Category Archives: Family

Water Activities for Kids: surviving summer without a pool

Girl getting sprayed with water on a slip and slide with graphic water activities for kids

I live in the part of the country where summer is hot and humid. That means it’s miserable to be outside unless water is involved. So water activities for the kids are a must! If you are like us and don’t have the luxury of a nice pool, you need some ways to manage summer without a pool.

We know that kids need to be outside. Spending the summer in the house just isn’t a good option. Even as an adult, I’ve found that mentally I do so much better getting outside on a run in the morning. The same goes for our kids. Being outside does wonders for attitudes, creativity, adventure, and even wearing them out so they’ll go to be early. 😉

Many of these water games are ones that I used for our annual kids’ ministry water party at church! The activities with sponges and water balloons were always a hit.

Water Activities for Kids

At Home Water Activities for Kids:

DIY Sponge Bombs 

These are so easy! Older kids will enjoy making them and for younger kids it’s still a project you can finish for them in no time. Let the kids play with them or else you can use for a wet game of catch or use like a water balloon fight.

Slip and Slide

My kids love slip and slides (just be careful no one breaks an arm)! You can buy one  or make your own. A giant homemade one will be a huge hit with your entire neighborhood.

Mini Splash Pad

We got one of these to use in our yard last year. The kids have really enjoyed it. Don’t buy anything smaller than 68 inches. The bigger the better!

Water Balloon Fight

Isn’t this a classic? You have to decide between saving money and filling up one balloon at a time or splurging and buying the Bunch O Balloons that fills up multiples and self seals.

Water Balloon Spoon Race

This is the same as the spoon egg race, only you use balloons instead. Divide your kids up into 2 teams and see who can transfer their bucket of balloons to the bucket at the finish line the quickest.

Water Balloon Toss

Once again, this is like the traditional egg toss. Pair up and see who can go the longest without dropping and breaking theirs.

Sponge Toss

Have your kids get in pairs, one at the start and the other at the finish. Have a bucket filled with water at the start line and an empty bucket at the finish line for each pair. Set the time for 1 minute.  The child at the start will put the sponge into the water and toss it to their partner who will squeeze the water into the empty bucket and toss the sponge back. Keep going until the time is up and see which team has the most water in the bucket at the finish line.

For these two sponge games, I recommend large sponges similar to these car wash sponges!

Sponge on Head Race

Divide into two teams. Each team will need a bucket of water and one sponge at the start and another at the finish. Each team lines up behind their start bucket. Start the time and the first person in each line will place the sponge in the water and balance it on their head and go as fast as they can, without dropping the sponge, to the finish line bucket. After squeezing the water out, they will run the sponge back to the second person. Keep going until time is up. The bucket with the most water wins.

Match Box Car Water Gun Race

Each kid needs a matchbox car and a water gun. Draw a start and finish line on the sidewalk or driveway. The kids race their cars by propelling them forward with the water gun.

Rubber Duck or Plastic Boat Race

Decide where you will race depending on number of kids. Maybe a plastic tub, a kiddie pool, or even individual sections of gutter. The kids will propel their duck using a spray bottle or water gun.

Sponge Boat Race

Help your kids make their own sponge boat and decorate the flag. Have a race the same as above.

Water Shooters

We’ve had some form of these every summer and the kids always like them. Have buckets of water or a kiddie pool to use for filling them.

Jump Rope Holding a Cup of Water

This works exactly like it sounds. You have two people spinning the jump rope and the one in the middle is jumping with a Solo cup filled with water. Rotate through all of the kids. The cup with the most water left is the winner.

Duck Duck Splash

The same as Duck Duck Goose, only instead of saying “goose” the person will dump a cup of water on someone’s head (or you squeeze one of the big sponges out on their head).

Wash the Car

Your car gets washed and the kids get to be wet – a win win situation. 😉

Water Beads

Make water beads in a big plastic container (or even put them in the kiddie pool). Give the kids scoops, bowls, spoons etc and let them play.

Painting with Water

Great option if you have a fence. You could do this on the driveway or sidewalk as well. Have buckets of water and paintbrushes of various sizes and let the kids “paint” away.

Tub of Water

Sometimes the simplest things are the best. Even more so for young kids. A tub of water and some scoops, cups, and bowls from your kitchen might be all they need.


