There may be 12 days of Christmas and eight nights of Hanukkah, but when your kids are off school for a week or two it can feel like there are 50 days of holiday break. So, to keep you sane (and let’s face it this is as much for me as it is for you) I’ve compiled a list of 47 free or frugal activities for kids for holiday break. Mostly because I know your holiday budget is long since spent and what’s left will likely need to go to some quiet downtime for mom and dad after the kids go back to school. 😉
47 Free Or Frugal Activities For Kids For Holiday Break
1. Create sensory activities. For younger kids sensory activities are a great way to learn at home. Bring in some snow to play with on a cookie sheet or in a bowl add some objects for the kids to make mini snow scenes.
2. Have friends over. It’s crazy how busy our kids can get during the school year. Between lessons, sports, and school they may not have time to see friends that are old and new! Schedule some playdates with school friends or head out of your way to see old friends who live further away.
3. Make your own book. Your child doesn’t have to be an artist or know how to write. Have them make some pictures (stick figures are fine) and narrate the story to you for younger kids. Older kids might make comic books or create pictures their younger siblings can decorate.
4. Dance party! Does your little one love to boogie? Turn on some kid-friendly tunes and get down. Try the Frozen Soundtrack!
5. Get your science on. Simple experiments are fun. Make a snow gauge with an empty container and a ruler, measure how long it takes snow or ice to melt, or use a magnifying glass to get up close to snowflakes. Here’s a great book for simple and fun experiments.
8. Watch a movie marathon. It’s a wonderful time to put on holiday movies like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or Elf. Maple syrup for everyone! (even after the holidays this is fun!)
9. Bake, bake, bake. Always a family favorite! Bake cookies, make hot cocoa, or make a big breakfast that you normally can’t enjoy on school days.
10. Engineer a something: Engineering skills are important, so put some basic supplies on the table and see what you can create out of simple items like paper, tape, paperclips, etc.
11. Build a fort. This was one of my favorite activities as a kid, and remains one of my favorites with my own kids!
12. Read books out loud. As your kids get older you may not read bedtime stories anymore, so gather around the fire and take turns reading aloud. Christmas books are perfect at this time of year, as are classics like Little House on the Prairie.
13. Build an enormous something. Whether it’s train tracks, Legos, or blocks it’s fun for everyone. Even older kids will get in on the action (though sometimes begrudgingly).
14. Make a DIY pop up book. The level of complexity of your pop up book can match your child’s age. Check out Melissa’s post for a fabulous tutorial to make your own pop up books.
15. Create a craft station. Set up a craft station with caddies, a small container on wheels, or convert an area in your playroom or family space for craft time. Include kid-friendly and age appropriate materials. Younger kids can get Color Wonder paper and markers and older kids can have at it all with access to clay, hot glue guns, and so much more.
16. Dig through the recycling. It may seem a little weird, but you can find all kinds of great stuff to remake in the recycling. Whether it’s cardboard you can use for creating small houses or toilet paper tubes you can use to create owls you’ll find tons to do.
17. Play spa. Let the kids pamper themselves and you with foot rubs, lotions, and for tweens and teens look up DIY recipes for facials like this oatmeal mask. Plus this is the closest mom will get to the spa for a few weeks, so you may as well make the most of it!
18. Make videos. One of my favorite things to do as a kid was to take silly pictures or do tape recorded ‘shows’ with my sister or friends. Take that into this century with a smartphone, iPod, or tablet. Let the kids create a crazy play, TV show, or funny action figure show. Use your computer cable or a ChromeCast to get it on your big screen.
19. Create a photo album. It may seem so 10 years ago, but everyone loves to look at photos. Create digital or physical photo albums from all those 1,000s of pictures on your hard drive. Playing around with the photos and coming up with a layout can be tons of fun for kids.
20. Make paper dolls. These are so fun to make and play with, and it’s a great activity for kids both young and older!
21. Color the snow. Use food coloring and some water in a spray bottle to create snow spray!
22. Make Snow Cream. Did you know you can make ice cream from snow? Read my snow ice cream recipe here.
23. Go sledding. This is always our kids’ favorite thing to do in the snow! We have a downward slope in our backyard and a pretty decent hill on the side of our house to make it fun to head out and sled.
