50 Frugal (mostly indoor) activities to do with your kids
Looking for ways to spend more quality time with your kids, one-on-one? I’ve pulled together 50 totally unique and creative ideas for building memories and bonding with your kids.
Of course, you don’t need to have an expensive outing to get a little quality time in. That’s why these ideas are all frugal or free.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclaimer.
Over time, I’ve found most lists like this seem to be written by someone who lives in perpetual summer.
Half of the activities on the lists are things like “go swimming!” and “feed the ducks at the pond!” Well, here in the Midwest, that is super for about five months of the year.
But, what about the other seven months spent in icy misery? I’ve got you covered. Most of these ideas can be done indoors.
- Tea party –
- Build a fort – All it takes is a few blankets, pillows and a great imagination to have tons of fun with this! Don’t forget to sneak a few books and snacks with you!
- Make a Craft – I love this list of kid-friendly crafts by Handmade Charlotte, like this DIY candy button slime.
- Give each other a makeover – let them give one another a makeover, or you can get involved to. Come prepared with a good sense of humor…and lots of makeup remover towelettes.
- Go on a road trip – whether you’re just exploring your nearby community or taking a road trip to visit friends or family, road trips can be an adventure in and of themselves with these fun tips and travel journal printables.
- Go on a hike – Travel somewhere scenic, or just explore a new part of the neighborhood. The important thing is to approach wherever you to with a sense of adventure to go new places and observe new things.
- Scavenger Hunt – whether you want to do an indoor scavenger hunt or explore your own backyard, there are loads of fun printables online for a fun activity to delight kids of all ages.
- Slumber Party – Think popcorn, pillow fights, staying up late, and snuggling up for a good movie. My girls loving having slumber parties together, right here at home.
- Game Night – In fact, any excuse for your kids to have your full attention on having fun with them is one they’ll gladly take up. We’re big fans of Goliath Games because they are fun enough for my oldest, and easy enough for my youngest to play together.
- Twinning – This may just be a girl thing, but my girls love finding things in all of our closets that will make us “matchy” for the day – even if it’s just a white t-shirt and a pair of jeans.
- Art class – Queue up a kid-friendly YouTube video to paint, draw or craft something special together. We’ve tried this with using acrylic paints, chalk pastels and DIY friendship bracelets and it’s always a hit!
- Make a care package
- Random Acts of Kindness – I’ve shared over the years how our family loves to carry out Random Acts of Kindness (ROAK). We tend to do this before Christmas, but any day is a good day to be kind. Get your free RAOK printables here.
- Go Camping – We don’t always get a chance to go camping in the summers, but we usually try to camp in the backyard at least once per summer. In the winter, why not camp out inside? Set up the tent, roast marshmallows in the microwave and camp under some glow in the dark stars.
- Backwards dinner – Dessert first? Yes, please. The kids will get a kick out of doing things backwards for a change!
- Museum – Most cities offer free days to check out the local museums. Sure, it’s more crowded, but will save you a bundle.
- Ninja Warrior – My kids love obstacle courses and watching them on TV. I love this DIY Ninja Warrior Course by We Heart Parties!
- Go swimming….in the tub – In the cold winter months, put on your sunnies and a swimsuit and enjoy the water! Don’t forget your beach toys! For extra fun, drop a blue bath bomb into the water.
- Indoor Beach Party – Same as above, only on dry land! Get out the kinetic sand to make sand castles. Then, use your imagination to get in a little beach time.
- Pet Store – First, visit your favorite local pet shop to ooh and aah over all the creatures. Then, come home and cut windows out of shoe boxes, fill them with your favorite stuffed animals, and stack them up to play pet store! Every pet shop needs an attentive vet, storekeeper and lots of customers to adopt their sweet pets. I love this cute idea by Inspiration Laboratories.
- Play Dress Up – Whether they are playing with their old Halloween costumes, or dressing up in your clothes, you can have a lot of fun with this one. Challenge each other to dress as a princess, dress as a cat or dog, then dress up like [insert occupation of choice].
- Wrap Up “Gifts” – All year long my kids get a kick out of finding things around the house to wrap up for each other. Decorate your own wrapping paper or upcycle gift bags and surprise each other for your pretend birthday or Christmas.