Sprinklers are another one that my kids love. I love how simple it is (and the yard gets watered at the same time). There are a lot of fun options, but most years we just use a standard lawn sprinkler.

DIY Sprinkler

Here are 10 fun ideas of sprinklers you can make for your kiddos.

Hose Over Swing Set

If you have a swingset or slide, my kids love draping the hose over the top and playing in the water.

Water Blob

SO MUCH FUN! This would be such a hit. Check out this tutorial.

Water Table

Another fun idea for littles. I’m all about buying used, so watch your Facebook groups and garage sales to buy one from a child that has outgrown theirs.

Water Freeze Tag

Traditional freeze tag except you have to spray someone with a water gun (or spray bottle – try both and see which you prefer) instead of touching them.

DIY Water Wall

This post has 10 great ideas to check out!

Water Activities for Kids Away From the House


Take a trip to the local beach and load up snacks and sand toys and enjoy the water.


Go exploring and splashing in a river or creek. See how many creatures you can find.

Splash Pad

This has been a favorite for years. My kids just discovered they love to bring balls of various sizes and toss them and try to float them on top of the spraying water.

Hopefully these ideas give you some fun inspiration for summer fun! They would also be fun things to add to your summer bucket list. What are you favorite water activities for kids that help you survive the summer without having a pool?

If you liked this post of water activities for kids, check out this list of outdoor activities, family night ideas, and more summer fun ideas for the kids!

child holding water balloon spraying water graphic overlay saying fun water activities for kids

Fun Free Outdoor Activities for Kids

2 kids on a hike with graphic free outdoor activities for kids

Let’s get our kids outside! The sunshine, fresh air, dirt, and and everything else that goes along with being outside are so important. Today, I wanted to share some fun free outdoor activities for kids!

Most of these ideas go beyond our own backyards. Though there’s a lot they can do there. (This post on summer activities kids can do at home has some great ideas you can use!) Sometimes you just want to get away from your house. Isn’t it amazing how fresh air, exercise, and getting out of the house can work wonders on bad attitudes for kids and adults?!

This list of free outdoor activities will be helpful as you start planning your adventures to load up your kids and spend some time as a family outside.

My favorite times of year for these types of activities are spring and autumn (summer gets hot where I am) but we try to spend time outside in all 4 seasons! During the heat of summer we try to do outdoor activities first thing in the morning or else in the evening.

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boy on bike and graphic with words free outdoor activities for kids

Free Outdoor Activities for Kids

One note for any time of the year. Be sure to watch for local community events!

Our town has plenty of free outdoor activities like: outdoor movies, block parties, Crazy Day sidewalk sales and more throughout the year. You just have to figure out where to watch for events. Try your city or chamber of commerce Facebook pages to get get started.

