This past weekend, I was asked to help at a church function and do a booth on activities to do with children at home (no field trip ideas). I enlisted the help of some friends, and together, we came up with 100 ideas! These are simple, low-budget, not Pinterest-worthy ideas; stuff that any mom can do with things she has at home and with little planning. I thought I’d share the list here. Maybe you can find some great ideas! Thanx again, Natalie and Lauren!
Note: If you’d like the hard copy with cute font and clipart, please contact me.
Arts & Crafts:
* Playdough (our favorite recipe below)
* Painting: Use materials around the house for something different, ie cars, forks, fingers, sponges, even bubble wrap!
* Make collages: Cut pictures out of magazines, crumple tissue paper into balls and glue on paper.
* Make a sand, rice, or bean “table” (you can put it in a Tupperware). For less mess, use in the kitchen and put a cookie sheet below it. Put small toys in it for your child to find/play with, as well as ladles and cups. Add fun holiday items, too! (To color noodles or rice, put in a large Ziplock. Add a small amount of rubbing alcohol and food coloring. Shake and spread around. Dump out, and lay on paper towels placed on cookie sheets to dry overnight.)
* Paint with other materials besides paint: shaving cream, pudding, Karo syrup dyed with food coloring.
* Get out the stickers! This is a great toddler activity.
* Trace cookie cutters onto paper. Let your child create a picture with it by coloring in the shapes and adding features and landscapes.
* Sponge paint. This makes great wrapping paper for friends or grandparents!
* Make cards—just because! Deliver them to preschool friends or widows, or mail to long-distant family members.
* Bend a TP roll into various shapes (hearts, circles for snowmen or flowers), dip the end in paint, and “stamp” on paper.
* Tear art: Rip up pieces of colored paper and glue on paper. Toddlers love this!
* Rock art: Paint some rocks, then put in your garden for decoration. Rocks painted as bugs look really cute!
* Open-ended art projects. I love to get out a bunch of art materials, tell them to make something, (ie a penguin), and let them create!
* Collect recyclables for a couple of days. Put them all out and create something with them.
* Use stamps.
* You can buy small wooden figures at Walmart or Hobby Lobby for cheap. Let your kids paint them.
* Simple crafts related to holidays, such as snowmen made out of cotton balls and buttons.
* Letter animals to teach young kids the alphabet.
* We love printable coloring pages and worksheets, etc.
* Watercolor. Put the paper on cookie sheets to contain any mess. Sometimes I use a white crayon to write hidden messages on the paper… they love that. Another fun watercolor activity is crayon resist, where they draw a picture with crayons and then watercolor over it. When it dries, the crayon will show.
* Draw with white crayons on black paper. I know that sounds silly, but it is like a special thing we do. How often do you think to bring out some black paper? You can also use dark blue paper, and other crayons that are lighter colors. Great for snow pictures.
* Cardboard boxes, of any size. Need I say more?!
* Coffee Filters. They are great for snowflakes, butterflies, or just to color on. A fun activity is to color them with markers in various colors, then spray with water. The colors will bleed together. Then you can turn them into butterflies or colorful snowflakes or flowers.
* “Color Wonder” books and markers are great for toddlers.
* Make “oobleck.” Mix equal parts of cornstarch and water (ie 1 cup cornstarch, 1 cup water). Messy! So this is a good one to do outside.
* Make necklaces out of beads, Fruit Loops, or Cheerios.
* Make masks or headbands. Paper plates are good for this!
* We love to walk around Hobby Lobby, choose a craft for the day, and bring it home to work on together.
* Sometimes I surprise my kids with new markers or colored pencils. Window markers are also fun!
Fun in the Kitchen:
* Make kitchen time fun. My 2 year old loves utensils so I let him unload the silverware. Give kids measuring cups and turn on the water really low and let them fill and dump. Let them stack spice containers.
* Bake a special treat together.
* Have a tea-party with finger foods and lemonade. Dress up fancy for more fun! Even boys enjoy this!
* Make indoor s’mores over the stove.
* Have a surprise lunch; something different than the norm. Serve it in a muffin tin, cut your sandwiches into shapes using cookie cutters, or have an indoor picnic and invite your stuffed animals.
