There’s nothing quite like spending too much time cooped up inside the house with your children to push all of you to the edge of sanity. However, if finances are tight, it doesn’t always seem like the best idea to go out and about. Here are 15 ideas for FREE activities that you can do with your children to get you all out of the house. Now that the weather is getting nicer and daylight hours are longer, it’s the perfect time to change your reclusive habits and go explore.
1. Do yard work or garden together
Okay, so maybe this one doesn’t sound like much fun to you, but we promise your little one will have a great time! Even if you don’t actually get any leaves cleaned up or plant any flowers, letting your child dig around in the dirt for a while will get them a healthy dose of fresh air and pass some serious time. You don’t need to invest in fancy kids gardening toys, either – give your child a spoon, a spatula, a toy rake, or even a measuring cup and let them have at it!
2. Visit a local plant nursery
A trip to the nursery can be a great educational experience at no cost to you (unless of course you decide to spend a few bucks on some flowers that you and your kiddo can plant when you get home). Explore the rows of pretty flowers, asking your child which ones they like best, and teach them that plants are living, growing things.
3. Have a family car wash
If the weather is nice, get everyone outside to wash the family car(s). Sure, it sounds like a chore to many, but your little ones will not be disappointed and could actually end up being quite helpful. Fill a bucket with soapy water, get out the hose, and be prepared for a fun family water fight!
4. Find a park you’ve never been to before
Are you sick of going to the same local park or mall play area just to get the kids out of the house for a while? Well, why not mix it up a little bit and take a drive to somewhere you’ve never been? Pack up a picnic lunch and try the park across town for a change. Create a memorable day just by breaking up the normal routine a little bit.
5. Send the kids on a nature scavenger hunt
If you live near a park, a nature preserve, or even if you just have a really nice big backyard, this is the perfect free outdoor activity to fill an hour or two of your day. All you need to do is make up a checklist of items for your children to look for. If you have multiple kids who are a little bit older, you can pit them against each other to see who can find the most things in a certain amount of time. For little ones, you can explore with them or work in a group to find as many items as you can.
Ideas for your Nature Scavenger Hunt list
- A flower
- 2 different leaves
- Something alive
- A duck
- Something that flies
- A rock
- Something brown
- Something slimy
- A bug
- A stick
- Something long
- Something tall
Get creative and come up with ideas based on the area you will be visiting and the ages of your kids. Also, a simple internet search for “free nature scavenger hunt lists” turns up tons of free printables ready for you to use!
6. Field trip to the police or fire station
Gather a group of your friends and their children and call up your local police or fire station to arrange a free tour. Many will be happy to oblige if you are open to coming at a time that is convenient for them. This is a great opportunity for the kids to learn about safety and they will get a kick out of being able to sit in a real fire truck or police car!
7. Go to an airport and watch the planes land and take off
Something that seems so ordinary to us can stir up a world of fascination for our children. Surrounding many airports there are parking lots or streets that offer a great view of the planes taking off and landing so you don’t even need to get out of the car. Pack up lunch or some snacks and enjoy some time of relaxation while your kids are in awe.
8. Create an outdoor obstacle course
This activity takes a little bit of planning and prep, but is sure to create a fun memory for your kids while burning off some serious energy! Gather items you can find around your house to set up an obstacle course in the backyard or at a nearby park. Don’t forget to time the kids to see how fast they can make it through and then challenge them to better their time!
Easy obstacle course ideas
- Rolled up towels or blankets for hurdles
- A jump rope or hose for a tightrope to walk on
- A plank of wood as a balance beam
- A broomstick over two chairs to crawl under
- Stuffed animals set up to weave around
- Hula hoops to jump in and out of
9. Look for pictures in the clouds
Don’t you remember doing this as a kid? Well, why not introduce yours to some simple and fun cloud watching. Pick a day with blue skies and fluffy clouds, spread out a blanket, and listen to their imaginations run wild.
10. Visit a pet store
Take your little one out to the local pet store and watch them ooh and aah over the small fuzzy rodents, observe the colorful fish, and beg for that adorable fuzzy puppy or kitten. Sure, it may not be as exciting as an expensive trip to the zoo, but your kids will still love it!
11. Story time at the Library or Bookstore
Let someone else do the reading and enjoy some time out of the house at a local story time book reading. Most libraries offer story times throughout the week (check your local library’s website) and many bookstores, including Barnes & Noble, also have free story time for your kids to attend. Just check your local listings.
12. Free Kids Workshops
On the first Saturday of each month The Home Depot offers free kids workshops in store for children ages 5-12 with a variety of hands-on crafts, like building their very own flower planters that they get to keep. You can register for these events online. Lowe’s also offers similar free “build and grow” workshops for kids that you can register for online. Michaels craft stores also hosts a variety of half hour artsy activities for your children to enjoy for just $2.
13. Free Local Events
Your local Chamber of Commerce or Parks & Recreation Department can be a great resource for free events and activities for kids in your area. Sign up for newsletters or keep tabs on their websites. For example, you could learn about fun art festivals with lots of free kid activities, free concerts, free outdoor movies, or holiday celebrations that aren’t typically advertised.
14. Free Bowling
Check out the Kids Bowl Free website and register your child for free summer bowling at hundreds of participating bowling alleys across the U.S. and Canada. Kids Bowl Free is a program designed by bowling centers as a way to give back to the community and offer safe and fun entertainment for kids. Exclusions and limitations may apply depending on your local bowling alley’s participation, so check out the website.
15. Go Geocaching
Finally, a fun and free activity for the older kids! Geocaching is a real world treasure hunt in which you use a GPS-enabled device to navigate to specific GPS coordinates and locate a hidden container (the “geocache”) at that site. You can get involved in the fun being had by over 6 million people worldwide and learn more by visiting the official Geocaching website.