Having fun with your kids shouldn’t put a dent in your wallet.
Money should be an afterthought when it comes to family time.
However, prices for common family activities are going through the roof:
- Movies: $40-50 (for tickets only)
- Baseball Game: $200+
- Bowling: $50 per hour
Those estimates are based on a family of four and are actually on the low end depending on where you live in the country.
No wonder why some parents prefer to let their kids spend all day in their rooms playing with their gadgets.
Things shouldn’t be this way and you should be spending as much time with your kids as possible.
Having fun with your kids should be very high on your priorities list and money shouldn’t get in the way.
That is why I have put together this list of 101 ways to have fun with your kids for free or cheap.
Let’s dive right in.
- Go on an exploring mission
Don’t tell your kids “let’s go for a walk.” Avoid the crazy look and take them on an exploration mission around your neighborhood or any part of your city for that matter.
2. Have a reading marathon
Gather your kids and read a book or magazine that interests them. Make it fun by taking timeouts to discuss what was just read.
3. Go on a hiking adventure
This is probably one of the most fun activities you can do with your kids regardless of how adventurous you are — they’ll love it.
4. Ride bikes together
Kids love to ride bikes so if your bike is in the garage collecting dust, take it out and have fun with your kids.
5. Play board games
There are millions of board games to choose from so you could have a vote and decide which one to play on a given day.
Below is a list of some popular ones if you aren’t sure what to go for:
6. Play kickball
Kids love kicking stuff so what could be more fun for them then kicking a ball around?
7. Go to a playground
Too tired to chase your kids around but still want to have fun with them? Take them to a playground and watch them run around for a change.
8. Play hide-and-seek
I have yet to run into a kid who doesn’t love playing hide-and-seek. Try this activity as a family and I am sure you won’t regret it.
9. Make pancakes
One of my fondest memory as a kid was the first time I made pancakes with my stepdad. If you don’t like pancakes think of something simple that you can make with your kids.
10. Paint or draw together
Get your kid’s creative juices pumping by painting or drawing things like animals, cars, or people.
11. Have a sunset picnic
Go to the beach or drive down the nearest park and have a sunset picnic with your kids.
12. Write stories together
You’d be surprised by the things your kids can come up with if you encourage them to write stories.
13. Play frisbee
Some family sporting activities have a high cost of entry, but playing frisbee isn’t one of them. You can pick up a pack of 12 flying disks for under $15.
14. Go on a treasure hunt
Go on a treasure hunt around the house, neighborhood, or park. See who can find the most interesting treasure.
15. Play Baseball
I love baseball so I couldn’t leave it off this list. Go to a park or out on the backyard and play catch with your kids. See who can hit the ball the furthest or who has the best arm.
16. Have a pillow fight
Free, fun, and from the comforts of your bed. What more could you ask for?
17. Shoot hoops
Buy a small hoop or go to your nearest public basketball court and have fun shooting hoops with your kids.
18. Have a staring contest
Stare at each other and see who blinks first. Make sure you let them win from time to time :).
19. Make up a language
Have a conversation in a made-up language. You can try doing this in public places if you want to up the fun meter.
20. Rent a movie and make popcorn
You can watch a movie on Netflix and make popcorn, but this works best if you go to your nearest Redbox and pick a movie together. It’s more fun that way.
21. Go for a long drive
Pack some snacks and go for a drive. No need to have a predetermined destination just make sure to leave all electronics behind. You can sing, tell stories, or play games.
22. Have a singing contest
You can use a karaoke machine or just sing away to see who is the best singer in the family.
23. Play thumb war
Kids love playing thumb war, but you have to let them win some times or else they’ll feel helpless.
24. Have a dance-off
Slip into your dancing shoes, put on some lively music and see who has the better moves.
25. Play Tic-tac-toe
Families have been having fun playing this game for hundreds of years — give it a shot and see if your kids like it.
26. Build sandcastles
If you live near a beach, this is one of the most entertaining activities you can do with your kids.
27. Play card games
28. Create a blog together
Create a blog with your kids and write about all the fun things you do as a family. This works best if they can write as you can let them join in on the writing process.
29. Make movies or funny videos
Use your phone to make movies or funny videos together.
30. Visit an animal shelter
Find your nearest animal shelter and go for a visit with your kids. Explain to them why they exist and volunteer to help with chores if your kids are old enough.
31. Play Jenga
This game is addictive so set aside ample time if you plan on playing this with your kids.
32. Go to the library
Libraries aren’t just about books nowadays. Take your kids to your local library and unlock a world of fun.
33. Create a scrapbook
Preserve your family history by creating a scrapbook with your kids. Don’t put any restrictions on what they would like to put in it.
34. Go on an after school date
Think of any fun activity that you can do after school with your kids once a week. Change the day and activity to keep it fresh.
