50 things to do for your children that cost nothing but time

Looking for some ideas to entertain the kids? We asked parents what fun, free ideas they enjoyed doing with their kids. From bug hunts to indoor picnics, here are 50 things to do for your children that cost nothing but time. After all, the best things in life are free!

Sign up for our free newsletter, find us on facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest.

  1. “We sing lots of songs together, maybe try to think of as many songs as we can on a particular theme, e.g. Rain or Love or Animals.”
  2. “I just got out my daughter’s twistables and drew a picture for her (of me and her) and left it by her bed.”
  3. “I sometimes put a little note in my daughter’s lunchbox telling her I love her. I draw hearts on it & put on stickers.”
  4. “I draw a smiley face and write eat me on my daughter’s banana she takes for school”
  5. “I find that nothing pleases my son more than when I stop what I’m doing when he asks me and do whatever it is he wants me for”
  6. 8 Reasons why craft activities for kids important“We love playing cards together.”
  7. “I put a selection of his artwork on a notice board, he’s so proud of it and I change it around when new stuff comes in.” – 50 Brilliant Ideas for Kids Arts & Crafts.
  8. “We love playing Fortunately, Unfortunately. One person kicks off a story saying something like “One day a man was in the jungle. Unfortunately he met a lion”.  The next person has to be the Fortunately person, so e.g. “Fortunately the man was a lion tamer”.  And so on.
  9. “My son loves a treasure hunt. I get posty notes and write a word on each one like “toilet” or “television” and he has to go from one location to the next, gathering the clues till he finds the treasure (usually 1 sweet)”
  10. “Silly word games pass the time if driving.” – 30 fun car games for kids.
  11. I read my son a story every night under the duvet with his torch”
  12. “Making cards for birthdays, Christmas, etc.”
  13. “When we make the effort to go outdoors. Even when the weather is brutal, my daughter is happy to stick on her wellies and splosh through every puddle in sight” – Here are 10 Things to Do Outside in the Rain.
  14. “She really loves it when I do painting. We have all the gear, so it’s essentially free at this stage”
  15. “My son’s favourite thing is stories. He loves colouring and singing songs too.”
  16. “He’s learning to play cards now, not quite geting the hang of it but still enjoys it”.
  17. “I have to say the most fun we had was climbing in the snow.. it was brill… kids, my husband and I had a blast and the kids slid down the hill on a plastic bag they found! They thought they were on a sleigh in Norway”
  18. “My kids have a great time with playdough (homemade or shop bought) or plasticine”
  19. “We go on nature walks around the garden and collect leaves, twigs, conkers etc (depending on the time of year) and do some bird spotting and then identify them from a book or online etc.” – Nature Scavenger Hunt & 15 Fun Nature Activities
  20. things to do at the beach“We live near to a few beaches and playgrounds so we go there alot too, my daughter loves collecting shells and bringing them home to paint or play with.” Here are 50 Interesting Things to Do at the Beach with Kids.
  21. “Dancing around the kitchen is another fave here! She is so happy when we do it too”
  22. “We sometimes build a den out of chairs and blankets and put cushions underneath and have a mini picnic!”
  23. “I make sandwiches for my son’s lunch but sometimes cut them into really fun shapes”
  24. “Mine love indoor picnics – we put a rug or duvet on living room floor and sit down with our a pile of sandwiches and treats”
  25. “Helping to wash the car”
  26. “I played hairdressers with my daughter”
  27. “The other day we did finger painting, she made a ferocious mess and was loving the fact I was down on my knees messing with her” – More Fun Painting Ideas for Kids.
  28. “My kids sit on a quilt at the top of the stairs and I pull them down as if it’s a sled.
  29. “Hide and seek is a regular family favourite.”
  30. “Collecting an array of bugs and creepy crawlies in jars and then trying to identify them. We also pick lots of wild flowers and edible berries”. Might like Bug Scavenger Hunt Ideas.
  31. “This year we picked rushes and made St. Brigids crosses“.
  32. “My daughter is “writing a book”…. we have a scrapbook and she dictates the story to me and she draws the pictures to illustrate it. We do a page or 3 at a time.”
  33. “We had a marathon session of Kerplunk last night. DS set up a “league” on the blackboard and we all played against each other – great craic”
  34. “Homemade obstacle courses in the back garden are popular in summertime” – here’s how to make an obstacle course in your garden.
  35. 10 Great Garden Chores for Kids they will enjoy“Planting seeds costs next to nothing. We got some bean seeds a few years back, it grew around 7 foot tall over the summer (her magic beanstalk!), we kept some of the beans (ate the rest) and plant the new beans every year for more beanstalks!! Same with the sweet pea flowers.. Cheap and easy!” – Tips for Making Your Garden a fun Place for Kids.
  36. “We used to paint the garden walls with paintbrushes and water when I was a kid and got great fun out of it as well as the inevitable water fight and soaking” – Wickedly Good Water Activities for Kids.
  37. “We went to a beautiful local park (no playground – just acres of grass with goalposts and a lovely river walk). We brought a football, tennis racket & tennis ball. I made sandwiches & filled a bottle of diluted orange. We had a great afternoon with the kids playing rounders & football. As we were leaving they both thanked me for a great day.”
  38. “My daughters arrived down with a shoe box this morning. They had written out loads of slips of paper with things that they could play such as skipping, mammys and babies, school, football, treasure hunt loads of things for both indoor and out. Every now and again they’d appear and I’d pull one out and they’d go off and play no arguments or discussions!”
  39. “One thing I heard before that I keep in mind is that children will always remember places they were brought rather than things they were bought so I am always on the lookout for places to go.”
  40. “Tonight I played hairdressers with my daughter. I’ve been quite unwell recently and the joy it gave my daughter to give her a bit of time where I played with her hair and she mine.”
  41. toddler ball“At the weekend the three of us will play ball – she’ll sit in the middle of us and we’ll throw it to each other, could spend hours doing it and she just laughs and laughs, it’s infectious! She also loves playing row row row your boat and all those good games.”
  42. “Treasure maps. I draw a map and put arrows etc on it. Smallies have to go to each spot (numbered) and collect clues. If I am really organised I will soak the map in tea and burn around the edges!”
  43. “My daughter who is 8 loves calling out random pairs in the car and getting me to choose one for e.g. Spring or Summer? Taytos or Pringles? Chips or Potatoes? Can go on for ages and gets silly (lots of fun!)”
  44. “Playing car colours. Everybody picks a colour and you count how many of your colour you see then for fun drive through a car park!!”
  45. “Jumping in the muddy puddles (with the bath following, of course!)” – Rainy Day Games to Play Outdoors.
  46. “We create a playlist of the favourite songs we all like and then we dance around the kitchen to them!”
  47. “My daughters love making “perfume”. They go into the garden and pick some lavender and mint and then mix them with water and put into jars or bottles and make nice labels for their perfume”
  48. “My kids and I head off for the nearest park with a hill and we run down the hill being aeroplanes (arms out wide making loud engine noises)”
  49. “We write each other letters and take turns to post them through the front door and then write a reply. The excitement of the letter, even though they know it’s coming, arriving through the door, beats email any day!”
  50. “We play a version of Going on a Bear Hunt. We put on wellies, find something to catch the bear with – could be a bag or a pair of gloves or a jar 🙂 and off we go swishy swashy etc”