♦ Free Outdoor Activities for Spring, Fall, and Summer

      1. Public Beach
        Find a local public beach (we have a free one near our house) and go spend several hours swimming and playing in the sand. If it’s spring or fall, just wade in the water and have a sand castle building contest.
      2. Geocaching
        This is a perfect idea for most of the year! Basically a family treasure hunt. Go to to find a cache near you and for lots of tips to get you started. Then use their app or your GPS to hunt it down. Let your kids do the leading. If you want to take something from the cache, be sure you bring some trinkets to replace it with.
      3. Hunting Painted Rocks
        All three of my kids love to do this. We’ve hunted rocks and painted our own rocks to hide. There isn’t a nationwide website for this like geocaching. If you aren’t sure if your area is doing this, try doing a Facebook search of the name of your town followed by “rocks” and see if anything comes up. You can try the surrounding areas as well.  Or ask on a community Facebook page. If you can’t find anything locally, get some of your friends and have a painting party (be sure to seal the rocks so the paint doesn’t wash off), hide the rocks, and start a Facebook Group or Page to start promoting. In our town (of 25,000) there are a few main areas that people tend to hide and re-hide rocks.
      4. State Park
        Not all state parks are free, I know, but many are in our state! Make a list of the ones you want to explore and then start checking them off. It is a great way to explore your state and experience the different terrains it has to offer. We’ve actually done a poor job of this so I have several on my list to hit up when the weather is nice.
      5. National Park Free Admission Days
        Take advantage of the free entrance days to the national parks. In 2020 there are 5 different days. Some of the parks are free all the time. So see if you have any parks near you and plan a visit. We did Badlands National Park this summer and it was amazing!
      6. Hiking
        You don’t have to have a state or national park to go on a hike. Search hiking trails and your location on Google to see what comes up. We have several near us. One by a nature center near a river and others out next to a nearby lake.
      7. Park
        A park might seem basic, but they are always a hit with young kids. To do something new you could always explore the parks in a near by town. Once you find your favorites, the kids will ask to go again and again.
      8. Fly a Kite
        Mary Poppins always comes to mind when I think of kites! Kids of all ages love flying kites. If you kids are older, invest in better kites and find a large field where you can all fly them together! With little kids we’ve found the perfect wind is more important than the type of kite. 😉
      9. Nature Hike
        Yes, I did just have a hike on this list. So, what’s the difference? The purpose of the nature hike is to really explore nature. Examine the trees, flowers, and creatures you come across. See how many you can identify. Bring a field guide and a notebook with you. Not only does this get your family outside, it is also super educational!
      10. Bike, Scoot, or Roller Skate
        Find a paved trail, or even just a sidewalk/road route that is appropriate for your kids and head out on a family bike ride. Or use scooters or roller skates. When I was young, we lived were the city put in a paved trail along the shore of a lake – beautiful and fun!
      11. Walk/Run
        Leave the wheels at home and just go out for a walk or run around your neighborhood. If your kids are old enough, you could even train for a race together.
      12. Stream
        Find a stream or small river where you can walk along, play, float “boats”, and hunt for crawdads! My kids can spend hours doing this. Water makes everything more exciting!
      13. Family Sports
        Play a game of family basketball, soccer, baseball, or volleyball! Use your yard or go to a park with a big field. Invite another family to join you to make it even more fun!
      14. Fishing
        If you already have a license this would be free. Otherwise wait for a free fishing weekend or find a friend with a pond on their property. This is one of my son’s favorite things to do! I think the patience you learn while fishing is a great skill for kids to learn.
      15. Yard Work for the Homebound
        Spend some time as a family helping out someone else! Rake, mow, or weed the yard of someone that isn’t able to do it anymore. You can create memories and be a blessing!
      16. Rock Collection
        Start a family rock collection. You can start this project one day and then continue it over the years. Buy a rock guide and find as many as you can. Be sure to label them when you store them back at home. Find a box with separate compartments or you can even keep them in small baggies.
      17. Visit Historical Markers
        I see those historical markers off of the highway all of the time. How many times have I pulled over to read them or explore? Never. Surely I’m not the only one! Take a road trip just to stop at the historical markers along the way. You might learn something new about the area.
      18. Picnic
        We can’t talk about free outdoor activities without bringing up a picnic. It has to be one of the top quintessential things that come to mind. Again, kids love picnics. My kids request them frequently and get so excited when they actually happen.
      19.  Clean up Litter
        This idea takes us back to serving others. It helps your kids become aware of the world around them and the impact of leaving our trash everywhere. Head to a city park, beach, or other area with gloves and trash bags. See what kind of difference you can make in just an hour! You can always finish your outing with ice cream.
      20. A New Downtown
        Downtowns are always one of the most fun parts of a town. Especially since so many communities are working hard at revitalizing them. Our town and business have put a ton of work into colorful murals and paintings. I’m sure you’ve explored your own downtown plenty, but what about driving to the near by cities and exploring their downtowns? You might just find some hidden gems.
      21. Backyard Camping
        Most campsites cost money. Camping in your backyard, however, is free! Older kids might think this is lame (unless there’s enough fun food involved) but younger kids love this! You can eat outside and play outside. Just use the house for the bathroom.
      22. Skate or Bike Park
        Load up everyone’s gear and head to a local skate or bike park. A great way to have fun and burn some energy!

    ♦ Free Outdoor Activities for Winter

    1. Sledding Hill
      Hours of free fun right here, if you plan the weather right! My 3 kids experienced their first real sledding this winter and let’s just say it was a hit. They finished cold and red cheeked but had a wonderful time.
    2. Ice Skating
      If you live in the north, don’t forget about local outdoor ice skating locations. If you have your own skates, you should be able to do this for free.
    3. Snow Fort and Snow Ball Fight
      If your yard isn’t big enough, find an open city park and divide into two teams. Each team can build a snow fort and make a stash of snowballs. Finish with a giant snow ball fight. Another great idea to get some other families involved in.
    4. Shovel a Driveway
      One last idea for serving. Don’t forget about your elderly community during the winter. Load up the family (and shovels) and head to shovel driveways for a few people. If you don’t know anyone, check with your church. They might know of individuals who could use the assistance.