24. Build in the snow. Depending on the snow you can make snow people (the kids usually make a family), or a snow fort!
25. Make snow angels. Another obvious but fun family favorite.
Get Out of the House:
26. Hit the library. Head to your local library and gather up a million and one books to read over break. Start with fiction and make sure to include some non-fiction, too.
27. Visit a museum. Museums may offer free or discounted days over the break. Hit the museum early to avoid big crowds or if you’re a frequent visitor head in at the tail end of the day and see your favorite exhibits.
28. Use the gym. Have a gym membership that you rarely use? Want to try one out? Use your membership (or get a day or trial pass) to go swimming, play basketball, or do some classes with the kids in tow.
29. Head to the bookstore. Most local bookstore (and national chains) offer storytime for young kids and book clubs for older kids. Be sure to check out their offerings online before you visit. Stay after for some browsing.
30. Gear up and head out for a walk or hike. While the weather may not always cooperate you’re sure to find time that’s pleasant enough (or pile on enough gear) to enjoy some outside time. Or take up geocaching!
31. Learn a new DIY skill. Free classes for kids and adults will help you bring home a new creation or learn a new skill. Check out Home Depot or Lowe’s for more info.
32. Go for a drive. Even though the holiday might be through you can still take in the lights of your neighbors or nearby neighborhoods. Pack some hot cocoa (or milk boxes) for the trip.
33. Shop after-holiday sales. If you have some budget left to spend after all the wrapping and gifting is done head out to the store for some amazing discounts. You’ll find all kinds of items from 30-90% off in the weeks following the holidays. Here’s our list of best things to buy in December and January. It’s a great time to pick up toys for birthday gifts, holiday décor at steep discounts, and more.
34. Volunteer. Volunteering your time is not only great for your community, but it’s a valuable lesson in what’s important to your family. Most organizations are overrun by donations during the holidays, but that steadily declines as the year goes on. Look for a place the kids can get involved such as Cradles to Crayons or start your own drive to raise funds or donations from neighbors and friends.
35. Plan your year. As un-fun as that may sound having a plan in place for family fun days, travel, and playdates can help kids feel grounded, and will certainly help you manage your time better. For younger kids you can create a fun family calendar using stickers to represent different activities.
36. Clean you room! Okay, so it’s not fun, but clearing out old toys can help kids find missing parts to favorite toys, toss broken toys, and if they are anything like my kids help them gather supplies for an upcoming yard sale.
37. Declutter. It’s the perfect time to declutter everyone’s rooms and take advantage of those last-minute tax write-offs by donating items in good condition to local charities.
38. Create a kid art gallery. It’s easy to setup and a great way to display their masterpieces. You can use poster strips, clothespins and wire, or even frames you may have lying around to make your own art gallery.
39. Clean out the “Junk” Drawer/Bin/Basket: We all have them, and if you have kids it’s likely you have several bins or baskets of mismatched game pieces, toys, and bits from all kinds of games and toys. Once every few months I just dump the contents on the floor and the kids split everything up and find homes for everything. Anything broken gets tossed.
40. Make a treasure hunt: Create a treasure hunt around the house.
41. Host a game day. Have board game day or play cards. Let everyone pick their favorite games.
42. Video game competition. Have a game competition on your video game system. Try your hand at Wii bowling or see who can rack up the most point on Just Dance. You may say ‘video games’ but with active games you’ll get the kids moving, too.
43. Play hide + seek. Always a perennial favorite, and especially adorable with little ones.
44. Build your own board game. Gather up those leftover pieces from games and have everybody create something new!
45. Host a Headbanz tournament. This game is a ton of fun and there are a handful of versions available. Host a tournament and the winner gets to pick what’s on the menu for dinner.
46. Play the ‘lava’ game. You remember this one-you can’t step on the floor or you’ll get burned by lava!
47. Make an obstacle course: Make an obstacle course through the house. If your kids are older make them crawl through it!
There are sure to be 100s more ways you can spend your time this holiday season, but these are just a few to get you started.
Hope you have a great holiday season, and have plenty of fun with the kids! Share your family favorites in the comments, and let us know what ideas we missed!
Find 100s more ideas for all seasons here.