It’s winter, and for many of us, that means being stuck indoors and dealing with a major case of cabin fever.
Before you know it, the kids are running wild and they’re on your last nerve. You yell, they yell, and everyone is in a bad mood.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
There are tons of frugal winter activities for kids. Things that will keep your family and your wallet happy!
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Go on a Hike/Nature Walk
I recommend this for pretty much every list of frugal fun for families, and with good reason.
Not only is hiking free, it’s a great way to get exercise and get the entire family away from screens.
It builds an appreciation for nature, and gives kids an opportunity to get dirty!
While you may think of hiking as a summer or fall activity, it’s one of my favorite frugal winter activities for kids as well! So bundle everyone up and take a walk in the crisp air. Or tromp through the snow. Go to the same trails you usually visit in the other seasons and take pictures. It’s an interactive way to demonstrate the changes of seasons and the circle of life to your kids!
Play in the Snow
This is probably the most obvious of frugal winter activities for kids, as long as you live somewhere that regularly gets snow that is!
Take everyone out and have a snowball fight, build a snowman, and make snow angels. Build a snow fort or find a big hill and go sledding.
No sled? No problem. When I was a kid my elementary school had a big hill down to the soccer field. Whenever it snowed (which wasn’t often in the Pacific Northwest!) we would all bring big black garbage bags and use those as our sleds. They were surprisingly effective!
After the snow
Sure, it’s easy to have fun in the snow when it has freshly fallen and is clean and powdery. But what about after a few days when it’s partially melted and icy? No problem! You can still get the kids outside and beat cabin fever!
Do you have a water table that your kids play with in the summer? Mine love theirs so why limit it to just one season? Pull it out and let your kids fill it with snow. Here are some fun snow activities you can do with a water table:
- Let them build snow race tracks and push their toy cars around in it.
- Bring out the water colors or other washable paint and let them paint on a snowy canvas.
- Fill squirt bottles or water guns with water and food coloring and have them create beautiful art work in the snow.
- Find the sand toys and let them scoop and dig to their hearts’ content. Build a snow castle instead of a sand castle.
If you don’t have a water table, any large bin or container will do!
Hot Chocolate and Movies
After you’re done playing outside, warm up with some hot chocolate. Really splurge every now and then and let the kids have whip cream and sprinkles!
Once everyone has their hot chocolate, start up a favorite family movie and cuddle in on the couch. Or build an indoor fort with chairs and blankets!
If your kids have been having too much screen time, or if they’re really little and don’t have the attention span for a movie, read books instead!
Find your favorite winter-themed books and enjoy a snuggle on the couch.
Get in the Kitchen
Another activity that always makes my list of frugal things to do with kids is baking.
Kids love it, and it teaches them important skills like measuring and following directions.
You don’t need to get fancy, especially if they’re little or you haven’t done much baking with them. A simple boxed brownie or cupcake mix will do just fine.
Sugar cookies are another fun option. Kids love using cookie cutters and being able to decorate cookies after they’re done baking.
Another thing to consider is cooking. Soups can be an easy way to introduce kids to cooking because a lot of recipes just require simple measurements and dumping things into a pot. Consider how proud your kids will be to sit down to dinner knowing they made it!
Have a Change of Scenery
Sometimes, all we need is a change of scenery to cure the winter blues. And while you can splurge by going to an indoor water park or a trampoline park, you don’t need to spend a small fortune to have fun in the winter.
Here are some fun and frugal winter activities for kids that get them out of the house:
- Library: especially check out planned activities they might have like story time or craft projects.
- Kids building workshops at home improvement stores.
- Crafts stores like Michaels and others often have craft classes geared for kids. They’re often less than $5!
- Go to a matinee at the movies.
- Bowling: look for discounted play times.
- Museums: many museums offer discounted admission windows for a more frugal experience.
- Check out children’s theater offerings near you. Tickets are often very reasonably priced.
- Park: if it’s not wet and snowy, bundle the kids up and go to the park so they can burn off some energy.
- Petting zoo: regular zoos are pretty pricey, but petting zoos are usually much more reasonably priced.
Indoor Energy Busters
One of the reasons kids can get so crazy during the winter is because they can’t get outside as often to burn off all of that energy! Before the crazies set in, try these fun indoor energy busters!
Indoor obstacle course
Create an indoor obstacle course with painters tape or masking tape, string, pillows…whatever you have on hand. Have your kids wind their way through the obstacle course without it falling down.
If that’s too much work, make shapes on the floor with painters tape and have your kids hop from shape to shape. Throw in an added twist by telling them to get to the next shape behaving like a certain animal (“hop like a frog to the square,” “get to the circle by acting like a monkey!”).
Kid-friendly exercise videos
Check out YouTube for workout videos designed especially for kids. We’ve had fun with this short animal-inspired workout and Cosmic Kids yoga. Find what your child likes and play it up after they’ve been a couch potato for long enough!
Even better, join them to get your own heart pumping a bit! They’ll love that you’re doing it with them!
What is it about kids and balloons? It seems like any time one comes out they lose their minds!
Get your kids moving with a good ole game of “don’t let the balloon touch the ground.” Kids can use their hands, feet, head or whatever to keep the balloon up. Just don’t let it touch the ground!
If you want to get fancy, you can make a “racket” using paper plates and craft sticks.
