Whenever the kids have a day off school I know I have to be prepared. I need to provide activities for the kids whether we’re at home or out and about. Sure they could sit home and hang out all day (cough*on screens*cough), but with a little direction, a long list of things to do, and places to go; we’re more likely to have a good day.
Learn more: How To Get Kids Off Screens and Into Play
As I’ve transitioned into being a work from home parent I have found that when all four kids are off school are the toughest days. We’re out of our routine, everyone wants to do something different, and all I want to do is make an adults only blanket fort, plug in some headphones, and hide. (wine optional)
What’s a mom (or dad) to do? Come up with a list of 50 things we can do while the kids are off school many of which you can use anytime of the year!
50 Activities For Kids When There Is No School
Things to do with Preschoolers and Under
If you have a preschooler and younger kids or babies at home it’s best to come up with a schedule that includes everyone’s naptimes, snacks, and meals for the day. Stick to their regular bed time, and stir in a little fun, and a pinch of adventure for the best results.
1. Visit one park a day: If it’s nice out visit a different local park each day. If you’re an overachiever you can make a rating sheet that the kids can fill out so you know which park to go back to.
2. Make a treasure hunt: Make a list of things they need to find wherever you are heading. The grocery store can be drawings of their favorite foods, while the park can be things like a bird, a rock, a sandbox, etc.
3. Go on a nature walk: Take a bag or carton and head out for a walk to find ‘nature’ to bring home. This can be anything from rocks and sticks to flowers and dandelions.
4. Create sensory activities: Water tables, rice bins, and sandboxes are all fun but add some objects for the kids to dig out to make it more fun.
5. Cleaning helper: If you have cleaning to do share some simple tools with them to have them help out. Vinegar and water mixed in a spray bottle is great for wiping down all kinds of surfaces, and safe for little ones. They may also get a kick out of things like polishing silver, dusting baseboards, and hunting for toys under the furniture.
6. Play dates: While you don’t want to overdo it, school breaks are a great way to get some one-on-one playtime in with classmates and neighborhood friends.
7. Museum visits: Look for museums that have toddler or preschool friendly areas like children’s museums, art museums with a kid’s only area, and more.
8. Hit the library: A great way to find some new reading material and spend a few hours. Most local libraries have story time and toys to keep little ones occupied while you catch up on the latest bestseller.
9. Create a mini garden or plant pots for indoors: There’s nothing more exciting to a little person than seeing something grow that they planted. Whether it’s seeds, mini plants, or a veggie garden your kids are sure to love to get their fingers dirty.
10. Create 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. Some of the funniest things my kids have told me come from their own story books.
11. Dance party!: does your little one love to boogie? Turn on some kid-friendly tunes and get down.
12: Science Experiments: Simple experiments are so fun for this age group. Float or sink is a fun one to play in a baby pool or the bathtub while Mentos and coke will bring amazed looks from your little people.
Elementary Age to Middle School
13. Movie marathon (great for rainy days): Rachee from Say it Rah-shay shared, “We have a lazy movie day. My daughter and I run, run, run so much that on days when we are obligation free we get a bunch of movies that we love, favorite snacks and have mini marathons.”
14: Try out new restaurants: Robin from Family Fun Delaware shares, “Since mom still has to work, we’re cashing in a bunch of deal-site vouchers for lunches at new-to-us restaurants.”
15. Ice Cream Day: Stephanie shares another fun food idea, “Spend the day driving around the area and pick really neat ice cream/fro yo spots to sample all day long.” Yummy!
16. Play Tourist for a Day: Make time to do the ‘touristy’ things when you are a local is a great way to spend a day and get to see thins you normally skip over.
17. Geocache: Searching for clues and ‘treasure’ may not seem like it’s a local activity, but geocaches are found all over the world and are a great way to spend some time outdoors exploring. If you don’t want to let your kids run around with your phone you can get a hand held GPS device for them to carry.
18. Make an obstacle course: Build an obstacle course in the yard with balls, bats, and other gear you probably have lying around for some fun and exercise.
19. Use reciprocal memberships: I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating that you can often use your memberships to gain access to other local or nearby attractions or museums. Check your membership website or call for details.
20. Use up your birthday or holiday money: Kathy shared, “We are spending the week cashing in Christmas and birthday gift cards for movies and Rita’s.” (water ice)
21. Scour deals sites for things to do: Tonya shares, “I highly recommend purchasing deals via living social and groupon, etc. Save them for while the kids are on vacation, we’ll be doing the same over the long summer break.” She shared a long list of places they were planning to visit, all of which sounded amazing!
22. Introduce the kids to old school TV: Do you have a love of Fraggle Rock or the Muppets? Time to show your kids your ‘classic’ favorites. Netflix is a great source for old school TV fun.
23. Board Game Day: Barb from a Life in Balance said a board game day would be a fun way to pass the time. I know in our house we have many we’ve never played! If you’re like my kids it will soon dissolve into combining the games together to make a ‘super game.’
24. Go for a Photo Walk: Grab your cameras, DSs, etc. and head out for a walk. Have everyone take pictures of the same thing to see what kinds of different results everyone gets.
25. Bust out the hose: If it’s a nice day pull out the hose for car washing or sprinkler games.
26. Give back: You’ve got some free time on your hands, so why not use a little to give back to those in need? Donate some time to your local animal shelter, visit a retirement community, or make some artwork for sick kids or the troops.
