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Summer Guide 2012: The GWYM Sand Pail List (AKA 64 Things to Do With Your Kids This Summer)

Photo by downing.amanda on Flickr.A lot of us will be staying close to home the majority, if not all, of the summer. But luckily there’s plenty of fun to be had in Chicago’s western suburbs, much of it inexpensive or even free! Thanks to all the Go West readers who made suggestions for this list.

The list below is available here to download so you can print it and hang it on your bulletin board for those days when you need some inspiration. Alternately, cut out the items, throw them in a container and pick one out when you are looking for something to do. (Some items take more planning, or are tied to specific days of the week, so you might want to remove those from your bucket).



  1. Dance and picnic outside while listening to a band play in a park. (Free)
  2. Cruise the Fox River on a paddlewheel riverboat, boarding at Pottawatomie Park in St. Charles.
  3. Sign up for the Passport to Adventure program. Visit local museums and collect stamps for your “passport.”
  4. Sign up for your library’s reading program. (Free)
  5. Head to a nearby suburb and check out a new park. Use the “Great Parks!” series for suggestions, or just drive around until you see one that looks intriguigng. (Free)
  6. Picnic along the Fox River. (Free)
  7. Make a day of it at Raging Waves waterpark in Yorkville.
  8. Visit a County Fair. (The DuPage County Fair is July 25-29; the Kane County Fair is July 18-22; the Kendall County Fair is over Labor Day weekend.)
  9. Plan a “Progressive Picnic” with friends. One family brings the main dish, one the sides, one dessert, etc. (Free)
  10. Head on up to the North Shore to visit the Kohl Children’s Museum.
  11. Hike to Devil’s Cave at Red Oak Nature Center. (Free)
  12. Feed the ducks at Cosley Zoo in Wheaton. (Offered at 10 a.m and 3 p.m. daily.)
  13. Visit the DuPage Children’s Museum; plan your visit to take in one of its "Tiny Great Performances."
  14. Pretend you’re in “Charlotte’s Web” when you visit the charming Randall Oakes Barnyard Zoo in West Dundee.
  15. Catch a jarful of fireflies – and then make sure to release them! (Free)
  16. Visit a farmers market. (Free)
  17. Make your own sidewalk chalk paint. (Free)
  18. Make a daytrip to Brookfield Zoo. (Definitely pack your own lunch to save money!)
  19. Visit Santa’s Village AZoosment Park in East Dundeee.
  20. Swim in an old quarry (Such as the Harold Hall Quarry Beach in Batavia or Centennial Beach in Naperville)
  21. Make homemade popsicles. You can use Dixie cups if you don’t have popsicle molds. (Free)
  22. Have a water balloon fight in your backyard. (Free)
  23. Camp out in your backyard. (Free)
  24. Ride down the lazy river at Otter Cove Aquatic Park in St. Charles.
  25. Visit the Children’s Garden at Morton Arboretum. (Discount admission on Wednesdays.)
  26. Make sure to catch at least one parade. (Free)
  27. Root for the Kane County Cougars in Geneva.
  28. Let your kids splash away the afternoon at a new sprayground or splash pad. (Many are free.)
  29. See a free movie in the park. (Free)
  30. Visit Kline Creek Farm in West Chicago. On Monday mornings, you can enjoy children’s stories from the 1890s. (Free)
  31. Marvel at the horses at Arlington Racetrack -- perhaps on one of the track's "Family Days."
  32. Watch a movie at a drive-in theater. (The Cascade Drive-In is located on Route 64 in West Chicago)
  33. Pick your own berries.
  34. Rent a paddle boat at Batavia’s Riverwalk
  35. Take advantage of the cheap children’s movie series at local theaters.
  36. Go to a community festival in a new town. (Free)
  37. Create a tent in the backyard using sheets, clothes line or tree branch. (Free)
  38. Grill fruit for dessert. Let your kids help pick what fruit to try. (Free)
  39. Go for a Twilight Swim at a pool new to you. (Cheap rates!)
  40. Write a nice message for a neighbor outside his or her house in chalk. (Free)
  41. Help your kids create a lemonade stand. (Free)
  42. Play a card game. (Free)
  43. Enjoy one of the children’s concerts at Cantigny in Wheaton.
  44. Take a ride into the past at the Fox River Trolley Museum in South Elgin.
  45. Encourage the neighborhood kids to put on a variety show in your backyard. (Free)
  46. Make a batch of no-bake cookies. (Free)
  47. Go out for ice cream at a new spot. (The “Ice Cream Diaries” is happy to provide inspiration!)
  48. Have a family game night. (Free)
  49. Learn how to juggle. (Free)
  50. Go for a nature walk, and let you kids use your phone or digital camera to take pictures of what they find interesting. (Free)
  51. Try out one of the area "disc golf" courses. Wheeler Park in Geneva has one; so does James O. Breen Community Park in St. Charles. (Free)
  52. Go to a “star party” offered at Peck Farm Park in Geneva. (Free)
  53. Go for a family hike. (Free)
  54. Turn a tiny area of your backyard into a Fairy Garden. 
  55. Go to a children's theater performance.
  56. Make homemade playdough. Here's a recipe for an edible version. (Free)
  57. Teach your kids an old-school clapping game. (Free)
  58. Visit Funway in Batavia or Luigi's in Aurora.
  59. Swing on the tire swing at Primrose Farm in St. Charles, then visit the horses, cows, pigs and more. (Free)
  60. “Paint” your sidewalk with water. (Free) 
  61. Let your kids climb all over the tanks at Cantigny in Wheaton.
  62. Visit an equestrian center, such as the Ellis House & Equestrian Center in Kendall County or the Danada Equestrian Center in Wheaton. 
  63. Visit with owls, snakes, foxes and turtles at the Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn. (Free)
  64. Admire the butterflies at the Butterfly House in Geneva's Peck Farm Park.

Go West Readers: What's on your family's "Sand Pail List" for this summer? 

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Reader Comments (2)

Those summer activities written above are really helpful. Swimming is definitely a common activity for the summer so my kids think it is boring and so they wanted to try new summer activities.

June 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFred

As usual, you have done a fine job, creating such a varied list of activities for the summer. Thank you!

June 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShelley

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