Child blowing bubbles

100 Screen-Free Ways To Keep Kids Active This Summer

HealthPlans of NC

Michelle Rogers

Many of us have wonderful memories of growing up and playing outside, carefree all summer. But today’s kids are more likely to be spending time in front of their mobile devices, computer, or TV. This can lead to being sedentary, feeling isolated, and getting bored.

In the United States, the percentage of children and adolescents with obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s (CDC). And with sports and summer camps on hold because of the coronavirus, our kids may be feeling especially stir crazy.

If we can help kids play and be more active, it will benefit them physically and emotionally.

Plus, when they are happily occupied with a new activity, they won’t be complaining about having nothing to do. And that means a happier summer for us parents, too.


Here’s a list of fun physical activities children and families can do this summer. We’ve divided them into the following categories: Indoors, outdoors, water fun, and family time.

Save and print the graphic to help inspire you when the kids are looking for something new to do.


  • Learn a dance routine

  • Create an indoor obstacle course

  • Make a blanket fort

  • Create a castle out of big boxes

  • Play active games like Twister

  • Play Simon Says

  • Rock painting

  • Arts and crafts – tons of ideas on Pinterest

  • Paper airplane race

  • Put on a talent show

  • Dress-up fashion show

  • Play hide and seek

  • Have a dance party

  • Play I Spy

  • Charades

  • Learn a magic trick

  • Balloon volleyball

  • Build with Legos or blocks

  • Learn a healthy recipe

  • Pillow fight

  • Make race cars out of cardboard boxes

  • Puppet show

  • Play musical instruments

  • Sculpt with clay

  • Do an exercise video

  • Write a play and film it

  • Play superheroes


  • Plant a garden

  • Hula hoop

  • Make an obstacle course

  • Backyard circuit workout – see ours here

  • Scavenger hunt – see ideas/printables on Pinterest

  • Draw with sidewalk chalk

  • Hopscotch

  • Ride bikes

  • Backyard picnic

  • Jump rope

  • Dig in a sandbox

  • Fly a kite

  • Play fetch with your dog

  • Baseball

  • Kickball

  • Blow bubbles

  • Sack race with pillowcases

  • Build a fort

  • Wash the car

  • Camp in the backyard

  • Play tag in the dark with glow sticks

  • Frisbee

  • Egg and spoon race

  • Freeze tag

  • Flashlight tag

  • Lawn bowling with plastic cups and ball

  • Catch lightning bugs

  • Climb a tree

  • Chase butterflies

  • Make a pinecone bird feeder

  • Cloud watch

  • Look for stars/constellations

  • Jump in puddles after a rainstorm

  • Play follow the leader

  • Catch and release fireflies

  • Read a book outside

  • Just run around outside

  • Plant flowers

  • Play corn hole

  • Do yoga outside

  • Count how many birds you see

  • Badminton

  • Volleyball

  • Look for bugs

  • Weed the garden

  • Explore backyard with a magnifying glass

Water Fun

  • Run through the sprinkler

  • Play with garden hose

  • Play in kiddie pool

  • Make a slip-n-slide

  • Water pistol tag

  • Water the flowers

  • Water bucket relay race

  • Water balloon baseball

  • Go swimming

Family Activities

  • Walk in the neighborhood

  • Walk the dog

  • Visit the zoo (while taking proper safety precautions)

  • Train together for a 5K

  • Visit a park

  • Go hiking

  • Go to the beach (again, while taking precautions)

  • Explore a new place close to home

  • Find a nature trail

  • Go berry or fruit picking

  • Visit farmer’s market

  • Go fishing

  • Camping

  • Volunteer at the animal shelter

  • Play miniature golf

  • Pick wildflowers

  • Random acts of kindness

  • Go on a picnic

  • Collect items to make a nature collage

  • Roll down a hill

  • Visit outdoor historical sites

  • Make fresh fruit smoothies



We want our kids to get outside and play, and to get fresh air and sunshine every day if possible. But during summer we should take a few additional precautions to help keep them safe.

Did you know that children have a more difficult time adjusting to the heat than adults? Kids are less effective at regulating body heat. Take extra care with kids playing outdoors in the heat.

READ: How to exercise safely in the summer heat — and what to do if you’re in trouble

One way to help keep kids safe is to avoid outdoor activity during midday on a sunny, hot day. Have them play outside in the morning or evening, when it’s likely to be cooler outdoors. Playing in shady areas or doing water activities are also good choices on a hot day.

It’s important to teach children to always stop and come inside when they feel overheated.

Be sure they stay well hydrated with water to help their body sweat and cool down. Help them learn to drink water regularly when active outside, rather than waiting until they are thirsty.

Another important sun safety note is to use sunscreen on children. To help protect from sunburn and reduce their risk of future skin cancer, the CDC recommends applying sunscreen generously 30 minutes before going outdoors. They also recommend reapplying every two hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.


For more on family fitness, see: How parents can help kids be fit and healthy

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