27. Declutter: It’s the perfect time to declutter everyone’s rooms and get things ready for donations or a yard sale.
Learn more: 4 Tips for Green Decluttering
28. Everyone gets a choice: Let everyone choose an activity over your break. If it’s just one day-let everyone choose something you can do in about an hour. This will eat up about half your day.
29. Spa day: Create a spa day at home with nail polish, massage by mom, and facials made from fresh ingredients.
30. Do nothing day: Let everyone sleep in. Stay in your pjs all day. Do as little as possible all day long. (note: not for kids with high energy!)
31. Hotel Stay at home: Kate shared this fun idea. Create a ‘hotel’ in your guest room (or your master bedroom) for a night. Have turn down service and warm cookies before bedtime.
All Ages Fun
32. Pottery painting: Jessica from Found the Marbles shares that she took her kids to paint pottery, “We’re making Mother’s Day presents for the grandmas.”
33. Build a fort: This was one of my favorite activities as a kid, and remains one of my kids favorite activities even as they get older.
34. Create photo albums: This works for any age. Candace suggests creating scrapbooks out of photos. It can be a fun way to look back on the past year and talk about things your kids accomplished, and places you’ve been.
35. Create calming glitter jars: A fun activity, and it allows kids of all ages to create something that helps them calm down. Angela shares a tutorial from making calming glitter jars.
36. Tour local factories: Rajean from Rajean Blomquist shares this fun idea, “We have a candy company and tea plant that gives free tours, and they get treats.”
37. 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).
38. 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.
39. Clean your room!: Ok 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.
40. Cook with your kids: Kids love to get busy in the kitchen. You can find recipes and ideas for all ages from toddlers to teens.
41. Exercise together: Whether it’s going for a bike ride, a hike, or simply a walk after dinner-it can be a great thing to get moving as a family.
42. Day Trip: Taking a day trip to somewhere new can be a fun way to spend the day, and with some careful planning it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Lolli from Better in Bulk shares how she took her family of 7 to New York City for a day and spent under $150! Check out this post for details on how to visit New York City with your family on a budget.
43. Make your own Game: On our second day of Spring Break I kicked the kids outside so I could make some progress on decluttering (more on that in a minute). The kids were bored at first but soon invented their own game called “Epic Catch” that involved hitting a whiffle ball up high in the air with a tennis racket while other people tried to catch it with a variety of tools including butterfly nets. Sometimes we forget that left to their own devices kids are great at coming up with ideas.
44. 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.
45. 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.
46. Chalk Drawing: Another all age favorite whether it’s scribbles or intricate designs created by a crafty tween. My kids love to make “race tracks” for toy cars or their scooters.
47. Make your own Videos: Whether it’s your 2 year old singing Adele, or your teen talking about Minecraft crafting your own videos can be a fun way to spend time (and hey you never know-they may go viral!).
48. Create a Veggie Garden: You don’t need a green thumb to start a veggie garden, just a good patch of sunny land, and some seedlings or seeds. You can make a veggie patch inexpensively, but make sure you choose a good spot by observing the sunlight in your yard. Kids of all ages can measure the amount of space you need, pick veggies to plant, and help dig up the veggie patch.
49. Make your own…: Making your own can be a fun way to spend a day. Whether you are making your own candy, DIYing candles, or mixing up your own play dough you can find tons of things to make at home.
High School Students and Older
50. Make Time: It’s likely they have their own agenda but sneaking in some time for a lunch date, shopping trip, or outing for the day can be rewarding for both of you.
Philly Area Ideas:
If you’re in Philly and looking for something local to do I had a ton of great recommendations from area bloggers.
Jen from Jersey Family Fun said, “The The NJ State museum planetarium is running a special schedule of shows and the price is reduced. Plus admission and parking are always free.”
Stephanie from Modern Day Donna Reed shared her favorite spots, “Longwood Gardens and then dinner in Kennett Square, or head to Peddlers Village for a day of shopping and relaxing.”
Some of our favorite Philadelphia area spots include:
- Lancaster for the train museum, Choo Choo Barn, and train rides. (as well as the shopping)
- Winterthur Museum and Gardens
- Adventure Aquarium
- Philadelphia Zoo
- Ikea for decor, furnishings, Small-land, and their grub
- West Chester for shopping and eating out
- Doylestown for a fun day of walking around
- King of Prussia mall to ogle consumer goods, and hit the Apple store
- tons of parks and playgrounds all over the local area
Looking for more ideas? Check out these posts:
What do you do when your kids are off school?
Dr. Jennifer and Dr. Tony Edwards says
These are great suggestions! We are incorporating cooking lessons to get our daughter more involved in the activities of the house.
This is AWESOME!
Barb @ A Life in Balance says
Great list! It also works as a jumping off point for a summer bucket list.
Awesome list! Day one and we’ve already been playing outside, had a sleepover, and had a play date. Time to get creative 🙂 It would probably also be a good idea to give the kids several options and let them pick which one they want to do: museum, park, or library? Or letting each child take turns picking the special activity to do for each day.
Michelle Wolfson says
This is a great list. Thanks.
Jessica @FoundtheMarbles says
Great list, Kelly! We did several of these, and got Mother’s Day presents done with #32. Painting pottery can get expensive but my kids both love it so I like to use the time for them to make presents. Thanks for including my suggestion!