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22 Ways to have an old-fashioned summer with the kids

Old-fashioned summers consisted of long days without scheduled playdates, leaving plenty of time to get lost in a book, play for hours on the slip and slide or chase fireflies around at night. Ready to infuse some old-fashioned fun into your child’s summer? Get back to basics with these old activities perfect for your summer bucket list.

You may be surprised to learn that kids don’t need an expensive summer vacation or camps every week to have an amazing summer full of memories. Infuse some of these old-fashioned ideas into your summer plans for three months of old school fun they are sure to love.

Lemonade Stand

Image: The Clueless Girl

Lemonade stand

The lemonade stand is the hallmark of an old-fashioned summer. It is not only fun, but it also teaches kids a few things, such as math, marketing and communication (but don’t tell your kids!). The money that is raised can be used for a special toy, trip, college fund or they can consider donating to a favorite charity, such as Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, which fights childhood cancer.

Make your own play dough

Yes, you can go out and buy play dough, but have some old-fashioned fun and make your own. We promise it is easy, plus your kids will love being able to customize their own colors. Check out the specific recipe here, but it takes items you probably already have in your pantry including flour, cream of tartar, salt, oil and food coloring.

Play hopscotch

“Get some chalk and make a hopscotch design on the sidewalk. Number each square, find some smooth stones, get to hopping’!” says parenting expert Kelly Johnson.

Make homemade ice cream

Ekanem Ebinne, founder of Mother in Tune, says she fondly remembers making homemade ice cream with a hand crank machine on her back porch. Pick up an ice cream maker, such as this White Mountain Appalachian hand crank ice cream maker, let your kids pick the flavors of the ice cream and get cranking.

Put on a summer musical

Ebinne says that in addition to homemade ice cream, her summers were also full of music. “We put on a summer musical every summer,” she said. “Both of [these activities] let us play together, enjoy something delightful after and figure out how to measure and complete a project we all wanted to do.”

Find a drive-in movie theater

From its retro concession stand and old school swings at the front of the theater to the cozy atmosphere in your car, a drive-in movie theater screams old-fashioned summer fun. Check out to find one near you.

Old school games

Johnson recommends introducing your kids to some of the old school games you used to play as a kid, such as jacks or duck, duck, goose or mother, may I?

Kids jumping rope

Image: David Salafia/Flickr

Jump rope

Grab the neighbor kids and jump ropes while teaching them games like double Dutch, says Johnson. Not only is this fantastic exercise, but it is also so much fun.

Make homemade jelly

“At the end of harvest, many local farmers will allow the public to come into the fields and pick the leftover fruit,” says Johnson. “Take a group of kids and help pick and seed the fruit. Once it is all washed and deseeded, make fruit breads, pies, cobblers or jellies and jams. Kids love to help in the kitchen, especially when there is a reward at the end.”

Take a road trip

Take a road trip with the kids, whether it is a day trip or a cross-country venture. “My mom and her sister did so many fun things with my sisters, cousin and me,” said Monique Prince. “They took us out on little adventures, most of which involved going on walks in the woods or to the beach or just on a drive to seemingly nowhere and stopping in all the little towns to walk around and go in and out of little shops where we didn’t buy anything, we just looked at everything.”

Catch fireflies and put them in a jar

I remember fondly chasing around fireflies with my sister and cousins, putting them in jars and sitting and watching them light up for hours.

Go camping

Camping is the perfect way to unplug, get back to nature and bond with your family. Whether you plan on a weeklong adventure at the camping grounds or sleeping under the stars in your backyard, your kids will never forget this outdoor adventure.

Stay up all night

There is something so liberating about not needing to get up early or have a schedule the next day — which is why kids love carefree summers so much. Pick one night (preferably one where the parents can sleep in as well), pick a few of your favorite movies, pop some popcorn and have fun staying up late watching movies until everyone falls asleep in the living room as the sun comes up.

Slip and slide

Yes, your kids may get some grass burns, but it is totally worth it. Slip and slides provide hours of old school summer fun — no lifeguard needed.

Plant a garden

Summer is the perfect time to plant a garden with the kids. Let them pick out what they want to grow and give them the responsibility of watering their garden. They will love watching their seeds grow into something spectacular (and edible).

Ant farm

Most of us are so busy trying to get rid of ants, that we don’t stop to notice how cool they really are. This summer, make a point to stop and watch the ants with your kids. Better yet, buy an ant farm where kids can really watch them in action.

Tin can stilts

Image: frog prince paperie

Tin can stilts

Do you remember how tall you felt when you would clunk around in your tin can stilts, which were made from old coffee cans or other cans? Let your own kids experience the fun and have tin can stilt races with their friends. Check out Frog Prince Paperie for an easy tutorial.

Host a slumber party

Have your kids invite four or five of their friends over, order pizza, make cookies and let them talk and giggle the night away. The only rule? No cell phones allowed!

Bike ride and a picnic

Pack up a picnic, grab a blanket and the bikes and have an old-fashioned picnic with the kids. Bonus points if you can picnic near a river so the kids can cool off in the water.

Build a tree house

If your kids have been watching Treehouse Masters (mine are obsessed with that show), you may want to first lower their expectations, then find a sturdy tree and build them a tree house — or, at the very least, a few wooden planks to sit on.

Build a fort

Whether it is a sofa cushion fort or a sheet thrown over the trampoline, your kids will love having their own special place just for them. Grab a few books and some flashlights and let them read in their fort.

Tell us: What is your favorite way to have an old-fashioned summer? Weigh in below!

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