Fun Things to Do This Summer on a Budget with a 4Year Old

Updated on June 05, 2010
N.S. asks from Allen, TX
13 answers

Hello Ladies,

I am staying home for the summer with my 4 year old.
I have never been able to do this because I used to be a single mom.

I have decided to keep her out for the summer because my hubby things it will be great for me and my daughter.
I am just wanting some advice on types of fun things to do that don't cost a whole lot.
I know to take her to the park and to take her to the splash park and to go swimming.
But what are some other great bonding things that she and I can do that will really be a great bonding expenrince.
What things can we do that are fun for a 4 year old ?

Thanks in advance!

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answers from Kansas City on

Library, Read outside, let her pick something out at the dollar store, choose a craft to do together, let her "paint" the driveway with water. "Washing" plastic dishes in the sink. Have a great time!

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answers from Honolulu on

do or make things with her that you used to do as a child... or learned.
For example: my mom would make us 'dolls' using popscicle sticks and covered with cotton balls then covered that with scrap material and sort of all tied together with string.

Or, teach her about when you grew up... what you cherished, show her old family photos... special trinkets that you may still have since childhood and the 'stories' behind it etc.

My daughter, LOVES when I do that with her. It makes her feel special and it is a super special bonding time between us.
And its free.
And, my son too... I have, little by little, given them things that I had as a child... trinkets. Nothing 'valuable' but that are still special from my childhood. And I tell them the stories behind it and why it is special to me and as a child and how I 'felt" about it. They find that 'fascinating' about me.... and it shows them another side of me.

Get her her own disposable camera... and let her take photos herself... then develop it and make a collage with it.

And yes, gardening... even if in just pots. Its such a good experience for kids... and they usually love it. Let her get dirty. Its fun.
Let her play in the sprinklers too...
get a little splash pool for your yard and have picnics out there and blow bubbles...

Make cookies with her... teach her how. Let her put sprinkles on it. It doesn't have to be perfect... just that it is fun.
Teach her how to cook.... my son is 3 and even before that, we taught him how to make simple things. He can now, cook his own eggs and scramble it too. Of course with our supervision.

Make art/painting, but TOGETHER... painting a flower or something. The main thing is doing it together and having fun and getting goofy together and seeing the different ways people 'paint.'

Its so nice, your Hubby feels that way about your time with her this summer... and keeping her home with you.

All the best,

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answers from Houston on

story time at the library

explore all the parks in your city

buys plants and work in the garden together

"spa" day at home

volunteer together

look into community theater shows for kids

Have fun! I'm jealous.

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answers from Chicago on

Does your library have story times and reading programs? Our library also offers passes to get into certain museums and zoos for free, so we'll be doing a lot of that this summer. Have fun!!

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answers from Joplin on

Getting a small wading pool is always fun
Painting each others nails and toe nails = )
Hanging up a large sheet of paper and finger painting, hand prints, feet prints
Side walk chalk
Going for walks
Picnics in your own backyard or nearby park
Story hour at the library
Making home made paper dolls
Making collages with all sorts of fun stuff, nature theme, old buttons whatever = ) Almost all kiddos like gluing
go volunteer at resident home for the elderly
pop popcorn and watch movies together
make cookies together, let her help!
involve her in house cleaning, almost every kid I know likes to help with dusting or spraying water and wiping surfaces off = )
Have a great summer!!!

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answers from Sacramento on

I'm home with my 4 year old son this summer, too. I've been home the last couple of summers and love it (although I'm always ready to go back to teaching in the fall :-P).
Anyway, here's what I've got planned:

bike rides to various picnic destinations
tending our garden (we planted vegetable seeds this spring... it's not to late to transplant plants you can get at the nursery)
cooking/baking projects
photo walks
library (my son has his own library card he keeps in a wallet and feels totally grown up)

Look into fieldtrip type destinations that might to free or low cost tours (fire station, tv news station, grocery stores, police department, animal shelter etc.)

Also, it's not exactly a day's activity, but I plan to take a ton of pictures and then create a photobook on snapfish with a simple story of our summer together.


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answers from Miami on

Regal cinemas has free kids summer movies if you have one near you. Just google "regal free summer movies" and you'll find the page with theaters and listings.

How about bowling? She can bowl with bumpers. Do you have an AMF lanes near you? has a list of participating lanes and your daughter can get 2 free games a day. Sign up for the family pass which is about $26 and you and your husband can bowl with her all summer.

Hope you have a great summer!



answers from Chicago on

She's at an age where she'll like playing with other kids too. A simple playdate with a kiddie pool in your yard will be hours of fun and help you and her connect with other families in your neighborhood. Seeing your child with other children is really a joy. If you work this is a good time to invest in helping her pick a couple good friends that will be in her kindergarten class next year. Have fun!



answers from Topeka on

Doing simple things @ home for instance buuying a new sprinkler,bubbles,making silly snacks going to get the ingredients together,making popsicle out of juice,having her color on construction paper,reading books,going out for a walk showing her new bugs birds the animals you see.Whatever you do your bonding with her it doesn't need to cost a dime who said love costs money.



answers from Boston on

I don't know if you live somewhere with public transportation, but taking the train somewhere (anywhere!) is fun at this age. I would pour cups of water and put in food coloring and she would practice mixing her colors. You can do the same with milk. You can make bird feeders with pine cones, peanut butter and birdseed (they'll probably become squirrel feeders). You can get vanilla instant pudding and add food coloring again and do pudding finger painting on rainy days. And you can build forts and have indoor picnics on rainy days too. I bet she'd love to help you wash the car or wash the 1st floor windows if she can reach them. Have a good summer!



answers from New York on

Plan a few trips like a zoo, children's museum or aquarium (whatever is near and in your budget--we have a small local zoo with free days once a week). You can put it on the calendar and maybe learn about animals or whatever before going. Anticipation is part of the fun. We like to look for animals at the nature preserve too(bring a magnifying glass or binoculars for more fun). Crafts can be fun and cooking together. My 4 year old son had a blast just making jello (my one year old had an even better time playing with it). In preschool they do so many cool activities like moving cotton balls with tongs, playing in trays of different things (sand, rice, dry pasta, etc), building with recycled containers. This week they put raisins in seltzer water and watched them go up and down.

My son likes to hear family stories about my childhood or other relatives. He has learned a lot about the extended family this way.



answers from Chicago on

There are many small farms that will allow you to pick your own fruit or veggies. There's usually a small fee for entrance, and then a per pound fee for the produce. That's a great way to get out and accomplish both grocery shopping and bonding at the same time. You could get a similar experience by hitting up the farmer's markets that are sure to be happening all summer.




answers from Austin on

Love the suggestions I've read! I'll add: Make ice cream together. Buy some throw away cameras and let her "waste" a roll taking pictures from her perspective. Read stories together. Be quiet t.v., videos, and let her have time to pretend, while you read for yourself and sip iced tea or lemonade, as you try to stay cool in the heat of the day. Make fresh squeezed lemonade together. Watch stars in the cool of the night and wake to the cool of the morning. Explore the woods or the beach. Visit an old aunt. Make s'mores. Play dolls together. Dress up.