10 Free (Or Almost Free) Family Activities to Beat Cabin Fever


Mid-January is the time when a lot of us start to feel cooped up inside, especially if you live in an area that gets freezing temperatures and snow. If you’re looking for something to do with your kids on the weekend—or during the week with small children—here are ten ideas that don’t cost a fortune:


1. Go to library story time

Many public libraries offer multiple story times for different age groups throughout the week. It’s a nice way to get out of the house, connect with other families, and bring some new books home. In addition to libraries, some of the big box bookstores offer story time in the evenings. Check to see if the stores near you offer this opportunity.

(MORE: 4 Myths About Raising a Reader)


2. Visit a train yard

My kids have a passion for all things transportation, so we have made many trips to the local train yard to watch the trains work. Kids who are fans of the TV shows Mighty Machines or Thomas & Friends will enjoy seeing the real thing in action. If you get there at the right time, you might get to see the switch engines pushing trucks around, sending them down the line to clang into the rest.


3. Visit a Humane Society or pet store

Who doesn’t love animals? If you have to be inside, why not get to play with and pet some puppies while you’re at it? Kids will love the chance to see different types of animals, and if you visit a shelter, it doubles as a service opportunity.

(MORE: Seasonal Service Projects for Kids )


4. Go on a Mall scavenger hunt

Scavenger hunts are a common birthday party idea, buy why not do it as a family activity to get out of the house in the winter? Split into two teams, each with an adult or teenage child supervising. To keep it a free activity, do an informational scavenger hunt where you gather random facts about the mall (like how many booths are in the food court).  Or do a freebie scavenger hunt where you gather items like credit card applications, shopping bags, and plastic silverware. Get more ideas here. And the best part about a mall scavenger hunt? FREE escalator rides!


5. Take a winter hike

Bundle up and brave the weather with a winter hike. Take a stroll around your neighborhood or find a nearby park with trails. See what kind of wildlife you can see at this time of year.

(MORE: Why Outdoor Playtime Helps Kids Sleep)


6. Tour a local service

Many local services and business, such as recycling centers, farms, and firehouses will let you come and tour their facilities. Not only is it fun, it’s also educational. Check out the websites of local services or call in advance to see if they offer public tours. My kids get a kick out of visiting our local buffalo farm and feeding the “pet” buffalo on site donuts.

 Tip: When cabin fever strikes, you’d be surprised how many activities you can find that don’t cost a lot of money. Ride the city bus, visit a train yard, take a winter hike, or find another hidden treasure where you live.

7. Ride the city bus

Buying a ticket has a small cost, but the payoff is big. It’s exactly the kind of activity that seems quite ordinary to adults but kids (especially suburban kids) find exciting. Give kids a city map and show them how to follow the route.


8. Visit a construction site

More big machines in action. Need I say more?


9. Visit a local museum

Many cities have at least a couple of small museums that are free. If not, see if they offer discounted weekday rates. Some libraries even offer passes to museums that you can check out to go for free or at a discounted rate. It’s another fun activity that’s also educational.


10. Have a campfire and toast marshmallows

If your city ordinances allow it, have a campfire in the backyard and toast marshmallows. If not, visit a state or local park that has campgrounds and have a campfire there. You don’t have to stay the night (though if you’re up for winter camping, more power to you!)—just go and use the fire pits to roast hot dogs, heat hot chocolate, and make s’mores.


Feel like staying home where it’s cozy? Check out these Stuffies® Activities to do with your kids to spice up a day at home.



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