50 cheap or free ways to have fun with friends

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We love it when our kids want to hang out and be social. We don’t love it when they have to spend ridiculous amounts of money to have fun with friends. Every now and then it’s great to go to a water park, shopping, laser tag, eating fast food or seeing a movie, but not every weekend. Not when we’re paying!

It’s also super-annoying when in response to us asking our kids to cut back on the expensive stuff, they end up hanging out texting each other. Isn’t the whole point of urging them to be social to get them off the darn screens?

Here’s a big list of things kids can do to have fun with their friends without it costing much at all and (mostly) without their phones getting involved. 

So, share this list with your kids, then don’t hesitate to say yes when they want to hang out with friends. In fact, say yes as often as you can.

50 awesome ways to have fun with friends

1. Kick a ball at the park

Let’s start with the basics. Outside ball games don’t get any less fun just because you’re older now. Kicking or throwing a ball at the park is a good excuse for a chat in the great outdoors. 

Kicking a ball is one of the ways to have fun with friends for free

2. Take a picnic somewhere

Keep the outside theme going and take lunch to a park, bush walk, the beach or even into the backyard if that’s all you can manage. Being outside in green space is actually critical for wellbeing, so it makes sense to spend as much time out there as possible. It’s also a lot of fun making a picnic with your friends – get each person to bring something to share.

3. Make something

While you’re busy making lunch, consider some other things you can make with your friends. Get together and pool your skills set (or learn new skills together). Something like:

Knit trauma teddies for the Red Cross to distribute to kids in hospital

Restore an old piece of furniture you find on the side of the road

• Make a video – write, produce and edit a video about something that matters to your group

Build a garden bed

Feed the birds

4. Have a spa day

Facials and massages are expensive, but supercheap to DIY. Fair enough, a group of girls are more likely going to give each other facials and new hairstyles. Which seems a great shame.

5. Play tennis

You might be crap at tennis, but that’s okay. You’ll get much better with practise! Tennis courts are cheap to hire as a group – and sometimes even free. Check with your local council what’s available in your area, or ask your school if the tennis courts are available out of hours. Set up a tournament

6. Go to free concerts

You might not be hanging out seeing Hilltop Hoods or Eminem live, but free concerts are definitely worth seeking out and are the best way to have fun with friends we know. For instance, the MCA in Sydney puts on the fantastic Genext every quarter, with free access to the museum, live bands, eats and workshops. All free. Or check out what’s coming up where you live (note, not all events will be specifically under 18):

Melbourne for free

Brisbane for free

Eventbite – search your area and ‘free’

7. Get into board games

There’s a reason board games still exist when video games are so awesome: they’re awesome too! There are plenty of good ones for older kids. Try one of these:

Catan – A strategy game for 3-4 players where each player has to use their resources wisely to build the most efficient and largest settlement on the island of Catan. It’s a fun, noisy game you can play in about one to two hours.

Risk – the goal is to take over the world. To achieve domination, you deploy your army, secure territory, and stop invasions. As well as your strategic thinking, you’re also relying on the luck of the dice to roll your way. This is a long and involved game, that can sometimes go on for days. Or you can play it quickly and be the ruler of the world by dinner time.

Dungeons and Dragons –  Thanks to Stranger Things, D+D is back in a big way. It’s almost hard to believe that this game has been played for more than 45 years. And that some players have literally been playing it for 35 years straight! It must be doing something right. At its heart, it’s basically a collective ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ storytelling game, but the camaraderie that develops between players is what keeps them rolling the dice for years. Warning: some people get really into it.

Cards Against Humanity – it’s rude, outrageous and downright disgusting at times, but it’s also insanely funny way to spend time with your mates. Definitely ask your parents before tackling this creative and clever game. The official recommended age is 18+.

8. Volunteer your time

Every community, everywhere, needs some older kid power to keep it going and it can be lots of fun if you volunteer with your friends. Whether it’s packing boxes for a local mission, bush regeneration, or slinging Bunnings snags for Rotary, there’s loads you can do. Check out more options for volunteers aged 14-18+ here.

Volunteer your time to have fun with friends

9. Binge-watch a new show

Sure, it’s a screen, but it’s also a scream. Watching a show you’re all into together is also a highly social way to have fun with friends. You’ll find yourself pausing regularly to rehash the plot or bitch about a character. Make it a regular get-together (say, Tuesdays after school for a couple of hours) and you’ll enjoy having scheduled time with your mates outside of school.

