10 Cheap or FREE Things to Do with Kids

Spring is just a couple days away and I’m getting excited for the summer! I’ve been accused of being “That Mom” most of my mom life. You know the one… the one that spends time with their kids. We play games, enjoy time outside and occasionally do arts and crafts. I’ve never been quite sure why other moms think this is a bad thing…

My husband and I spend time with our kids each day eating dinner as a family, and enjoying some family time after dinner. We also have an official Friday Night Family Night each week. I’ve learned over the years, our kids want us involved in their life. We don’t need to spend a lot of money entertaining them; we just need to enjoy the time we spend together.

I’m a fairly frugal mom. I’m always trying to cut costs while still having fun. Below are 10 things we do as a family that are cheap, or even free! These are certified kid approved, and perfect for a family trying to stay on budget.

Board Games

Trouble and Homemade Ice Cream Sundaes After Dinner!

Our favorite past time is playing a board game. Depending on the amount of time we have after dinner, we may play a simple game like Trouble or Chutes and Ladders. If it’s a weekend and we have more time we’ll play Scrabble or Monopoly. Either way, it ensures you spend time as a family… and it’s free.

Play H-O-R-S-E

We enjoy a quick game of basketball or H-O-R-S-E after dinner. It’s free for us to play basketball; we installed a basketball hoop at our house and have a ball. If you don’t have a basketball hoop at home, go to a local park or the YMCA. Both options are free, plus you get some exercise in!

Bike Ride

Enjoying a Neighborhood Bike Ride in the Evening!

Over time we’ve purchased bikes for all five of us. We now enjoy bike rides whenever possible. Frequently we ride our bikes to the local ice cream shop on the weekend, or on a warm evening. A junior ice cream cone costs $1 at McDonalds, that’s only $5 for our family, and it occupies the kids for an hour.You could also skip the ice cream, and ride around the neighborhood. It’s still fun, and it would be free.

Outdoor Movie

Outdoor Movie on the “Big Screen”

One of my favorite things to do in the summer is an outdoor movie. Several years ago we purchased a projection screen, and we have a lot of kid and family movies. We’ll set up the projector and put in a movie on a Saturday night. Pop some popcorn, or roast S’mores in the fire pit, and it’s the perfect summer activity! If you don’t have a projector screen, hang a white sheet – it works just as well.


Roasting Marshmallows and Hot Dogs by the Fire

When we moved into our new house, we built our own fire pit in the backyard. It was easy and cheap thanks to Pinterest. Now, we build a fire, set up chairs, and roast hot dogs and S’mores as the sun is setting. After dark the kids will catch fireflies or play with sparklers until it’s time to come inside.

Dog Park

Wearing out Dogs and Kids at the Local Dog Park

We have a crazy beagle that needs to get his energy out. We’ll pack up the three kids and three dogs, and drive to the local dog park in the evening or on the weekend. Trust me… the kids’ love running with the dogs and trying to decide what breed each dog is. It’s free to go to the dog park, and we usually spend an hour or two there.


Fishing on a Saturday Afternoon!

One of the things I miss most about our old house is the pond. We used to be able to walk three feet from our fence and fish in the pond behind our house. We would spend all day fishing on Saturday. The kids would find worms, and then fish until the worms were gone. We have several ponds near our new house, so we can drive to fish. Not as convenient as a pond in the backyard, but still fun and free!

Go Creekin’

Getting our Feet Wet and Creekin’ Trying to Catch Frogs

Our kids can spend hours at the creek trying to catch fish and frogs. We load a beach bag with nets, a bucket, and pack a lunch. Then we ride our bike to the nearest park with a creek. We’ll spend time in the creek, play at the playground, and eat a picnic lunch at the park. This is a full day activity. Trust me, the kids are tired after this one! It’s free, and a lot of fun.

Dance Night

If the kids are particularly feisty one evening, but it’s raining or cold out, we’ll wear them out with a dance night. We push the furniture to the walls, roll up the rug, and dance in the living room. Daddy usually picks the music (some funky 80’s) and we’ll jump around for an hour. Again, it’s free, wears the kids out, and it’s fun. Just get silly and have a good time!

The dollar theater

Once a month we take the kids to the movies. It’s not always the dollar theater; sometimes if it’s a movie we really want to see we’ll go to a regular theater for a matinee. However, usually we do the dollar theater. It’s cheap, and the kids don’t mind seeing an older movie. Our dollar theater is really nice and clean, plus I can get vouchers for $5 off concessions through Disney Movie Club.

I’ve found with kids it doesn’t matter what you’re doing, as long as you’re engaged and having fun. Our kids don’t care about the money that’s spent, as long as we are with them. These options fit into our tight budget, and allow us to do something with the kids several times each week.


Are you ever accused of being “That Mom”? How do you fit time in with your kids? What activities do you enjoy that are free or cheap? Share in the comments below!


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