Whether it’s summer break or just an average weekend, we’re always looking for free things to do with kids. There’s just not always a lot of room in the budget to squeeze out a lot for activities.
We all know kids can be crazy expensive, thanks to daycare, clothes, and all their favorite foods we prepare that they suddenly refuse to eat and have to toss. (I know you know what I’m talkin’ about.)
Toss in keeping kids entertained, off electronics, and doing it cheaply? Yeah, sure – just add “finding world peace” to that, no problem!
I promise you, though – it’s easier than it sounds. There are a ton of cheap things to do with kids, especially when you research the free options your city has to offer or think back to the games you played as a kid.
I’ve pulled together a list of activities to do with your kids that won’t break the bank. While most of the stuff for kids to do is free, some are just cheaper options to try if you can plan.
Family Fun Things to Do
Wondering what to do for fun that everyone will enjoy? Finding things to do with kids that everyone in the family appreciates doesn’t have to be complicated. Try one of these family-centric things to do that are free:
- Create a scrapbook together. Let everyone choose their favorite photos to contribute. Work together or take turns building the pages using a site like Shutterfly. Sign up for their email list when you create your account and wait to purchase the book until you have a coupon for a free photo book purchase to get it printed.
- Plan the perfect family vacation. It’s the ideal way to not only teach your kids to daydream and travel, but to set goals, research, and learn about new places. Not to mention, they’ll learn to save up for things like vacations and pay in cash instead of credit cards.
- Teach your kids how to braid hair. There are some crazy braiding videos out there on YouTube if you want to get fancy. I learned to braid as a kid, and it’s a skill that’s come in very handy with two daughters.
- Teach your kids a new skill or hobby that you love. Whether it’s playing the guitar, baking, or painting, your kids will cherish the time you’ve spent teaching them something you love.
- Train your dog to do new tricks. Training your dog is a great way to get kids to interact and bond with the family pet and to learn what it takes.
- Set up a lemonade stand. Have everyone in the family chip in some elbow grease to get the lemonade stand up and running. From picking up ingredients to making signs, everyone can contribute and work towards a common goal. Then celebrate your earnings by spending it by using it to take everyone out for ice cream!
- Have a field day in the backyard. Create an excellent obstacle course in your yard with stuff from your house and garage. Invite some friends over and make it into a competition for cheap prizes.
- Find a cheap movie theater. Both Regal Cinemas and AMC have $5 Tuesdays. Not that I promote bringing food into a movie theater, but…make sure you have a big purse. You know, just in case you need it.
- Have a family potluck. Have each member of the family cook their signature dish and enjoy!
- Play a family game of Chopped. With oddball ingredients from the pantry, have family members face off in a cooking competition to see who can whip their ingredients into a fantastic meal.
- Family board game night. Rotate who gets to pick the game for the night.
- Create a scavenger hunt. There are some great scavenger hunt ideas online. One I saw recently listed close to 100 objects, each with a point value. You then had to take photos of the items you found over three months and see who wins at the end.
- Challenge each other to a riddle contest. See who can stump the other. There are some classics out there that your kids won’t know yet – take advantage of it!
- Teach your kids to cook and try out a new recipe. Teach them to be self-sufficient, adventurous, and to try new things. Bonus points if they love cooking and take over making dinner for you!
- Host a funny family Olympics. Have events like finding a grape buried in whip cream without using your hands, an egg/spoon race, and passing the balloon from one person to another without using your limbs. There are a ton of crazy fun group/team games that don’t have to cost a lot. Top it all off with some homemade yogurt lid medals a la the office Olympics episode of The Office:
- Find the perfect side hustle as a family. You get time together and can earn some cash for that family vacation. Win-win! Check out these side hustles that aren’t MLMs to see which ones to try.
- Find a local park that does movies during the summer. Several of our local parks do Movies on the Hill nights once a month. They show family-friendly, recent movies that are great to take a picnic and some blankets to.