17+ Netflix series to binge-watch with your tween

10. Cook together

You don’t have to go all MasterChef and compete against each other – but you could. Rather, just making a batch of muffins or a slice for your school lunchboxes is a nice way to spend time together on a weekend. You could batch cook a few recipes to up the variety. Ask each of your friends to bring along their favourite. Here are some of ours:

Crispy date slice

Easy apple muffins

Blueberry and yoghurt loaf

Zucchini and carrot slice

Date loaf

Lemon and coconut muffins

11. Take a beach trip

Easier to do if you actually live near the beach, of course; but worth doing even if you don’t. A train trip to the beach might take a whole day, but you’ll never regret it. The beach is a must in any season. Take a beach umbrella or shelter, extra towels, food and plenty of water and make camp. Spend the day in the water, exploring rockpools, playing beach cricket (in the water is out) and digging in the sand. If you fall asleep on the trip home, you know you’ve done it right.

Have fun with friends at the beach

12. Hang by the fire pit

Check fire warnings before you even think about lighting a fire pit in the backyard, or anywhere. If the firies say you’re good to go, then start collecting the wood. You can even cook a sausage dinner over the coals and eat a sack of gooey toasted marshmallows for dessert. Of course, you’ll need to get your best stories ready too – the fireside chat late into the night is what it’s all about.

13. Play cards

Back in the day, cards is what people did when they wanted to have fun with friends. From Poker to Rummy to the mysteries of Bridge, cards are a skilled and absorbing way to bond with your mates. Try one of these games this weekend: 

6 card games kids love as much as screens

14. Host a dinner party

How very grown up! Why not! Show off your cooking skills (or lack thereof) and have your friends around for a proper dinner party. Ask them to dress up a little, dim the lights, set your playlist on rotation and enjoy sharing a meal. With a bit of luck, they’ll help with the clean up, too. We all know how much fun tea-towel wars can be…

15. Make Spotify play lists

This is a good one to do before your dinner party (see above). Get together and make a bunch of cool playlists with different themes. Start with ‘favourites’ – with everyone contributing their top three songs of all time (no judgement, please!) – and move onto different eras, genres and playlists made for occasions.

16. Make YouTube play lists

Ditto for YouTube. Share your faves to follow, or just quirky clips you’ve found along the way. Watch widely and challenge yourselves to find out new things, solve common problems or discover new places.

17. Play ‘would you rather’

This classic party game is a classic for a reason: it’s a wonderfully nosy way to have fun with friends. You won’t ever again know your mates like you know your school mates, so take that to the next level with this old-school game. There are some excellent ideas for questions here.

Other variations on this game are Truth or Dare and Two Truths and a Lie.

18. Ride the trains

Take a map of the train system in your area, close your eyes and point. Wherever your finger lands, that’s where you’re taking the train to. One the way to your mystery destination, Google things to do and find out as much as you can about the area’s history. When you arrive, explore, grab a meal and learn something new about your city. Then close your eyes, point, and do it all over again. Whatever you do, don’t make a nuisance of yourselves!

19. Try new hairstyles

You can learn anything from a YouTube video and how to style banging bangs is one such thing. Take turns to do each others hair into an elaborate up do. Straighten curl, curl straight and go wild with the coloured hair spray and accessories. Do some ‘serious’ hair too – stuff that looks good for school. Again, girls are more likely to spend a day doing this one, but wouldn’t it be fab for boys to have a bit of fun too?

20. Go camping

Most of us have a campground close by that we can easily escape to. Plan the weekend, set up tent and enjoy being outdoors and carefree with your faves. If you don’t have camping gear yourself, I’ll bet one or more of your friends has plenty. Make a roster for cooking and clean up, but keep things casual and easy for maximum enjoyment. If one of your mate’s plays guitar, remind them to bring it along. There’s nothing better then belting out really off-key renditions of your favourite tunes with only the stars to judge you. Depending on your age, you might need a parent along for this one.

Great ways to have fun with friends - camping

21. Go on a long bike ride

How long since you’ve ridden your bike? Bet it’s a while (though we hope it’s not!). Ask a willing parent for a lift somewhere scenic and bike-friendly and pedal away. Pack lunch and plenty of water and see where the day takes you. If you’re fit and brave, mountain biking is also a very cool way to have fun with friends. Remember, go only as fast as your slowest rider. This is not a riding competition, it’s easy time together with friends.

22. Eat brunch

It can be hard to organise a dinner that everyone can attend, but most kids are available on a Sunday for brunch. And brunch is the yummiest meal of the day. It doesn’t have to cost a lot if you make it yourselves – eggs and bacon on the barbie with some roast tomatoes and hashbrowns warmed in the oven is delicious.