For older children, use a small ball or hackey sack instead to make it a bit more challenging. Just make sure they have plenty of room to play, far away from any breakables!
We love a good dance party in our house. I queue up songs from Frozen or Frozen 2 or whatever else they’re interested in at the moment and we go to town.
You know what? It’s good exercise for me too!
Let them run
Sometimes I ditch the structured activities and just let my kids run around the house. They can run a big loop from our entryway, through the living and dining rooms, into the kitchen, and back to the entryway. I don’t know what they find so fascinating about it but they love it.
And you know what? It keeps them entertained and burning energy so I let them, as long as they don’t get too out of control.
Fun for them, easier for me. I call that a win.
Winter Activities for Kids: Art and Crafts
Crafts are wonderful frugal winter activities for kids because you can usually put together a craft with items you already have on hand.
Pinterest is a huge resource of craft activities and art projects for children. But can I be honest with you? Oftentimes it’s overwhelming and intimidating. Seriously, how do these people come up with all of these ideas???
Here’s my suggestion: stick to the basics, especially if you have younger children. Don’t feel like you have to attempt a six part art project. My experience has been that simple nearly always works.
Here are some ideas to get you started.
Simple snowman art projects
For all of these art projects, start by outlining a snowman on a piece of construction paper.
- Explore texture painting by giving your child something besides a paintbrush to paint with. Try a cut up sponge, a clothespin with a cotton ball, or even a piece of celery.
- Create a sensory art project by covering your snowman with glue. Sprinkle sugar, salt, shredded coconut, or oatmeal on the snowman for a fun, textured art piece!
- Use mini marshmallows and glue to outline the snowman for a combo art project-fine motor control activity.
- Mix equal parts glue and shaving cream to make your own puffy paint. Add some fine glitter to give the snowman some extra shine!
Other winter art projects
- Sketch a bare winter tree and let your child fill in the branches by dipping a Q-tip in white paint and dotting it. Don’t worry if your tree sketch isn’t perfect. They won’t care.
- Make paper snowflakes and let your child hang them on their bedroom door or window.
- Paint your child’s hand white and have them press their hand down on a piece of paper. Rotate in a circle, heel side toward the center, to create a snowflake!
- Make a polar bear mask out of a paper plate! Cut holes for the eyes and mouth, and either draw on a nose and ears or cut some out from construction paper.
Of course this doesn’t even scratch the surface of winter themed art projects. If you’re interested in going down that rabbit hole, check out my Kids Crafts Pinterest Board!
And you don’t have to stick to winter themed projects either. Unleash all of your art supplies and let the kids create their own masterpieces! I often find this works out better than any structured art project I try to lead!
Frugal Winter Science
Like art projects, you probably already have things on hand to do a quick science project with your kids, which is why science always makes my list of frugal activities!
And also like art projects, Pinterest has tons of resources but can be equally overwhelming. Stick to the basics when your kids are little, and work your way up to the more complicated projects.
Vinegar and baking soda
I’ve talked about this several times before but it’s such a classic science activity and it delights kids every single time.
You really don’t need to do anything fancy. Add some baking soda to any container you have on hand and then pour a bit of baking soda on top. To jazz it up a bit, hide several drops of food coloring within the baking soda so it changes colors as the reaction continues.
Once you’ve entertained the kids with the basics, try making a lemon volcano or a fizzy rainbow for even more fun!
“Goop” is another super easy science and sensory experience. All you need to do is add enough water to cornstarch to form a goopy paste. Add some food coloring if you wish and let your kids swirl it through the goop for a cool impressionist effect.
Other fun winter science projects
Check out even more winter science projects on my STEM/STEAM Pinterest board!
If you’re intimidated by setting up your own science activities with kids, you can get kits very reasonably priced. While DIY will be cheaper, we’ve gotten hours of play out of these kits, so in my mind, that’s worth the price. Our favorites have been:
- Crayola Color Chemistry Lab Set
- My First Mind Blowing Science
- Learn & Climb Kids Science Experiment Kit
Other Frugal Winter Activities for Kids
- Have an indoor picnic
- Family game night with everyone’s favorite games
- Make your own pizza and movie night
- Write letters to out-of-town relatives or to send to our overseas troops
- Have your kids make a play out of a favorite book and perform it for the rest of the family
- Do an indoor or outdoor scavenger hunt
- Warm up with an extra bubbly bath. Make shaving cream paint (shaving cream and food coloring) for extra fun!
- Use craft paper to trace your child’s body. Let them color or paint their paper selves!
- Use your outdoor fire pit and make s’mores.
- Make instruments using items from around the house and have a parade (you may want to invest in some ear plugs first!)
Winter Activities for Kids: Fun and Frugal!
I hope I have reassured you that there are plenty of fun and frugal winter activities for kids and families to enjoy.
Unless the weather is treacherous, get your family outside.
If the kids have been sitting in front of their screens for too long, whip out one of these quick and easy science or art projects.
Or head to the kitchen and bake a sweet treat for everyone to enjoy.
Winter doesn’t have to be a time of boredom and crankiness. There are so many frugal winter activities for kids that you can keep your family and your wallet happy all season long!
Looking for even more frugal family fun? Check out these other posts!
- 40+ Fun, Free Family Activities to do During a No Spend Challenge
- Indoor Preschool Activities
- Frugal Fall Family Activities
- Frugal Summer Fun: Have Fun, Save Money!