    There are almost 30 free outdoor activities you can do with your kids anytime of year! Sometimes it can take work to get our kids (and even us as parents) outdoors, but it is so important.

    Involving friends on any of these ideas can change things up as well and keep your kids from complaining about doing the same activity more than once. So use these ideas to build memories and relationships with other families as well.


    I hope this list helps get your creativity going so you can think outside the box and start making run memories – outside!


Fun Summer Activities for Kids at Home

boy in sprinkler and text summer activities your kids can do at home

Summer time. Our kids’ schedules change and as parents, we are still trying to get all of the same things done. The transition can be rough! Today I want to share a list of summer activities for kids at home!

Yes, that means this list is all things for the kids to keep busy with in your house or yard!

Outings around town can be fun, but some days we have things to get done (or we just really don’t what to load the kids up and drive somewhere) and it’s not possible to do that! Or maybe you don’t have a vehicle available.

This list is full of ways to keep your kids busy without ever leaving the house!

Having a ideas to choose from helps, because, if your kids are like mine, some days they play really well on their own and others they tend to fight constantly and just make mess after mess. Having direction helps!

When using these ideas, you could:

  • Give your child a list of items from this post to choose from each day
  • You select an activity that would work best that day
  • Put each item on a piece of paper and have one of the kids randomly pick one from a bucket

If you are looking for more summer ideas, I shared 10 free ways to beat the heat with kids and fun things to do when staycationing in a small town last week.

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girl smiling outside and text summer activities for kids at home

Summer Activities for Kids at Home

1. Movie Afternoon

During the hottest time of day, turn off the lights, pop some popcorn, and have everyone pile on the couch and watch a movie from your collection.

2. Forts

Give your kids some play sheets and clothespins and let them have at it. This provides hours of entertainment. You might even find your kids playing in their forts for days. Send them outside to use the clothesline pole, tree, swing set, and patio to assist in their building or let them take over your living room and dining room utilizing every chair you have in your house. It’s amazing what can be accomplished with such simple things.

3. Sprinkler

Hook up the sprinkler or turn the hose onto a mist if you don’t have a sprinkler. Both of my kids love the water. The minute water is on, they will have their faces in it. Set the sprinkler up on the ground so they can run through the spray or hang it over their play set and all of a sudden they have a water slide and water swing.

4. Slip and Slide

We didn’t use these often and seemed to destroy them quickly but found them to be a lot of fun. Buy one or you can use a tarp you already have.

5. Indoor picnic

100 plus degree temperatures don’t exactly beg you to go sit outside and enjoy your meal. It’s the perfect opportunity, though, to spread a blanket out on the living room floor and bring the picnic inside. A bonus is not having to worry about flies and bugs.

6. Indoor camping

Camping. Another thing I don’t even want to think about doing when it’s so hot. Bring blankets and pillows to the living room floor and have an air conditioned camp out. If you have the supplies, you could even do s’mores using the oven or stove.

7. Water Gun Fight

Why is it so fun to squirt water at someone else? Have a supply of good water guns and everyone in your family will want to participate!

8. Water Balloons

We all know it takes forever to fill the balloons and a fight is over in seconds. So, play games to keep the fun lasting longer:

  • water balloon toss
  • spoon race
  • race with the balloon between the knees
  • etc

When those are over, finish with a giant water balloon fight!

9. Messy Play

Summer is the perfect time for this because they can do the activities outside and get hosed off when they are done. Making a mud pit or filling the sandbox up with water will makes your child’s day. Check out this post from The Chaos and the Clutter for some ideas for hands on activities that will have your kids messy!

See, summer activities for kids at home don’t have to be boring or the same old things. We just have to think outside the box a little!

10. Star Gazing

Stay up late and wait for the stars to appear and then head outside and lay down on some blankets or your trampoline and see what constellations you can find and who can see a shooting star.

11. Giant Bubbles

Put your kids to work making this giant bubble wand (they’ll probably each end up wanting their own). I love that it’s simple and shouldn’t cost anything to make. Then you can even make your own bubble solution. This will impress the kids way more than the little plastic wands from the store.