35. Become a scientist
Purchase a kids science kit or search on Youtube for “easy science experiments” and amaze your kids with your scientific prowess.
36. Garden together
If you have a garden or have space for one go outside with your kids and have fun gardening together.
37. Make puzzles or mazes
Start off by making a puzzle for them to solve. Once they finish solving it, tell them to make one for you to solve.
38. Have a lemon-and-spoon race
The idea of this game is to go from the start line to the finish line with a lemon balanced on a spoon that is held between your teeth without dropping the lemon or touching the spoon. If your lemon falls, you have to start from the beginning.
39. Become Santa
Go to a thrift shop or any store of your liking and give each of your kids five dollars. The idea here is to buy a gift for each other that carries a cost of under five bucks.
40. Buy popsicles
Hot summer days are great for this. Wait for the ice-cream truck to come around and buy some popsicles.
41. Go to a pool
Assuming you don’t have a pool in your backyard, find a public one near you and have fun with your kids on a hot summer day.
42. Create a treasure hunt
Leave clues around the house that guide them towards the hidden treasures.
43. People watch
Go to a busy public place and start making up imaginary stories about people.
44. Raise baby chicks
If you have space for it, your kids will love it. Find a local farm that will sell you a few baby chicks or buy them online.
Build your own chicken coop to save on cost and make sure you have the time to properly care for them with your kids before doing so.
Buy good egg layers if you wish to harvest eggs. Click here for a short tutorial on how to properly care for baby chicks.
45. Set up a hammock and relax
Set up a hammock with your kids, make some lemonade and relax.
46. Visit family or friends
Do your kids like hanging out with a particular member of your family? If so, call them and set up a visit.
47. Play video games together
If your kids already have a video game console spend an hour with them playing their favorite video game.
48. Learn magic tricks
Youtube is a great place to find video tutorials of magic tricks you can learn with your kids.
49. Decorate the kids’ room
You can set up a growth chart, paint it, or just let them decorate as they wish.
50. Make milkshakes
Who doesn’t love a refreshing mouthwatering milkshake? If you don’t know how to make them, here is a great recipe by Amanda Formaro.
51. Play freeze tag
Give your kids an excuse to run around and they’ll be all over it. Have fun as a family playing freeze tag.
52. Go camping
You don’t necessarily have to drive hundreds of miles to go camping. Have a backyard campout instead.
53. Start an ant farm
Purchase an ant habitat kit and start your family’s first ant farm with your kids.
54. Write letters to family
Grab a pen and paper and start writing letters to your loved ones.
55. Create a backyard wildlife habitat
56. Declutter your house
Don’t “clean” as no one enjoys cleaning. Play the minimalist game — have each member of the family pick 1 item to give away. On the following weekend, have everyone gather 2 items to giveaway and so on.
Who can last the longest? Who is the most charitable? Make it fun and your kids will love it.
57. Host a garage sale
Alternately, you can box up the items from your minimalist game and organize a garage sale once the game is finished. You can use the proceeds to organize other fun family activities or to give away to a charity of your kids’ choosing.
58. Fly kites
Go to the park and fly kites together.
59. Start a collection
You can collect rocks, stamps, coins, etc. — let your imagination run wild. You could also try some of Sharon Williams’s ideas.
60. Create a secret handshake
Sit down with your kids and have fun creating your very secret handshake. Don’t cheat by looking up cool handshakes on youtube — make it your own.
61. Create a RAOK day
RAOK (Random Act of Kindness). Choose a day each month in which you and your kids must do a RAOK. Can be anything from donating a dollar to a homeless person, to opening a door for a complete stranger.
You have to eat something… why not cook up a storm with your kids out in the barbecue pit?
63. Have a water balloon fight
You can make this a summertime tradition with your kids. You could even invite the neighbors to double the fun.
64. Create an obstacle course
Burite Efe created an amazing guide on easy obstacle courses for kids. Try them or make your own and have fun with your family.
65. Paint each other’s faces
Pick up a face painting kit and enjoy seeing what your kids can come up with. Have your phone nearby to take pictures to add to your scrapbook.
66. Play horseshoes
Use rubber horseshoes for safety purposes.
67. Roast marshmallows
Go out on the backyard and roast marshmallows with your kids. Tell stories, listen to music, or make fun of each other while doing so.
68. Compete in a three-legged race
This is best played with at least four people.
Have two partners stand shoulder to shoulder and gently tie their inside legs together. Designate a starting line and a finish line and see how quickly the teams can run the race!
For alternate fun ideas for your three-legged race read the following article by Victoria Georgoff.
69. Have a dance-off
Want to have fun with your kids for free? Crank up the music and see who has the best moves.
70. Have a gunfight
Grab several foam dart guns and see who is the Rambo of your family.
71. Decorate a pair of jeans
Grab an old pair of jeans and let your kids decorate them. You must wear them, take a picture, and add it to your scrapbook.
