Cheap or Free Ways to Spend Time as a Family This Winter


Winter is a time for family bonding. The days are shorter, the nights are longer, and due to the colder weather, it might be tough to come up with activities that will amuse the entire family and won’t break the bank. Fortunately, there are a number of things that are within your grasp, and here are some suggestions for family fun in the winter.

Outdoor winter activities

Make snow angels

Snow angels are a great way to get your kids out of the house and have fun. They don’t need any equipment, you can make them anywhere, and it doesn’t cost a cent. It may get cold, so make sure to have appropriate clothing for the kids. Bring the camera – it’s a perfect chance to get this year’s Christmas card photo!

Take a stroll

Put on your winter boots, bundle up, and go on a lengthy stroll with the kids. If you live in an area with hills or hiking trails, now would be a great time to grab your camera and capture some images of the winter season in your region. Don’t forget to pack your ECOGEAR FX flashlight if you’re walking in the dark. If there has been snowfall and you are walking, remember to be cautious since it is easy to slip and injure yourself!

Go to a Christmas market

There’s something magical about strolling through a Christmas market. You’re guaranteed to have a great time with the kids wandering about and seeing what’s on offer with all of the dazzling ornamental lights, the abundance of Christmas aromas, and the joyful people in town.

Gather kindling for fires

If you have a fireplace, this is the perfect time to gather some kindling. It takes only about 30 minutes and can deliver warmth for hours! Have your kids help out with gathering pine cones or other fallen branches – it’s an opportunity to teach them self-sufficiency and responsibility while also enjoying quality family time together in front of the fire.

Look for holly bushes and gather branches for wreaths

Holly is a cheap and cheerful addition to any Christmas decoration, so this activity will come in handy not just for your home but also as gifts. If you don’t have holly bushes on your property or yard, search the neighborhood – it’s likely that someone would be willing to lend you some branches! Give younger kids a list to practice their counting – 3 pinecones, 4 medium sticks and 2 big sticks, for example!

Make snow paintings with bottles filled with colored water

If you’re lucky enough to live where it snows, this cheap and fun activity is perfect for kids of all ages! You can use paintbrushes or spoons to create designs with colored water. Perhaps you can take pictures of their paintings before it all melts away, and print them out later.

Camp in the backyard

All you need is a cheap tent and some sleeping bags or blankets, then head out to the backyard for an outdoor sleepover. You don’t have to actually camp outside all night either, especially if it is particularly cold. If you have the room, tents could even be set up inside, or you could take the cushions off of the couch and make a fort to sleep in for the night.

Indoor winter activities

Watch some festive movies

Nothing beats curling up in front of the television with some delectable treats, warming beverages, and festive films to get you in the Christmas spirit. – Why not choose a movie for each family member and spend the day viewing them for a low-cost, enjoyable, and relaxing day at home? It’s also a great chance for you and your family to spend quality time together while getting ready for Christmas.

Bake a few treats

Make some tasty cakes and biscuits with the kids by getting eggs, flour, butter, and sugar. Giving them each a job will not only keep them occupied but will also teach them essential life skills. You get to sit and savor the delectable goodies once they’ve been cooked! It could also be an opportunity to prepare some treats for family members and have the kids take charge of them – they’ll make fantastic affordable gifts to give this season.

Visit the local public library

Many libraries host cheap or free events such as story time (perfect for preschoolers!) and craft days (which will be perfect for older kids). There is usually a section dedicated to children’s books. You can borrow movies or music, and many libraries actually have toys as well – all of which will cost only the price of borrowing fees each time you go there. It’s a fantastic way to broaden your kids’ exposure to all sorts of things without breaking the bank. (or having to find places to store things at home!)

Act out a play

If you have kids who are younger, they will enjoy dressing up and acting out scenes from their favorite movies. If your children are older, encourage them to write or direct a play of some sort! You can even make this more educational by having them work together to create the scenery with cheap items like cardboard boxes – it’s an activity that will keep them using their imagination for hours.

