10 free activities – stay home and keep children entertained

Ideas for the weekend

If you're fast running out of ideas to do with your kids, don't worry - these simple suggestions use things you're likely to have at home. From face painting dolls to making an obstacle course - you can take your pick from 10 tried-and-tested activities that will keep your children busy and won't cost you a thing.

1. Try shadow drawing

This simple idea kept our little boy busy for ages. He loves spotting shadows anyway, so it was really fun for him to draw around his dinosaurs’. You could draw around mummy or daddy’s shadow if the paper is big enough!

You’ll need: sunshine (or a lamp), toys, paper and pens

How to do it:

1. Stand the toys on the paper with the sunlight (or lamplight) hitting them at the right angle so their shadows appear on the paper. 

2. Now your child can draw around the outlines and colour in the pictures. 

2. Facepaint a toy

I came up with this idea when the face paints came out one day, and my 4yo inevitably wanted to paint my face. I quickly diverted her attention to painting her doll and a new favourite activity was born!

You’ll need: faceprint, dolls with plastic faces

Just let your child loose painting designs on their doll’s face. 

Can they copy this easy design? 

3. Create an obstacle course

It takes a (little) bit of effort to set up an obstacle course, but once it’s there they’ll tire themselves out running around it, and you can sit (with a cup of tea) and time them. Ok you’ll probably have to join in. At least it will get your step count up.

Obstacle ideas: 

You could use cushions as stepping stones (and avoid stepping in the red hot lava!)

How about asking them to waddle with a balloon between their legs? It’s a precious dinosaur egg they have to take to its nest – the only rule is they can’t touch it!

And then wriggle under a blanket – a dark tunnel with a hungry bear inside. 


4. Video call grandparents for a bedtime story

If the grandparent reader has a spare pair of hands, they can show your child the pages as they read along.

It’s so peaceful listening to someone else reading. Be careful you don’t nod off!

5. Make a cardboard box castle!

This make is so simple we did it while we ate breakfast, using a veg delivery box (which had just arrived!). Once you’ve done the big building, your kids can take over. Put the kettle on while they do the painting and decorating.

What you’ll need: a cardboard box, 6 toilet roll tubes, masking tape, scissors and paint

(Masking tape is good because you can paint over it easily. But you could use regular sticky tape.)

What to do:

  1. Cut turrets all the way around the top of the box. 
  2. Cut a door. snip down the middle but leave the sides so you can fold them open. 
  3. Take three toilet roll tubes and tape them in a tower. Repeat. Then cut turrets around the top of each tower. Stich them to the front corners of the box.
  4. Now, let your child paint and decorate it however they like.

6. Create fruit lollipops

We were keen to break the chocolate, crisp, cake, flapjack, ice lolly habit, so we came up with this easy way to make fruit more fun.

What you need: We used pineapple but most fruit will work, kebab sticks

  1. Snip the end off the kebab sticks so they won’t spike anyone.
  2. Cut the fruit into rectangles or squares.
  3. Ask your child to stick the fruit on the sticks.

More healthy summer snacks. 

7. Craft a picture to post to a relative

What better way to let grandparents and great-grandparents know you’re thinking of them than with a homemade picture or card.  Try a rainbow picture they can put up in the window or a card that says I love you. Nothing beats getting a smile like this back in return…

8. Play target practice

This is a good one to prep the night before. You should have seen the kids’ faces when they come downstairs the next morning!

You’ll need: sturdy cardboard, scissors, paint, a foam ball shooter (e.g. Nerf gun  – or use sponges, rolled up socks or soft balls) 

  1. Draw your design in pencil first – make sure the mouth target is big enough for the balls.
  2. Cut out the mouth.
  3. Paint it and leave too dry, Prop it up on a wall or a chair. 

Feel smug knowing that you will no longer be the target of their Nerf gun!

9. Build a den

The idea for this den came about because I was fed up of having to fold myself into a tiny teepee! Sleeping bags, pegs and bar stools provided the perfect awning. 

See more easy ways to build a den.

10. Paint a pebble

The kids on our road have been leaving these on walls and under trees for other children to discover on their daily scoots around the area.

You’ll need: a pebble and paint

What to do: Just let your child paint a great design on their pebble.

You could also turn one into a raisin box pet.