Do you ever think about how busy you were as a child? Sure, compared to how things are now it's laughable, but your schedule still had a lot going on: sporting practice, music lessons, art classes, and playdates—to name a few. And, they were all likely coordinated in one way or another by your mom. So when Mother's Day rolls around (which is on Sunday, May 13, by the way), it's ironic that her child would often struggle to think of a single way to fill her time. So we're here to help with a comprehensive list of things to do on Mother's Day.
Instead of putting together a last-minute celebration, follow the example she once set for you and plan ahead. Whether you have just a few free hours or you've set aside the whole day, there are plenty of things you can schedule in those time frames to show how much you care. From small acts of kindness you can handle alone to grand gestures that can include family, here are 35 (mostly free) things to do on Mother's Day.
Go for a walk: A short walk around the neighborhood is a relaxing and invigorating way to start the day. It's also a good opportunity to play catch-up if it's been a while since you've spent time together.
Read the newspaper: When was the last time you sat across from a loved one and read a physical newspaper? Stick to the arts and culture sections to keep it light, and enjoy this simple act of being together in silence.
Brew coffee: An instant coffee maker gets the job done for a busy Monday, but since it's the weekend, opt for a manual brewer like a French press to make the process feel special. You'll get accolades if you bring over specialty beans, too.
Deliver breakfast: Instead of braving the crowds at a popular brunch spot, bring over a breakfast you've assembled the night before. You'll just have to pop in the oven to cook.
Do the dishes: Because it's an easy way to show you care.
Plant herbs: Pick out a few of your mom's favorite herbs—rosemary, thyme, and basil are always good choices—and plant them in individual pots for the kitchen or in one big one she can keep outside.
Call a loved one: We all have older relatives that we probably don't check in on as often as we should. Call them with your mom for a fun surprise.
Provide tech support: If your mom has a smartphone, there's a good chance she has a question or two about it. Take a deep breath and help her out.
Head to the park: As it turns out, the park is as entertaining as it was when you were a kid. You probably shouldn't play on the jungle gym, but you can bring some books, snacks, and drinks to enjoy under a tree instead. Craving something more active? Grab a kite or a football, too.
Play board games: If young kids are involved, this is a great way for every generation to do an activity together. Stick to something easy—dominos or Uno are good choices.
Take a class: Whether you sign up for yoga or ceramics, do something together that could turn into a shared routine.
Check out an art exhibit: It's a good excuse for some quiet time, at the very least.
Shop locally: Whether you wander through a farmers market or visit a few specialty stores, hit up retailers that are unique to your area. The crowds will probably be smaller and you can pick out a unique gift.
Peruse a makeup counter: Because free samples are always a thrill.
Go for a drive: Short drives are always a pleasant Sunday activity, especially if you go on a scenic one. And if it's been a while since you've spoken to mom, a drive might be a good idea—it gives you both somewhere to look as you ease into a conversation.
Organize a closet: Put on some music and finally get to that hallway closet that hasn't been opened since 1998. As long as this stays constructive, it'll be a fun walk down memory lane with an accomplished feeling at the end.
Go through a stack of magazines: Wrap up a few new ones like a present and bring them over to read.
Make a playlist: All families come with soundtracks. Chat about the songs you grew up with or the ones you know she loves, and then help her make a playlist that she can listen to whenever she wants.
Chat about old memories: Do you know what your mom was like at your age? Or some of the travels she did before you were born? Feel free to ask—you'll likely be surprised by the answers.
See a play: Community theaters could always use patrons, whether it's showing a classic or something a little more avant-garde. Hey, you might discover the next Hamilton.
Cook a beloved meal: Remember the lasagna your mom used to make when you were a kid? See if you can re-create her signature meal for her (at her instruction, of course). Make sure she writes the recipe down for you, too.
Set the table outside: Weather permitting, set a table outside that's fit for the occasion. Get linens and a few flower-filled vases, and then gather everyone for an alfresco meal. It's even better if you can string up some lights.
Do your own paint and sip: Buy a couple of small canvases, paint, and your mom's favorite bottle of wine to have a "paint and sip" night at home. Bonus points if you wear pajamas.
Snuggle on the couch: A good mom is never going to refuse this, at any age.
See an episode of her show: She'll probably be more than happy to watch what you want, but leave this decision up to her. It's a small act of kindness in our modern times.
Play bartender: Wine is one thing, but when was the last time your mom made a cocktail for herself at home? Take her order beforehand and bring over some supplies to make happy hour happen.
Watch a classic rom-com: There are so many good romantic comedies to choose from, this could turn into a marathon. Try an old favorite like When Harry Met Sally… or opt for a newer classic like Miss Congeniality.
Make a reservation at her favorite restaurant: All she has to do is show up.
Check out a winery: Make sure you know your mom's preferred wine type before you select one, and open the invitation to friends and family.
Explore a new neighborhood: Do you live in Brooklyn and rarely go into the village? Or are you an L.A. native who has never set foot in Eagle Rock? Plan a few activities in a new neighborhood that your mom would enjoy and explore together.
Book a spa: Just be sure to request separate massage rooms.
Take a day trip: Set a radius to no more than a two-hour drive from where your mom lives, and go on a mini road trip. If you're in Los Angeles, for instance, drive to Ojai for the day.
Hang out at a sporting event: Baseball games are fun and a great way to chat while eating hot dogs and nachos.
Go to an amusement park: Invite a small group of family members to make the most of it. Mom gets to pick the first ride.
Get a day pass at a hotel: Splurge on a cabana by the pool for the day, and it'll feel like you're on vacation.
Up next, this is the parenting book that taught me "it's okay to not know what to do," says one mom.