* Dump some flour on a cookie sheet and drive cars through it.
* In the winter, I’ll bring our sandbox inside by putting some sand and simple sand toys in a bin on the kitchen floor. For less mess, put a sheet down.
* Bring snow inside! Sometimes it’s just too cold for the little ones to go outside. Bring a bowl of snow inside and let them play on a cookie sheet until it melts. You can even freeze a snowman in the freezer to enjoy later.
* Make shaped pancakes for breakfast. My dad made us letter pancakes every Saturday growing up! (the first letter of our first names.) Such a fun memory!
* Have a dance party in your living room. Make musical instruments, like shakers or drums. Attach ribbons to a shower ring and let your child swing them around as they dance. Introduce your children to all genres of music, not just children’s music. Play Freeze Dance: Dance while the music is playing. Stop it. Freeze until the music starts again.
* Build a fort.
* Do yoga together.
* Play hide-and-seek.
* Have a pillow fight or indoor “snowball” fight (use rolled up socks).
* Build an obstacle course with pillows, couch cushions, and blankets and crawl around it.
* Shoot/throw balls into a laundry basket.
* Play charades.
* Build a train with chairs. Invite stuffed animals to go on an adventure!
* Give your child a “boat” ride in a laundry basket. Laundry baskets also make great “race cars.”
* Act out the scripture stories. Use props and simple costumes!
* Musical chairs. We put our mini arm chairs back to back and put on fun music.
* Jumping on the beds. I know it’s unconventional but we love it! It gets wiggles out, and does no harm. Sometimes we make a slide with a mattress, leaving one end up on the frame and the other on the floor.
* When daddy is home, they play “Pillow Bam:” Basically he throws pillows and they dodge.
* Jump from the mark. Make a line with masking tape and get out a tape measure to see who can jump the farthest.
* Pillow pile: Throw all the cushions of the couch, cover with a few blankets, and let the kids jump on the pile for a while. We do this almost daily at our house right now.
* Use blocks to build a fort (we use Megablocks because we have a million). Then fill the fort with army men (You can buy some at the dollar store). Then use a bouncy ball or small soft ball/toy to try and knock the army men down. Hours of fun!
* Make stilts out of tin cans: Poke holes near the top, string some sturdy string through, and let your kids walk on them.
* Go on a nature hunt. Bring a bucket to collect items in. Look for signs of fall or spring.
* Go to the park and play with your child. Swing on the swings, chase them around the park, hop over the “hot lava,” go down the slides in trains or bring some cars and send them down.
* Draw with sidewalk chalk. Trace bodies, play hopscotch, draw a garden, or a city for toys cars. Use for practicing ABCs or spelling words.
* Go on a picnic together, even if it’s in your own yard.
* Watch clouds and point out pictures in them.
* Hunt for 4-leaf clovers.
* Make sidewalk paint (recipe below). Toddlers like to paint the sidewalk, rocks, trees, etc with just water.
* Bubbles. For something different, add food coloring to the bubble solution and blow on paper.
* Gardening! My kids get out their little shovels and help me pull weeds. They like to harvest things themselves, and are very useful for things like beans, tomatoes, and peas.
* Play Freeze Dance in the sprinkler (dance in the sprinkler, turn the hose off and FREEZE).
* Fill a water bottle with colored water and spray the snow.
* Go puddle jumping after a rain storm. Get wet with your kids.
* Fly a kite.
* Collect wildflowers. Make a bouquet and deliver to someone who needs a smile.
* For school age children, hang sight words on the wall. Call one out, and they slap it with a fly swatter. Great for learning letters, too.
* Do a science experiment together. I love this website (Steve Spangler Science) for amazing ideas mostly done with kitchen materials: http://www.stevespanglerscience.com/lab/experiments
* Make “mini” books: Staple small blank pages together to make a book. Let your child write/draw their own story. They love when you use shapes (like bunnies for Easter, pumpkins for Halloween, etc.) for the book.
* Do puzzles together. Puzzles with knobs are good for toddlers. Preschoolers can start to learn floor/jigsaw puzzles. School-age children like puzzles with more pieces.
