10 Free or Cheap Ideas for a DIY Summer Camp Day


If summer camp isn’t in the budget, is hard to find, or you have a gap day here or there in your summer planning, here are 10 free or cheap ideas for a DIY Summer Camp day to get you through the summer with kids.

  1. Fort building

You may have to wash some extra sheets or blankets, but if you have a couch, blankets and chairs you can build a low-tech fort inside.

2. Tie-Dye 

Pick up a tie-dye kit from a local craft store and find white clothes to brighten up with colorful dye. 

Free Tie Dye Groovy photo and picture


This activity is best done outside and you’ll have to plan time to wait for the dye to set. At our house, we’ve tie-dyed underwear, tank tops, socks, shirts, and pillowcases.

3. S’mores

No time to camp? S’mores at home can be in the microwave, over a grill, or firepit nearby. Just pick up ingredients and find a way to toast that marshmallow!

4. Fun and Uncomplicated science experiments

If you have baking soda and vinegar, you can make a volcano! 

Put baking soda in a small container, mound dirt around it, pour vinegar in the baking soda, and let the kids experiment with the safe reaction of “lava” pouring out! Try mixing milk and oil with food coloring! There are lots of easy science projects to try!


5. Home Depot Kid’s Projects 

Home Depot has awesome projects for kids on the first Saturday of the month. The kid’s workshops are free, sometime between 9-12 am and you can register online

6. Visiting your local library

Every library is different, but most have events during the day in the summer in addition to summer reading programs. If kids are tired of reading at home, the library could be a fun change of pace to try a new book!

7. Michaels Craft MakeBreaks

Michales Craft stores offer MakeBreaks and kid classes for free at many store locations. Check their website for specific projects and age ranges.

8. Geocaching

If you have a smartphone, you can try geocaching with kids!You can download the Geocaching app from the App Store and have plenty of fun using the free version. My kids love it and consider it a treasure hunt as we use GPS coordinates to find the cache!

9. Kid-directed craft time ie. Making a HUGE mess

This is when we get out all the glue, all the paper, NONE OF THE GLITTER, hole punches, yarn, contact paper, and anything we can find and let it go. The table is a gigantic mess but my kids love creating and I can work from home at the same time during this activity.

Now that they’re older they are practicing using a low temp glue gun which allows them to make sturdier creations.

10. Local Field Trips

Sadly, this does not mean to the grocery store. In years past, our local field trips have been to a zoo, a new playground, a free museum, a bike ride, or meet up with friends to a new-to-us spot. 

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Alicia is a mom of two girls and married to her National Guard-turned-Active Duty husband for 15 years. Alicia has left part of her heart in the hills of Kentucky, the Piney Woods of East Texas, every taco truck in San Antonio, the Northern Lights of Fairbanks, Alaska, and now resides in Northern Virginia. She spends her time learning watercolor painting, reading too many books, trying new foods, riding the Peloton, and playing with her dog. She is also a new contributor for DC Area Moms.