12. Make Popsicles

Popsicles are the perfect way to cool off in the summer. Sure, you can buy a box but you can make them just as easily. They end up being healthier and cheaper. We love to freezer leftover smoothies in popsicle molds. You can also try this recipe that I posted from the 100 Days of Real Food cookbook or even just use apple or orange juice. My kids beg for these in any shape or form.

In the summer time you can buy popsicle molds at most stores. Of course, Amazon also has them available. I have popsicle molds and also the silicone popsicle tubes. Those are great for slow eaters, but do be aware that silicone picks up the flavors from you freezer so you don’t want to keep them in there too long. 🙂

13. Make a Fairy Garden

Let your child’s creativity take over! There are some elaborate fairy gardens out there. Give them a flower pot or plastic container and have them explore your yard for supplies to design their own fairy garden. You could also let them raid your craft supplies and paint. This will keep them busy for a while.

14. Tin Can Stilts

This will be such a fun project. I can also so races happening after they are built. This post has a tutorial for making them and I love how they decorated the cans as well.

15. Backyard Pool

It’s summer. You can involve too much water. Whether this is simply a kiddie pool or you move up to a large inflatable pool or even a full blown above ground pool, your kids will love being able to get wet and play!

The pool is also a great place to fill up water squirters. My kids have used some form of these almost every summer!

16. Board Game

Instead of a movie afternoon, pull out your board games in the heat of the day for a perfect summer activity for kids! My kids love playing games as a family. I need to do a post on their favorites sometime soon.

17. Make Ooblek

Another fun activity. All you need in cornstarch and water. Food coloring is optional. Give each child a pan with cornstarch. Have them stir as you slowly had a little water and them let them have fun deciding if it’s a solid or a liquid.

Ooblek will dry out and you can store in container and simply rehydrate the cornstarch when they want to use it again.

18. Hands On Homemade Ice Cream

A few options here. Obviously you could do the old fashioned crank ice cream machine. But to make things a little different for your kids, try out making Coffee Can Ice Cream or they can each do their own Ice Cream in a Bag.

You will win best mom ever award for that one! 😉 Especially if you bring out ice cream toppings!

19. Books

Don’t dismiss the obvious. Hot summer afternoons are a great time to develop a love of reading. Choose a book to read aloud to your kids (this works to older kids too) and have them all have books to read independently. Involve snacks to make it more fun!

20. Poetry and Tea

Have every person select a poetry book (use the library if you need) and take turns reading poems aloud. Enjoy tea (or lemonade in tea cups) and scones or cookies while you do it.

What else would you add to this list of summer activities for kids at home? Those hot summer day can get long and it’s too easy to just let them turn on the television!

Ways to Beat the Heat (with kids) without leaving home!

Originally published July 18, 2014. Updated July 16, 2020.

Fun and Frugal Family Night Ideas

a family of four fishing.

Fun and frugal family night ideas. My kids love having family night. I think just the name makes them excited and they don’t even care exactly what we do. 🙂 Sometimes we get stuck in the rut with doing the same things (movies, games, pizza, and parks are our go tos) but the kids love when we switch things up!

We did a 2 night backyard campout last month and the kids thought it was the best thing ever and can’t wait to do it again.

All of the kids provided input on this list to help get us thinking outside the box – there are so many fun ideas.

And as a bonus, except for a movie night, all these family night ideas are screen free!

Don’t stress about trying to do them all. Make it simple. Do your standard family night activities most weeks and then just one day a month let the kids rotate selecting an activity from the list. They will love it and you won’t have to stress about doing something different every week.

A lot of the family night ideas on this list are free! Always a win. The others are all still super frugal – you can do this on any budget!

