Monday, January 11, 2010

Thrifty Household Activities

Kids hanging on your legs?  Are they asking to play with you?  Run out of ideas?  Happens to me sometimes too.  I created a list of thrifty household activities for my MOPS group last year.  Thought I'd share it.  It might help one person!  (Plus, it's easy to post since we've got to get back into the school routine today.)  Fun all around!

Thrifty Household Activities

Use items found around the house with the kids in alternate ways to create cheap fun! Parental supervision required for some activities and make sure they are age appropriate for your children.

Aluminum Foil: Have the kids crinkle it up into balls and hit it around with wooden spoons. Fold into boat shapes and float in a sink/tub of water, see how many objects the kids can float in it. Make jewelry or crowns. Recycle when finished.

Applesauce: Mix ½ cup applesauce and ½ cup spices (like cinnamon) in a Ziploc bag. Knead together to form dough. Roll dough to ¼ to ½ inches between two sheets of wax paper and use cookie cutters to make shapes. Let dry for 12 hours to make homemade ornaments or air fresheners.

Cardboard: Cut a piece of thin cardboard into a shape (square, circle,star,etc.). Punch holes around the perimeter, about one inch apart. With a piece of yarn, apply a piece of masking tape to one end of the yarn to give it a pointed end and tie the other end of the yarn to your cardboard. Have your child practice threading the yarn through the holes around your cardboard shape.

Coffee Filters: Color with markers and then spray with water for a neat tye dye effect. Pinch in the middle to create a butterfly.

Cornstarch: Add more cornstarch or water and see what happens to the mixture. When you are able to gather up a handful of the mixture, squeeze it firmly. What happens? Now if you stop squeezing and hold it quietly in your hand it will ooze through your fingers. Add several drops of food coloring to the surface of the mixture. Take a toothpick and drag it through the colored drops. What happens? Ask the children what else they would like to mix with water. Look in the kitchen for ideas.

Crayons: Adult supervision for heating! Put foil on a hot plate and draw with crayons on the foil. Put paper over the melted crayon design and lift up to see an imprint. Or melt used crayons in muffin tins at a low temp (200) to create new crayons.

Dried Beans: Glue onto paper to make fun collages. Mix dried beans and rice in a shallow pan and let the kids use small tractors and trucks in it for their own construction zone.

Edible Necklaces: Shoestring (long, thin) licorice or actual string, cheerios, fruit loops, marshmallows, and/or any other stringable food. Thread the cheerios or whatever stringable food you've chosen onto the licorice string or shoestring. Tie the strings together in a knot and there you have it!

Food Coloring: Mix primary colors in water. Let kids create their own colors by mixing the primary colors. (Old clothes or aprons a good idea!)

Jello: Make jigglers. Or mix 1 package jello and 2 Tbsp hot water in a small bowl and be careful to not over mix. Let cool 5-10 minutes before using. Paint on tin foil for a neat effect.

Liquid Dish Soap: Slowly mix liquid dish soap and water together in dishpan or pail. Make bubble wands of various shapes and sizes using pipe cleaners, berry baskets, cans (both ends removed), flyswatters, etc. – and make bubbles! Find other household items that can be used for bubble blowing. Are the bubbles always the same shape? Try adding corn syrup. What happens? Use varying recipes for bubbles, including commercially prepared solutions. Which do your children prefer?

Magazines: Cut out favorite things in the magazines to make collages or books. Use a hanger and string to make a mobile of items you cut out.

Marshmallows: Use large marshmallows and pretzel sticks to make fun tinker toys (if you can keep the kids from eating them all!)

Masking Tape: Use indoors (test your tape on the surface you want to use) or outdoors to create fun play. Make a hopscotch board or a balance beam outline. Create stickers.

Paper Bags: Have kids color, stamp, sticker, or glue things to paper bags. Use the bags for gifts or lunches.

Paper Cups: Make towers, houses or castles. Play counting games. Fill some with water and have a tea party. Let the kids practice pouring water into cups. Recycle paper cups.

Pipe Cleaners: Use this versatile craft item for a variety of things. Make rings, headbands or flowers. Twist and turn to have the kids create their own toys or things from their imaginations.

Potato: Adult to do the following: Slice a raw potato in half lengthwise. Place a cookie cutter on the cut side of one half of the potato. Push the cookie cutter into the potato while keeping the potato flat on the table. Break away the potato that's around the outside of the cookie cutter. Push the shape out of the cookie cutter. Dry off any moisture from the potato with a paper towel. Dip in paint and have fun stamping!

Shave Cream: Using a white board, put shave cream on it and have kids practice writing their letters. Use it in the tub to decorate tummies. During the summer months, have a shaving cream fight or decorate the kids and hose off.

Sheets: Take some chairs and make a fort. Hide under the sheet. Put the kids on it and pull them around on a hard floor.

Vinegar: Besides using for cleaning, use for fun demonstrations. Ask the children to measure 3 teaspoons baking soda and place it in a paper cup. Next, measure and pour 3 teaspoons vinegar into a ziploc bag. Carefully, place the cup of baking soda in the bag of vinegar. Seal the bag without tipping the cup. Once it is securely sealed, shake the bag to mix the ingredients. What happens? Can the children demonstrate what happens to the bag by using a part of their bodies? How about their mouths? Add a peanut or raisin to the bag prior to shaking it. What do you think will happen? What else would the children like to place in the bag? Try using a larger bag and color the vinegar with a few drops of food coloring. Do you still get the same effect? Try doing this in a soda/water bottle and put a balloon over the top to blow it up.

Get Creative! Use things around your house to have the kids entertain themselves (pot and pans to make music, pretend cooking) or get involved with them and create new toys or games with household items. Fill a drawer, cupboard or small container with fun things (old keys, party favors, rocks, shells, photos, old cell phone, etc) that the kids can pull out and look or play with while you’re busy for a few minutes.


  1. I like the activities but I tried them with kids and they aren't interested in the activities I have no idea what to do

  2. What are your kids interested in and what age are they? If they're playing with child appropriate activities and toys, let them play with what interests them.


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