Keeping kids busy can be a chore. They would sometimes rather lounge on the couch with electronics than go outside and play, or find things around the house to entertain themselves with.
Boredom leads to creativity, so don’t feel like you always have to entertain your child or give them structured activities. That being said, there are times when hearing “I’m so bored” over and over can get well… boring. And irritating.
Here are some super frugal and fun activities you can do at home with your kids to keep them busy for hours! Some will require your involvement, but depending on the age of your child you may be able to simply give them the idea and then let them decide exactly how they’d like to do it.
Once you get everything ready for them they can enjoy most of these all by themselves with just a little supervision from you, freeing you up to get the work or chores done that you need to.
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1. Dinosaur Dig
What kid doesn’t like dinosaurs? Take some time to bury a few toy dinosaurs in the yard and let the fun begin. Give your kids a plastic spoon and have them dig them out. Whoever gets the most dinos is the “Archeologist of the Day.”
If you do not have dirt or a big yard, make jello in a big casserole dish or bowl the night before, and let your little ones dig around in it. This one is messy, but take it outside and it’s easy to clean up with a water hose.
2. Backyard Races
Sack races are so much fun. No sack?? Use a pillowcase. You can also do wheelbarrow racing or 3 legged races.
You can even do relay races, seeing who can balance an egg in a spoon and cross the finish line without dropping it. Make sure to do these on grass or soft terrain because someone is bound to take a tumble.
3. Pretend Circus
Have your kids gather their stuffed animals for the greatest show (of your home). Set up a tent using chairs and blankets or sheets for the animals to perform in and “sell” tickets to dolls in the audience.
Come up with different acts for the performers to do, like a tightrope (use tape on the floor). Get creative and let your imagination run wild!
4. Make Mosaics
Mosaics are beautiful works of art which you can actually do right at home. Take duct tape and make a design… think paint by numbers or stained glass designs. Have the kids color in each space with a different color of chalk. Once all spaces are filled, pull off the duct tape leaving behind just the chalked design. Instant art!
5. Build an Outdoor Fort
Use outdoor chairs, blankets and tarps to make a super cool fort with your kids. It doesn’t have to be beautiful or perfect. Have fun with it and when you are done, eat lunch in it or read a book together. A super fun way to do this outside is to use fences, trampolines, lawn chairs and other outdoor items to keep the fort off the ground.
6. Pretend Carnival
Use items you have around the house to make a fun outdoor carnival for all of your kids. Turn your baby pool into a fishing game. Transform kitchen bowls into a ball toss. Use swimming pool rings and pop bottles to create a ring toss. You don’t need to buy a lot of supplies; just get creative with what you have on hand.
7. Play With Water Beads
Fill those throw-away foil trays, aluminum baking pans or plastic bins with multi-colored water beads. Throw in some small toy animals like frogs or fish and have your small children search for them. See if they can guess what they’ve found before they look. This is great for sensory play and the water beads are refreshing on a hot day, too!
8. Create Something out of Cardboard
There are literally endless fun activities for kids to do with simple cardboard boxes. Simply give them some crayons, markers or paint. Put a big white sheet or towel down and let them create their own masterpiece.
I remember my kids creating a puppet theater last summer with old moving boxes we still had lying around. Then, when they were done with the theater, my daughter turned it into a house for her stuffed animals. So the next time you order something from Amazon, keep those cardboard boxes!
9. Put on a Puppet Show
Once you’ve designed a theater, have your kids write a script for and perform their own show using hand puppets. You can even make your own puppets out of old socks or paper bags.
Another idea is to find pictures of your favorite characters online and print them to the size of a finger width. Stick them on either your child’s fingers or your own and take turns playing different roles.
10. Play Board and Card Games
One of the things our family loves to do at least once a week is play a variety of board and card games. We’ve found many over the years that keep us entertained on an afternoon when we can’t go out. Some of our favorites are Clue Junior, Sushi Go, Bananagrams and Pictionary.
