Cheap & easy things for kids to do at home

Here are some ideas for activities to entertain the kids which cost nothing (or very little), need no advance preparation & don’t make too much mess.

This is ME!
Use a long roll of paper.  I used the long rolls from IKEA, and then just joined them up at the back with sellotape.
Have your child lie down on the paper whilst you draw around their shape.  Provide the children with colours, wax crayons or even paints and let them draw in the details, eyes, nose, hair etc.
Be creative, they can draw in what they are wearing, or their favourite outfit or even write inside of their ‘body’.  Once the children have finished drawing and colouring, cut out the whole thing, and display it on the wall in the play area.

Top dying-very fun!
Get an old top or other clothing. Get some natural dies like coffee (brown), onion skins (yellow/brown), beetroot (purple) or red cabbage (blue) and put in hot water. Wait until colour is shown in water. Get some string and wrap it round the clothing and tie a strong knot, these can be placed anywhere. Put the clothing in the coloured water, then take out after about 2 minutes. Wait for about 2/3 hours then it will be ready to wear.

Garden games
Mow the lawn and store cut grass in a big container. Get your children/child and tell them they can make anything they like using the grass, you can even make teams and have a competition.

Snack time
You need: watermelon and your favourite fruits. Cut watermelon so it only has its shell. Then cut your favourite fruits and put them in a shell. Now you have a fun fruit bowl!

Woollen dollies
Take an oblong piece of card & wrap around the wool until quite thick. Remove the card and  tie small pieces of wool around top for hair and face. Take a smaller piece of card and wrap around some more wool but try not to make this too thick.  Then thread the thin wool through the thick piece of wool and tie the ends to make the hands. Tie legs at the bottom or leave it has a skirt.

Washing Dishes
Fill up your kitchen sink full of soapy water and get some of your child’s play dishes and a washcloth and let them wash their dishes and play in the soapy bubbles!  Have them stand on a chair up to the sink, making sure to supervise them. Be prepared for them to get a little wet!

Dressing up Mum or Dad
Allow children to choose any of the clothes in your bedroom and dress you up. Go one further and get out your make up.

Make CD hovercrafts
Using an old CD, a sports drink cap and a balloon…attach an inflated balloon to the sports cap that is itself taped to the CD in the centre…as it deflates it hovers over a smooth surface!….very quick and cool!

Egg painting
Hard boil some eggs. Then paint with food colouring.  Allow to dry. Great for egg rolling – if you haven’t got a hill, a slide will do. (Warning: food colouring stains).

Egg dyeing
Place eggs in pan of cold water with teabags (brown), onions skins (yellow/brown), beetroot (pink), coffee (brown) or red cabbage (blue). Boil for 15 mins then allow to cool.
(Warning: natural dyes stain inc. pan).

Water painting
Paint with a clean paintbrush and a pot of water outside on walls, paving slabs, fences. Very effective and the sun removes the evidence!

Home picnic
Put cloth on floor as picnic rug and serve lunch on living room floor! Or in the garden.

Home camping
Hang tablecloth over furniture or clothes airer. Add torch, sleeping bag/blanket etc.

Iced digestives
Mix icing sugar and water in a bowl to make runny icing. Put sprinkles/ smarties etc in bowls. Let kids decorate the biscuits. (You can make your own biscuits or cakes of course but this is the quick and easy version.)

Blowing water bubbles
Fill washing up bowl or saucepan with water and blow bubbles in it with a straw. Constant supervision near water of course!

Paint bubbles
Like water bubbles but add paint to water. Gently place paper on bubbles to make bubble pictures. Constant supervision of course so they don’t drown!

Pass the parcel
Why save it for parties? Child does the wrapping too using old newspaper. Prize can just be something simple such a sticker or a packet of raisins.

Pasta jewellery
Thread dry pasta tubes onto coloured cotton. Can be painted.

Pasta pictures
Stick different pasta shapes onto card.

Newspaper basketball
Roll a sheet of newspaper into a ball. Throw it into an empty wastepaper basket/saucepan etc. Add variety with different distances, large/small containers getting different points etc.

Washing line volleyball
Roll a sheet of newspaper into a ball. Play volleyball over washing line.

Blow football
For two players. Use a straw each to blow a ping pong ball or small newspaper ball on an empty table. Goals can be pairs of unopened baked bean tins.

Make musical instruments
Cymbals: 2 saucepan lids. Drum: upside down saucepan and wooden spoon or chop sticks. Maracas: rice/dry beans/pasta/dry sand in a plastic bottle. Xylophone: milk bottles/jam jars half filled with water and and a spoon. Harmonica: greaseproof paper and a comb.

Place plastic bottles on flat smooth floor. Hit with newspaper ball or tennis ball.
Wax painting

Draw a picture with wax crayons on paper. Then paint over with thin paint –  the original wax drawing show through.
Surprise pictures

Adult secretly draws a picture with a white wax crayon on white paper. Child paints over with thin paint –  the original wax drawing appears by magic.
Secret messages

One child writes a secret message with a white wax crayon on white paper. Second child paints over with thin paint –  the message appears by magic.
Salt dough
Mix 3 cups plain flour, 1 cup salt and approx 1 cup water. Model like playdough. Dry out finished models in cool oven. Can be painted and varnished when dry.

Nature trail
Kids have to find and collect a series of items e.g different coloured leaves. Can be extended with lists/drawing activities for older kids

Bird Spotting
Write down or draw every bird they see. See also kids’ activities at RSPB website

Use wax crayons and thin paper to make rubbings of different textures: bark, concrete, radiators, carpet etc. Small kids require supervision if you value your wallpaper.

Guess the smell/taste
Put a variety of safe substances in plastic cups. Blindfold child and get tem to guess what they are tasting or smelling.

Guess the texture
Put a selection of things in an opaque bag and let them guess what they are.

Treasure hunt
Hide toys or sweets around home or garden. Give clues to find them. Kids like setting the hunts too.

Paper plate masks
Kids make silly faces or animals on paper plates. Cut eye holes. Stick a straw or lollipop stick to bottom of plate to hold in front of face.

Mini gardens
Half fill a plant tray/plastic bowl with earth. Kids pick small sprigs of leaves, daisies, grass etc. Arrange on soil like a mini garden. Small pebbles can be walls and paths. Tin foil for a pond or stream. Can be populated with small toy animals or people.

Home cinema
Kids set up cinema in living room: close curtains, rearrange furniture, make tickets, prepare snacks.  Older kids could write review afterwards. NB Libraries rent out kids’ DVDs  quite cheaply.

Paper and pen games
Noughts and crosses, hangman, battleships

What’s missing?
Memory game. Arrange a selection of unrelated items (spoon, toy, flower, book, apple etc.) on a table or cloth. Child studies selection for 1 minute. When child is not looking, remove one item. Child has to remember what’s missing.

Apple bobbing
Float a small apple in a washing up bowl of water. They have to bite it without using hands. Constant supervision of course so they don’t drown. If you don’t mind mess you can then repeat  the game with a chocolate or grape in a bowl of flour!

Favourites / talking game
Take it in turns to ask the kids (& grown ups) different questions about what’s their favourite…  E.g. Which person made them feel happy today and why? What is your favourite meal? Who made them upset today and why?
What wad the best thing you enjoyed about your day today? Where is the best place you like to go to?

Note trail game
Hide notes all over the house and garden. Each note being a clue as to where the next one is. Have a prize at the end for the kids.

Dressing up
Dress up in different costumes or clothes etc. and act out being princesses or kings etc.

If you liked this article, take a look at our other blog posts