* Most important: read with every child you have EVERY single day. Even babies like to sit in your lap and flip the pages or look at the pictures. Don’t read every word when they’re little, just talk about what you see. Huge for language/reading skills. Don’t worry if you’re re-reading the same book every day; it’s just important that they’re being exposed to literature. And re-reading helps with early literacy skills. Sometimes I assign the older kids to read to the younger when I need help. Read fiction and non-fiction books.
* Pretend to be an animal and move like it does: Snake, penguin, bunny, even worms!
* My kids love to play “Noah’s Ark:” We gather our stuffed animals into sets of two, and put them in our ark (laundry basket). They then climb in, and I push them around the room like they’re on the water.
* Make a petting zoo with stuffed animals.
* Make believe with your child. Put on dress-ups, climb in the “boat,” hunt for treasure, let your child do your hair.
* Have a dress-up play date: Invite a friend(s) over in their dress-up clothes: Super hero, princess, favorite costume, pirate. Do this at another time besides Halloween.
* Puppets: Make your own or buy/borrow some. Simple puppets can be made with paper and a popsicle stick. Make your own scenery by using a large tri-fold board, cut out a rectangle, and decorate. You can even add curtains! Videotape your child’s puppet show, then watch it on TV together.
* My kids love to play “library.”
* Make a pretend grocery store. Provide a basket, play money, and cash register, if you have one.
* Play leap frog. Or pretend to be frogs. Tape green circles made from construction paper on the floor and have your child hop from lily pad to lily pad like a frog. (To make it educational, put a number on each pad and have them jump in order.)
* Pretend to be a penguin. Waddle, slide on your tummy, and put a ball between to your feet like an egg.
* Use the holidays for inspiration. Pretend to be the Easter Bunny or Santa’s elves, or set up a pretend pumpkin patch.
* Play I spy. Use funny glasses or a telescope made from a TP roll (attach colored cellophane on the end for more fun).
* My kids love to take a bubble bath in the middle of the day!
* Watch a movie together. Put away the phone and iPad and snuggle together with pillows and blankets. Make a fun snack to enjoy.
* Build with blocks. Add cars, army men, or small toy animals or dolls.
* Cut some PVC pipe, prop it up, and roll marbles down it.
* Paint nails together.
* Send your children on a treasure hunt with clues.
* Board and card games, like Monopoly, Guess Who, Nertz, Uno. They love learning a new game and catch on quick!
* Use an old shelf or board as a car ramp. We have an old shelf from a broken bookshelf that we lean against the couch and then we have races down the ramp. It’s just something different than the toy ramps.
* Play “Find the ____” We have a few snakes that we use to hide. One person hides and the others try to find them. Even little ones can do this. Easter Eggs are great for this too!
* Are you passionate about something? Share it with your children! If you like photography, help them see the beauty you see and let them hold your camera and take pictures. Do you like to exercise? Go on hikes together or do Zumba together. Do you like to paint or cook? Teach them your secrets. If you love yard work, let them tag along and dig in the garden and plant with you. You may have to scale it down a bit, but when you’re passionate, they’ll be excited, too!
Playdough (soft and keeps for a long time, needs no refrigeration)
1 cup flour
¼ cup salt
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup water
Put all ingredients in a pan on the stove (for more vibrant color, wait on the food coloring). Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly to prevent sticking or burning. When it forms a big lump in the middle of the pan, remove from heat. Knead for one minute. (Add the food coloring now, if you waited, and knead it in. The color might get on your hands so wear gloves.) Let cool. Store in an airtight container (I like Ziplock bags). No need to refrigerate.
Muffin tin (I like mini tins)
Paintbrushes (We use one per color)
You need equal parts of cornstarch and water. I do 2 teaspoons per cup holder in my mini tin and add just a couple more drops of water. Add food coloring. I do about 4 drops for each one. For white, don’t add food coloring. Take outside and decorate! You may need to rinse the brushes off with water occasionally, as the cornstarch seems to accumulate on the brush. Rinse off with your hose, sprinklers, or let the rain do it!