- Do a photo shoot. Whether it’s of the family, the foliage, or something else entirely, It’s free and a great way for you or your kids to practice their photography skills. Plus, it’ll make it easier to pick a picture for your Christmas card this year.
Fun places to go with kids
Getting out of the house doesn’t have to cost a ton. There are lots of cheap places to go with kids, and it’s just a matter of finding them. Ask other parents and neighbors about fun things to do near you. Here are some fun place to go with kids that won’t break the bank:
- Sign up for a free kids’ bowling program. We signed up for the Kids Bowl Free program this summer, and so far the kids love it! They get two free games every day from June 1st to August 31st. We just have to pay for shoe rental. Plus, they offer great discounts and a family pass if you want to bowl with them. Bowling is also the perfect thing to do with your friends – just get them to sign up for their kids as well!
- Visit the pound – just to look! If you’re not sure you can visit the pound without coming home with a new pet, maybe this one’s not for you. Otherwise, it’s a fun way to play with some animals, especially if you don’t currently have a dog or cat.
- Seek out a new park. It’s crazy how many parks we have in our area. We have everything from water fountain parks to biking and hiking trails. Make it a goal to find a new one that you haven’t been to and explore. Our park systems also host a lot of free kids’ events that are a ton of fun. Last fall, they had a big event where they had marshmallow roasting, leaf piles to jump in, crafts, and tram rides. It was fun for both the kids and us.
- Visit your local children’s museum. Check Groupon for discounts to a kid’s museum near you. You might have to plan this activity in advance, and only go when you have discounts, but it’s worth it with the cost you’ll save.
- Check Groupon for activities. Groupon runs some great deals, and they often have sales on top of it so you can stack the savings. Don’t forget to go through your Rakuten (formerly Ebates) link as well for even more savings!
- Find free seasonal local activities. There are always a ton of free or cheap family activities around the holidays. From sled riding to cookie walks, check online to see what you can find. Free local events are a great way to go places with friends without it costing a ton!
- Give geocaching a try. Geocaching is similar to a treasure hunt using GPS coordinates to find a buried prize. All you need is a phone with GPS and some shoes fit for hiking. Learn more at geocaching.com.
- Take a nighttime walk around the neighborhood. It’s the perfect time to explore the community from a new perspective. Teach your kids about nocturnal animals and reasons why we shouldn’t be afraid of the dark. It’s the perfect place to have fun without actually leaving your neighborhood!
- Go for a bike ride. Find a riding trail, sidewalks in your neighborhood, anywhere that’s got a beautiful view, and bring a picnic lunch.
- Volunteer to get into local events for free. I love visiting the county fair but don’t want to pay for high ticket costs — volunteer to help out. Volunteers get tickets to the events, as well as other perks such as drinks, meals, and free parking.
- Join in free church or community activities. Check online or your library’s lobby for flyers for free events. You might find a new favorite fun place to go with friends and their kids as well!
- Find a local fireworks display or parade. The local Fourth of July fireworks are one of our favorites. There’s a great spot about 2 miles from our house where we can plunk down on the side of the road and have a fantastic viewpoint every Fourth of July. The kids love it, and we make an evening of it.
- Have a picnic. I’m not sure why, but the thought of sandwiches without crusts, eaten while sitting on a blanket in the park, is utterly thrilling for my kids. It’s an easy win, though, and I’ll take it!
- Visit companies that provide free activities for kids. At Home Depot, they have monthly building activities for kids. We’ve built gingerbread houses, trucks, wooden calendar displays, and a mini cornhole set, which was excellent and so unbelievably cute!
- Pick berries, apples, or other fruit at a local farm. While this isn’t free, it’s great fun for the kids. Find a schedule as to when everyone’s favorite fruits are available for picking and don’t forget the sunscreen and water bottles!
- Get a cheap pass to the local pool (or find a friend with one). Most community pools offer early-bird discounts, as well as senior citizen discounts. Plan to purchase your pass early next year, and make sure to cash flow it.
- Find discount passes to the zoo. Check with your employer to see if they offer discounted passes. If not, you can often find discounted zoo tickets through your grocery store or a local bank.
