Our physical time on this earth is short. Our time with our children is even shorter. They’ll be packing up and moving out before we know it, and we’ll be left a hot mess with not enough tissues to go around. It’s sooooo important that we use the short, precious time with our littles to create lasting, heart-filling memories—and there’s certainly nothing wrong with free family activities!
Think about your childhood—what memories fill your head? One of mine is gathering buckeyes from underneath a giant buckeye tree every fall. Now I collect buckeyes from under the same tree every fall with my own children.
It’s easy to fall into a routine in this crazy, chaotic life, but give it your best shot to not do the same thing allllllllll the time and counting it as family time. Switch it up! I’m going to list some activities we do as a family below to create memories that will forever be cherished, and that doesn’t cost us a penny.
How to give your family lasting memories for free:
1. Play board games.
With the ever-rising impact of digital media and video games on our personal lives, traditional board games seem almost irrelevant. I don’t know about you, but we love a good board game. We can gather around as a family, and it’s always fun to try to beat mom and dad!
Sure, classic board games have been turned into electronic versions for gaming consoles, but they aren’t the same. There’s nothing quite like removing all distractions, gathering around, and giving each other your undivided attention.
2. Learn a new card game.
Children love the Game of Memory and Go Fish! But what about Old Maid, Slap Jack, and Spoons? Oldies but Goodies! A quick Google search can provide endless card game fun!
3. Play telephone!
Now here is a classic! Line everyone up, with one parent at each end (at least for the first round). Let the hilarity ensue as you whisper the message into each other’s ears and listen to the final result. There is no winner or loser in this game, just a whole lot of laughter!
4. Have some karaoke fun.
We don’t have a karaoke machine, but we do have a cheap plastic microphone and music! Sing with your kids, let your kids perform on their own, or try your skills and pretend to be the Partridge family! There is sure to be laughter and fun when everyone can stand in the limelight on their own or sing a duet with a parent or sibling.
5. Go on a picnic.
Pack lunches on a Saturday afternoon, gather the family, and head to your local park. Sitting together, eating lunch outdoors with no distractions is a great way to spend time together—and it’s absolutely free. If the park is close enough, you can even walk, which brings me to my next activity.
6. Go on a walk.
Nothing special needed here other than two legs, and even that is debatable! Going on a walk gets everyone outside, and it gets everyone active—a total two for one!
7. Go bird watching.
We don’t have a big book of birds, so we rented one from the library. Bring a blanket on your family walk and find a cozy open spot to sit down and bird watch. It’s calming, teaches patience, and helps children learn to be quiet when asked. The birds may not show up if y’all are as noisy as wild animals!
8. Skip rocks.
What is better than skipping rocks? Two things: having a loved one who teaches you how to skip stones and challenging your family to see who can skip it the furthest! On a quick vacation, before school started, we found ourselves with access to a river. We couldn’t swim in it like we would a pond or pool, but we skipped rocks for hours. I never got old!
9. Create an adventure scavenger hunt!
A big, epic adventure isn’t necessary. If you have younger children, you can turn it into a learning scavenger hunt. Head outside with a list of colors and shapes, and ask your child to find them! Going outside to find colors and shapes is a free family activity that helps them learn and gets everyone outdoors away from the TV.
A scavenger hunt is fun for older children too! Don’t be lame and send your kids outside by themselves, JOIN THEM! Having fun as a family is the whole point, right?
You can make it a race for the older kids to see who can find all the items first. Young children aren’t as competitive. It can be just as rewarding to follow them around and help them discover the great outdoors!
A treasure hunt is an exciting way to ramp up the fun! Create an “X marks the spot” treasure map and give them a fun list of instructions that take them all-around your home to find the treasure! I like to holler, “You’re getting colder!” and “You’re getting warmer!” in typical Dad fashion.
10. Go backyard camping.
An extravagant camper isn’t required. Go on a simple camping trip in your backyard. No need to do anything fancy; kids will simply enjoy sleeping somewhere that isn’t their bed! We’ve even camped in our living room, and it was still a lot of fun!
11. Build a blanket fort!
Don’t have a tent? No problem! Put your primitive skills to the test. Work as a family to build a blanket fort in your living room.
Did you ever build a fort as a kid? I know I did! All those years of fort building have left me with a particular set of skills—skills that don’t give the fire-breathing dragon created in the imagination of our 4-year-old even the slightest chance at victory.
Clear out an area, gather a bunch of blankets and sheets, and get started! Your kids might be surprised to see your ridiculously awesome fort building abilities! It’s always good to pass life skills, like fort-building, on to our children!
12. PILLOW FIGHT!
Lay some ground rules first, like reminding the older ones that they are much stronger than their younger siblings, so don’t annihilate them. Clear any breakables from the room. Then, get to it! Roughhousing can be a terrific way to release energy from the day and foster family bonding. We’ve all had the urge to hit someone with a pillow, and you can do it for fun! You can also use this family activity as a means to teach self-control.
13. Organize a family movie night!
Family movie night is a great way to get everyone together! Pop some popcorn, grab a few drinks, put phones away, build a pillow fort, and cozy up for some family entertainment.