And literally, all these ideas take is time! Free fun, you cannot beat it!

You might also enjoy 100 Free Activities for Kids, 50 Fantastic Free Things to do with Kids aged 8-12 & 101 Screen-Free Activities for Kids

50 Things To Do For Your ChildThat Cost Nothing But Time

Do you have a suggestion for something free to do with your child?  Please let us know in the comments section below.  

Tagged under

This website was created by Jill Holtz and Michelle Davitt, both of whom are mothers of young children. Jill and Michelle decided to create this resource themselves, and launched in 2007.


  1. Shannon says:

    1 and 6 are exactly the same. Many are also so similar that they could be the same. Others also rely on having paints/games/footballs etc all of which have to be paid for.

    1. Jill Holtz says:

      Thanks for spotting that 1 & 6 were the same Shannon. These ideas all came from parents and most families have paints and games and footballs already. The point was giving ideas about spending time together doing fun things with your child.

  2. Rachel says:

    Lovely ideas. Keep up the good work 🙂

    1. Jill Holtz says:

      Thanks Rachel 🙂

  3. Danielle says:

    My fave game to play when I was a kid was ‘The Floor is Lava’ you have to hop from one piece of furniture to the next with ouch touching the floor and getting burned. My little lady is too young for this at the moment but I can wait to play it in rainy days when she’s older. We also love building forts from the couch cushions.

  4. Angela says:

    We love to play “the Dark Game.” In the evening, we just turn off all the lights and then (taking care to stay away from the stairs), bump around in the dark and try to avoid getting found by each other. The kids often make their way to a light turn it on and then I have to figure out a way to sneak back without being seen and turn it back off. You could add lots of pieces to it such as identifying sounds, following voices, etc.

  5. jacqueline says:

    When my grandson and i are waiting on a bus we pass the time by choosing a colour Each and then shouting out our chosen colour when a car that colour goes by. When we get bored with that colour we pick Another one.

  6. Chris says:

    Love this list!!

    We like to get dressed up fancy style and have a tea party.

  7. Martha Gray says:

    My grandson always wants to go outside to ride on his bike. Then we water Grandma’s plants his favorite of all! Maybe even play catch w/the ball. He’s 3 yrs old now. Can hardly wait for his oil bro to get older for us to play also!

  8. shelly moore says:

    I always did silly things with my daughter.
    I once dressed up fancy (silly hat dress shoes) and served dinner to she and her friend. They laughed and laughed. We also danced during movies or things on tv. I often dance silly still when walking into the room where she is. She tells me I’m crazy. 🙂

  9. Brilliant stuff! Keep up the good!