Free Ways to Celebrate Mother's Day


It's not that Mom doesn't deserve an extravagantly expensive celebration of her day; it's just that over-the-top gifts and parties may not be feasible on a budget. And speaking as a mom, I can say that what matters most to me on Mother's Day isn't the amount of money spent (in fact, I get more of a kick out of saving money, usually). What makes Mother's Day special to me is two things: First, getting a free pass out of normal mom work like laundry, cleaning, cooking, and the like. Second, getting to spend time with my family. Peruse the list below for plenty of ideas that won't cost you but will still make your mom feel special. (See also: Mother's Day Gifts That Show You Really Care)

Give Mom the Day Off

This should be the absolute minimum you do to celebrate Mother's Day, anyway — give her a day off from all the mundane stuff she does, without complaining, day after day. Pitch in, get the whole family involved, and do the work for her.

Take the Kids to the Park and Give Mom Some Quiet Time

Listen, I know a mom loves being her with kids but, especially for moms of young kids, having a little peace and quiet time is truly one of the ultimate gifts you can give. Pack up the kids, go to the park for an hour or two, and leave Mom at home to nap, watch a movie in peace, read a book, or do her nails... whatever she wants!

Make and Deliver Breakfast in Bed

Yes, it's as cliched as giving Dad a tie for Father's Day, but there's a good reason here. Moms are usually the ones who hop (or crawl) out of bed and get everybody going in the morning. She deserves a break. Make a nice breakfast, deliver it to her in bed, and let her enjoy a morning off.

Take the Family Out for a Picnic at the Park

Get in the kitchen and make some sandwiches, pasta salad, or some other portable meal. Gather up all the picnic supplies (try not to ask Mom what you should take). Then whisk everybody away to a local park for a picnic and some play time outdoors. Take a walk, sit around, talk to people, play volleyball, or go at night and watch the stars. Mom's choice.

Take a Hike

Picnic optional. Scout out some new scenery in the area, gather up the gear, and take the family on a leisurely (or energetic) hike. This is one of my favorite family activities; I love being outside, and I love especially being outside with my family.

Scout Your Area for Free Concerts or Events

Several parks in my area have free concerts over the spring and summer. There are also different festivals, farmer's markets, plays, walks, and more. Search for free local events and music in your area, and take the whole family.

Have a Surprise Party

Not every mom will want a surprise party on Mother's Day, so be sensitive to what the mom in your life will enjoy. I happen to love parties and especially love surprise parties, so the idea of having a surprise party on Mother's Day — one at which the dads and kids are responsible for all the planning, prepping, and clean-up — sounds insanely fun. You have to be serious about pulling this off right, though. No fair planning it and then making Mom handle the clean-up. Do it all!

Tackle a Project Together

My mother-in-law has a long-standing request for Mother's Day — she wants her "boys" to come over and help out with whatever current project is at hand. We usually plan a casual lunch together sometime on Mother's Day weekend, then my father-in-law and the three grown-up boys go finish up the project while us girls either sit inside and corral the kids or go outside and cheer the men on. It's a no-cost, fun, and productive celebration.

Have a Family Movie Night

Family time is important for most moms, and finding time to do things together gets more and more difficult as kids get older and have their own social circles, jobs, and events. So dedicate Mother's Day night to a special family movie night; Mom gets to pick the movies. Dad and kids provide meal and/or movie-appropriate snacks, and everyone gets to settle in for some chill time together.

Make a Memory Book

For the creatively minded, or for scrapbooking moms in general, having the whole family sit down for a couple of hours to put together a family memory book could be the perfect no-cost gift. Gather supplies you already have: an empty photo album, pretty papers, stickers, photos, and the like. Put an hour or two into it, and have (or help) each family member create a page individually and then put them in the book, or work on each page as a team.

Create a Treasure Hunt for Mom

Kids aren't the only ones who like treasure hunts. Put some time into thinking up fun clues, then hide little treats or coupons for stuff Mom will like (such as "a night out" or "you get to pick the movie and no one complains") and let her discover them. Follow along with a camera...

Set Up a Girls' Night in for Mom

If Mom hasn't had a chance to get together with girlfriends lately, why not make Mother's Day evening a special time for that? Invite a few of her best friends over, then get out of the way.... out of the house, actually, would probably be best. Let them talk, relax, and enjoy some kid-free and spouse-free time together.

Take a Family Bike Ride

This is a great way to both kick off the summer season of great outdoor family adventures and to celebrate Mother's Day, so get the bikes out of the garage and into shape, find a nearby trail, and head out for a family bike ride. It's a good way to work off that fabulous lunch you made for Mom, anyway...

Visit a Free Local Attraction

We often forget to be like tourists in our own towns. Here in my city, there's an award-winning free zoo, a free art museum, and a free history museum, plus many parks, nature reserves, and historical sites. Take the day to visit some you haven't seen before.

Have a Family Pajama Party

Have everybody get comfy, throw on some fun music, and cook up breakfast for dinner while Mom gets to relax. Eat a leisurely meal, talk about family plans, and play a few games. Then tuck the kids into bed so Mom and Dad can continue the pajama party in their own room...

Create a New Tradition

Traditions help us create memories and give us touchstones as a family, common points of connection we can come back to even as we grow up, move away, pursue different dreams. Use Mother's Day to come up with a new family tradition, then make it something you repeat at significant times. It could be as simple as saying a family prayer or taking a family photo.

Volunteer Together

Does Mom have a special cause she's passionate about? Volunteer your time as a family, and find a way to give back together. Spending a few hours together while helping others will be a gift to Mom, and will benefit you as a family as you build closer relationships and learn to appreciate your blessings.

Plan a Group Outing

If Mom is a social creature, then expand the family outing into a group outing. One of the things Mom is often responsible for is planning the social events; so take over that role and let her just enjoy the interaction. You can organize a picnic in the park, a group hike or bike ride, or meet up with friends for one of those free local events. Then cough up the money for some ice cream afterward...

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Meg Favreau's picture

After my sister and I both moved out of the house (and were thereby not frequently available for family photos), we took our picture together one year -- our mom seemed to really appreciate that.

Does anybody else have good suggestions for free ways to celebrate Mother's Day?

Guest's picture

Pressed flowers are always good. Put them in a book with a pic of you or your kids.

Guest's picture

My suggestion is that making mom a gift is the best! My kids gave me pictures they colored from last year and I love them!

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