15 Free Family Activities That Feel Priceless

Family cooking

Keeping the gang entertained day in and day out can run a parent dry on energy and funds. You need a solid list of fun activities that will leave the kids smiling and your wallet full. These fifteen free family activities are excellent ways to spend time together without dropping a single cent.

Free Things to Do for Families

Look for new and creative activities to try at home or in your neighborhood. With teamwork and family brain power, you can make memories for all that won't cost a dollar. If you head out around town, walk or ride bikes so your fun can be truly frugal.

Become Citizen Scientists

Look for a local or regional opportunity to collect data and serve as honorary scientists on a real research project. Decide on a project together that you are all passionate about, and devote your time to it. Kids love to be helpful and useful, and learning is so much more enjoyable when you are doing it with the ones you love.

  • Zooniverse.org features nearly 100 active projects in categories like arts, history, biology, and climate.
  • For projects with a broader scope, CitizenScience.gov offers opportunities to participate in projects with the Federal government.
  • At SciStarter, you can find projects related to ecology and the environment for specific regions, or projects that can be completed from any location.

Create a Recycling Masterpiece

If your home is like most, then your recycling bin is always stacked to the brim. Use what you had planned on tossing out to create a masterpiece. Have members of your family work in teams (or individually if you have a small family) to create a robot, a building, or a sculpture from items in the recycling bin. Provide glue, masking tape, and art supplies like paint and markers to finish off the creations. Give out homemade awards for:

  • The Most Creative Creation
  • The Funniest Creation
  • The Most Artistic Creation
  • Best Teamwork

Enjoy an Art Class Together

Find materials around your house, like cardboard or large pieces of paper for each person's canvas, and gather up the paintbrushes and paint. Search YouTube to find tutorials on how to draw specific objects. Hosts like The Art Sherpa post tutorials for beginners with images like lilacs in a Mason Jar or a rainbow willow tree. Pop the video on the screen while everyone channels their inner artist.

Brother and sister learn painting at home

What's in the Kitchen Cook-Off

Break your gang up into two teams. Each team has a slated amount of time to use what they can find in the refrigerator, kitchen, and garden to create a unique and inspiring meal. Families can create whatever guidelines and rules they choose for this fun activity. If you don't want your kids concocting a mountain of sugary snacks and calling it good, make a rule that the dish they design must be healthy. If you don't want them using every single thing you have in the name of fun, put a five ingredient rule on the challenge.

After setting the rules, tell teams that they will be awarded points for:

  • Teamwork
  • Taste
  • Visual appeal
  • Creativity

The best part of this activity is that everything becomes a snack or a meal when the game is done.

Host a Movie Night or Day

Shut the shades and get into jammies in the middle of the day. Make some specialty popcorn or the good old fashion stuff on the stove and host a movie day. Pick a movie that the entire family will enjoy. Choose something you already have on DVD but have not watched in ages, a new movie that you have yet to introduce the kids to, or a reliable classic film. If you are doing this activity near the holidays, pick a Christmas movie and make this free family activity a holiday tradition.

Kids watching a home movie while eating popcorn

Build a Dress-Up Box

This is a great family activity for young kids who love to spend some time in the Land of Pretend. Assemble a dress-up box to help inspire your kids' young imaginations. Go through your old clothes and Grandma and Grandpa's no longer used items to see what you can add to the box. Once the box is packed full of items, have your kids dress up in various garb and then model their creations for you. Snap some pictures and show the kids what they look like.

Create a Scavenger Hunt for the Whole Gang

If you have a family who prefers to stay indoors all day long, create a fun activity that will leave them begging to get outdoors and into the fresh air. Outdoor and nature scavenger hunts offer entertaining and active ways to get everyone thinking and moving under the open sky. You will need to create a scavenger hunt meant for the outdoors, give kids rules and boundaries for the game, and then set off to see who can complete the list of tasks. Use a scavenger hunt template to set up the game and tailor the clues for children or teens, depending on who participates.

Build a Reading Tent

Combine two important parenting activities here: playing with your kid, and fostering their creative genius by enhancing their reading skills. Build a reading tent in your child's room with items you likely have lying around your abode. Use sheets, chip clips, couch cushions, pillows, and other materials to make a tent. If you have fairy lights, string those through the tent for whimsical illumination. If you have a camping lantern or flashlights in the house, use those to light up the tent's interior. Bring in books and have a reading marathon.

Grandmother reading book to her grandmother in a tent

Go Picnicking

Creating a picnic experience for the family is a fun and free way to jazz up mealtime. Pack up your favorite picnic snacks and head out to a riverside park or a local nature preserve. Set out your picnic blanket and spread the day's picnic menu out. Be sure to pack a hacky sack, frisbee, or other picnic-friendly games to keep the kids entertained after the meal. Consider bringing along a couple of good family reads to end the picnic with.

Mother and child having a picnic

Have a Family and Friends Talent Show

Sometimes you have to spend a day letting your hair down and getting goofy with the kids. Gather up some friends and family and host a talent show. Use a porch or a back deck as center stage, and set up folding chairs for audience members. Everyone gets an hour to work on their special talent. If you have a large group of participants, allow some family and friends to work in teams. When it's time to take the stage, have everyone show off their special talent. This activity is all about the bonding, the smiles, and the giggles.

Free and Unique Family Games

Add some competitive flair to your family time with one of these fun and totally free games.

Play Junk Drawer Flip

For this game, each family member or team of family members gets a messy space to reinvent. Choose the kitchen junk drawer, a bedroom closet, or a toy area to work on. Set a timer and have the family go to task with their space. Clean it up, reorganize it and overhaul it. This is one of those challenges that is so fun that kids won't even notice that you actually put them to work.

Host a Family Lawn Game Tournament

Invite neighborhood families to compete in a lawn game tournament where each family is a team. Great outdoor games for a tournament include:

Playing cornhole with family
  • Cornhole
  • Ladder Ball
  • Spike Ball
  • Can Jam
  • Kick the Can
  • Bocce Ball
  • A DIY obstacle course
  • Potato Sack Races and other lawn races

Talk to your neighbors. Chances are that between all of your families, everyone has at least one lawn game or materials for a lawn game to contribute to the cause.

Make a Life-Size Game Board

Use chalk on the driveway or spray paint in the yard to make a life-size replica of your chosen game board. Family members can be the game pieces for some games, and for other games, you might need to use objects found around the house like balls, frisbees, or seat cushions. Games that work great include Hop Scotch, Checkers, Chess, and Tic Tac Toe.

Family playing giant chess

Play Progressive Hide and Seek

Whether you're stuck indoors or can use the backyard, hide and seek is fun at any age. In progressive hide and seek, the person who is "It" is joined by each person they find, and all can help look for the remaining players. The trick is, all "Its" have to be together for a player to be found.

Family Charades

Charades is a fun and free game that people of all ages can play. You can create holiday versions of the classic games or specific versions, like animal charades or celebrity charades, for kids with specific likes and preferences. Watching Grandma act like an elephant or dad dance like Michael Jackson will have the entire family rolling with laughter.

Family playing charades

Be Free Together

Families can bond over any activity, even those that don't cost a dime. Make some fun for your family any time, any place by thinking outside the box and discovering ways to find free family fun.

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15 Free Family Activities That Feel Priceless