Family movie night isn’t the best way to spend family time, in my opinion, because you aren’t interacting with each other. It is, however, an excellent way to relax in the evening and share some giggles. It’s better than nothing if you’re in a pinch!
14. Volunteer together as a family.
In all seriousness, I think one of the biggest and most important lessons that we can pass along to our children is to take care of where we live and those around us. Volunteering as a family gives you the option to lead by example. There are many opportunities to volunteer as a family ranging from reading or playing board games with the elderly at an assisted living home to helping take care of the animals at your local humane society.
Hurricanes were common in south Mississippi, and the city would pile sand in parking lots for sandbag filling. Even though we weren’t in a flood zone, we always went to get a few—better safe than sorry, right? Once we loaded up a few, we would stick around and fill sandbags for others. Some folks were older or disabled, and the simple act of filling sandbags was so simple, and it taught so much.
Volunteering family labor to help beautify your local church is another fantastic idea!
15. Be on the lookout for free community events.
Many communities seem to have an endless schedule of free events for families of all sizes—especially around holidays. We lived in the city for 12 years, and there always seemed to be something going on. All it takes is a couple of minutes to look online and find the schedule. Parades, fireworks, festivals, Christmas lights, you name it!
Libraries are also another fantastic source for family activities. Make your way to the website for your closest library, and search their page for upcoming events. I’m looking at ours now, and I see our local library has something going on dang near every day of the week!
16. Create a superhero and make a comic book!
What’s not to love about a good superhero? Nothing but positive vibes can come from this activity. Creating a superhero together can provide an opportunity to talk to younger children about good character traits and how important it is that they treat everyone the way they would like to be treated.
How would you describe a superhero to your child? A superhero to me is someone who gives people hope—a giver. Someone who is selfless. Someone who is an organ donor. Someone who gives their time at a food kitchen to serve the homeless. Someone who decides to save someone else. We can all be a superhero in my eyes.
Of course, a comic book superhero often has awesome abilities! Can your superhero fly? Is she super strong? Does he have a superhero name? Keep it clean, keep it fun, and keep it awesome!
Once complete—and to piggyback off superhero character traits—I recommend contacting your local senior care facility and seeing if your family can volunteer to read your comic books to the elderly. Maybe even donate them for all of the residents to enjoy! Handmade comic books also make neat gift ideas.
Subscribe on our yellow form here, and you’ll receive our comic book printable for FREE! What a way to get started letting your family’s imagination run wild! You’ll need to be sure to check all of your email folders for a confirmation link before we can send this to you for free.
17. Family artwork night!
Grab the paints and some paper and get to work! The opportunities are endless with this one. A favorite way of ours to involve the entire family is to let the youngest ones draw lines all over the paper. When it looks like there are plenty of intersecting lines, the older ones get to work coloring in the spaces. BOOM! You’ve got yourself some contemporary abstract artwork to hang up for the whole family to enjoy.
Pinterest also has some great hand, foot, and fingerprint art projects for you and the kiddos. Most kids LOVE to submerge their fingers and toes into some paint or press them into an ink pad. Use a maker to add character features to the prints, and it is sure to get some ooooo’s and aaaaaaah’s from your little ones.
18. Create greeting cards.
I don’t know one person who doesn’t love receiving a piece of mail that is NOT a bill or advertisement. You can write down the names of family members, draw from a hat, and have each person create a card for that person. Be sure to have stamps available to ship them out the same day. If you don’t have stamps, you can snap a picture of it and send it in a text!
Alternatively, make a card for each other. Getting your kids to think about reasons why they love their siblings fosters a beautiful bond that they will carry with them all of their lives.
19. Cook dinner together.
One of my wife’s fondest childhood memories is family pizza night. Everyone would gather in the kitchen, take turns loading toppings on the pizzas, and sometimes get to play with the extra dough—it was just fantastic. You have to eat dinner anyway, why not make it a wonderful family experience?
20. Bake yummies together.
Meals are fun to create together. But so are desserts! All kids, no matter the age, love to decorate cookies or cakes. Our toddler enjoys watching the stand-mixer mix everything together. Our oldest two boys enjoy the science aspect of measuring and adding the baking ingredients. Our youngest two boys enjoy anything that has to do with mixing it all together!
Fair warning, though, cooking and baking with small children can take a LOT of patience on your part. Kids spill, they argue about who gets to put in the next ingredient, they make flour poof all over the place and never fail to taste the baking soda, or eat ¼ of the chocolate chips before realizing it.
Instead of viewing these non-perfect baking habits as bothersome, try to soak it up. Your kids are so excited to be doing an adult activity with their favorite people—their family. Messes can be cleaned up, turns will be taken, but the attitude you have and the joy you share will be remembered and cherished.
We’ve all learned from an early age the difference between a want and a need. Sure, our kids want time with us—more importantly, our kids need time with us. Working together, giggling, fighting off imaginary fire-breathing dragons from a top-notch blanket fort, and other quality family time activities are vital to our children’s success.
Creating memorable family moments doesn’t take a bunch of money. There are so many absolutely free family activities that require no money—just time.