11. Relive Childhood Memories
Something I’ve been doing lately is pulling up old songs and tv shows from my childhood on Youtube. The best part is seeing my kids’ reactions to them! My oldest has made some pretty funny observations and commentaries on the stuff from my past, and it’s been fun to share those memories with them.
12. Painting Rocks
This is one of the best fun activities for kids I have seen so far. Plus, it’s so frugal. Collect some smooth rocks outside and break out your art supplies. Here are some ideas for what to paint on your rocks: rainbows, unicorns, jelly beans, pets, book or movie characters, superheroes, etc.
13. Draw a Family Tree
A great project to do with your children is make a family tree. It’s pretty simple, actually. All you need is construction paper or poster board and photographs of family members. Simply stick those pictures on a tree that your kids have drawn and you are good.
I love this idea because kids start to recognize family members who live far away and have maybe never met. Plus, it’s a great opportunity for some conversations about your family’s values and background!
14. Write Letters To Friends And Family
Who doesn’t love receiving pretty letters from their loved ones, when they usually only get bills and junk in the mail? Ask your kids to take a plain piece of paper or a blank card. Have them draw a picture or write something sweet to friends and family. This keeps them engaged with their friends and family members in an age of digital communication.
15. Video Chat With Friends and Family
You can simply talk to one another, or do a virtual party. There are so many games you can play online with friends and family, too! My kids like talking to their cousins over FaceTime and catching up with them. Somehow it still feels like family from out of state is with us even if we can’t meet or see them on a regular basis.
16. Make Popsicles
It’s already hot where I live, so this is a perfect time to make popsicles around here. Regular popsicles are high in their amount of sugar and it’s bad for kids’ health, so how about making all-natural ones at home? Get your kids with you and make some homemade popsicles.
We’ve poured lemonade and apple juice into popsicle molds and popped them into the freezer for a few hours. Smoothie popsicles are also great to get some nutrients into your kids. All you need is a variety of different fruit, a good blender and popsicle molds. You are good to go!
17. Teach Your Kids a New Skill
Just about everything you could want to learn how to do is on Youtube these days, from art lessons to how to code. Your kids could learn a new language, how to sew or crochet, or cook and bake. My kids have been trying their hand at baking using a new recipe each weekend. They’ve made banana bread, muffins, biscuits, bagels, pretzels, and a two layer lemon cake!
How about teaching them to do daily chores to keep them engaged and at the same time teach them how things are done every day at home? If your kids are old enough, teaching them to change a car’s tire, fixing electronics or doing some other household stuff will help boost both their physical and mental skills.
18. Enjoy Water Play
Is there anything cheaper and frugal than water play? Seriously! And the kids can go crazy for jumping in the water and play for hours.
One fun water activity is to fill cups with water and add toys to it like these little plastic bugs. Kids will have a blast trying to get toys out of ice, too.
Another way is to fill a bucket with water and have your kids make some paper boats they can float. Or you can let them play in the sprinkler outside in hot weather; your kiddos enjoy an hour of fun while you water your lawn at the same time.
19. Go On A Nature Hunt
This is a great activity to increase your children’s love of and appreciation for science. Make a list of nature items to look for in your backyard such as a pine cone, worm, bug, a white rock, something red, a feather, etc. While you’re out there, observe an insect like a spider, ant or bee. You can also take some photos of the things you found and make your own science journal.
20. Toilet Paper Roll Maze
Don’t throw away your tp tubes just yet! You can do a whole lot of stuff with them. Cut the tubes and stick them on large cardboard to make a maze-like structure. Let your kids play by moving balls around in and out of the maze. Alternatively, you can stick those tubes on the wall and let your kids roll marbles and pom-poms through them.
21. Make a Bible Costume
Choose a character in the Bible, such as Moses or Esther, and let your kids have fun dressing up as him or her. You can even do a theme, such as the Armor of God or the Fruits of the Spirit. Afterwards, read that story or passage from the Bible with your children!