#808moms: 12 fun (and cheap) things to do with your kids this summer

It’s summer! The kids are out of school; the mercury is rising. Keep those young minds occupied (and happy) with these fun and budget-friendly activities.

1. Join the summer reading program. 

child readingThe public library system’s annual summer reading program runs through July 12. To participate, just drop by any local library and request a reading log. Children who read at least one book a week and return weekly get a small prize. My 5-year-old loves this program (she’s really into little treats like stickers and pencils), and parents love it too. Local libraries also have children’s story times and a host of (always free!) programs and events over the summer. Need recommendations? Ask your librarian!

2. Take a hike! 

Hawaii has a lot of family-friendly hikes. Check out the official Hawaii Trail and Access System site and the Hawaii State Parks site for details on hikes, plus precautions. Some hikes are more child-friendly than others. I really like the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail since you can take a stroller all the way up and the Diamond Head Summit Trail which I’ve done with a hiking backpack. (Diamond Head’s entry fee is $5 per car or $1 per pedestrian). I’ve taken my daughter when she was less than a year in an infant carrier or hiking backpack on the following trails: Maunawili Falls Trail, Wilwilinui Ridge Trail (we didn’t finish this one, it’s all uphill but nice views), Kuli’ou’ou Valley Trail (easy one), Hau’ula Loop Trail, Wa’ahila Ridge Trail (some minor rock climbing, I would recommend only older kids not infants for this one), Makiki Valley Trail, ‘Aiea Loop Trail (this one is long, almost 5 miles), Pu’u Pia Trail (one steep area but not too long a hike), Judd Trail (crosses through shallow water, ends in a natural pool). 


3. Visit a farmer’s market.

See what’s available at your neighborhood farmers market. It’s a great way to promote healthy eating and check out different types of fruits and veggies. When my daughter was younger, she pointed to our microwave and told me to go “cook” her something. That cringe-worthy moment spurred me to incorporate more fresh fruit and veggies in our diet so she actually loves fresh foods. Farmers markets let your children try things out and get excited about picking what they’ll eat later.

4. Cool down with a homemade treat.

pop featureAvoid the shave ice and make your own fruit pops or banana ice cream or these yogurt pops. Just watch the sugar content. I’m prediabetic so I usually don’t follow the recipe when it comes to adding sugar or as much sugary fruits like bananas.

5. Take a free workshop at your local hardware store.

Build a bug house or mini-crate pencil holder. See Home Depot’s site for more information. Lowe’s also has kid’s clinics. If you can’t take a workshop in person, consider getting the materials and building something with your kids. Tutorials abound online.

6. Visit one of Hawaii’s botanical gardens.

You’d be surprised at how pretty the gardens on Oahu are. My favorite botanical garden is in the middle of downtown — Foster Botanical Garden on Vineyard Boulevard. Check out the Department of Parks and Recreation site to see what you’ve been missing.

landscape17. Make your own field trip.

I’m always on the hunt for free or nearly free things to do that also teach my daughter something. We’ve gone to see the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor and the U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii located at Fort DeRussy in Waikiki for free. Right now, the Living Art zoo2.jpgMarine Center has an online sale on their tours and activities like T-shirt printing, soap making, creating shell jewelry, and so on. Iolani Palace offers free tours for kamaaina once a month, usually on the second Sunday of the month. Every third Sunday of every month, the Honolulu Museum of Art has Bank of Hawaii Sunday, a day that is free of charge and features art activities and entertainment. There is also a free Family Day at the Spalding House location in Makiki Heights with a free shuttle bus between the Museum of Art and Spalding House so you can see both in the same day. The Hawaii State Art Museum in downtown is also free, though you can leave a donation if you want. The Honolulu Zoo has a summer concert series, the Wildest Show in Town, every Wednesday evening from June 11 to August 13. For only $3 admission you get to see a great concert; just bring a comfy blanket to sit on the lawn and some cash to buy dinner from the vendors. Foster Botanical Garden hosts a free Twlight Summer Concert Series Thursday nights from June 5 to July 31. On July 19, Foster Botanical Garden will be all lit up as a magical wonderland in a celebration called a Midsummer Night’s Gleam.

8. Go to a festival.

Take in a cooking demo at the Moana Surfrider during their Mangoes at the Moana event July 19, or enter the kim chee eating contest or watch some K-pop at the Korean Festival on July 12 at Magic Island. Watch hula while snacking on local food and drinks at the Prince Lot Hula Festival on July 19 at Moanalua Gardens or listen to artists play the ukulele July 20 at the Ukulele Festival at the Kapiolani Park Bandstand. See the dragon boat races July 26-27 at the Dragon Boat Festival at Ala Moana Beach. Watch tandem surfing or surf polo at Duke’s Ocean Fest August 16-24 in Waikiki. Have a yummy Greek salad at the annual Greek festival August 23-24 at McCoy Pavilion at Ala Moana Park. Admission is $3, children 12 and under and military are free. Have your keiki play some games and eat soba August 30-31 at the annual Okinawan Festival at Kapiolani Park. The summer is one of the busiest times for festivals in Hawaii, and you won’t be disappointed with these events. They’re fun and educational.

9. Go to the beach or go camping.

Fly a Frisbee or kite around, build a sand castle, try stand-up paddleboarding with your keiki, or just have a good watergun fight. Reserve a campsite online. We tried a weekend stay at Ho’omaluhia and had a lot of fun. They have a great lake and the kids can do catch and release fishing there.

beachday.jpg10. See a kid-friendly movie.

UH Manoa has free kid-friendly movies as part of its summer film festival. If you’re available midweek in the mornings you can see kiddie movies for a $1 at Regal Theaters during the Summer Movie Express program or at Consolidated theaters as part of the Keiki Film Hui.

boywithbubble11. Play a fun game outside!

There’s a wealth of sites online with cool summer activities. A girl and a glue gun, for example, has some great summer games to play.

12. Volunteer or foster a pet.

Kids 14 and older can volunteer on their own at the Hawaiian Humane Society, while those 8 to 13 can volunteer with a parent. Just be aware that volunteering requires following safety requirements and learning about difficult themes, including euthanasia.



  • I chuckled when I got to No. 12. Our fifth-grader cajoled us into “fostering” her classroom’s pet chameleon (yes, that’s right) and of course mom and dad are doing all of the work! But he is an interesting little character and has been fascinating! “Freddie” has been a nice addition to our summer activities!


  • Note: Be prepared! Having your child volunteer at the Humane Society might lead to your family acquiring new pets!


  • No. 11 (and the indoor games it links to) sounded like a total blast. Where’s my time machine, I wanna go play, mommy!


  • The Midsummer Night’s Gleam at Foster Botanical Gardens is fun. We used to go when my daughter was in college. She and her then-boyfriend were members of the Khanate of the Golden Horde, a group of people who loved to suit up in armor and engage each other in combat. That kind of combat is actually a good, fun workout, if you’re finding your regular aerobics routine getting a little dull!


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