40+ Mother’s Day activities that aren’t brunch

Mother's Day activity sending a card

Stumped for new ways to celebrate the women in your life on Mother’s Day? Not interested in that three-hour waitlist for mimosas and fancy waffles?* We’ve got you covered with Mother’s Day activities to show them big-time love and gratitude—and go way beyond brunch.

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Mother's Day activity mom's alone time

Mother’s Day activities to provide some pampering  

Who deserves self-care more than moms? Give her some time away from caring about (and cleaning up after and cooking for and driving and…) everyone around her to focus on herself.

I try to find just the right balance. Every Mom wants to be around her kiddos on Mother’s Day. But it’s also nice to give her a break and a bit of “Her Time.” We usually start by waking her up with a breakfast in bed. We walk our breakfast off with a family walk, then I watch the boys while she goes and gets a massage, mani/pedi, hair done or yoga—basically, a block of time for just her. —Joel F.

Make an appointment or a plan to give your mom the downtime of her choosing.

  • Schedule a massage or her favorite spa treatment. Feeling relaxed and refreshed is so important to mental health.
  • Take her for a manicure and pedicure. After all, it’s finally warming up enough for open-toed shoes.
  • Offer up some alone time. It’s easy to assume Mom wants to spend Mother’s Day with her kids, but she likely does that every day. Give her some quiet time alone for a bubble bath, a nap or a good book.

Mother’s Day activities to put your talents to work  

Do what you know and love. Get creative or crafty with your present—it’s like the grown-up version of a noodle necklace. Moms love anything created by their kids (no matter what age they are), and a gift that spotlights your specific talents is so personal, she’s not likely to ever forget it.

I was born and raised in south Texas on the border and “Las Mañanitas” is a traditional and famous Mexican serenade for Mother’s Day. I’d get together with a few friends—with our guitars—at midnight and serenade primarily our moms, but also any female friend or relative who lived the role of a mother. We would go to their bedroom window and wake them to mostly old classic serenatas. Some years we wouldn’t finish ’til 6 a.m. Best memories. — Jesús V.

A few ways you can turn your gifts into her gift:

  • Serenade her with her favorite songs or write a song just for her.
  • Draw or paint a childhood home, a pet or a family portrait. (It’s guaranteed to be hung on the fridge—or you can frame it yourself.) Give little ones these free Mother’s Day coloring pages to color.
  • Write something heartfelt—a letter or poem or a short story detailing a cherished family trip or memory. (We’ve got tips for putting your thoughts into a letter of appreciation.)
  • Do a mini makeover on a room in her home with fresh paint, new styling and some new decorative touches.
Mother's Day activity picking flowers

Get your hands dirty on Mother’s Day  

A mother’s love blooms and grows for her little seedlings, so it’s no wonder so many mamas love gardening. Studies show that caring for plants promotes relaxation and alleviates stress (while caring for kids sometimes causes it). What better way to hang with Mom on Mother’s Day than helping to beautify her home or garden?

My mom and I always go and pick out her flowers for the upcoming year and that’s her gift. —Tracy H.

We go buy a million flowers at a local garden store, and I spend the day potting flowers on my patio while the girls “help” or play outside. I usually take an afternoon nap in the hammock if it’s nice outside. Sometimes the girls nap with me—or we just relax and hang out. —Erin R.

My mom and I weave flowers from the garden into headpieces that we wear all day. —Christy G.

Schedule some time in the sun—on Mother’s Day, before or after.

  • Plan, pick out plants or plant what you’ve picked. Show up at her house with a backseat full of seedlings or visit a garden center together. Then hang out and spend the day planting and potting.
  • Brighten up a porch, balcony or windowsill. Deliver a few flowers or herbs in pretty pots. Nothing says “Spring is here! Bring on the sunshine!” like colorful blooms.
  • Enlist little landscapers. Have younger kids create or decorate steppingstones to decorate her yard (nothing is cuter than those little handprints in cement).

Ways to share the love on Mother’s Day  

Mothers are known for being pretty selfless and giving, so a day spent supporting a charity or cause that’s close to her heart might be the best way to celebrate her love…and spread a little kindness, too.

Every year, my mom and I shop for items from the Ronald McDonald House needs list. She stayed there over a decade ago when my brother was in the NICU and has vowed to give back to other mothers there worrying about their kids like she did. It’s a tradition I love and always look forward to. —Christy W.

Try some Mother’s Day activities that make a difference for others. A few ideas:

  • Volunteer for a shift or project at a local nonprofit that specifically supports women and mothers.
  • Make items to donate locally, like blessing bags, fleece tie blankets, crocheted infant caps or sleep mats from plastic shopping bags.
  • Leave flowers at the gravesites of family members and other important mothers in your life.

Make Mother’s Day picture-perfect  

Moms are some of the best picture-takers and memory-keepers around. Give a gift that puts her snapshots in the spotlight—or make sure she’s in front of the camera, not just behind it.

I made my mom a photo slideshow on an old desktop computer years ago for a Mother’s Day gift…she still watches it regularly and cries every single time. —Amy T.

We take a front porch photo together every year. —Tricia D.


  • Scan photos to make a slideshow. Start with old black and whites and go forward in time. And add sappy music—or the stuff you used to listen to on family car trips. Watch it together (in person or by video call) on Mother’s Day…and have tissues ready.
  • Print a selection of old and new family photos. Make a photo album or scrapbook featuring her extended circle of family and friends—bonus points if you write in dates, places and names with each pic. Especially if she lives far away or in assisted living, she’ll love to keep it close, flip through it and share her stories.
  • Get 8mm, VHS tapes, slides or other outdated family videos or photos transferred to digital files. She’ll love seeing her favorite memories and people again.
  • The next time she’s with all her children and grandchildren hire a photographer. (Or gather separate photos of her with each family.) Printed and nicely framed, these family photos make an excellent personalized gift.
Mother's Day activity biking together

Give Mom her choice on Mother’s Day  

As we get older, we realize some of the best Mother’s Day ideas are about simply being present with our moms and grandmothers. So ask her what she wants to do…and start a tradition that your relationship, your family and Mom’s idea of fun.

For years, it was a tradition for all the female family members on my mom’s side to have a staycation slumber party. We would usually have dinner then create silly scavenger hunts around town. Imagine it like a bachelorette party with your grandma! —Jessica K.

Since my oldest was four months old we’ve committed to go tent camping every Mother’s Day weekend. The boys’ gift to me is always outdoor or camping related! As traditions go, it’s one of our family favorites and marks the beginning of the summer fun camping season. —Jess D.

Bowling! As a kid, we did this for all Sunday holidays—Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter. The lanes are super quiet and it’s a riot of a time. —Lindsay B.

Moms’ weekend! Officially, it is the weekend before Mother’s Day. Only moms can go. —Shelly D. M.

What Mother’s Day activities sound good to you and your favorite moms? You might try…

  • Day trips or overnight camping
  • Visit the zoo, arboretum, museum or amusement park
  • Walking, hiking or biking
  • Winery, distillery or beer tours
  • Shopping, antiquing or thrifting
  • Movie nights or TV marathon
  • Order in your favorite foods and spend an afternoon sharing stories and memories
Mother's Day activity reading together

No matter what kind of mom you have—and what her idea of the “perfect” Mother’s Day looks like—cherish the time with her. Remind her how important she is in your life and how grateful you are to have her. Your words of appreciation, admiration and love will likely mean more to her than any gift could. (But a spa gift card never hurts!)

*Editor’s Note: We have nothing against Mother’s Day brunch. We love brunch. We just wanted to provide a few more Mother’s Day activities—any of which can take place in addition to brunch.