- Science Experiments – My kids are insatiable when it comes to science experiments and STEM activities. I love this Glow Galaxy Bottle by Kids Activities.
- Think In the Box – Use your imagination to upcycle cardboard boxes. I love this box upcycle castle project from Be A Fun Mum.And, isn’t this upcycled mailbox from Little Red Window totally cute, too? My kids would love to write and mail letters to one another.
- Dance Party – There are a slew of fun videos on YouTube for the ultimate at-home dance party, but we’re especially loving the GoNoodle app these days. My kids “GoNoodle” at school and love it, but especially love exploring even more of the fun dances and activities at home.
- Library – Print off these vintage style library cards to play library. We take turns setting up our library “just so” before we open it up to patrons. We like to use up those toy stamps we always seem to collect from goodie bags to use as our library stamp. Be careful! If your patrons don’t return their books in time, they need to pay off their fines by volunteering as the next librarian.
- Park – No matter the season, the park is always a good idea. In the winter, there are a whole new set of challenges to overcome – such as going down a slide covered in snow. Bonus – you often get the place all to yourselves. 🙂
- Upcycle – My girls would love this fun Ring Pop upcycle idea.
- Refashion – For the more crafty mommas, look around the house at old clothes, pillows, sheets or other textiles for a chance to make a fun refashion project. We made these matching pajama pants out of a single vintage flat sheet.
- Movie Night – Pop some popcorn, top with your favorite flavors and mix-ins, grab every pillow and blanket in the house, and snuggle up to watch a movie everyone can enjoy together.
- Start a Garden – No matter the season, you can make your own seed starters with just an egg carton, some soil and seeds. Green onions and beans make excellent ones to start with because they grow so quickly.
- Minute to Win It Games – we love dreaming up minute to win it contests as a family. There are endless games you can try, like stacking cups, shaking your tail (with ping pong balls) and blowing marshmallows across the table using a straw.
- Experience Other Countries – Since becoming an ESL teacher for VIPKid, I learned about a cool company that offers Mandarin lesson online. They offer a free trial lesson that my daughter took and absolutely loved! Take the experience up a notch by preparing Chinese cuisine at home to enjoy and learning about Chinese customs together. If you want to get some free classes you can use my referral code: KV5T37 at www.lingobus.com.
- Walk the Mall – There is always something to do or see for free at the mall. Whether it’s free samples at the candy store, building at the Lego Store or playing at the indoor play land.
- Home Depot – Your local Home Depot always has inexpensive or free activities to offer on the weekends.
- Visit your local FireHouse – Of course, with some discretion and reverence for their time, the local FireHouse would be an excellent activity for learning more about the brave individuals who help keep us safe. Bring them a card and a treat while you’re at it :).
- Sell books at Half Priced Books – and use the proceeds for a small treat.
- Volunteer – It can be as easy as re-stocking your local “little library” or you can go to your local shelter to volunteer to walk dogs for an afternoon. Anytime spent together helping others is a wonderful bonding experience you’ll always remember.
- Spa Day – Think cucumbers, facials and massages. Get comfy in your robes and relax with a little pampering. What could be better?
- Teddy Bear Birthday – Throw a party for your dolls or stuffed animals. My littlest and I once had a hot cocoa bar for our bunnies and bears, and she had a ball.
- Cupcake Wars – bake a recipe together (her choice!) and decorate a half a dozen each. For fun, go live on Facebook and ask friends and family to vote on their favorite cupcakes (which will most certainly be hers).
- Fixer Upper – Staying with the popular TV show theme, why not give her room a mini makeover? Nothing crazy – maybe move the bed to the other side of the room, swap out the comforter with another you already have in the linen closet, and hand draw a few fun posters to hang on the door with wall-safe tape. Be sure to take a photo of the before and after!
- Outdoor World – Every state has an outdoor world, like Bass Pro Shop or Cabela’s. These stores are is huge and designed for the customer experience in mind. You’ll find huge fish tanks where they do regular feedings that you can watch, and there are usually free family events on the weekends or holidays. They often have fishing lessons, and a fun laser shooting game. A couple of those cost money – but are very affordable if you choose to do that!
Okay, you can see I fell short of the promised 50 date ideas. So, now it’s your turn! What fun ideas do you have for free (or nearly free) date ideas with your kids? Bonus points if they can be done during the dead of winter! And….go!