25 Cheap Family Fun Ideas: Epic Entertainment on a Budget

Updated March 22, 2021
Family shopping at farmers market

Parents are always on the lookout for new things to do with their brood that won't break the bank. These creative activities provide cheap family fun for groups who have a little to spend.

Visit a Farmer's Market

Nearly every town or neighboring town has a farmer's market happening during the week. Items sold here are generally inexpensive. Sometimes they are held near a fun park or have live entertainment for shoppers. Take twenty dollars with you are see what kind of local produce you can score.

Have a Family Movie Night

You can watch something that you already have and eat snacks in your possession, making this a free activity, or you can take it up a notch at a low cost. Rent a new movie that the gang has yet to see, order a pizza or go to the dollar store to buy some fun snacks and candy that your family might not normally enjoy.

Keep Your Eye on Zoo Prices

Taking a large family to the zoo can get expensive. There are often entrance and parking fees, drinks, snacks, and the dreaded gift shop waiting to drain your wallet. Regardless, a day at the zoo is a fun memory that you will want your children to have at some point. Throughout the year, many zoos offer discounted days for the public or for certain groups of people.

Muse Around a Museum

Museums are great places for families to learn and bond together. The museum often charges an entrance fee per person, but many museums will offer free or discounted entrance fees on certain days of the week, or throughout the month. Call up your local museums and see what they offer in regard to discounts.


If you have a tent and a bit of outdoor knowledge, then camping can make for inexpensive family activities during the warmer months. The major cost surrounding camping is the tent and associated gear. See if someone you know has items for you to borrow. Campgrounds require campers to pay a fee for their tent site, but compared to other vacation spots, camping is a cheap and fun getaway option.


Spend the day traversing a local river with your loved ones. Canoe rentals won't normally break the bank, with rental prices running anywhere from $20 to $40 for 2-4 hours of water fun. Pack waters and sandwiches to eat on the riverbank, wear swimsuits and enjoy the day in nature.

Family paddling in a canoe on a lake

Bird Watching

Taking to the woods and looking at birds is free. If you and your family want to level up with your birdwatching hobby, invest in a decent bird-watching book, so that you know what you are looking at. Buy a pair of binoculars to share, as you seek out new species in the skies. Make sure you bring along a birdwatching journal to record all of your findings.

Make Homemade Playdough

Kids love playdough, and it is inexpensive to make a large batch of it.


  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • food coloring


  1. Combine your dry ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Mix water and food coloring in a pot over the stove.
  3. Add vegetable oil to the pot.
  4. Add dry ingredients to the pot.
  5. Cook mixture over medium heat until solution hardens into play dough texture.
  6. Take the pot off of the stove and cool
  7. Knead the dough into a ball.

If you have older kids and adults in the family, get them in on the action too. Hold a competition where everyone is given something to create. See who makes the prettiest flower, the funniest animal, or the most interesting creation.

Have a Bake Off

Cooking together is a great way to spend time with the family, and the only associated cost will be the ingredients. Make cooking extra fun with a cooking challenge. Split the family into teams, purchase enough ingredients for each team to whip up their own batch of cookies. See which team reigns supreme in the kitchen.

Create a Chalkboard Wall

If you want to add an element of fun to a child's bedroom or a playroom, give them a wall to draw on! Chalkboard walls are popular additions to children's spaces and putting one in your home won't cost a ton. You can even make your own chalkboard paint at home, saving an extra dollar or two.

Enjoy a Spa Day

A day at the spa is a luxury that many people can not afford. Try bringing the spa to your family at a much lower cost. Items like bubble baths, face masks, nail polish, and candles can be bought at most dollar stores. Treat your loved ones to a foot soak, a manicure, and sweet-smelling scents without going broke.

Plant Something

Creating a garden is something that the whole family can get in on. Dirt and seeds are both low-cost items that are sold at most home repair and grocery stores. Find a space in your yard or in pots and plant seeds. Watch them grow, enjoy beautiful flowers and yummy veggies that you and your family made possible.

Build a Bird Feeder

If your family is handy, you probably already have the skills and equipment lying around to fashion a bird feeder. Take the day and make something for your flying friends. Older kids can help with the tools and actual building process, and younger kids can paint the birdhouse once it is completed.

