If summer vacation is looming ahead of you and you are dreading hearing “I’m bored” from your kids, be prepared with this list of over 101 free things to do with kids that don’t involve any screen time.
All of these ideas are completely free (or very cheap) and most use ingredients and objects you probably already have at home.
This page contains affiliate links meaning I earn a commission if you use those links. Please read my Disclosure for more information.
While a lot of the activities lend themselves more to the warmer weather, there are plenty of indoor ideas too for those dreaded snow days.
101 Free Things To Do With Kids All Year Long
1.Make an obstacle course in the backyard
Set up an obstacle course in the yard using anything you can find around – jump over branches, toss a ball and crawl through a play tunnel.
2. Visit IKEA Småland
Smaland is a free play area for kids while parents shop. If you join the Ikea Family program, you can get up to 90 minutes free play time a day. I really like it because it is clean, supervised and they offer fun crafts such as Easter egg decorating as well as toys and the ball pit.
3. Roast marshmallows
4. Have a dance party
5. Go bowling for free
Did you know that kids in the US and Canada can have 2 free games for bowling for FREE all year long?
See all the details at kidsbowlfree.com.
6. Bake a cake and decorate it
7. Church play groups
Even if you aren’t a member, many churches have great parent and child playgroups where you can make friends, do crafts and discover new toys.
8. Learn to juggle
9. Check Out The Library
My local library branch hosts storytimes, craft days and special events on holidays. They also have a pretty fun kid’s section with a play house.
10. Create a scrapbook or story book
11.Play card games
12. Check out free community events
Many communities have events such as fire station open houses or Touch a Truck events that are free and awesome for young children.
13. Go for a nature walk
Make it even more fun with a nature scavenger hunt like this one from Edventures with kids.
14. Make a kite and fly it
Grab some string, a garbage bag and some dowels and away you go!
15. Outdoor playgrounds
The great thing about warm weather? You know those expensive indoor soft play places you go to in the winter months? Well, in the summer they are free! It’s called a park. : ))
16. Head to the beach or lake
There is no better free activity for kids than a day exploring the shore, hunting for shells and sea glass.
17. Pitch a tent in the backyard
18. Do yoga
19. Go on a neighbourhood scavenger hunt
Scavenger hunts are an awesome way to make a walk around the neighborhood more interesting. You can do one at anytime of year but they are especially fun in the holidays.
20. Home Depot free workshops
If you have a Home Depot store near you, check out their awesome free workshops. Kids can learn basic woodworking skills while they make birdhouses and other fun stuff.
21. Picnic under the stars
Grab a blanket, a flashlight and some dinner and have do some star spotting!
22. Free museum days
Many cities and towns offer free museum days year round. If not, you can often get in for free or very cheap by going an hour or two before closing.
23. Play dress up and put on a show
24. Play with sidewalk chalk
25. Splash pads and pools
Community pools and splash pads are a great way to beat the heat on a budget!
26. Michaels Craft Days
Michaels craft stores often hold different events in their party rooms. Registration in advance is sometimes necessary.
27. Outdoor exercise classes
Look for outdoor yoga classes and other activities that the whole family can participate in and get fit at the same time.
28. Have a water fight in the backyard
Grab some buckets, a hose and your bathing suits!
29. Cheap movie mornings
Look out for free or cheap movie deals if you are prepared to go first thing in the morning or on a week day. You can also see some older movies at independent theatres for a fraction of the cost of the big screens.
30. Pick a bouquet of flowers for the house
31. Bake a pie
32. Wash the outdoor toys
33. Make popsicles
Experiment with different flavors and textures. Fruit is a great add-in.
34. Free concert series
Many towns and cities have free concert series in parks over the warmer months. It’s a great opportunity to expose your children to different genres of music.
35. Wash the car
Forget the car wash, get some soap and water and get scrubbing. Older kids can even make some pocket money washing the neighbors cars too.
36. Host a lemonade stand
Another fun way to teach children about running their own business and making money.
37. Make Play dough From Scratch
Nothing beats homemade play doh and it is so easy to make.
Here are some recipes to get your started:
38. Take a train to the next town over.
One of my friends does this all the time with her 4 year old. They take the train to the next town over and walk to Starbucks. her daughter thinks it’s the best thing ever.
39. Hold a yard sale
A garage sale is a fun way to get rid of your clutter and make some cash. It can be a fun way for kids to make some money to buy the new toy that they are coveting.
40. Go outdoor ice skating
If you live in a cold climate, outdoor ice skating rinks are a great way to have some free fun in the winter. If you are feeling ambitious, you can even build your own rink in the backyard.