four pictures: a family fishing, a family baking, an open book, and art supplies

Fun and Frugal Family Night Ideas

  • Game and pajamas night. Let everyone select their favorite game have a game marathon. Wearing PJs (and some sort of fun snack, of course) will make it even more fun.
  • Movie and popcorn night. I’m sure you’ve done this before but you can’t go wrong with it!
  • Puzzle night. Pull out a new puzzle and a treat to eat and see how much you can get done it one night. You could also use some fun conversation starters.
  • A long walk. Of course you need to let the kids pick which direction to go at each intersection.
  • Homemade personal pizza night. Pizza happens weekly in our house, but I don’t often do the personal sized ones. They are always a hit!
  • DIY ice cream sundae bar. Another favorite! We normally eat ice cream without toppings, so having all the extra goodies to choose from are greatly looked forward to.
  • Picnic. Pack up your dinner and find a new location to picnic.
  • Fishing. This would be by son’s favorite family night activity.
  • Living room camp out. Perfect to do in the winter! Pull out pillows and blankets and books and have a family campout inside!
  • Backyard camp out. Doing this makes my crew so excited! The perfect idea when the weather is nice.
  • Meandering car drive. Load up the car (and pack a few snacks or grab a treat at a restaurant) and just go on a long drive exploring where you haven’t been before.
  • Bowling. I feel like a bad mom. My kids have never gone bowling. We’ll have to remedy this, but I remember bowling outings when I was a kid.
  • Service project. Go out with your family and rake leaves, paint, or do another project to help someone else.
  • International Dinner. Select a country and then find recipes from there to make for supper, play music from the country, and maybe even make a little quiz.
  • Go play tennis. We’ve done this and the kids have enjoyed it even if we chase a lot of balls. As the kids get older, I think we’ll find ourselves doing this more.
  • Progressive dinner. If could even be a dinner of snacks and then dessert, but the idea is to going around to several restaurants and get something different from each.
  • Bake off challenge. My three all love spending time in the kitchen. You could try dividing into two teams and have a dessert or entree challenge of each teams choice. Or switch things up and put together a basket of random ingredients like on chopped!
  • Art. This is one that my daughter is most excited about. Gather (or buy) the supplies and do a family painting or drawing night. Try using a video on YouTube to help guide you.
  • Poetry. Spend the evening going around the room reading poems aloud. If you don’t have any poetry books, check some out of the library. Make this even better by making/buying each persons favorite snack.
  • Star gazing. This is so much fun, especially if you plan it for a meteorite shower. Gather up blankets to lay on, astronomy books (or an app on your phone), snacks (seeing a theme here – food makes anything more special for the kids), and plan for a late night.
  • Goody Baskets. Spend some time putting together baskets of homemade bread, cookies, cinnamon rolls, or treat you bought. Then go deliver them to friends’ front doors, ring the door bell, and sneak away!
  • Water balloon fight. Honestly, this isn’t something I normally participate in with the kids. Beyond filling up balloons anyway. I know they’d love to have an epic family water balloon fight.
  • Beach, pool, or park. Take an evening trip and have fun playing as a family.
  • Bike. Take the bikes out for a ride or go to a local skate park for a fun evening!
  • Twilight hike. You will hear different sounds and see different sights. Perfect ending to the day if you ask me.

a family at a kitchen table baking

There are 26 family night ideas to get you started! When you’ve gone through this list, I’m sure your kids will have even more creative ideas to keep you going!

Sometimes going through the work to do something a little different, even when it’s still inexpensive and fairly simple, can make such special memories they’ll be talked about for a long time.

Go and make a fun memory and tell me how it went!

a family outside holding a fishing pole

Must Have Kitchen Tools

Stainless steel skillet on a cutting board with a cooked egg

Don’t we all have those favorite things in our kitchen? Those must have kitchen tools that we always want to use? Sometimes, using them even makes you happy! Typically they make your life easier or work so much better than most.

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In my last post I shared my list of kitchen essentials. These are the things that are pretty much a necessity, even if you kitchen is tiny. I also tackled my favorite kitchen appliances here.

Today I’m filling you in on my favorite must have kitchen tools! Most of them are all essentials and some of them are brand dependent. I use these items week in and week out and often times day in and day out. (Be sure to check out the list of small kitchen appliances to know what else I use often!)

Good Pots and Pans

Several years ago we upgraded our pans to a stainless steel Calphalon set from Bed Bath and Beyond. I love them. They can also go in the oven (with the lids) up to 450 degrees. My set has 8 pans and pots plus lids. So much better than the really old, falling apart set we were using. 🙂

If you don’t cook a lot or are limited on space, I’d recommend an 8 and 10 inch skillet, 1.5 quart sauce pan, 3 quart sauté pan, and a 6 or 8 quart stockpot depending on your family size or if you’ll be cooking for groups. You can always add more later, but if you have limited cabinet space, these are the essentials. If you get a non stick pan, get an 8 or 10 inch skillet.

