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FREE Activities For Kids (None of Which Involve TV)

free activities for kids

Guest post from Carissa of Pretty/Hungry

I am a stay-at-home mom, and I am so thankful for the blessing of being home with my daughter all day long! It has allowed me to witness all her “milestones,” given me time to gently mold her and correct unwelcome behavior patterns, and provided me with millions of memories I get to keep forever.

But when I get together with other moms, the conversation inevitably turns to the nitty gritty day-to-day stuff. It seems all moms want to hear what other moms do with their kiddos hour after hour, day after day. And it makes sense to be curious… because those hours do stretch on sometimes! I often wonder how other families pass the time (ahem… I mean “make the most of it.”)

There are a lot of mommies out there who do an enviable job of entertaining and educating their children throughout the day… all without any help from the TV and on a razor-thin budget to boot. But to be honest, some of them intimidate me!

I’m just not someone who is going to painstakingly dye rice 10 different colors for my children to use for “sensory play.” The suggestion alone stresses me out.

Rainbow Rice hiding in every crevice of my kitchen from now to eternity? No thank you. Stay away from this household, Rainbow Rice!

(By the way, I have the utmost admiration for those of you who do make Rainbow Rice. And those of you who pull out drop cloths and aprons and let your kids cover themselves in paint. And those of you who create baking soda volcanoes, and math-themed Easter egg hunts, and hand-sewn doll clothing . I aspire toward such greatness.)

But if I’m honest with myself, that “really cool” stuff happens maybe twice a month around our house. And it’s not because I’m lazy (okay, maybe it’s a little bit because of that) but mostly it’s because I know my limits. If I stretch myself too thin with projects/goals/scheduled activities, my fuse shortens and my family suffers the consequences. And that’s no good.

So where does that leave us non-crafty moms? Those of us who want to stimulate our children’s minds, invite them to learn and grow, & include them in fun and educational activities around the house, but would rather not resort to Rainbow Rice?

Well, for me and mine, it means doing a lot of activities that are not only fun and educational, but also practical for our family!

If I need to work in the garden, my daughter comes with me to help. If I need to sort coupons and go grocery shopping, it’s an opportunity to teach my little one about budgeting and making wise purchases. If I need to get dinner on the table, I include in her in preparation.

These activities may not be Pinterest-worthy, but they are such valuable learning opportunities nonetheless! And even more importantly, they provide a backdrop for you to spend quality time with your little ones.

Pulling weeds is the perfect activity to promote conversation! I always like asking questions like, “What is one thing you did today that you are proud of?” and “What is one thing you would do differently today if you had a do-over?” These are the conversations that become the building-blocks for your children’s entire life. They are invaluable!


Here’s a short list of some FREE activities I do with my little one.

  • Take long walks outside (when the weather is nice)
  • Go to the park — we do this almost every day
  • Cook & bake — dinner for the family, treats for friends, anything!
  • Read stories
  • Bath time
  • Go to the library
  • Collect leaves, pine cones, or flowers (depending on the season) to decorate the house
  • Chores (yup! Laundry and cleaning does NOT have to wait until nap time)
  • Invite friends over
  • Work in the garden
  • Listen to praise CDs and dance/sing along
  • Exercise! — stretch, do jumping jacks, jump rope, push-ups… my little one loves trying to copy the moves
  • Run errands — go to the bank, renew vehicle tags… you know, fun stuff!
  • Memorize scripture — you’d be surprised how young they can start this!

What are your favorite FREE, non-TV activities for kids?

I am a wife, a stay-at-home-mom, and a food blogger! I love the Lord, my family, reading, writing, and cooking. We stick to a strict budget because we are saving up to buy our next home, so I have to get very creative in the kitchen at times. I blog at Pretty/Hungry about food, wellness, and family life!

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  1. Claire says

    I love this post! I have always felt that mothers should find ways they enjoy spending time with their kids. For some mothers, this might include Pinterest-worthy activities. But there are many other options, and including your daughter in your daily chores is a very valuable way of spending time with her! Thank you for sharing.

  2. says

    To that I’d like to add, that most weekends there are numerous kids activities that cost nothing, such as kids workshops from Lowe’s and Home Depot, Art and Craft classes at Michaels, free museum and art passes nationally, bowling in summer, and free storytelling events at Barnes and Noble stores. As well, every chamber of commerce and city managers office in the country lists all community events, both in their offices and online, and nine out of ten times, there events are free to the public, and most provide goodies and snacks. With a little searching online, there is something for everyone. Thank you for the post!

  3. Melissa says

    Yep, I’m not really into crafts that much either and do many of the things you do. My kids love for me to play hide and seek with them, board games, read books , and I have them fold laundry and work in the garden with me. They love to stir in the kitchen.

  4. momoffour says

    Your post reminded me of myself when the kids were little. We did the same activities you listed in your post. Today, I can say that I have 4 children that don’t have to watch TV or be on their phones all day. They enjoy the day to day, including coupons and grocery shopping. We enjoy getting the garden ready together. One thing we loved doing is reading together and we still do. All the things we once did when they were little grew us closer together.

