7 Fun and Totally Free Things to Do With Your Kids
As a parent to an energetic 2 ½-year-old boy, finding new and exciting things to do daily can become challenging, not to mention expensive. I tend to believe that most parents want to teach their kids about the value of relationships, kindness, and experiences over consumerism, but don’t always know how. In an effort to model this behavior for our son, every week my husband and I have started to implement a “no spending day.” It’s a day where we focus on creating a fun experience and enjoying each other’s company. What we’ve found is that the more we engage with him, the more fun he has. With that in mind, here’s a list of seven fun and totally free things to do with your kids.
1Go on a Hike
Hiking is a great way to get outside and be active with your kids. We are huge fans of hiking because it’s almost always free and is a fun way to be outdoors and interact with your kids.
We always enjoy talking about the things we see on the hike and have recently been creating fun games for him while we are on the path. For instance, we will give him a small bag or pouch and tell him to find as many red leaves as he can. Afterward, we’ll count them up, and he can pick his favorites to bring home with him. It’s a simple task, but it helps his toddler brain to stay focused and engaged. Always remember to be respectful of the environment or terrain and don’t disrupt or damage any nature or property. For bonus points, you can bring your own bag and lead by example by picking up trash and carrying it out to dispose of it. After all, one of the main rules of hiking is to leave no trace. Pack it in, pack it out.
2Go To a Museum
Visit your local museum, arboretum, or garden on its monthly free admission day. Most, if not all, museums and gardens will have one day of free admission per month. Oftentimes, it is the first Tuesday or Thursday of the month. We love visiting natural history museums with our son because he is excited to see new exhibits, art, or plants and is open to talking about the things we see. We find that visiting a museum allows for education and the fostering of an overall curiosity about the world.
3Crafting Scavenger Hunt
A crafting scavenger hunt is a fun activity that encourages creativity and thinking outside the box. To get started, go out with your kids and collect found objects to use toward a larger craft project. You can do this in your backyard or out for a walk through your town or local park. The items can be anything from leaves and sticks to nuts and bolts. Be sure to provide adequate supervision as your child gathers their materials. We tend toward only natural organic materials, but this can be whatever you decide. This is also a wonderful way to practice being respectful of your surroundings with your children and avoid disrupting natural habitats or private property.
4Visit a Fire Station
Visiting your local fire station introduces a curious youngster to fire safety early. Kids are excited to meet the firefighters and fire trucks. Yes, meet the fire trucks. It’s our experience that many kids under 3 will be eager to meet one or can even sit inside it if the station isn’t too busy. It’s a good idea to call in advance, but most stations will happily accommodate a walk-in with a toddler or little one. Often, the firefighters will put on a demonstration that includes getting into and out of a firefighting suit, or, even better, sliding down the fire pole. They will also let your kids sit in the fire truck and get their hands on some real-world firefighting equipment. Just a heads up, this can all be a bit overwhelming for a young toddler, and they might even close up when the moment arrives. Don’t worry — we’ve found that the fire people are used to this and will often encourage families to come back for multiple visits to allow their children to feel more comfortable with the environment. Plus, you’ll have more chances to grab that photo you know you’ve been wanting.
5Have a Picnic
Picnics are a yummy way to spend some quality time together. We like to use items from home that we already have in the house and let him choose what he wants to bring on the picnic. Sometimes this looks like sandwiches and fruit, and other times it can be leftovers and snack foods. Either way, giving your child a choice of the items you bring with you helps to get them involved and lets them feel a sense of independence. We most often choose a nature trail that has open green space or one of our favorite parks so he can play on the jungle gym afterward. We’ve found it’s a good idea to bring additional games or fun activities from home to keep your kids engaged during the picnic.
6Go Mural Hunting
Scoping out local murals encourages your child to be curious about art and photography. We let our son use one of our phones and have him take pictures of the murals. We’ll talk about what we see and ask what he thinks of the artwork. This helps to stimulate an artful eye and an appreciation for the arts. You can research where to go in advance, or ask someone in your area where you might find some local street art. Creating a large photo collage with the photos your child takes is also a really fun project.
7A Day of Gardening
Gardening is an excellent way to get outside with your little one. If you go to a community garden, you get the extra benefit of enhancing and engaging in your community, but gardening at home can be just as enriching. Gardening together is an opportunity for you both to explore and learn new things about plant life, bugs, and the world around us. Some of the best memories we have with our son involve picking fresh strawberries in our yard and delighting in the simple pleasure of the sweet-tasting fruit. Let your kids dig into the dirt and get the extra benefits of microbial exposure, which may strengthen their immune system.