- Visit the library. Our new library is terrific – it’s got a cafe inside it! The library is the perfect place to go when bored – they also do all sorts of awesome activities. Tutoring, getting kids ready for kindergarten, and my favorite, a show and tell series. We recently dropped into one where they brought in a live fox, and we learned about their environment, what they eat, and got to see him in action. So much fun!
- Hit up yard sales. It’s a fun way to explore, an excuse to dig through other people’s stuff, and anything you pick up will be cheap! It’s a fun and exciting thing to do on the weekend with friends because you’ll never know what you’ll find.
- Find a local fountain to go play in. Our city has three different local water fountains for the kids to play in, and they love it. It’s completely free, and a nice change of pace from the backyard, and is one of the coolest things to do near us (literally).
- Visit a local astronomy park. I didn’t even know that these existed until we stumbled upon one recently. They host all sorts of fun events at night and give you a chance to view meteor showers, stars, and other heavenly bodies through a telescope.
Indoor children activities
When it’s too hot to sit through another minute at the playground, or you need things to do on a rainy day, try one of these indoor kids activities to keep them busy for cheap:
- Make a care package for grandparents or other relatives. Create drawings, write poems or jokes, make crafts, or take photos of the kids to send to their grandparents. They’ll love receiving them, and your family will have fun making them.
- Write letters. Have your kids practice their handwriting and spelling by writing a letter to an aunt, grandparent, or find a penpal.
- Facetime with family. Video chatting is one of my favorite fun free things to do, especially with the kids! Catch up with distant family and friends via Facetime when boredom or bad weather kicks in.
- Do DIY manis & pedis and have a spa night. My daughters love getting their toenails painted. I think I’ll wait a little longer until I let them paint mine in return though 😉
- Teach your kids old school string games. You know what I’m talking about – using a loop of string to do intricate weaving and whatnot that sometimes required a friend to throw a hand in there to help out. Check out some string games here.
- Read. Read to your kids, have them read to you, or just declare family reading hour on a rainy day. Top off with hot cocoa and blankets to snuggle down and make the most of it.
- Have a dance party. Turn up some sweet 90s/early 2000s tunes and get to it. Teach your kids the correct way to Roger Rabbit, Cabbage Patch, or do the MC Hammer /crazy parachute pants dance. Points if you can keep your moves fresh long enough to embarrass them at their wedding!
- Paint in the bathtub. Throw the kids in the tub without water before bathtime and let them loose with washable paints. Once the kids are done painting, fill the bath and wash the bathtub (and them) easily.
- Do a craft. Let’s face it – I’d bet $100 that you have at least one box of craft stuff (cough, cough – try 5!) lying around. Break it out, see what you have, and hit up Pinterest for some new craft ideas.
- Make friendship bracelets. Whether beaded, knotted embroidery floss or something else entirely, pick up supplies for cheap things to do. Trade them out with other family members and friends.
- Build a fort. Pull out sheets, blankets, and the pillows from the couch to set up an intricate and fun fort.
- Bake something. If you love baking, it’s the perfect time to teach your kids the time-honored tradition. It’s something that takes skill and practice, but it is worth the work for the reward!
- Have a coloring contest. Pick random pages from coloring books, and hand out five colors to each person. See how creative they are and what kind of crazy patterns, coloring styles, and creativity emerges.
- Host a movie night. Cover the living room floor in blankets and pillows to make the perfect movie lounge. Pop some popcorn and hunker down to a favorite childhood movie that you’d love for your kids to add to their collection.
- Have a fashion show. Let your kids dig through your closet – or better yet, theirs – and create new outfits. Throw on some music and set up a runaway for them to stomp down while you ooh and ahh.
- Make playdoh, slime, or floam from scratch. It’s super easy and generally takes basic ingredients to create. You can find tons of recipes on Pinterest.
- Declutter your house. Ok, so this isn’t exactly fun, per se – but you can set a challenge for everyone to gather five things in 5 minutes to sell or donate. Do it daily, and you’ll have a nice yard sale stack in no time! Or, sell your used electronics, books, media, and music on the Decluttr app.
