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13 low budget activities for kids to do at home

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Whilst the majority of children are back at school now, let’s face it – Keeping them occupied whilst at home can be tough sometimes; particularly when funds are running a little low in the run-up towards Christmas!

I thought I’d share some budget-friendly ideas for activities for your children based on what Evie and I got up to during the first nationwide lockdown.


1. Making Rainbow Rice

Rainbow Rice Sensory

Although the warm and sunny days of the first lockdown have long since passed, this is a great little activity for kids if you want to to keep them occupied.

The great thing about making rainbow rice is that it’s perfect for sensory play. It’s amazing how much fun you can have with some dyed rice as part of a sensory bin; Evie loved doing this as a two-year-old and she still loves it.

It’s great for developing fine motor skills too.

What you’ll need:
– A few bags of rice
Plenty of bottles of food colouring
Sandwich bags
A large container

Get yourself a sandwich bag for each different food colouring you have and fill them with roughly the same amount of rice (You can weigh it if you like, but I’m not sure it’s worth the hassle…).

Add a good amount of a single colour into each of the different bags and tie each one up. We ended up with one bag that was brown, one that was yellow, one that was blue, one green and so on…

Get your kids involved with squeezing the bag and distributing the colour evenly around the bag. Talk to them about the texture and get them to notice how it changes as the bag becomes wet.

Next, leave the rice to dry for around 24 hours and, et voila!

Rainbow rice.

Things you could try:
– Burying a small toy in there and giving them a pastry brush. They aren’t allowed to use anything but the brush to find it – Evie loves this game!
– Separating the rice into colours
– Burying your hands in there and really feeling the texture
– Using an empty metal coffee tin as a rice shaker to make noise

2. Cardboard Laptops

This is a great little activity you can do at home with a leftover shoebox.

You can take a look at our more detailed guide for full instructions, but here’s a quick summary:

What you’ll need:
– A shoebox
– A craft knife
PVA glue

Simply mark the laptop shape (A full diagram can be found here) and cut it out, making sure to leave a good solid edge on one side to help it stand up.

Glue on your screen and buttons and add a mouse for some extra flare!

3. Cupcake Case Flowers

Easter came and went during lockdown this year, so we used these fancy little copper cupcake cases and made Easter daffodils.

What you’ll need:
– Cupcake cases (Try these!)
– Paint pens (Get ’em here)

Really simple idea, but looks great and makes for a lovely little craft activity if you want to change it up a bit.

Just stick the cupcake down and encourage your child to be as imaginative as possible with the shapes they make.

It’s amazing how much enthusiasm and excitement you can create with your little one with something as simple as a cupcake case.

Things you could try:
– Using the cases as wheels for a car
– Using the cases as eyes for a monster
– Using the cases as the nose of a dog

You get the idea!

4. Sandwich Bag Painting

Evie absolutely loved this one because she was able to get really involved with the making of it! I still have remnants of the tape stuck to my window…

What you’ll need:
– Sandwich bags (I prefer this kind)
– Washable paints (Any will do)

Fill some ziplock sandwich bags with different coloured paints and stick them to the wall or a window.

We used ours to draw little pictures with our fingers, which is a great way to get them thinking about the formation of shapes and letters.

Evie found it particularly funny when the purple and orange paints merged together to form what she delightfully referred to as, ‘blood’.

It honestly looked like we’d hijacked a blood transfusion bag and stuck it to the wall.

Maybe avoid mixing orange and purple, actually.

What you could try:
– Depending on their age, practise forming letters
– Form shapes and lines in the paint
– Draw faces together
– Mixing colours in the bag and talking about how you made it

5. Pepper Science Experiment

This is s great science experiment for kids.

If you’re looking for educational activities for kids, this is great since it helps to reinforce the importance of washing your hands…

What you’ll need:
– Pepper
– A mixing bowl
– Soap
– Water

Just fill the mixing bowl with water and get your child to put plenty of pepper into it.

Then, get Them to dip their hands into the water and watch how the pepper sticks.

Evie declared that it was, ‘So gross’ at this point and immediately went to the toilet to wash her hands.

Next, get your child to put a little soap on their hands and rub it all over.

Make sure they’re paying attention as they put their finger slowly into the water and then marvel as the pepper dashes away to the sides of the bowl.

Being the nerd that I am, I Googled why this happens – It’s all to do with surface tension. Very clever stuff and worth a try.

6. Make Salt Dough Hand Prints

Making salt dough is a great activity for keeping the kids occupied at various intervals during the day.

What you’ll need:
– 1 cup of salt
– 2 cups of flour
– 3/4 cup of water

To make salt dough, just mix together your salt and flour in a large bowl, then gradually stir in the water.

As the mixture binds together it’ll start to form a doughy consistency which you can mould however you like.

I wanted to make something we could keep, so I got Evie to use the rolling pin and flatten it out before making two big handprints in it.

