14-30.
    Create a list of things they can do to create profits from the money you are entrusting to them. Things such as:
    1. Pull weeds for a neighbor or grandma
    2. Do a lemonade stand
    3. Bring a cooler of cold drinks and candy to the neighborhood pool
    4. Bake cookies and sell them to friends and neighbors
    5. Do extra chores around the house
    6. Rub mom or dad’s feet
    7. Start a small business on eBay
    8. Buy things at garage sales for the lowest negotiated price and resell them on Craigslist
    9. Buy name brand clothes at Goodwill and put them into same size lots and sell them on Craigslist as back-to-school clothing packages.
    10. Resell used books
    There really are many ways for kids to earn money and have them thinking about using their money wisely and creating profits.
    The money you start them with is divided straight away. 10% goes into the Give envelope and what’s left is split equally between save and spend. Tell them they are allowed to spend 100% of their spend money but they should be wise about it because the more they spend on themselves, the less there will be to invest in their summer enterprise.
    The Save and the Give money are not to be touched without approval from you and the only way you will allow them to use their Save money is if they bring you a valid business proposal and you deem it would be appropriate…in which case they must pay all of the Save back before identifying any profits.
    Meet weekly to discuss everyone’s progress together. Pool your Give money. The kids love this and it creates a team mindset.
    Tell them that at the end of the summer, they will get to vote on where the family will give the proceeds of the Give account.
    Also, inform them that whomever saves the most by the end of the summer will get the prize of their savings being doubled by you. Be careful though. If you have a particularly sharp kid with great work ethic, this could cost you big time.
    This is a fun way to engage your kiddos and teach them about money and economics.

    • Jen June 4, 2017 at 12:41 pm - Reply

      Love this! Thanks so much for sharing your detailed plan! I am sure many families will find it interesting!

  6. Brittany Bonnaffons June 4, 2017 at 1:50 pm - Reply

    I definitely like the idea of structure. I have toddlers so many of the ideas come from me on how we will spend our time. I’m going to ask them for some input this coming week…They love water balloons, parks, and beaches. I’m interested to see what they say. We did one scavenger hunt outdoors and they’ve been asking to do one everyday since then so at Day 3, I was fresh out of scavenger hunts. Then they asked to make a house out of the random assortment of items we found so…summer shall be an adventure.

    • Jen June 5, 2017 at 8:54 am - Reply

      I remember my daughters also getting carried away with scavenger hunts! It must be a thing! 🙂 Have a fun summer!

  7. […] Finding fun summer activities for kids is a hot topic (excuse the pun) this time of year, and a quick Google search will bring up all kinds of ideas to keep our little ones busy and un-bored. In fact, last summer our Ziglar Family CEO, Mark Timm, shared a bit of a ‘bucket list’ that he and his family enjoy completing.  (Check it out here) […]

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