Being home with the kids every day has really challenged my creativity when it comes to keeping them occupied in a constructive way. We are always trying to find ways to spend out time at home together that is interesting to my preschool ages kids and that doesn’t cost any money. Here are 12 simple ideas.
I love being home with the kids and one of the first things that I learned as a stay at home mom was that I needed to keep my kids busy. Busy kids are happy kids and that makes me happy too. In an effort to avoid the television and help the kids get excited about our summer activities we made a summer fun list and posted it in our kitchen. The list contained ideas of things that we could do throughout the summer that were out of the ordinary and fun to look forward to. We have almost every single activity crossed off of our list, and looking back I have realized what fun we have had together this summer!
My list included a lot of things that we already knew we were going to be doing over the summer like outings to the zoo or making salsa from garden vegetables. Those things are always fun, but they do get costly. Some of my favorite activities from this summer were ones that we did on a whim at home when we had a quiet day with nothing special planned. Having these activities turned ordinary days into super fantastic days that were exciting an stimulating for the kids, and they surely cured the “I’m bored” blues without spending a dime!
Here are 12 ideas of activities to occupy the kids at home, without spending anything!
1. Paint with pudding
Break out those packages of pudding mix in the back of the pantry and mix up a batch or two. I made two flavors and gave the kids some paintbrushes and let them go crazy. They wore swimsuits so that we could do this outside and hose of the mess when we were done. My son was thrilled with this simple but super fun activity, but my little girl was not so sure. My hubby was even more unsure when he got home and found the kids painting each other with pudding. He found it kind of icky, but the smiles on the kid’s faces were the real test of a fun activity, and this was a hit!
2. Make a treat with what you have
We love making treats together, but I don’t always have the ingredients to make something fancy or bake up some goodies. Here is a super fun treat to make with the kids that uses just graham crackers, cool whip, and sprinkles.
All you need to do is break the crackers in half, let the kids spread cool whip onto one cracker and top it with the other half of the cracker. Then let them roll the edges in sprinkles, or chocolate chips whatever you have. Then pop them in the freezer for the perfect after dinner treat that is kid friendly to make and eat!
We also love making homemade ice cream in a baggie. It uses just milk, sugar, vanilla, sea salt, and ice! The kids found the process fascinating and the loved seeing how ice cream is made. Tutorial to come!
3. Make boats and race them
My kids are always ready for a craft project and they adored making and sailing their own little boats. I saved packages that I bought vegetables from at the grocery store and stashed them away for this project. I love to reuse things that I would otherwise just toss in the garbage. After they were cleaned and dried I had the kids decorate them however they wanted and also decorated a piece of construction paper cut into a triangle to make a sail. I used hot glue to attach a straw to the boat and their decorated sail to the straw. We then raced them on our pond and the kids had a blast. This can be as simple as putting the boats in the tub during bath time – or a kiddie pool outside! Our boats did all of those things and went down the slide a time or two also.
4. Make an obstacle course
This was one of my most memorable days from this summer. I collected a bunch of toys and activities from around the house and set them up outside as an “obstacle course”. The kids went nuts when they saw everything all set up outside and spent the entire day practicing the obstacle course to show daddy when he got home.
This also provided us a great opportunity to talk about, winning, losing, and trying our best. Unfortunately we had instantly had tears over who won and lost, but after a little talk, and a few snags they were able to enjoy it with more positive attitudes. This provided hours of active and outdoor fun, and I was thrilled with how much they loved it!
5. Make a chairplane for snack time
I remember making airplanes and buses from our dining room chairs as a kid. My kids love to do the same – but we kick it up a notch. In our house we use snack time as the perfect opportunity to play in our chairplane. We set up the chairs in a row, fill it with passengers, and then pass out the snack of the day for everyone to enjoy. It’s an extra fun way for the kids to enjoy their snack and have a little creative paly with their favorite stuffed animals too.
6. Mix up magic giant bubble solution and experiment with different recyclables as bubble blowers
I found the recipe for super giant bubbles from the blog Design Dazzle and they worked great! I loved that everything in the bubble mix was stuff that I already had in the house!
image via Design Dazzle
We used random household recyclables to test and see what would blow the best bubbles. We used plastic cups with a hole punched in the bottom, a large orange juice container with the bottom removed, and plastic drinking bottles without the bottoms.
7. Make an animal train through the house
This came about on a rainy Saturday morning while my husband was working in the home office. The kids and I decided that we should collect all of their little toys and see how long of an animal train we could make through the house. The kids did a great job working together and carefully placing their animals one after the other through the hallways of the house. They made it through three rooms and all the way to the office chair that my husband was working in. Simple, fun, and adorable too.
8. Decorate bikes and have a parade
I think this was the kid’s favorite activity of the summer. I have a stash of half used streamers and ribbon, balloons, and other decorations that I have left over from parties over the years. I’m not exactly sure why I keep them, because the decorations are all miss matched and very random that I save, but this was the perfect way to use some of them up in a fun and creative way. I dumped a few supplies out in the driveway and lined the kid’s bikes (and 1 power-wheels toy) up in a row. I also brought some of their favorite stuffed animals out in a basket for them to add to the parade. When I told them that they could use any of the supplies to decorate them, they got right to work! They decorated their bikes to their hearts content and enjoyed putting their stuffies in the seats for the parade. My son made an awesome trail of streamers behind his car and spent a good portion of the day driving it around the yard with a big smile on his face! Once they were done decorating they enjoyed riding their fancily decorated bikes up and down the driveway as a parade!
Click on the link above for more details on the marshmallow towers. This is a fun way to use up a bag of mini marshmallows! Make castles and towers out of toothpicks and marshmallows! It gets the kids thinking and keeps them busy too.
10. Play hide and go seek in dress up clothes
Get dressed up in the kid’s dress up clothes and play a regular game of hide and go seek. Something about finding a baby elephant in a tutu with a tiara hiding in the closet is extra special and a silly fun! The kids laughed so hard doing this! If you don’t have a lot of dress up clothes just use mom or dad’s clothes and switch roles.
11. Have a puzzle-a-thon or game-a-thon
Our summer has been crazy busy and sometimes I feel like, although we are always together, that I am not getting that quiet one on one time with the kids that I love. This is always my solution and works perfect to stay busy on a rainy or super hot day. We get every single puzzle that we have out and stack them up. We do each puzzle together one by one and then fill the living room with the completed puzzles.
We do the same thing with family game night. It us a great way to spend a quiet night together without going out or watching a movie.
12. Write letters and color pictures and mail them to a friend
I love taking the kids colored pictures and letter writing practice and turning it into an activity that we can do together. I usually make a list of family or friends for each of them and then they make a letter or picture for each person and check it off of the list. Then they decorate an envelop and I address it for them. They add the stamps and walk it out to the mailbox to send off. It’s not only a great way to stay busy but keeps them thinking about others, and doing something nice for the ones they love.