FOCUS has some great ideas for low or no cost summer activities for your family!

One of the best parts about summer is having time to do all the fun things you and your family have been dreaming about doing all year long. While many kids have a long list of things they have been waiting all year to do, it seems that the day always comes when everyone is sitting inside on the couch with nothing to do. When that day arrives for your family, pull out this list, and you will have some great low or no cost activities that will be fun for the whole family.

Go fishing. If you have a lake nearby and a set of fishing gear, then head on out and catch some dinner. If, however, you don’t have access to any live fish, you can still hold a family fishing tournament. Here’s how:

  • Attach a few magnets to the end of some string
  • Fill up the bathtub, sink, baby pool, or bucket with water
  • Drop some lightweight metal objects in the water
  • Start “fishing”

There are lots of ways to adapt this game. You can use a timer and see who can catch the most objects in a minute. You can drop spoons in the water and once the kids fish them out you can have ice cream sundaes. The options are limitless!

Make a treasure box. If you have some old magazines, a shoebox, and a glue stick, then you have the makings of a fun afternoon project. Have your kids pick some magazine pictures that they really like, cut them out, and then glue them on the shoebox to create their own special treasure box. They can put into it anything that is special to them, whether it’s a test they did really well on, a nice note from a friend, or a seashell they collected at the beach.

Create a finger drawing. If your child loves arts and crafts, and you are running out of supplies, then next time you are in the grocery store pick up an inexpensive can of shaving cream. Once you get home you can squirt some out onto the wall of your shower or bathtub, spread it around to create a blank “canvas,” and then let your child draw to his/her heart’s content. Once they are finished with their picture, you can take a photo of it, and then they can wipe it away and start a new one. When they are all done for the day, you can just use a cup of water or the shower head to rinse the mess away.

Design a Scavenger hunt. Next time you have a fun treat for the kids, whether it is a new rental DVD or some chocolate chip cookies, instead of just handing it over, send them on a scavenger hunt to find it. A scavenger hunt is simple to create:

  • Start by hiding the prize and picking a handful of locations/items in your house or yard that are easy to describe.
  • Next, write a descriptive clue about each place or item on a notecard. For example, the clue for a closet could be “The place we hang our coats.” The clues can vary in difficulty, from pictures to metaphors, depending on the ages of the kids playing. Don’t forget to make a card for the actual place you hid the prize, e.g. “You will find your prize next to the place where Mom keeps the craft supplies.
  • Choose which order you want the cards to go in, and then hide them in the appropriate places. It can be helpful to number the cards in case they get shuffled while you are hiding them.
  • Give the kids the first card and turn them loose!

Go camping. It is possible to go camping without ever leaving your house, since at its heart, camping is about taking some time away from TVs and computers and just being together as a family. A successful at-home camping trip requires very few things:

  • Sheets and kitchen chairs or couches for tent construction
  • Pillows and blankets to sleep on
  • Flashlights to provide the right atmosphere
  • Camp food (like hot dogs and s’mores)

Once you have gathered all your camp supplies, set up your tent in the backyard or the living room. Gather the family and enjoy. Some things to do on your camping trip are:

  • Listen to the sounds of your neighborhood and try to guess what each one is
  • Try to find the constellations, or create your own
  • Play a game together
  • Share favorite stories or memories

Cook. Here is what one member of our Facebook community had to say about her family’s favorite summer activity:

Family cooking… whether it is Pizza on the grill, fruit salad, or Kabobs, I love cooking with my kids. It empowers my kids to explore their own creativity and abilities, making them more confident with each slice or choice they make. It gives us time to do something together, a time to be silly and talk about any and everything. If it is needed, when we are done we hose each other off.



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About the Author'


FOCUS (Families OverComing Under Stress) is a resiliency-building program of the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED). FOCUS is an eight-session training program for military families that is grounded in more than two decades of research and experience serving families dealing with stress and changes. FOCUS is specifically adapted for the needs of military couples, children, and families and provides training in core resilience skills. These skills increase closeness, support, communication, and adaptability. Couples and families learn to work together to manage difficult emotions, set goals and problem solve, communicate clearly and effectively, and develop customized strategies to deal with ongoing stress and change.

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Contact your local FOCUS site today to learn more about FOCUS and to schedule your personalized training sessions.
• Marine and Family Services, Bldg. 13150, Camp Pendleton, 760-859-6079,
• Dolphin Alley, Bldg. 265, NBSD, 619-556-6075,