Have a movie marathon day at home

Schedule a fun-filled day where the kids get to choose what they want to watch – it’s cheap and sure to keep them occupied for hours. Make hot dogs or popcorn (or maybe one of those hot cocoa drinks from above in this list!) My kids are particularly fond of ‘pajama day’ where they know we’re not heading out and about for the entire day. Their little faces light up when I’ve said okay to watching the same movie twice in a row, too. It’s one of my easiest wins!

Make homemade Christmas ornaments

There are many cheap or free ways to have a lot of fun when it comes to making decorations for the holidays! You can paint pinecones and add glitter, make candy cane wreaths with ribbon, decoupage old Christmas cards, and use items from nature like leaves and acorns! Kids love getting messy in craft projects so I always encourage this kind of activity to keep them occupied. Making homemade ornaments will also teach them about nature – there are many natural objects that can be used in place of store-bought decorations, such as pinecones, acorns, flowers with leaves attached (or without), etc!

Make their own YouTube videos

An old phone on a selfie stick is all they need to make some videos of their own. (That you don’t need to make publicly available, but you could share with family!) If your child has a favorite creator, you can encourage them to pick something about said creator to emulate. This is a wonderful opportunity to talk to your kids about the media they’re consuming – they will appreciate you showing an interest in the things they’re interested in. Asking them to identify the specific things they like and pick apart what they’re watching will help them become make better media choices.

Make hot cocoa

This is a cheap and cheerful treat that will keep everyone warm while you’re indoors, cozy on the couch. Add marshmallows or candy canes for extra festive flair! Jennifer over at Mommy Evolution has a fantastic hot cocoa recipe inspired by Starbucks that you might be interested in!

Rediscover an old board game together

You can use your local thrift shop or second-hand store for cheap board games, or get back into one that has been in the cupboard for a while. Substituting some rules for younger children, or coming up with rules of your own could give old games new life.

Write letters to friends or family on paper

This cheap activity will help your children to practice their handwriting, and it’s a great way for you to get in touch with friends or family who live far away, but also down the street! There is something about putting a stamp on an envelope that is really special, and something our kids don’t get to do all that often at all!

Get painting

It could be a new artwork to put on the wall, or it could be a new pet rock! Painting rocks by using acrylic paint and a paper plate – covering the entire thing with a base coat of white, then painting on top colors to create patterns. Let dry thoroughly before trying to add details with eyes or other features! Pipe cleaner legs or googly eyes make for awesome additions.

Have a spa day at home

Setting up a little spa day for your children at home is cheap and easy. You can get simple things like lip balm, lotion, face masks, etc… from the dollar store to make it more special. Plus they will love getting their nails done with you! Get some cheap nail polish (in fun colors of course!) and let them paint your nails too.

Make a scavenger hunt

Scavenger hunts are cheap to plan out, and super flexible to create depending on what you have on hand. They can be made much harder by using clues only accessible inside of specific rooms throughout the house, or where there is only one item of that kind to find, like the TV remote control. If you’re super clever, you might even be able to sneak some chores in there that your kids might not even notice! (They might have to pack up a collection of toys to get to something at the bottom of the pile!)

Have a tea party

Tea parties are cheap and easy to plan, even if you don’t have a fancy tea set. Simply use some cups from the kitchen cupboard, as well as drinks like hot chocolate or juice for kids who won’t drink tea (and maybe some cookies too!) A fun activity is allowing your child to choose what kind of food they would like to set out for the tea party. My youngest in particular gets a huge kick out of being the one to serve the tea and treats, as opposed to being seated and served as a guest.

Play social multiplayer games

If your house has a Nintendo Wii or Switch in particular, there are a plethora of social games to enjoy with family or friends in the same room. Games like Mario Kart, Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, or even Just Dance are cheap to pick up and play. You can pick up some cheap controllers online or from GameStop, and even the games can be picked up really affordably second-hand.

In conclusion – there are plenty of options!

Whatever it is that you decide to do with your family this winter, cheap and free family activities don’t have to be boring! There are lots of affordable options out there to make an exciting time for you and your kids! What are your cheap winter activities to keep the kids busy? Let me know if there are any amazing things that I have missed!

Carly Wight

Mother of two young boys (6 and 3!) and an avid "Googler", Carly is the kind to research something to the nth degree. Be it about products, hacks, or techniques, she shares what she finds out at her website - Fairy Good Mommy.

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