Despite what parenting magazines and all the advertisers would have you believe entertaining children and doing things together as a family does not need to cost you hundreds of dollars every time you want to do something. Yes, there are activities that cost a lot, but there are also a lot of free and cheap activities you can do instead. Rather than having your kids play computer games or watch TV, you might be surprised at how many fun and simple things can be done that they’ll really enjoy and won’t cost you a lot of money.
50 Free (or Cheap) Family Activities…
If you live near the snow you can toboggan, make snowmen or have snowball fights.
Get some paper and learn how to make simple origami such as an angel or house.
4. Musical pots and pans
This is great activity for younger kids. Get out pots and pans and create your own band. You can use utensils too!
5. Special natural events (e.g. eclipse)
Look up when they are happening and make sure you see it as a family.
6. Watch a boat race at a lake or on a river
7. Make gingerbread houses
Follow some simple gingerbread house plans, bake, then decorate. You can do mini ones so each child does their own or decorate a large one together. To make it more special you could fill the inside with sweets or treats, then wrap the houses up and deliver them to friends or family.
8. Make cards
Using pretty paper, stickers and other craft supplies make some cards to use to give away at birthdays or other events.
9. Service for someone else
Go sing at a retirement home or visit the children’s ward at a hospital.
10. Do a wardrobe re-fashion
Everyone gets their clothes out and gives them a make-over. Younger kids could have cute patches put on or favourite pants which are now too short turned into shorts, older kids and teens could do things like turn a t-shirt into a funky bag or scarf.
11. Teach kids to sew
They could do simple hand stitched projects to begin with then learn how to make things on the sewing machine.
12. Paint together
Paper, brushes and paint is all you need to create masterpieces for your home.
Use some chalk, a rock and your driveway to play hopscotch or put some masking tape on the floor and do it inside if it’s raining.
14. Board games
If you don’t have any borrow some from friends or family. Board games provide hours of fun and there are heaps of different games for all ages.
15. A play at home
Let the kids dress up and put on a play for you to watch.
16. Make sock puppets
These can be made with socks, buttons, wool and fabric scraps.
17. Puppet show
Use the puppets you just made to have a puppet show.
18. Bush survival skills
Learn some survival skills such as making a fire, setting up a shelter then go out and do it in the wild (check the laws on these things where you live first).
19. Shadow figures
Set up a flashlight against a wall and create bunnies, dogs and more.
20. Cake decorating
Bake a cake then decorate it with icing, chocolates, nuts, fruit; whatever you like.
21. Face painting
With some face paints you can do each other’s faces with butterflies or spider webs. Here are some easy face painting designs.
22. Make wombat stew
Read the book then make your own creation.
23. Visit sand castle competitions
Sand castle competitions are held at various beaches and some of the creations are so intricate and amazing you won’t believe they’re sand.
Memorials are fascinating and the kids can learn so much. There are different ones around to help us learn about and remember different wars and events. Many war memorials have special services on specific days each year. Find out when the ones in your area are on and go to them.
25. Government buildings
Not only can be they be very interesting but educational too. Most government buildings are free and often have extra activities for kids.
26. Mini golf in the backyard
Set up some obstacles, a cup on its side for the hole, and then each take turns.
27. Borrow a book on circus skills
Learn how to juggle or do tricks.
This is a great game for all ages. To play charades, you have to act out movie titles, songs and things without making a sound.
29. Scavenger hunt
Create a list of things to collect and bring back (or photograph if you don’t want to remove the items from where you found them). The person (or team) with the most items (or images) or who completes the hunt the fastest wins.
30. Garage/yard sale
Go to sales in your area, you never know what you might find.
31. Chalk drawings
All you need is some concrete and a pack of chalk to draw anything.
32. Outlet shopping
Set a limit then go to the outlets for new clothes and accessories. See who can get an entire new outfit for a set price.
33. Budget home make-over
Brainstorm about themes together then redecorate the kids rooms using things that you already have or have pulled from another room. Then repaint or sew to give the room a fresh look.
Go out as a family and take photos of each other or landscapes, anything.
35. Architectural tour
There are some amazing pieces of architecture around. You can look them up before you go so you can explain them to the family.
36. Swimming pool
A day at the pool is loved by everyone and is not usually expensive.
37. Drive-in movies
If you can find one, drive-in movies are so much cheaper than regular movies because they are charged per car and they usually have double features. If you look in your local area you might even get discount vouchers around school holidays.
38. Visit a flower show
There are many that are held regularly and the displays are amazing.
39. Take a ferry ride
40. Make wrapping paper
With some paint and butchers paper you can create lovely, unique wrapping paper.
41. Make play dough or create salt dough decorations
The recipes are easy to make and can be tailored to suit what you want to do using different colours.
42. Have an ‘old’ games night
Examples are: stick pulling, kick the can, hide and seek etc. Things that were played before TV.
43. Taffy pulling
This can be a little messy, but your kids will love it and it’s a lot of fun.
44. Watch an air show
45. Whale watching
If you live near a beach and go at the right time it is truly an amazing sight.
46. Flashlight tag
This is played at night with the children in the backyard lawn. All you need is a flashlight and for it to be dark. The kids run around and hide and you try to spot them with the flashlight or they can run around trying to get away from the light.
47. Make jam
We used to do this with our mum. We helped peel and chop fruit as well as label the jars. There are even easy microwave jam recipes now, so it can be quick.
48. Collect bugs
Collect bugs or catch and release them. The different types of insects are quite amazing and some are really pretty. This can also be an educational experience by looking up each insect you find.
Geocaching is worldwide and all you need is a GPS. People hide things, put the coordinates online, and then you can find and replace them.
50. Obstacle course
Set up an obstacle course in the backyard using anything you have see how creative you can get.
What are your favorite free or cheap family activities?