23. Visit a gallery

All those museums and art galleries that your parents dragged you around when you were small are actually pretty cool. Give them a chance. Arrange a group to go together and pretend you know what you’re talking about as you visit the exhibits. Look out for activities organised especially for older kids and teens. The MCA in Sydney has a fantastic Young Creatives youth program, as will many others.

24. Interview each other

Set up the camera and pretend you’re celebrities being interviewed. You can take on a silly character, or just be yourself and answer honestly. It’s insightful and fun. Here are 21 questions to get you started:

21 interview questions for kids to ask their friends

25. Go for a run

If there’s a parkrun in your area, you really ought to give it a go with your friends. A weekly meet up, doing something for your wellbeing and having fun at the same time: where can I sign up, right? If you don’t have access to a parkrun, you can make your own version. Map out a course in your neighbourhood and agree same time each week. You can set your iPhone timer when you set off to give you a goal to beat next time. Cajole and encourage each other along to improve your fitness and better your times.

Try a parkrun with friends

26. Get into slam poetry

A little bit hip hop, a little bit literary, a whole lotta heat. Slam poetry is hot, hot, hot and a brilliant way to have fun with friends. Do a workshop together, go to a gig, enter a competition. You get to express all of life’s aggros and heartaches in a cool and clever way.  Of course, you don’t have to necessarily take part in it, you can just go along and see others in action. Check here to see how it works.

27. Join or start a book club

If you start your own book club, you get to decide which books you’re going to read. There are tons of resources online that can help you with questions and conversation starters around the books you are reading. Just google the book title plus ‘book club’ and you can’t go wrong. This is a great way to remind yourself to put down the phone and pick up a book. You could even get a small group of mates together to read and discuss your prescribed English novels. Whatever works…

28. Write a bucket list

You can create lists for things you want to achieve, do, be or see in your lifetime. Or next week. Or possible career options. Or video games you want to own. Or life goals or goals for this year. Or, or, or… lists are just so awesome because they get you thinking and dreaming and hoping. Bouncing ideas of each other just makes a list even better and is a really insightful way to have fun with friends.

29. Go bush walking

Hopefully you’ve got a parcel of bush near your place that’s good for a hike. Getting together in advance to plan your walk is part of the fun. You can even make it an overnight hike if you’re all prepared to carry your tent and other essentials. The load is no great when shared among many. Remember to check the fire warnings and the weather forecast before you set out. Always carry your phone and plenty of water with you. Go walking with at least two others and always, always tell someone where you are going, how long you plan to be and when you can be expected back. If you’re not sure what you’re doing, you can always join a National Parks Association guided walk. Check for one in your state.

Go for a bushwalk with friends

30. Learn a language

Like anything in life, learning a language is so much easier when you do it with a partner. You can practise your skills together, listening and tweaking. You can also encourage each other to keep learning when things get dull or it’s hard to find the time. The same is true of learning anything at all: an instrument, a new skill, your maths homework…

31. Explore the city

This is a bit like the train-ride idea above, but in a much more structured way. Challenge yourselves to discover as much about your nearest city as possible. You can do it in A-Z fashion by suburb. Or dedicate yourselves to visiting every park in every suburb. Or explore one area in full before moving onto another. Either way, getting out and about in areas that you wouldn’t ordinarily visit is a really rewarding way to have fun with friends.

32. Take your dogs for a walk

You bring your dog, they bring their dogs, you meet up at the dog off-leash park. The dogs have a great time together and so do you! Makes a routine chore feel fresh and new.

33. Start a lawn mowing business

Now this is a great way to hang out with your friend – making money. Mowing lawns isn’t difficult, but plenty of people don’t find the time or inclination to do it. There are plenty of landscaping companies that charge a small fortune to clip the grass and edgings, if you change a little less, the work is sure to flow. You’ll get fit, polish a skill or two and have plenty of money for good times ahead. Just make sure you’re crystal-clear about who does what and when. It helps to make an informal (or formal, if that’s your thing) contract before you get started.

34. Play Fly

Fly is pretty much the easiest game to play in the world and all you need are sticks. Any old sticks. So not only is it fun, it’s 100% free. Here’s how you do it:

35. Have a photo shoot

Get dressed up, snap some good looking shots and perfect your photography skills. Move around to a few different locations and remember the ‘costume’ changes. Instagramming your day’s work is optional.

36. Go for a night walk

Meet up after dinner and do a lazy 5k around the neighbourhood. How long has it been since you walked and talked and small cartoonish monsters weren’t involved? Walking in the late evening, or even after dark, is peaceful and calming. A really nice way to end the day, whether it’s in a big group or friends or just one or two.

