20 Ways to Entertain Your Kids for Free

By Ashley Marcin on 15 October 2014 1 comment

If you've ever been stuck wondering what to do with your kids on the weekend, this list is for you. You don't need to spend a dime to entertain your family and bond in the process. Sometimes the best things in life really are free! (See also: 47 cheap, Fun Things to Do This Weekend)

1. Visit Your Library

We frequent our local library at least every week for free storytimes. Plus, you can pick up books, DVDs, and other materials to entertain your child for free. Many libraries also arrange toys in their children's section, and it's a great place to meet other parents to set up play-dates.

2. Check the Community Calendar

While you're at the library, check your local paper (or click online) and any bulletin boards for any and all events going on in your area. Very often colleges, universities, and other community centers will host family events that are free and open to the public.

3. Crash Store Events

Sometimes book stores, grocery stores, craft stores, toy stores, and other merchants will host free activities. More often than not, these events are intended to get you to come into the store and buy things. So, consider leaving your cash and cards at home and sticking to the zero dollar budget.

4. Make Cookies

Spend a Saturday afternoon in and use your baking powers to mix up a big batch of sugar cookies. Take your time and cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Then frost them. Get artistic. Encourage your child to take the lead. Small activities can turn into big learning experiences.

5. Play Games

Start a weekly tradition of playing board games with your kids. I've seen games that allow kids as young as three to participate. You can also try charades with older kids, and a deck of cards is useful in a pinch.

6. Camp at Home

Skip all the site fees and other camping costs and set up the family tent in your backyard. What I love about backyard camping is that you don't necessarily have to sleep outdoors to enjoy all the fun. And you can fire up the grill for a good old fashioned cookout! (See also: This Is How You Grill Pizza At Home)

7. Create a Sensory Bin

The youngest children get a kick out of homemade sensory bins. Fill a shallow plastic container (choose one with a top) with rice, corn kernels, uncooked noodles, and anything else that boasts some interesting texture. It's like a cleaner version of a sandbox that you can play with indoors.

8. Visit Museums on Free Days

Many museums are either free or donation-only. Those that do charge admission sometimes have admission-free days each month or season. Check the museum's website or call ahead for more information.

9. Reuse Cardboard Boxes

Take all the cardboard boxes you intend to recycle and turn them into something great. You can make race cars, boats, robots, and even entire houses! We often do our grocery shopping at Aldi and use the boxes they stock to transport our food home. Our daughter gets hours of enjoyment! (See also: What You Should Never Buy From Aldi)

10. Build a Library

Have you heard of Little Free Libraries? They are tiny "houses" you place books into for your neighbors to borrow. (They can leave books for you to read, too!) If this concept sounds cool to you, take a weekend to build and decorate a structure. Then identify a few old books on your shelf that you'd be willing to share. (See also: Free Books: Little Libraries That Build Community)

11. Melt Crayons

Take all those odds and ends of your child's crayons and turn them into neat shapes with swirled colors. You just preheat your oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, place crayons in a silicone mold, and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool completely before using.

12. Ride a Bike

Head to a local park or hit the sidewalks for a family bike ride. You can have a destination in mind, like a playground, or just wander the streets. Sometimes you'll discover more free things to do — street performers, festivals, neighborhood gatherings — on the go.

13. Rake Leaves

It may seem like a chore at first, but getting the whole family involved with raking leaves will get the job done faster. Or maybe not. Half the fun of completing this chore with your kids is jumping in them. Make sure you drink a warm mug of cider when you're done.

14. Use Perks

If you have store or restaurant loyalty cards, take a weekend and use as many free meals, ice creams, pizzas, doughnuts, and whatever else you've earned. I like to store my coupons and cards in a plastic zip pocket inside a three-ring binder. That way, I don't lose anything and can quickly check there before heading out the door.

15. Go Geocaching

Take your family on a real life treasure hunt using your GPS device. You'll navigate to specific coordinates and look for clues to get you to your next destination. Little explorers are sure to love this activity.

16. Create a Home Theater

Save yourself the high ticket and concessions costs and watch a movie at home. Make it legit! Have the whole family wear their pajamas, pop some popcorn in your microwave, and turn out all the lights. You can even make it a double feature for the same $0.00 price tag.

17. Walk in Nature

Grab a bag or container and head into your backyard or local hiking trail. Have your child collect small plants, leaves, nuts, flowers, and any other natural treasures. Then bring them home and identify them. Your little scientist might also like to make his or her own terrarium and add to the collections as weeks go on.

18. Party at the Beach

Well, now that the weather is getting colder, you won't go to the actual beach. Instead, have an indoor beach party. Turn the thermostat up a degree, fill up the tub with water and some floatation devices, and have you kid put on his or her swimsuit. You can lay out on the living room floor, pack and indoor picnic, and slip into your sandals.

19. Craft

You don't need an expensive subscription service to do crafts with your kids. Gather up all your crayons, markers, glues, glitters, stickers, pipe cleaners, and other supplies and create DIY Craft Kits. Whatever you group together doesn't have to make anything specific. The magic is in the creativity.

20. Host a Sleepover

Invite a couple of your child's friends over for a sleepover using some of the activities above. You can make homemade pizza versus getting takeout. Play hide-and-seek with flashlights. Build forts. Play board games. If you kid is a little too young for a whole night, make it an afternoon!

Any fun, free ways to keep the kids entertained that we forgot? Let us know below!

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Guest's picture

Great list! My boys are a little older 11 & 13. So we have a Fantasy Football league with just us and my wife. Fun,competitive and keeps us talking continually through the week. We actually watch games on the weekend together as well. And of course it's absolutely free.