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Free or cheap non-screentime ideas for keeping kids engaged during the summer

I have been compensated for this post by Oros. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

It's that time of summer where it's getting harder to keep the kids engaged. Is it just me, or do you also worry about them losing a lot of what they learned during the school year while they laze around the house in front of any number of screens? It's become a real concern for me, especially as the temperatures rise, which seems to increase my kids' screentime as their outdoor time becomes more limited. Since the new Oros messaging app (which you can download for free for iOS or Android here: has become my go-to for all sorts of tips, not just for restaurant recommendations and local expert reviews, I decided to put a question out there to the Oros community.  

Oros puts real recommendations from real people in the palm of your hands quickly, saving you a lot of time Googling and checking review sites. Its simple question and answer function allows me to target users in a local area or by other interests and demographics for their recommendations. It connects me with local experts in minutes! You can read my full review of the Oros app here, and see how I crowd-sourced ideas for the ultimate family date day in Austin using Oros here

Last week I asked parents of school-age kids on the Oros app about non-screentime ideas for keeping kids engaged, ideally in an educational and/or creative way, during the summer. As always, I asked, and Oros delivered! Here are my top tips sourced from Oros users on non-screentime activities for kids during the summer. A bonus is that they are all free or cheap!

At home

Crafting. Arts and crafts may be one of the most basic tips on this list, but it becomes an even more creative project when it doesn’t require a trip to the craft store! The kids and I like to craft with things we already have on hand, which allows them to think even more creatively. If you’re low on creative energy yourself, you can start with this great book I just found - The Craft Kingdom: DIY Craft Projects for Kids and Adults (by Eli Maor). This book encourages you to get your DIY on this summer without having to hit the craft store, teaching you that art supplies are all around us (just use your imagination)! For more information about the book please visit, or purchase it on Amazon here (affiliate link). The other day we made these painted rock magnets!

Cooking. I’ve always found cooking to be stimulating both creatively and mathematically - not to mention rewarding, since you get to enjoy the tasty fruits of your labor when you are done. There are so many ways you can get the kids to join you in the kitchen, whether it’s just helping you measure, gather, and prep ingredients for the day’s meals, or by making a fun, kid-friendly treat. We just made this super easy World’s Best Oreo Fudge recipe from Allrecipes. Crushing up Oreos and stirring marshmallow crème are fun tasks for your little sous chefs.  

Gardening. Gardening is not only a therapeutic way to spend some time outdoors (and away from big and small screens), but it also teaches. Kids can learn (or reaffirm their knowledge of) the plant lifecycle if you engage them from planting to flowering or bearing fruit with garden flowers or vegetables. It also teaches responsibility – for example, it is our kids’ chore to water and tend to our tomato and herb garden each day, and therefore their responsibility to keep the plants alive. Plus, they love anything that involves dirt or the garden hose!

Outside the house

Your local library. Maintaining and improving reading levels involves practice. Libraries offer not only books, but also a plethora of scheduled activities for kids throughout the summer months. Oros users recommended the Austin Central Library for its huge collection and an environment that is extra engaging for the kiddos. We went this week, and found that we could have spent an entire day there and then some! One whole floor of the six-story library is dedicated to children and teens, with books (obviously), a creative corner, a space for activities (like story-time and their upcoming LEGO Lab), and plenty of comfortable places to hang out.

STEM-focused children's museum. Do you have a children’s museum other hands-on activity center in your area? Anything that allows for STEM thinking and physical interaction while learning is a great way for kids to become engaged in the learning, and better for retention of that knowledge. Plus, it’s just plain fun! Your kids will think of it as play rather than education. Thinkery is an Oros-approved spot for the Austin users for this type of thing, and I thoroughly see why. Read my review of Thinkery in this article.

Splash pad. If you must be outside, you've got to find a way for the kids to use up their spare energy while beating the heat at the same time. I recommend finding a free or cheap splash pad in your area, and spending some time there. My favorite in Central Texas is the Quarry Splash Pad at Southwest Williamson County Regional Park.

What are your ideas? I'd love to see them, either by commenting below or joining the conversation on Oros. If you haven’t yet, go download Oros for free here, and follow Oros on Facebook, Twitter (@OrosText), LinkedIn, and Instagram (@OrosText) to stay informed on app updates.  

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