zero waste family activities, family activities on a budget

In a world where most of us spend a lot of time looking at screens instead of truly interacting in meaningful, fun ways; it is important to keep family time a priority without having to go crazy with the spending.

Studies have shown that the simple act of having nightly family dinners does wonders for the emotional, academic, and even physical development of the children in the home.

Imagine how much more could be achieved with regular, fun activities that will also help you all bond and become even closer as a family! Below are thirty activities that cultivate mindfulness and quality time for your family without breaking the bank or creating waste!

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1. Baking (and Making)

For many of us we have memory of baking with mum or grandma. The best part was obviously getting to lick the spoon. So as a family, let everyone choose something they want to bake together as a family.

It could be cookies, cake pops, muffins, a pastry—anything yummy and bake-able!

Then, you all work together as a family to get the ingredients and make something super delicious everyone can be proud of being a part of.

You can take it to the next level and instead of baking treats (which are nice), you can make homemade tortillas for Taco Tuesday, or a loaf of French bread to go with pasta.

Making granola bars for snacks during the week is a good way to get creative with ingredients and keep healthy snacks around during the week.

Whatever you decide to bake or make, it’s good quality time and will become the memories your child carries with them when they come across certain foods as an adult.

Have older kids? Meal prep together. Search for recipes to try for those evening meals. Your kids are more likely to eat something they chose and made themselves.

Want to get out of the house (or avoid the mess in your house)? Try a family lollipop class! A mess somewhere else, same fun and treats.

2. Gardening

Gardening is a very useful skill, and can be a lot of fun to get into. You can start a little vegetable, herb, or flower garden depending on the space you have.

If you have a lot of space, everyone can have their own little plot where they can grow what they want.

If you don’t have a lot of space, get creative with containers and windowsills.

I have a crockpot that cracked. I could have just chucked it in the bin, but instead I drilled drainage holes in the bottom and my basil now happily grows in it. You can do the same with tin cans and old wellies.

There are some amazing little growing kits for kids, like this little book about carrots that you plant when you finish reading! It would make a unique and fun gift if your kids grow to love gardening. (Lettuce books are available, too!)

Another fun one, is to percolate veggies in water. Lettuce, celery, spring onions, and so much more can be regrown in a bowl or jar of water.

Replace the water each day and watch your veg regrow.

Gardening is a great way to show your kids how patience, hard work, and perseverance can pay off in big ways. There also is no substitute for the flavour in homegrown food! Cherry tomatoes, anyone??

3. Story Time

Start with oral stories. You can have one person start the story and each family member takes turns adding the next sentence until you get to the end. This can also be written on paper to make it easier to remember.

You can even go word by word.

Not feeling that creative?

Let everyone chose their favourite story to read together.

Take it up a notch and turn the stories into plays where everyone plays different characters.

Not enough characters for everyone in the family? Don’t forget a narrator and you can have someone video the fun.

I know this may feel goofy to you, but these are the moments that mean the world to your child. So, give it a go; everyone will become part of the story, and you will all have an amazing memory to look back on forever.

Bonus points for going all in with costumes, funny voices, and homemade props!

4. Board Games (and More!)

Sometimes just a relaxing day of playing board games is a great way to pass the time. (Rainy days, especially). You can turn this into a weekly game night, a-disconnect-from-technology-night, that everyone will come to appreciate.

Some fun games for everyone:



Uno (or any games with a deck of cards)



If you want to add a little something extra, try making up some new rules and change the same old games up a bit!

If you have younger kids, playing in teams is a good way to play harder games with no tears.

You can also create your very own games like themed charades, or scavenger hunts! Unleash your creative side and play by your own rules.

When the weather is nice, don’t forget tag, hide-and-seek, or just a family game of football. With so many variations on those games, there is a lot of fun to be had (with some exercise mixed in, too)!

5. Craft Day

Colouring, collages, slime making, salt dough, origami, painting, etc. are all examples of super fun art crafts you can do with your family.

Art is something that can be therapeutic, so make sure this is a positive experience with no bad ideas or critiques.

If you can get out, try a pottery experience either making or painting pottery. If you have older kids a jewellry making or soap making workshop would be a memorable day out, too!

Art styles are all different, and there is no wrong way to be creative. Just have fun!

