10 Under $10…Rainy Day Activities for kids that Won’t Break the Bank…
Rainy Days. The struggle is real when you pull back the curtains on a weekend day and see giant blobs of rain hitting the window sideways. The daunting realisation that there’s as much chance of getting them out in the fresh air as getting a unicorn on the arc hits you like a tonne of bricks and all of a sudden bedtime seems very far away indeed.
I admit it’s very tempting to hit that magic remote and turn on the giant black pacifier in the corner, ie. the TV. However, we can do better than that…for a couple of hours anyway! It is nice to exercise their brains, imagination and creativity a little bit…and exercise yours too.
The best time to get going on the indoor activities is in the mornings. Everybody’s enthusiasm and patience levels are at a high and irritability levels haven’t kicked in yet. It also reduces feelings of “bad-parenting” guilt in the afternoon when you seriously just have to turn on the TV and have a quiet coffee if the family bonding and creativity has already been attempted for the day.
Now, kids TV Channels and giant toy stores would have you believe that any attempt at creativity and imagination these days comes at a huge cost, requires a full health and safety audit and a huge investment in the “right” equipment, usually made of plastic and with a brand name attached to it.
While it’s nice to be able to buy your kids some cool stuff to encourage their physical and mental development, it’s by no means the only option. Unlike boring adults who’ve forgotten to have fun without gadgets, kids imaginations are in full swing and have very few limits. Use this and have an awesome, and cheap, rainy day!
So here’s a few ideas to keep you away from the TV remote for an extra couple of hours without having to sacrifice the annual heating budget…not a single electronic device included.
An obvious one to start with, painting encourages creativity and self-expression on a huge scale amongst littlies (and biggies!) Let’s face it, “I don’t feel like painting”, said no child ever!
There’s a huge, and possibly slightly overwhelming, range of kids painting products and gadgets on the market. True, many of them are awesome and, if the budget allows, are well worth the investment to encourage your little DaVinci to develop their skills.
However, awesome and all as they are it’s really not necessary to go spending up a fortune on gimmicks. Everything you need to get going can be got for under $10. We’re not talking Windsor & Newton’s best artist colours here. A local dollar store or the nearest Walmart will provide you with the finest cheap poster paint to suit all your sponge and finger painting requirements.
Here’s the best thing…you only need four colours! Blue, Red, Yellow and a tube of White. This allows you to mix up all the colours you need for their full artistic achievements. Check out some basic colour mixing guides on Youtube here if you’re stuck for ideas.
Of course, if it’s still within your budget a tube of glitter is an awesome addition to get the sparkles going. So grab a load of different sized paint brushes from the dollar store and get going.
Mix it up
Even better, mix things up a bit with some sponge/potato painting/straw spatter painting, hand painting or even try your hand at some paint pouring techniques! Be warned, this one is super messy but kids love the instant results and it’s pretty cool! Check out some of these links to fill your head with all sorts of alternative painting ideas to kickstart their art careers.
Be warned though…this is not a mess-free activity and does require a pretty close level of supervision if you like your walls the colour they are currently. So embrace the mess! Let them go wild, mix colours, add glitter, give their creativity a chance to shine through on a rainy day! Best thing is to clear the area and try to be organised before you start. I’m smiling while I say this as, trust me, this is not me practising what I preach!
So get going to the dollar store, pick up your primary colours and let the little monkeys do the rest!
“Indoor water play?” I hear you ask. Absolutely. That’s why sinks were invented. My toddler used to spend hours standing at the sink filling cups with water and emptying them into each other. This gave me no end of opportunity to get some housework done.
Of course, any achievement in housework was quickly undermined by the giant sloppy puddle of water all over the kitchen floor but still. So yes, you do have to accept that a certain amount of water…as in a rather large amount of water, will end up on the floor during this activity. But just throw a towel down and consider it a pre-mop.
Total cost of indoor water play…zero dollars! Well, unless you have to pay water rates and you’ll inevitably go through an entire bottle of washing up liquid. But still, it’s an economical way to spend an hour or so. You might even manage to trick them into washing a few cups for you.
