42 Creative Ways to Beat Summer Boredom While Social Distancing

Kids playing in back yard garden on summer day. One of the boys has partially fallen out of the hammock and is laughing

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Kids playing in back yard garden on summer day. One of the boys has partially fallen out of the hammock and is laughing
Imgorthand / E+ / Getty Images CC

Summer Fun

Summer brings warm weather, extra hours of sunlight, and free time to fill, especially this year, with fewer people traveling due to the pandemic. Take advantage with these cheap or free ideas to keep everyone busy this summer: parents eager to occupy their children; couples keen to spend time together; and singletons with the freedom to pursue whatever tickles their fancy. 

Charyn Pfeuffer contributed to this report.

Note: In light of the coronavirus pandemic, for any activities that involve going somewhere beyond your backyard, be sure to check in advance that it's open and to find out what the social distancing policies are and if masks are required.

Related: 30 Yard Games to Get Your Kids Out of the House

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Host A Movie Night

Have an Outdoor Movie Night

A movie projector and somewhere to shine it — a wall or dropcloth — are all it takes to host an open-air movie night. Projectors can often be rented, and some good consumer models sell for less than $100, which can be a good investment for movie lovers who enjoy entertaining.

Related: 18 Products That Can Turn Your Backyard Into a Relaxing Oasis

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Make Popsicles

Make Popsicles

Homemade popsicles are healthier than ice cream but just as refreshing. Blend fruit and yogurt into a smoothie and pour into an ice-pop mold (available from many big-box retailers for about $10).

Related: 19 Ice Pop Recipes Just for Grown-Ups


Get Crafty

Learn how to sew, knit, or crochet this summer, or take up scrapbooking, pottery, or painting. Research suggests that crafts can serve as a natural anti-depressant, increase cognitive ability, and even improve reasoning skills.

Looking for more fun DIY ideas? Check out these Old-School Crafts Due for a Comeback.

Make a Birdhouse

Build a Birdhouse

Building a birdhouse can be child's play or a full-blown DIY carpentry challenge. No matter what the finished product looks like, a well-stocked birdhouse in the yard or outside a window will attract feathered friends. Sit back and observe.

Make a Kite

Make a Kite

Before heading to the park or beach, make a kite. This is inexpensive and fairly easy to do; you can find instructions for different types of kites online.

Break Out a New Board Game
Create a Scavenger Hunt
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Play Sidewalk Games

An empty driveway or sidewalk and a box of brightly colored chalk can inspire children to channel their inner Picasso. Draw self-portraits or shade in the shadows of nearby objects. Throw a small rock into the mix for a classic game of hopscotch or tic-tac-throw.

Related: 30 Classic Backyard Games Due for a Comeback This Summer

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Have a Water Balloon Fight

A good, old-fashioned water balloon fight is a quintessential summer activity. Pick up some water balloons, grab a hose, and let the soaking-wet games begin.

Go Stargazing

Go Stargazing

It's mesmerizing to lie on the ground looking up at the stars on a warm summer night. Grab a blanket and head to an open space with minimal light pollution. Download an app for a phone or tablet to identify what's overhead.

Make Lemonade from Scratch
Make a Summer Playlist

Make a Summer Playlist

Skip the radio and create a personalized playlist to accompany summer adventures. Top 40 songs get tiresome in heavy rotation (there's only so much Justin Bieber a person can handle) and don't have as much meaning as a custom soundtrack.

Learn a Language

Learn a Language

Planning an international trip for when the pandemic is over? Now is the perfect time to learn a few basic words and phrases in another tongue. Learning a language can be hard, but it doesn't need to be expensive. There are many free online tools and smartphone apps that make learning a language fun.

Read a Classic

Read a Classic

Head to a local used bookstore (or alternatively order new and used books online through places like Thriftbooks) and find one of the classics that's been on your reading list for years. Dedicate a set time each day — say, 30 minutes in the morning or evening — and discover why it's part of the canon.