Need inspiration?

Visit a museum and everyone picks out their favourite piece (take a photo if you’re allowed for reference). When you get home replicate your chosen piece.

Whenever your family finishes their art, set it up in a room in the house like a gallery and walk through appreciating all the lovely pieces and “meeting” the artists.

6. Pizza Night (and a Movie)

All you need is dough, toppings, sauce, and an oven to have your very own family pizzeria!

Everyone gets enough dough for a personal sized pizza, and they can top it however they want.

Then, you just bake and enjoy!

This makes personal pizzas truly personal and makes for great bonding time with food and fun!

If you make pizza night a weekly event, you can also throw in a movie and rotate who choses the movie each week.

Olivia and Penny’s Movie Recomendations:

The Lorax


The Aristocats

7. Build a Den

One person can make a pretty awesome den, but a whole family can make an epic CASTLE DEN!

Use cardboard boxes, chairs, blankets or sheets, couch cushions, pillows, clothes pins, and more to create a huge pillow fort to hang out in.

If you can, try stringing in twinkle lights and create a truly magical space that would be great for bedtime stories.

8. Movie Marathon

Another cold, rainy day idea.

Get comfy. Grab the biggest duvet in the house, dress in your snuggliest clothes and watch a movie series for a day with lots snacks and finger food.

My brother and I did this with the Lord of the Rings director’s cut.

Lasted over 10 hours.

Wouldn’t do it again, but it was epic and I’m glad we have that memory.

9. Learn Sign Language

Sign language is a very useful language to know, and it is actually a lot of fun to learn.

I used baby signing with both of my girls and it was so helpful. As they’ve gotten older, my youngest, Penny, still uses signs here and there and I’ve come to realise this would still be a useful skill when you are trying to say something on the sly or in a quiet place without disrupting anyone.

It would also come in especially handy if you encountered someone that speaks sign language. BSL and Makaton would be the most common here.

You can use books and/or online tutorials, help each other practice, and even try going a whole day communicating with just sign!

10. Film For A Day

Use your phones, or an old camcorder to document a whole day with your family. Give everyone a turn doing the filming (and taking stills, too)- even the little ones as the perspectives are interesting to say the least!

Then you can edit the clips and photos into a fun family movie.

If you have an iPhone you can throw the clips into a new album and have your phone make the movie, which is the fasted option.

You can also use iMovie or other film editing apps to create a movie complete with music, effects, and text.

As the years go by, it will be fun to look back and remember what a fun day you had, and how you lived at that time.

11. Dance Party

Make a playlist with everyone’s favorite songs and have big dance party!

Go crazy and have fun just shaking out all your troubles. You will get a great workout for it, too!

Feeling especially bold? Try an online dance class and learn a routine as a family. Just search for things like “beginner’s hip hop class” or ballet, or tap, or salsa, etc.

If you practice enough, you could film your family and become the next internet sensation!

12. Exercise!

Exercise may not sound like a fun family day, but it’s so important for us as parents to stay healthy to keep up with our kids and instill in them the importance of keeping our bodies healthy.

Pilates and Yoga are fantastic ways to help with flexibility and fitness.

Start with beginner positions, and practice daily until everyone is super comfortable with learning gradually more complex positions.

Olivia is three and absolutely loves doing “Tree” pose and showing off her balancing skills. She loves the novelty of doing things on my yoga mat.

Hopefully, as things open back up, classes like the family yoga class at the National Trust’s Quarry Bank will return.

If you want a fun exercise class and are in the North West, Mama Fit offers a Family Fit class where the entire family can come along for a fun workout. You can even download the app for FREE workouts you can do at home!

Other ways to sneak in exercise is a trip to Inflata Nation. If you have older kids an outing to be Ninja Warriors will be a fun challenge as well.

If you can’t get out of the house at the minute, Sky has a free fitness channel and Cbeebies has Oti’s Boogie Beebies which is great for families with toddlers, and there’s always YouTube.

13. Picnic

This can be indoor or outdoor, depending on the weather. Pack up some food, drinks, snacks, pillows, and blankets. Then set up a nice little picnic spot in your house or back garden!

Picnics are always a lot of fun and much more relaxing than a typical formal meal at a table.

