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100 screen-free ways to keep kids active this summer

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.

Now that we have mobile devices, tablets and seemingly a thousand other electronic devices, many parents wonder whether these digital devices have a negative effect on children’s language development, social skills, brain development and physical health.

Of course, in the real world, it can be difficult to get kids away from their video games and to spend less time in front of a screen. Media use is an important part of daily life in the United States today for both older children and young kids. It can also be a challenge for us parents to come up with new, screen-free activities to support their motor skills, physical health, communication skills and other important aspects of child development.

But 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.

So here are 100 ideas to engage your kids in active play, get outside, enjoy physical activity and have a great time as a family.

Over 100 screen-free ways to keep kids active this summer

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.


  • 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 – there are 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
  • Train together for a 5K
  • Visit a park
  • Go hiking
  • Go to the beach
  • Explore a new place close to home
  • Find a nature trail
  • Go berry or fruit picking
  • Visit a farmer’s market
  • Go fishing
  • Camping
  • Volunteer at an animal shelter
  • Play miniature golf
  • Pick wildflowers
  • Perform 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

Protect kids from heat exhaustion and sun

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.

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's Sun Safety guidelines recommend applying a broad spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF of 15 or higher. They also recommend reapplying every two hours and after swimming, sweating or toweling off. (Note that the CDC does not recommend using sunscreen on babies who are 6 months old or younger.) 

However your kids enjoy their break from school, make sure they're protected. Have a fun, safe, happy summer!

authors photo
Michelle Rogers
Michelle Rogers

Certified Personal Trainer

Michelle Rogers is a certified personal trainer who specializes in healthy living for adults over 40. She leads classes and workshops online at Reachable Fitness, her virtual exercise studio. Find out more at and connect on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook at @MRhealthyliving.

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