After that, you need to stick it in the oven at a fairly low heat and just let it dry out.

Because it takes a long time to cook, you can start off in the morning, go and play something else and come back to it later on in the day.

I’m sure you can do it more professionally than we did; we weren’t very scientific with out timings…We just kept checking every now and then, before eventually taking it out when it seemed done ?.

7. Use your Surroundings

Introducing ‘Cushionland’! This one regularly makes an appearance at our house because it’s fun, easy-to-do and safe.

What you’ll need:

– Cushions from the sofa
– Floor space
– A strong reserve when they’re jumping

I love creating a safe environment for Evie to just go wild; even if that means leaping like a lunatic across the room.

The beauty of using your surroundings, if you’re not too precious on keeping your sofa immaculate of course, is that you can create sooo many games off the back of it – ‘The Floor is Lava’ of course being one of the favourites.

Sometimes it’s nice to just throw caution to the wind and have some fun burning off some energy.

8. Make Stamps

Having fun at home doesn’t need to be expensive and you can quite often make use of everyday items around the house. There’s something so rewarding about crafts for kids and Evie always loves it.

What you’ll need:
– Washable paint
– Cardboard Toilet Roll Tubes
– Masking tape

We really love doing little arts and crafts, but sometimes children just need a little push to get creative.

This is great because it focuses on teaching control, whilst reinforcing a little creativity.

9. Make a Sofa Den

What you’ll need:
– A sofa
– A blanket or two
– Some cushions
– Your imagination

This is one of my favourite games as a Daddy. I don’t know why, but there’s something about building a den that I just never seem to grow out of.

I love anything that involves imaginative play because I believe that imagination is the route to creativity and, in my humble opinion, I believe that creative people are successful people.

I want Evie to grow up always thinking outside of the box and challenging the world that is presented in front of her.

As a strong young lady, Evie needs to know that she can change the world if she puts her mind to it.

I know it sounds a little grandiose, but by literally changing our surroundings to suit our games, Evie is learning an extremely valuable lesson – the world is what you make it.

We love building a den and lining up all of Evie’s teddies or Barbies in there; you’ll usually find us in here at some point over a weekend!

10. Make a Pirate Ship

What you’ll need:
– A sofa (or two)
– Materials for the sail (We used an old curtain on a curtain pole)
– A plate for the ship’s steering wheel
– A sword and an eye patch if available
– A phone or tablet (This will become clear)

Pirate ships are a common occurrence in the Betts household and one of my favourite home activities for kids.

We often push the two sofas together and wedge an old curtain pole and curtain vertically to make the sail.

Evie pillages one of her plates from the kitchen drawer as a steering we’ll and will often make me walk the plank if I’ve been naughty (A bench from our kitchen table).

This is a fantastic game for really spurring on your child’s imagination, especially if you use your phone or tablet to play ocean waves in the background.

Let the adventure begin!

11. Have a Bake-Off

Baking Muffins

What you’ll need:
– A muffin or cake making kit

So, you like baking? I’m happy for you. Unfortunately, this is not a skill of mine and it probably never will be.

I’m never going to be Paul Hollywood and my muffins certainly won’t pass with ‘showstopper’ status, but do you know what? I’m not really fussed!

It’s easy to lose sight of the spirit of the activity, which for me is spending quality time with my daughter.

Mixing a few ingredients from a packet is a little lazy on the baking front, but my four-year-old certainly has no concerns about a soggy bottom and to be quite honest, never eats them anyway!

Taking the time to spend time with your munchkin whilst they’re learning that they make things (even with the aid of handy packet-based shortcuts), is a perfect way to encourage curious little learners.

To me, that’s what counts.

12. Get ’em thinking

Himiku Blocks Tower

What you’ll need:
– Himiku Blocks (Get ’em here)

In my opinion, kids learn best when they’re playing. Evie absolutely loves to be challenged and I try my best to encourage a curious, problem-solving attitude.

Himiku Blocks are little wooden shapes that can be stacked high and really get those brain cells going.

Evie will often sit for ages whilst she tries to work out how she can build the tallest tower possible and, to be honest, I quite find myself mulling it over myself!

13. Put ’em to work

What you’ll need:
A sponge
– A bucket
– A dictatorial mindset

Kids these days, huh? They just don’t understand the value of hard work anymore. Evie’s four – It’s about time she learned to contribute to the household…

OK, I’m kidding. I don’t believe in putting children to work, unlike many well-known household consumer brands and their unethically-managed sweatshops, but I do like to involve Evie in activities around the house from time-to-time.

In life, we all have to do things we don’t want to do; whether it’s going to work, doing household chores or for me, exercising.

I believe the secret is finding enjoyment in whatever you do, however much you don’t want to do it.

This is an attitude I’d like to instil into Evie, so we try to think up little games and challenges to make washing the car or doing the gardening more exciting!

Keep checking back! I’m going to add to this list over the coming weeks!

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