This easily combines with pizza and a movie day, too.

If the weather is nice and you can get out of the house, National Trust sites are amazing places to picnic. Many have designated areas, and most have beautiful gardens with wide expanses of green grass, perfect for picnics.

If you don’t have a family membership, yet, it’s well worth the investment!

14. Make Cards or Write Letters

There’s something special about getting something in the mail-aside from bills!

Writing a letter to family members like grandparents or cousins is a fun way to keep in touch and bring a smile to their face.

Finding someone to become pen pals with can also be fun, especially if you are learning another language. You can find someone learning English and practice. (This might be better over email though).

Letters and cards can mean so much to elderly in nursing homes and troops overseas. Make some handmade cards with happy messages, write some kind letters, or send post cards from a recent trip to senior homes and military bases.

This is a wonderful way to boost morale and spread love to people who may be lonely and discouraged.

15. Fashion Show

Let the kids try on some old clothes from your closet, and make the craziest outfits they can think of.

Then, the parents can pretend to be fashion show judges and score everyone’s costumes.

The judges can even have their own eccentric outfits on for extra fun!

16. Silly Talk Time

Creating a safe space for your kids to talk to you can start with something as simple as silly discussions.

Using Mad Libs to create silly stories as a family can lead to a lot of fun banter at the end of each round.

Try Would You Rather?

It’s a small book with ridiculous either, or choices you have to make. Tons of fun to be had discussing the pros and cons of each option and why each person picked what they did.

You may be feeling creative by then and make up your own.

(Opening up lines of communication whether silly like this or casual discussions during a meal will make your kids more comfortable telling you the serious stuff, too, as you’ve already created that safe, loving open communication).

17. Tie Dye

Tie dye is a lot of fun, and is also a great outlet for creativity! You can tie dye just about any article of clothing, and there are a million ways to tie and dye them!

You can even use fruits, vegetables, herbs and other natural ingredients to use for the dye keeping the process non-toxic and better for the environment.

Once they are all finished, you will have a great memory every time you wear whatever you made!

Check out Rebecca Desnos ebook for getting the right colours using natural dyes.

18. Learn To Sew

Sewing is a skill that everyone should know because it comes in handy at some point in your life.

Just knowing how to sew on a button can be the difference between a wardrobe malfunction and a quick fix with no fuss.

Basic stitches are also good to know in any future fashion emergencies or for making your clothes last longer by being able to do things like darn socks.

Once you and your family have the basics, you can easily create stuffed toys out of old socks and tee shirts, doll clothes, and even upcycle old clothes into more trendy styles.

You may even find yourselves dabbling in altering or refashioning charity shop finds or making your own unique, fancy dress costumes.

YouTube is brilliant for finding basic, easy-to-follow videos.

19. Build Models

Order a model airplane, building, car, etc. and build it together as a family.

There are also amazing STEM kits out there where your family can learn basic coding and create functioning robots, catapults, etc.

Model building is an awesome way to learn about how things go together, how to work together as a team, and valuable skills for school.

20. Check Out Old Photo Albums and Make New Ones

Learning about family history is a great way to keep memories and traditions alive.

Great grandma’s sugo recipe will mean that much more if your kids have a face to place with the stories.

Pictures are worth a thousand words, and they also preserve the memories of the past.

Take it to the next level and go through unappreciated photos that are probably sitting on your phone. Go through them as a family maybe a year at a time or a particular holiday and pick out your favourites. If more than one family member has photos of the day, share them all.

Once you have the best ones picked out, easily turn them into an album at Snapfish that you or future generations can flip through and see your story and memories. (Free up space on your devices, too)!

21. Make a Scrap Book

If you want to go beyond a family photo album, make a family scrapbook.

This is fun for capturing holidays where you may have not only photos, but tickets, bus passes, maps, theatre programs, etc.

Putting them all into one place adds more details to your family’s story than photos alone.

It’s also a fun way to document the past for future generations.

22. Life Sized Drawings

Piece together empty, flattened boxes, or the packing paper from Amazon and have someone lay down on it. Then you can trace around their body so you have a template.

Once that is done, everyone can work together to fill in the template with clothes, facial features, jewellry, shoes, etc., and make a life-sized drawing of the family member!