I recommend buying good quality cookware. You are going to have these things for a long time so you want to love them. Cheaper pans tend to warp and not cook evenly. When we were shopping, our top brands we considered were the higher tiered Calphalon products and All Clad. They are expensive so that did mean it took us a few years to purchase them.

Rubber Spatula

I have the classic scraper from Pampered Chef and love them. Would recommend having two. (Don’t tell anyone, but I actually have three and there are times when they are all dirty at once!) Don’t buy the cheap ones. They will fall apart way easier and not work nearly as well. I use them for cooking, baking, and scraping.

Kitchen Tongs

Buy the ones that lock (by pulling up the head not with the sliding ring)! These are great for flipping meat on the skillet, serving salad, removing corn on the cob from hot water and so much more. I have this one from OXO.

Kitchen Shears

I love using kitchen shears. They are perfect for snipping fresh herbs, green onions, or chives. They are also used weekly to cut my daughter’s pizza into bite sized pieces. You can use a pair for cutting meat into chunks and another for slicing your homemade cinnamon rolls to put in a pan.

Mini Cutting Board

This gets used all the time in our home. It’s perfect for a small job – cutting an apple or grapefruit in half, rough chopping a small amount of veggies, mincing just a clove or two of garlic. I love how little space it takes up. Great size to put in the cooler or slide under a car seat to take on a road trip.

wooden spoon and whisks on a counter

Cheese Plane

The cheese planes for hard and semi hard cheeses are awesome! You can slice cheese in a perfect thickness. No more overly thick slices of cheese for sandwiches, grilled cheese, or crackers. A block of cheese will go much further. This gadget might just save you money.

Flat Risotto Spoon/Saute Paddle

This wooden spoon is perfect for sauteing, browning meat,  and stirring anything you are cooking. The flat edge helps scrape the bottom of the pan much more effectively than a spoon.

Good Knives

You don’t need a block of knives. Instead get fewer but better quality knives. This is something I’d do over again if I could. We registered for a knife block when we got married and they are all very dull. We started replacing our knives with the Wusthof brand. Next I need to get a good sharpener. I would buy 2 Chef’s knives, a paring knife, and a bread knife to start. Do you have a favorite knife brand to share?

Mini Serving Spatula

These are the perfect size to serve any dessert made in a pan. We use it all the time for sweets and main dishes. When mine broke a few years ago it was something that I immediately replaced.

Pancake Turner Spatula

This gets used for pancakes, quesadillas, grilled cheese and other such items in our house. Whether you get stainless steel or silicone or nylon will depend on if you use non stick surfaces to cook your pancakes on.

Pizza Stone

If you make homemade pizza, this is a must have! I have two and they make the best pizza crusts. Well worth the investment. I have the large round stone from Pampered Chef but you can find them many places.

Salad Spinner

This in an item I’d say depends on your salad eating habits. If you make large quantities of salad, you are going to want this. Getting your lettuce dry is so much simpler and it lasts longer. I prepare a large quantity of lettuce for us to use for salads during the week every Sunday and this makes it a breeze. My spinner is one of the push knob kinds.


Use this to add garlic, ginger, or nutmeg to a dish. It’s also perfect for zesting citrus fruit. If you don’t do a lot of cooking with fresh garlic or nutmeg you can skip tool and simply mince it with a knife and cutting board, but the microplane is amazing. 😉

USA Pans

I only discovered these a few years ago but I am obsessed! They use a silicone coating and are nonstick. I first made egg muffins in these and was amazed when the eggs popped right and I hadn’t treated the pan at all. They are more expensive that your basics pans, so I have been building my stash slowly. I have the mini muffin tin, regular muffin pan, mini loaf pan set, and one larger loaf pan.

What are your go to, must have kitchen tools? I have one I’m wanting to try and honestly, I hope I get to update this list with it.

Between this list, the kitchen essentials and favorite kitchen appliances, you’ll have a pretty stocked kitchen that you’ll want to spend time in!

Sharp knife on a wooden cutting board

My Favorite Kitchen Tools! You will want to make sure you have these in your kitchen: cheese plane, rubber spatula, good pots and pans and more! Great ideas for my kitchen or a wedding registry.

Originally published April 3, 2014. Updated August 29, 2019.