Go Fishing

If you don't own fishing poles, there is a good chance that someone close to you does. Find a few poles to borrow for the day and take to the local lakes and rivers for some fishing fun. See who catches the most fish, the biggest fish, or the smallest fish.

Young dad teaching her daughter fishing at pier joyfully

Rock Painting

Rock painting is an excellent way to do some family crafting without spending tons of money. Local craft stores will have what you need to get started, and that is basically paints and a few paintbrushes. Find some smooth stones around your home, clean them off and give them a colorful facelift.

Have a Lemonade Stand

You will spend a little money to make a little money with a lemonade stand. Have the kids have some fun signs advertising their goods. Whip up a batch of homemade lemonade and wait for the customers to roll in. An activity like this will run you the cost of ingredients, and you might end up making more than you spend. This is a great opportunity to teach kids the value of a dollar as well as basic producer/consumer concepts.

Start a Family Scrapbook

Scrapbooking is a wonderful way to gather your family's memories in one creative space. The art of scrapbooking can become expensive and complex, but you can also keep costs low and spread them out. Hold a scrapbook page night once a month. Choose a theme for the scrapbook page and gather relevant pictures and keepsakes. Buy materials to decorate the page and create a memory to go in the family scrapbook. Someday everyone will look back on their lifetime of memories and smile at all that you did together.

Pack a Picnic

If you have a blanket, a basket, and sandwiches, you can have a picnic. Spread your picnic out in the backyard or a local park and enjoy some company and sunshine. Bring along a ball and baseball mitts or a frisbee for a bit of after-meal entertainment.

Family Having a Picnic

Treat the Family to Ice Cream

A favorite after-dinner summertime treat is a cold, sweet ice cream cone. Simplify the order and the cost by getting everyone a single serving cone. No huge, over-the-top monster creations! Kids will be thrilled at all the flavor choices, and parents won't feel broke or guilty for plying their darlings full of unnecessary sugars.

Make a Special Family Meal

Dining out with a large family is pretty pricey, but taking the experience and putting it inside of your own walls will cut the costs down. Think of something special to create for your family, consider menu items that they might not normally eat. Little kids can design menus and older kids can help set tables and prep food. Everyone can put their Sunday best on and pretend that they are at the fanciest restaurant in town.

Family Game Night

Think of a different game to play each week. You likely have a few game boards at home already as well as a deck of cards. All of these things can be used to create a fun family experience. Add in games like charades, which require cheap supplies like balloons, or buy a new board game every month to add to your arsenal.

Puzzle Challenge

If you have a larger family, all of puzzle completion age, host a puzzle challenge. Buy two cheap puzzles at a dollar store or other stores that carry puzzles at a low cost and see which team can complete the puzzle in less time. Consider buying a small prize or cheap trophy for the winning team.

Father and daughter sitting on living room floor, doing jigsaw puzzle

Send Letters to Loved Ones?

Buy pretty stationery and some stamps and spend an afternoon writing letters to loved ones. Everyone loves opening the mailbox and seeing a piece of mail addressed to them. This is a great opportunity to send some love to friends and family while working on written expression skills with kids.

Set up a Science Fair

Science can be a lot of fun for children. The lessons are both educational and hands-on and entertaining. Research science experiments and have each family member plan and execute one. Hold a family science fair one evening where everybody in the family explains and displays their project. Build a volcano, study surface tension, or grow bean sprouts. Everyone will learn something new from each other.

Try Your Hand at Origami

Cold or rainy afternoons are great times to get out some origami paper and see what you can make. There are tons of free origami tutorials on the internet, as well as low-cost origami books available for purchase. Origami paper is easy to find on sites like Amazon, retailing for $5 to $20 for a package of paper. Everyone can get in the action, creating beautiful items from a piece of paper.

Enjoy Cheap Family Fun

You don't get these precious moments with your family back, so make the best of them while you can. You don't have to spend your entire paycheck to create a day of fun for your loved ones. If these activities still feel a bit out of your budget, no worries, there is no shortage of free family activities to try out!

Read Next: Family Picnic Games Your Whole Brood Will Love

25 Cheap Family Fun Ideas: Epic Entertainment on a Budget