You can then cut it out and if that family member is ever out during a family meal or other family even, you can seat the cutout in his or her place, which is sure to get a laugh.

You can do this outdoors with chalk as well, which could easily freak your neighbours out depending what and where you draw!

23. Karaoke

Karaoke is a familiy activity that is sure to get lots of laughs.

Choose songs that everyone knows or has at least heard. Take turns, or try singing in duets and trios.

You can even hold a contest for silliest song/voice combo.

Bonus points for adding an interpretive dance!

24. Go for a Walk and Become Nature Explorers

Search for four leaf clovers. Four leaf clovers are rare so this can be a nice, relaxing, yet, time consuming activity.

If someone is lucky enough to find one, even better! You can also look for things like spider webs, buttercups, daisies, dandelions, worms, bugs, etc.

Bring along some binoculars to spot some birds or their nests!

If you have dice or some index cards you can put a different colour on each side and take turns rolling the die or drawing a card. Whatever colour is picked, that’s the colour everyone has to look for in nature.

Take a break to lay in a field and watch the clouds go by. What shapes does everyone see?

Use your senses to look for shapes, listen for sounds, notice smells, feel the grass or notice the ground beneath your feet. If you happen upon a café or chip shop, feel free to explore taste, too!

Make the walk the highlight and not the destination.

25. Make A Critter House

A typical birdhouse can be a home for lots of animals besides birds!

Chipmunks, squirrels, mice, and other small mammals can also make their homes in birdhouses.

This is a great way to keep these little guys warm and sheltered in the rain or cold that may be coming up where you live.

If you don’t have the supplies, there are some lovely kits that can be easily assembled and decorated online.

You can make a simple bird feeder with items around the house as well.

Your family will begin to notice your garden coming to life as well as give critters a safe haven from bad weather.

26. Play In The Rain

Rain is usually an excuse to stay indoors, but you can have a lot of fun stomping in puddles and playing in the mud.

Grab some wellies, rain gear, and an umbrella and enjoy.

If you are out and about, be sure to have a spare set of clothes for everyone.

If you are at home, finishing off with cups of tea and hot chocolate is a relaxing way to dry off and warm up!

Feel free to create your own family rendeition of Singing in the Rain!

Just make sure there is no lightning.

27. Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts are a fun way to get the brain to pay attention and be mindful of it’s surroundings as well as getting bodies moving.

It does require a little advance planning on the parents’ part but there are so many ways to set up a scavenger hunt.

You can theme it by color, size, room, and more! Set a time limit if you have older kids; and make sure if you have younger kids, that they can have fun by making it simple enough for them or teaming them up with older kids and adults.

Working in teams like kids vs. adults makes things more fun as well.

28. Paint Rocks

Have everyone find a cool rock outside. Then paint pictures on the rock or paint them to look like an object or animal. For example, a lumpy rock might be shaped like a toad so, you can paint legs and eyes and spots on it to make it look like a real toad!

Take your rocks to the park and hide them for others to find and appreciate.

29. Volunteering

Volunteering is so underrated given that it gives you the same kind of dopamine rush as shopping!

Volunteering is a great way to bring joy to your family without spending money on things you don’t need but get out of boredom. (You won’t have the after-purchase let down and buyer’s remorse either)!

Sit down together and decide on a cause you would like to support from working at a foodbank, helping at a Special Olympics event, or doing a beach clean up there are so many opportunities to do something positive for your community.

30. Quiet Time

Kids (and adults) can benefit from having down time. When life is too go, go, go it can lead to burnout. You wind up with kids (and adults) that are overly stressed or anxious, which is the last thing we want to cause.

Quiet time is an opportunity for the kids to think, play by themselves, and give mom and dad a break to do the same!

Make it a break from screens as well.

Here are a few ideas to try for quiet time:


Word search



Listening to music on headphones

Laying outside and looking for shapes in the clouds

The idea is to do these activities as a family and not just something to send the kids off to do. One of the reasons many of us strive for a simpler lifestyle is so we can have more time with the people that matter, doing things to make memories to last a lifetime.

 Just be creative and have fun with it, and it will be a wonderful thirty days (not necessarily in a row) of affordable, family activities the whole family will love-and more importantly-remember!