  5. Em says

    ‘cosmic kids yoga’ on youtube is a fun activity to do with your children. My 7 year old loves it. Each “episode” is about 15-20 minutes long.

    traditional board games (cheap at Good will and St. Vinnies, Rumamge sales) and card games too

    reading books

  6. Stacy G says

    I have found simple ideas on Pinterest for young toddlers—raw (dry) oatmeal in a shoe box with utensils and cups, popsicle sticks in a bucket to dump and pick up, a tiny plastic shovel and watering can to “help” in the garden, a paintbrush to “paint” the sidewalk with water, a few ping pong balls in a wading pool, a homemade bowling game made with 3 empty 2 liter plastic bottles and a ball. We also go to a free local splash park in the summer, visit a church play area for indoor playtime, attend library toddler time and feed the ducks at a nearby lake.

  7. says

    We love Cosmic Kids Yoga also. Cooking can be such a fun activity when we do it as a team–I don’t feel so rushed and can actually enjoy it, while the kids learn some good life skills. We love to look at the clouds and make up stories about what’s happening in the sky. Bike rides and adventure hikes are great ways for free entertainment. We also love to trade play dates, they make the day go so fast and also allow for a little extra time for mom to do what she wants.

  8. says

    My son is too little for this now, but when I was baby-sitting I used to color with the kids. A lot of baby sitters give kids crayons and a coloring book and then go watch TV or talk on the phone. But I liked spending time coloring and drawing with the kids. We would play games where you take a pencil and close your eyes, and the other person has to describe something for you to draw. It’s pretty hard to do when a) your eyes are closed and b) your artistic ability is virtually nil (which mine is!). My kid sister asked me to draw a hamster once. It came out looking like a Happy Meal box. It was still pretty funny. We also wrote and illustrated a book once (about a bunny, I think. It was forever ago) or drew each other in silly situations like on a planet where everything is make of rubber and is really stretchy.

    Also, while not exactly free, jigsaw puzzles can be found at the dollar store and can provide hours of entertainment and conversations while you put them together as a family. It was one activity hubby and I did while we were dating. :)

  9. Carrie says

    You had some great suggestions, especially having them work alongside you. I also like to make sure my kids learn to entertain themselves. It is a good lesson that they are not always going to be the center of attention. Reading, doing craft projects, building things outside, playing with legos, drawing are all activites that they can do without somebody else.

    • Amy says

      YES! I understand the point of this post, and I appreciate the ideas. As my children grow, however, it is becoming apparent to me that I have taken to much responsibility for their entertainment. They are having to learn at 8, 5 and 2 that they can create their own fun, Mom not (always) required!

    • says

      Ditto. My brother and I were forced to get creative because my grandmother didn’t have the time (or energy!) to entertain us. Sometimes, we’d take canned goods out of the pantry and play grocery store! As long as we put them all back, she didn’t care.

  10. says

    I like your point that chores don’t have to wait till naptime–they can be a form of entertainment too. My little guy loves to help with lots of things too–he helps with vacuuming, picking up, sometimes the dishwasher, folding laundry, sweeping, etc. There are definitely some chores I don’t like doing when he’s up–usually cleaning the bathroom, because it’s too hard to keep him from playing in the toilet!

  11. says

    Boxes from SAMS!! My boys have had many adventures with various size boxes. One became a HUGE castle when we studied the Middle Ages. Painted it gray, made “stones” on it with darker gray paint, arrow slits, a working drawbridge, a balcony, and a portcullis. It even opened up and we had a spiral staircase on the inside. Each time we discovered a new fact about castles we added more details on the castle. Great fun!

    Did you know SAMS will gladly give you the big pieces of thin cardboard they use to separate the layers of toilet paper packages, canned goods, and other items? It comes in a variety of textures and thicknesses. Last week my boys folded a corregated piece into a shield and made a “turtle”. Remember, that soldiers in the middle ages would put shields in front of each soldier and over their heads and then move together in unison. They called this formation “the turtle”. My recommendation is: cardboard and boxes! Free and fun!

    • Mary says

      My daughter could recite all the books of the Bible at age 2. We were teaching them to her older siblings and she learned them all. You can start pretty young!

  12. Lori says

    Love all these ideas and used many myself. My son loved helping with chores, cooking, baking, and helping Dad. I kept a “Gadget Bag” – I put in things like milk bottle tops, popsicle sticks, any “trash” I thought had another “life.” He loved dumping it out and using things to play with or create something with. Don’t underestimate the play value of toilet paper/paper towel tubes, string and rubber bands. He learned to count at the grocery story helping pick out veggies & fruit. (He learned to look for sales & coupon, also! LOL!) When he left home he was able to take care of himself, and now at 26, he has a cleaner apartment then my house, loves to cook, and he is very creative! (and still looks for sales and coupons!) Also-a plug for your local library – a great place to spend some free time. Besides books, ours also has games, puzzles, and audio books to borrow.

  13. Charlene E says

    These are going to be so helpful as I begin watching my 5 year old granddaughter full time in June. Instead of an entire castle I will make a castle ballroom with her so her Barbie dolls can dance all they like with a lovely backdrop. Thanks.

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