41. Give your toy cars or dolls a bath
42. Make a sensory box
43. Check out local book readings
Many libraries and bookstores have awesome book readers and meet the author events for kids.
44. Go to the airport and watch the planes take off
I used to work at an airport and tons of families would bring their kids on the weekend just to watch the planes take off and have a free outing. It’s a great free activity you can do year round.
45. Go for a bike ride
Get some fresh air and go exploring on your bikes.
46. Local School Events
Many schools hold free events during term time that are open to the public. Look for holiday bazaars, fall fairs and open days.
47. Make your own wrapping paper
All you need is a potato and some paint and you can make some pretty paper
48. Have a pillow fight
49. Do science experiments
The easiest ones are Magic milk or baking soda and vinegar
50. Plant a Garden
Gardening is a great skill for kids to learn. Plan some tomatoes or lettuce seeds and enjoy your harvest in a few months!
51. Play in the sprinklers
52. Try Geocaching
Geocaching is a scavenger hunt using GPS and it’s billed as the World’s largest treasure hunt. Download the free app and get hunting. You can learn more at geocaching.com
53. Watch an outdoor movie
If you have a projector, you can set up an outdoor movie theatre anywhere with a sheet and a laptop.
54. Build a fort indoors or out!
55. Bake cookies
56. Spring clean the house
My kids love helping me dust or mop the floors.
57. Visit the garden centre and check out all the flowers
58. Make hand print ornaments
59. Visit grandparents or FaceTime them
60. Create a treasure Hunt
Or let your kids design their own hunt that you have to try and crack.
61. Pull out a city map, close your eyes, pin a spot and go on a adventure
Just make sure to use a local map! You never know, you might discover a cool new neighbourhood cafe!
62. Put on a puppet show
You can have even more fun making the puppets using old gloves or paper bags.
63. Get up early and have a sunrise breakfast
64. Have a board game marathon
65. Put on a mini Olympics
Think retro party games like egg and spoon or 3 legged races.
66. Paint rocks and make paperweights
This is a great easy gift idea for grandma too. You can seal the paint with Mod Podge Sealer
67. Paint or draw together.
68. Find flowers and press them
You can create an album for all the flowers you make or use them for #69
69. Make Handmade Cards
Save money on birthday cards by making your own. You can use pressed flowers, sequins and anything you find to make them original.
70. Make a slip and slide in the backyard
All you need is some plastic sheeting, a hose and some detergent.
71. Local festivals
Check out local festivals, the wackier, the better.
72. Do a DIY photoshoot
You can head outdoors for some fun photos or get dressed up in the house. If you want to make your own DIY holiday photos, you can save a ton of money.
73. Host a Teddy Bear’s Picnic
Grab some friends, some food and your best teddy’s and head to the park for a Teddy Bear’s picnic.
74. Play hide and seek
75. Rearrange or decorate your bedroom
76. Make your own bubble mixture
See who can make the biggest bubble. I like this recipe from babysavers.com
77. Learn magic tricks and put on a show
78. Build paper airplanes and race them
79. Do a neighbourhood trash clean-up
Don’t forget to take trash bags and gloves!
80.Declutter and visit the thrift store
A great way to spring clean the house and show kids the importance of donating.
81. Play ball hockey on the street
82. Get out your skipping rope
83. Set up a water table
Or do it in the sink if the weather is cold. Add bubbles, measuring cups and other household items. My kids will do this for hours.
84. Have a tea party
Make cute little sandwiches and cupcakes.
85. DIY Beauty salon
Make masks out of banana or avocado and put slices of cucumber on your eyes and relaaaax.
86. Build a robot out of old boxes
87. Give each other manis and pedis
88. Whip out some bubble wrap
89. Get a flashlight and tell stories in the dark
90. Visit the pet store and meet all the animals
91. Write letters to family or pen pals
92. Go to the grocery or hardware store
Both my kids love this! You don’t even need to buy anything. It’s even better if the store has a fancy “car” cart for kids.
93. Do some puzzles
94. Make music
Make instruments out of household items (shakers using empty bottles and rice, drums out of pots and pans)
95. Have an ice cream social
Put toppings in bowls and design your own sundae.
96. Style each other’s hair
97. Take turns sitting for portraits or caricatures of each other
98. Make a care package for a relative or soldier overseas
Even little kids can help out at a soup kitchen or food bank.
100. Make jewelry out of pasta or frootloops
101. Visit an elderly neighbour
Take cookies or a cake and brighten their day.
Want even more free things to do with your kids?