37. Work out together

If you’re old enough, you can join the local gym together and get your together time that way. An all-ages, much, much cheaper way to do it is to find a park with outdoor gym equipment and ‘train’ each other. There’s a really good list of workout plans using the equipment found at most of these parks here.

38. Make an obstacle course

This is another fun one to do using the equipment at parks (either the outdoor gym or playground). Of course, you an make an obstacle course anywhere, even in the backyard. Challenge each other to go faster, higher, stronger. You can set it up like a competition, or just decide to complete the activities without timing or competing.

39. Go to a local workshop

Check your council’s calendar and see what’s on this weekend. In our area this week, we can choose from a beekeeping course, bushcare afternoon or learn macrame crafting. I’d be up for any of those things. Find out what’s on near you and get a bunch of friends together. Your local library is a great resource for activities and events as well.

40. Teach each other a skill

So, one of you can play guitar, another can juggle, still another can fish and you’re awesome at coding. Maybe it’s time you swapped some of those skills to share the love? This works best in a small group, with one person taking the lead on a skill, but everyone getting to contribute what they know. You might find that some topics are more popular than others, so agree up front that you won’t be offended if no one else is interested in your incredible crochet or genealogy skills set.

Fishing is a great way to have fun with friends

41. Organise a swap

You can swap pretty much anything among friends. It stands to reason that you’re all probably into the same things. Some good ideas for a swap party might be:

• clothes

• video games

• books

• collectibles

• jewellery

42. Start a fantasy league

If you’re all really into footy, netball or another sport, this is a fun way to enjoy it together. Instructions on how to get started are here. If this age, it’s probably best to keep your money in your pocket and make your league all about the kudos.

43. Start a blog together

If you’ve got a unique shared interest, a blog is a really fun idea. It can even be a shared online diary about your friendship, if that’s what gets you motivated to begin. It doesn’t have to be fancy to start off with. Getting together to write the content and take the pictures is just a really nice way to spend time with a friend. You can start a blog for free with wix or WordPress or elsewhere.

44. Join a sports team

Loads of kids are already in a team, but not everyone. It’s worth giving a new sport a go if you haven’t found what you enjoy just yet. You’ll make new friends, learn new skills, and get fitter as you go. If you’ve tried all the regular sports like soccer, basketball, netball and cricket, and they haven’t grabbed you, search a little deeper. You might enjoy hockey, lacrosse, OzTag, beach volleyball, golf, squash, ping pong, nippers, martial arts or even, somewhat randomly, quidditch.

45. Go geocaching

This GPS treasure hunt couldn’t be easier: you go to the online map, find a geocache in your area (a small GPS-tagged token left by someone else), note the GPS coordinates, use your phone’s GPS to find the coordinates, head out to find the treasure. You sign the logbook that’s hidden with (most) geocaches and return the treasure for the next person to find. Find out more here.

46. Talk to each other on the phone

Scary, but do-able.

Talk to a friend on the phone

47. Walk somewhere for a milkshake

An easy one, but you honestly can’t beat walking and talking. Then there’s the milkshake reward at the end. Make the walk a long one so the reward doesn’t outweigh the walking… This is a good one to do after school.

48. Go to the pool

These days, loads of people have backyard pools and it’s nice to hang out there, but you can’t beat the public pool. Don’t be squeamish – they’re generally super clean due to the high levels of chlorine involved (don’t wear your favourite togs!). When it comes to diving, back flipping and perfecting your butterfly, the Olympic-size pool is where it’s at. It’s fun to hang with a big group, but be mindful of other swimmers and especially little kids.

49. Start a band

You might have zero musical capabilities, but chances are at least one of your friends knows their way around an instrument. The rest you can learn. If you haven’t seen the ‘Four Chords’ video, you might not be a believer. So become a believer:

50. Transform the garden

Imagine how many Brownie points you’ll clock up if you go around to each other’s houses and weed and tidy the garden? Trust us, your parents are going to LOVE YOU (even more than they already do… if that’s possible…). What’s more, you’ll learn the satisfaction of a hard day’s yakka and spend some quality time together in nature. The more I think about it, the more I’m certain this is the perfect way for kids to have fun with friends. Simply perfect.

What’s your #1 favourite way to have fun with friends?

Feature image  by John Cahil Rom; sun by Aziz Acharki; geenhouse by Brooke Cagle; run  by Philipp; bushwalk by Tim Foster; beach by Tim Mossholder; camping by Thiago Palia; fishing by Fab Lentz; phone by kevin laminto

50 CHEAP OR FREE WAYS TO HAVE FUN WITH FRIENDS - hanging with friends doesn't have to cost a lot

Written by Mumlyfe Team

Mumlyfe shares useful stories to help you raise nice kids and feel good about yourself too.

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