72. Explore your yard and look for insects
See who can find the largest variety of insects. If you chose to do the gardening activity, you can combine the two from time to time.
73. Make weird noises
See who can make the weirdest noises or just have fun seeing who can scream the loudest.
74. Skip rocks together
Go to your nearest lake or river and have fun skipping rocks with your kids. You could try fishing as well while you are at it.
75. Play Hacky Sack
76. Play darts
Set up your magnetic dartboard inside or outside and have fun trying to hit the bullseye with your kids.
77. Do shadow puppets
Learn how to make shadow puppets with your kids. Go to Youtube and do a search for shadow puppets to get some additional ideas.
78. Go to a community concert
Many communities hold free open-air concerts. They’re often held in a local park, so you can take a picnic basket and enjoy some live music with the whole family.
Check your local newspaper or do a search on Google for free concerts in your area.
79. Visit a fire station
Most local fire stations run tours for interested families. Call your nearest fire station and check with them. Even if they don’t normally do tours, they might be willing to let you and your family drop by and see how they operate.
80. Visit a museum
Many museums offer free family days or heavily discounted passes during specific times of the year. Keep your eyes open and enjoy a family day at the museum.
81. Go on a “litter clean-up” walk
Put on a pair of gloves and go on a stroll through your community with a trash bag in hand and pick up any garbage that you find.
Make it fun by seeing who can fill up their trash bag first — its nice exercise and helps make your neighborhood look better.
82. Have a paper airplane contest
Give everyone a few sheets of paper and have them engineer several planes. Once finished, have a flying contest.
83. Blow bubbles
Regardless of which route you decide to take, once your bubbles are ready, enjoy blowing them with your kids.
84. Make mud pies
85. Do family yoga
I didn’t know there was such a thing as yoga poses for kids, but if you enjoy yoga try some of these poses out with your kids.
86. Go to a building workshop
If your kids love building things, Home Depot hosts a series of on-site building workshops for kids of all ages. These workshops are free and open to the public.
Visit the link above and see when the next workshop around your area is and have fun building new things with your kids.
87. Create a time capsule
Learn how to create a time capsule and create one with your kids. Have fun deciding what to put in it and choosing a date for when to open it.
88. Build Legos together
Legos can get expensive if you aren’t careful. Below is a list of cheap Legos to play around with as a family:
- LEGO Classic Medium: $27.99
- LEGO Hidden Side: $23.99
- LEGO City Ice-Cream: $19.95
- LEGO Speed Champions: $12.93
89. Take turns saying tongue twisters
Tongue twisters can be a fun way to help your kids with pronunciations. Here is a nice list to play around with.
90. Learn to juggle
Don’t know how to juggle? Follow Elizabeth’s step-by-step guide on learning how to juggle with your kids.
Once your kids master this skill, have them perform in front of other people.
91. Make prank calls
If your kids have a good relationship with their grandparents, prank calling them using disguise voices can be a blast.
92. Volunteer as a family
Go to volunteermatch.org and find volunteering opportunities that you can do as a family.
93. Play Hopscotch
Go outside and have fun with your kids playing hopscotch.
94. Name the stars
If you understand the constellations teach your kids about it, but if you don’t just go outside and have fun naming each star. Make sure they make a wish if they see a shooting star.
95. Become a hairstylist
Let your kids style your hair and vice versa. Enjoy seeing what kinds of funky hairstyles your kids come up with.
96. Visit a garden
Many local communities have public gardens that you can visit with your kids. Ask around or visit the American Public Gardens Association website to find the nearest public garden near you.
97. Visit a historical landmark
Instead of just telling your kids about the history of their surroundings, take them to historical landmarks around the area and learn about them as a family.
98. Visit a farmer’s market
You have to go grocery shopping anyway, so break your routine and take your kids to your local farmer’s market and pick out fresh fruits and veggies with them.
You might actually get them to enjoy eating veggies if they pick them out.
99. Play in the rain
Be spontaneous — next time it starts raining go out and have fun with your kids playing in the rain.
100. Visit a fish hatchery
Get your kids ready and visit your nearest fish hatchery to view the operations and learn about fish.
101. Do activities 1-100
Nelson Mandela once said:
History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children.
Love your kids and spend as much time with them as possible.
Use the free and cheap activities listed in this article to have fun with them.
Make it a priority to put a smile on your kids’ faces and they will thank you forever.
This book is full of games that bring people together for hours of hilarious, interactive, technology-free fun that requires virtually nothing more than pens and paper.
This book contains over 50 card games organized by type and difficulty, and complete with instructions, rules, strategies, color illustrations, and a brief note on each one’s origins.
I haven’t used this book, but have heard great things about it and the title alone seems like it can be a ton of fun.
Do you have any suggestions that should be added to this list?