Water parks, amusement parks, vacations, and pool visits are all part of a family-friendly summer. But when you do not want to get out, or you just need ideas for functional or inexpensive ideas on your own turf, check out these make-it-yourself summer fun contraptions. Build them with your kids!

Water Park

Make your own Backyard Water Park with these very easy ideas from Disney Family Fun's H2Ohhh! article These water crafts include a Super Sprinkler, a Cool-Off Zone, a Bulls-Eye Blast, and a Zoom Flume.


If you are willing and able to spend a little more money and time, take on this project: Best Slip 'n Slide from WiredGeekDad. Initially getting the idea and instructions from Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share, WiredGeekDad included photos and advice to pass along to other families who want to create a slipping and sliding contraption that really does look better than the original.

Sand Play

  • Over at Wisebread, you can make what normally is an expensive item by mixing it in your kitchen. All you need is a bag of play sand, some cornstarch, water, and your kids will be having great fun with this recipe for Moon Sand!
  • If you are great with a set of tools and want the challenge, here are plans for a do-it-yourself sand and water table from EricsProjects.
  • If you're not savvy with tools, or just want a simpler version of a sand box, purchase play sand from your local home improvement store and partially fill a shallow, sturdy cardboard box. Add matchbox cars, kid-safe gardening tools, sandbox toys, or small, plastic animals for some imaginary fun.

Backyard Games

Skill Set

Including your children in preparing these homemade activities is a perfect way for them to practice a variety of skills. Whether you have teenagers or toddlers, here are some skills that they will build upon while building with you:

  • reading
  • following directions
  • counting
  • addition
  • problem solving
  • cooperation
  • fine motor skills
  • use of tools
  • planning
  • creativity

Contributor's note: I made the Super Sprinkler with my children. It really is a five-minute project, and has been so much fun. Ditto for the sandbox in a (cardboard) box. Amazing, the simple things kids love!