We all want the best for our children, but as tempting as flashy toys can be, there’s no need to break the bank on summer boredom busters. There are so many easy ways to set up creative fun for your kids for less – or even for free – and with the warmer weather comes more opportunities to play outside.

If your family is stuck for fun activities and is looking for ways to get creative with kids for less this summer, here’s some budget-friendly inspiration for creative play ideas.

Embrace open-ended toys

If you’re going to invest in a few new toys, it’s worth opting for those that encourage open-ended play. This gives the benefit of increased opportunities for creativity, while also providing value for money, as they can be used in many different ways and with increasing complexity as your children get older. Duplo or Lego sets are perfect examples, as your children can use them to build anything they can imagine. Plus they age well and will be used for years to come.

For younger children, collecting loose parts for small-parts play is another great way to encourage their imaginations. While you can purchase loose parts, it’s also easy to create your own set from items found around the home, like buttons, bottle caps, popsicle sticks and feathers.

water play for kids in summer

Water fun

Summer is the perfect time to have fun with water. There are tons of activities you can set up for your kids that will encourage their creativity. The best part is, that they are all low-cost and involve very little mess.

Some fun water-based creative play ideas are:

  • Water ‘painting’ on a fence or driveway – give your kids a paintbrush and a bucket of water and let them ‘paint’ to their heart’s content. This activity is completely free and doesn’t require any cleanup – and on a hot day, they’ll never run out of space to create.
  • Bubble art – pop a few drops of food colour into glasses of water, have your child suck it up with a straw, and then blow bubbles onto paper. The food colouring will leave bubble art on the paper.
  • Painting with ice – take watercolours to the next level by freezing ice cubes with food colouring. Pop an icy pole stick in them before they go into the freezer and use these as handles to create an icy watercolour, racing against time to make a masterpiece before the sticks melt.
  • Water-themed, small-world play – set up some water-themed invitations to play using small parts and animal figurines. Encourage your kids to tell their own stories.

Remember to take precautions in summer though, it can get hot outdoors so consider ways to keep kids cool in the summer whilst still enjoying the warmer days, and always ensure you follow water safety guidance.

Get creative with arts and crafts

It’s hard to go past a large art case of markers, coloured pencils, watercolour paints and a big pad of paper. If your child loves arts and crafts, this might be all they need to entertain themselves and buy you some time to enjoy a quiet coffee. If you want to take it up a notch, there are plenty of ways to get more creative with drawing, painting and crafting.

Feathers, twigs, shells, leaves and flowers all make excellent art and craft supplies. Head out to your nearest beach, take a hike or visit a lake or river and take inspiration from nature. Natural materials can be used to create pattern art, add funky hair to self-portraits, or write using leaves or stones glued onto paper. Closer to home, potatoes can make great DIY stampers for paint, or use water balloons for some wibbly wobbly fun. The recycling box is another great source of homemade art and craft supplies.

ways to get creative with kids

Role play 

If you have an amateur actor or actress in your house, it’s definitely worth investing in some costumes for role-playing. Aim to buy dress-ups that can be used in multiple ways, rather than ones that are specific to one character. You can also invest in some play silks to use for impromptu costume-making and let their imagination run wild.

Some fun role-playing ideas include acting out your child’s favourite book or inventing a story with each family member telling a part of it a few sentences at a time. If your children are truly ambitious (especially if they have friends who also love being dramatic) have them spend the summer writing and rehearsing their own play and performing it in an evening revue prior to school going back.

Teach them photography

If you have an old phone or tablet lying around, or can get your hands on a polaroid camera, summer is a great chance to teach your kids the basics of photography. Set up challenges for them to fulfil (e.g. “something red”, “something starting with the letter A”) and give points for creativity. Let them create a photobook or album to record their photos. This can be a unique way to experience summer through your child’s eyes.

No matter whether your child prefers acting, writing, drawing, painting or crafting – or if they are still finding their creative passions – there are plenty of ways to keep them entertained and let their creative juices flow while keeping costs low. Let them loose with different materials and mediums and watch their imaginations come alive as they discover new ways of expressing themselves. I hope you have found these fun ways to get creative with kids inspiring as we rush headfirst into the long summer holiday.