Related: 24 Things We Already Miss About Lockdown

Book Downloads

Start a Book Club

Many people say they want to read more but don't find the time. Add some accountability with a monthly meeting to discuss a book chosen by a group. Focusing on a particular niche, such as women authors, biographies, or business books, can help attract members and make choosing the next book easier.

Learn to Play an Instrument

Learn to Play an Instrument

Lazy summer days can be filled with music, or at least attempts at playing music. Pick up an instrument (rent one or buy used) and follow along with the many free lessons available on YouTube. Campfire sing-alongs are just a few chords away.

Pack a Picnic

Pack a Picnic

A summer picnic at a local park is a memorable way to spend an afternoon. Don't forget bug repellent, sunscreen, a blanket or sheet, and a cooler. Keep things cheap: Use washable cutlery and make inexpensive foods such as a green salad and deviled eggs, complemented with some fresh fruit. 

Related: 30 Easy Picnic Staples to Pack for a Day in the Sun


Cruise Into a Drive-in Movie

Drive-in movies combine summer blockbusters with fresh air, engendering nostalgia for some and a new and exciting experience for others. Tickets often cost the same as or less than admission to an indoor theater (most of which are closed now anyway). Many drive-in theaters have become popular destinations, allowing people to maintain a safe social distance, while also getting out of the house.

Related: 14 Best Drive-In Movie Theaters in America Open During the Pandemic


Explore a Botanical Garden

Many cities have botanical gardens that grow and display plants from around the world. Common exhibits include succulent and cactus greenhouses, herb gardens, exotic plant collections, and special areas dedicated to native plants or flora from a particular region.

yoga online

Try a Fun New Workout Routine

Kids probably don't like the idea of gym class at home during the summer, so help them burn off energy and stay in shape with some fun fitness challenges. Just call it summer camp and watch their attitudes change. Adults can take advantage of the extra daylight hours by signing up for outdoor evening fitness classes, or an online class that you can do from home.

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Try Geocaching

Tap your inner explorer with this worldwide scavenger hunt powered by a GPS-enabled device. Just sign up for a free Geocaching account and download the app.


Go Beachcombing

Stroll along a favorite stretch of beach and search for seashells. For the best shelling, go an hour before or after low tide. Also, keep moon phases in mind — a full or new moon creates the most extreme tides.

Related: 50 of the Best Beaches in America

Catch Fireflies

Catch Fireflies

There's nothing quite like catching twinkling fireflies on a warm summer night. Use a net or cupped hands and place the brightly lit beauties into a clear jar with holes punched in the top. (Let them go after a day or two.)

Write to a Pen Pal
Build a Bonfire

Build a Bonfire

With safety measures in place, build a bonfire and enjoy watching the flames reach into the sky. Music circles, dancing, and s'mores are encouraged. Stick to the standard-issue chocolate, marshmallow, and graham cracker combo, or try something new and creative. 

Related: 15 Ways to Enjoy S'mores, from Basic to Boozy

Have a Campout Indoors

Have a Campout Indoors

If it's too hot and buggy, bring the experience of a night in the great outdoors inside. Set up a small tent, turn off the lights, and tell ghost stories from the coziness of a sleeping bag.

Find a Fun Airbnb
Grocery delivery
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Go Fishing

Unwind on the water with a secluded fishing trip. Return to the family's annual go-to spot, or change things up by trying someplace new. 

Related: Best Fishing Spots in All 50 States


Go Backpacking

Take camping to the next level by going on a weeklong backpacking trip. Be sure to train beforehand with shorter hikes, and research whether trail permits are required before setting off.

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Float in a Lake
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Visit a National Park

Visit a National Park

National parks are usually inexpensive — fees range from free to $35 a vehicle for a seven-day pass — but the National Park Service also offers fee-free days during the year. This summer, plan a visit for Aug. 25, the Park Service's birthday.

Related: Explore the Best National Parks in Every State

Pick Produce
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Blow Bubbles

While away an afternoon blowing bubbles. Just mix 1 cup of water to 1 tablespoon dish soap, and add 1 tablespoon of sugar for less popping. If you're feeling especially creative, make wands of different shapes by bending old wire hangers.

Start a Sandcastle Competition
Get a Proper Tan