- Make ice cream from scratch. There are a ton of homemade ice cream recipes on Pinterest, and not all of them require an ice cream machine. You can even find some that are no-churn. For others that need churning, you can double ziplock bag the ingredients and have the kids play toss with them to mix them up!
- Learn something new off of YouTube. Find a new skill you’d like to learn with your kids and search YouTube for videos on how to do.
- Put on a play. Rather, have your kids put on the play and create costumes. You just be an audience participant. That should keep them busy for at least a couple of hours!
- Play Mad Libs. Remember playing Mad Libs as a kid? They were hilarious and a ton of fun. Plus, it’s an easy way to teach your kids the difference between nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Sneak in an English lesson while having fun!
- Play card games. There are a million different card games to play, from UNO to Go Fish and everything in between. Or, find a new game to try in a book like this.
- Do science experiments. There are lots of great books with tons of ideas for cheap and easy experiments to do with kids of different ages. This one is our favorite, and we’ve done tons of tests with our six-year-old from it.
Things to do with kids at home
If you’re a homebody like me, I prefer to look for more fun stuff to do at home. There’s only so much being out in public with rowdy kids that I can handle. (Or just being out socializing anyway!) It’s essential to make our house a place where we’re comfortable and have plenty to do to keep us busy. Here are some fun activities for kids at home that we enjoy doing:
- Homemade backyard waterpark. Wondering what to do on a Saturday after school starts, while it’s still warm? Set up a baby pool, water balloons, a sprinkler, and your best water guns to create a backyard oasis for the kids to play.
- Rearrange their bedroom with new-to-them furniture. Everyone loves a room refresh, so why not do one for your kids? Recycle pieces of furniture from other rooms or yard sales. Switch out curtains or add a fresh coat of paint for a quick and easy facelift. If nothing out, rearrange the room for a new look. Don’t forget to use this as an opportunity to declutter and get rid of old clothes, toys, and books.
- Set up a Nerf gun battle. Borrow Nerf guns from friends or find them cheap and build up a stockpile. Create barriers and a maze in the backyard. Divide into teams and go to town!
- Have a tea party. Have your kids break out their dress-up duds or princess gowns, complete with big hats and gloves. Serve apple juice in teacups and finger sandwiches on fancy plates.
- Help your kids host a yard sale. Have them pull together stuff to sell, price it, and set up the yard sale. Help them with getting it listed on Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and other yard sale sites. Let them keep the profits for their work. Use it as a chance to show them how to divide their earnings between savings, bills, and fun money.
- Camp out in the backyard, on the porch, or in the living room. Kids love sleeping in tents, no matter if they’re in the wild or the living room. Set up the tent complete with lanterns and sleeping bags, and tell spooky stories. (Then sneak out when they’re asleep and find yourself an air mattress.)
- Have a bonfire and roast marshmallows. Bonfires are a perfect way to celebrate summer, as well as your love of chocolate, marshmallows, and graham crackers.
- Catch fireflies. Save some glass food jars and punch small holes in the lid. Throw some grass in there and get to catching those bugs. It’s one of the summer’s perfect things to do for free!
- Pretending the floor is lava. Classic and still awesome, right? Get from one end of the house to the other without touching the ground. Bonus points if you can do it without using pillows from the couch!
- Play tag. There are a million variations, and there’s bound to be some new ones you haven’t tried before.
- Play hopscotch. Break out the chalk and clear the cars out of the driveway.
- Break out your jump ropes and do some Double Dutch. See if you can remember not only how to do double dutch, but if you can remember the songs and rhymes you used to sing. No judgment if you have to google it, it’s been a while for me too. 😉
- Play any of the classic sports games. Bring out your sports equipment and play some touch football, soccer, baseball, dodgeball, basketball, or a wild game of HORSE.
These are 75 of a million cheap things to do with kids during the summer or on a slow weekend. Which is your favorite? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know! Now get out there and make some plans to go have fun!