10 easy and cheap activities for kids at home

Easy and cheap kids activities

Potion making


Easy cheap kids activities – yes please!

Do you want activities to keep your kids busy and entertained at home? On rainy days? On school holidays? Whenever you need 15 minutes peace? Do you find yourself googling ‘easy kids activities’, creating a Pinterest board full of craft activities that seem like a good idea (with sauv blanc in hand at 11pm on a Friday night), then wake up the next day and realise there is NO WAY you are going to have poster paint over your kitchen bench, much less find somewhere to store the 27 egg cartons, washi tape, origami paper and bottles of paper maiche glue required for these creations?

I am speaking from experience. I actually have half of my laundry devoted to ‘craft shelves’. If I’m being honest (and there is no better place for honesty than a blog on the internet, surely?), I do like to airily wave to my ‘craft shelves’ and channel Martha Stewart at times, when other people are over. However, when my kids tell me they want to ‘make something’, it takes all of my strength to not scream, ‘Nooooo!’

I’m actually lucky that I now have a business that has thousands of activities for kids, into which I can dip at will. It’s probably worth the company set up fees just to have this on hand, so I don’t need to pretend to be an origami or papier maiche expert.

Look, in the right circumstances . . . like a fine, sunny, windless day when all of this can be done on the back lawn with no tantrums or mess, craft activities at home are great. However, it’s more often than not at the kitchen bench and I end up with a kitchen full of things that look like this:


Yes, that is a robot made from a Prosecco box. It has survived 3 hard rubbish collections. If that’s not proof of how much I love my children, I don’t know what is.

So, as a service to other time-poor, well-intentioned parents out there, here are my top 10 easy and cheap activities to do at home with your kids when they ask to ‘make something’:

  1. Make a chatterbox.

    .Spend 5 minutes googling it, if you can’t remember when you did it in primary school. All you need is a piece of paper and some pencils for your child to decorate and write on it. They’ll then take it to school, play with it with siblings and friends. It’s amazing how quickly kids learn and remember how to make things – they’ll be able to recreate this over and over. One note: if you have a boy between the ages of 5 and 9, be prepared for lots of bottom jokes written on it.

  2. Make a treasure map.

    Remember creating an ‘old’ map by staining it with tea? Give the kids paper, pens and a small bowl of cold tea. They can create ‘treasure’ from things at home, hide it in the backyard, then create a map with clues and notes hidden along the way. This is actually good for writing, following direction, directional language . . . and a whole lot of fun.

  3. Make a fairy garden.

    Both my boy and girl love this. They find somewhere outside and use leaves, sticks, glitter, then write a note for the ‘fairies’ to find. Just remember that you’re going to have to leave some kind of note or sign that the fairies have been in the garden, if you ever want them to do this again.

  4. Make a memory cube.

    We use this one in a few of our Brilliant Boxes, for different themes and with different nets (of course, we give you the printed net, so it’s super easy to do). After a holiday, birthday or just a weekend, my kids like to use paper and sticky tape to create a ‘cube’. They draw a different memory on each face, to record what they enjoyed doing. There are so many variations . . . we have a few now and sometimes get them out at dinner time and roll them like dice, to talk about them. You could even do it to learn about different countries, animals . . . the list goes on.

  5. Play dough.

    I could probably just stop right there, really. What kid doesn’t like play dough? Buy it or make it; use it to create numbers or letters or just add in sticks, stones and let them go mad creating their own sculptures.

  6. Air drying clay

    My father-in-law was a commercial artist and comes up with great ‘invitations to play’ for the kids. He introduced them to air-drying clay and they’ve used rolling pins and biscuit cutters to make their own hanging decorations. Ok, admittedly, we also have a series of bizarre small statues at home, but it gives the kids no end of satisfaction to see their artwork as ‘permanent’. There may also have been a lot of clay statues given to grandparents for mother’s and father’s day.

  7. Potion making.

    Seriously, this one is so easy it’s kind of embarrassing to write down. I give my kids a bucket and tell them to go outside and ‘make a potion’. Admittedly, they are Harry Potter fans. They have seriously spent over an hour on this. They mix water, dirt, leaves and who knows what else ( I’m scared to ask), then write down and draw the spell it is to be used to create. This is still one of their favourite things to do.

  8. Threading activities.

    I bought a jumbo pack of different sized beads and cord/string at the local $2 shop. This has stood me in good stead many afternoons, as well as at birthday parties. It’s been a great fine motor development activity and the kids love that they have something they can wear. And make mum and dad wear. Again, encourage this as grandparent gifts. You can also just get out penne pasta ($1 at the supermarket) and a reel of string. The kids use highlighters to colour in the pasta and pipe cleaners as well as the string.

  9. Toilet roll bowling.

    Ok, so this one does assume you have saved cardboard toilet roll tubes or paper towel/glad wrap tubes. If you’re desperate, just sticky tape or staple pieces of rolled up paper. I give the kids a handful of tubes to colour and decorate, a small bouncy ball and hey presto, ten pin bowling.

  10. Paper planes.

    Fortunately for me, my husband is a master paper plane maker. If you don’t have this in your household, make Google your friend. Paper planes can be decorated and named. Then, we’ve had a bit of a competition running. We didn’t set out for this to be a specifically educational activity, but it’s been surprisingly good for my son’s maths: he created a table to record the lengths of each flight for each plane and worked out the difference between each one, to create a ladder.

Of course, the best money you can spend to a) keep the kids happy and educated, b) give yourself a break, and c) feel awesome about yourself for supporting your child’s learning, order a Brilliant Box subscription. http://sunshinecollective.com.au/shop/

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