Add some glitter
Make things more interesting by adding a bit of glitter to the water. You’re gonna hear that word glitter mentioned a lot throughout this article. I’m a big fan of the stuff and I have two girls so it’s been a huge part of my life for 7 years now! I couldn’t be happier about it. I think if I had boys they would also be covered in glitter. Anyway, add glitter to the bubbles…it adds another dimension of splashy sparkliness to their day.
Yes, it does mean that there’ll be glitter all over your sink for the next three weeks, and possibly in your coffee cups and on your dinner plates and in the dog bowl (and in the dog!) and pretty much everywhere. But hey! It looks pretty and it brightens up the place. I now look like I’ve some of that expensive sparkly flooring in my house…I really don’t! And who can deny it’s always nice for Mummy and Daddy to find some glitter on their posh work trousers in the middle of an important meeting! 😉
OK, a bit similar to indoor water play here but so different in many ways. For a start, the mess isn’t confined to the sink so you get to bring that slimy slipping hazard called bubble mixture all over the house with you! There’s nothing like a few burst bubble rings on a wooden floor to turn the toy room into an unexpected skating rink and let’s face it, everybody enjoys the spectacle of a large dog doing cartwheels in the lounge room!
Joking aside, you do need to be careful of slip hazards with the bubble mix but as long as there’s a responsible grown up around to make sure nobody’s pouring it on the floor in large quantities (or drinking it!) then it’s a great way to burn up some energy with some giggly kids.
A bottle of bubbles cost about a dollar so go wild and buy two or three bottles and let everybody join in. You do need to buy actual bubble mixture though. I don’t know what the secret ingredient is in commercial bubble mix but I have tried and failed on countless occasions to recreate bubble magic using household wash up liquid. It’s just not the same! You end up with some pea-sized bubbles and a giant slimy mess all over your floor.
So go wild and buy the good stuff! You can even pour the bubble mix into a wide bucket and use elastic bands to see who can make the biggest bubbles! Check out the link here to see how that works. Although be warned, depending on the dimensions of your house, giant bubbles indoors may just end up leaving some rather unsightly marks on your wallpaper.
There’s that glitter again
Of course…why not throw some (you’ve guessed it) glitter into the bubble mix and see what that looks like! I’ve actually never tried this before but I’m sure the combination of glitter and slime on your floors will make the afternoon of tidying up all that more special.
If you’re not overly keen on the idea of being the bubble making machine yourself there is an alternative that allows you to detach from the activity and go and sip some coffee. Let’s face it, standing in the middle of a room for an hour blowing bubbles to the sounds of shrieking children can get a bit tedious…invest in a bubble making machine for a couple of dollars and let that do the work while you hit the coffee machine and think about doing some housework.
It’s very easy these days to get caught up thinking that dress up means buying expensive costumes brand new with all the accessories. But here’s a hint…kids are as happy with some rags and Mummy’s old shoes…and expensive makeup! Actually, I don’t really have expensive make-up. I don’t have anything for me….the little people broke and stole everything.
Anyway, back to point, dress up is actually more fun when it’s second-hand stuff. Have fun checking out thrift shops and dollar stores and build up your fancy dress collection over the years. It’s great fun and kids never tire of it as it’s a chance for their imaginations to run wild and a chance for them to invent whole new personalities and games with their friends. Do expect to be required to step in as resident dragon, witch or bearded wizard at any point though.
The grown-up role
These villain roles require height and “meanness” that only the grown-ups can manage. Add to your fancy dress with a bit of face painting and before you know it their rainy day will have turned into an awesome mini house party! Unfortunately, the face painting may take you slightly over budget.
Believe me, I’ve tried using the cheap dollar shop face paint. You know, the stuff that’s impossible to remove without a scorching flannel, despite the fact that it never actually dries and gets sweated off overnight into their eyes and pillowcases.
The stuff that you don’t realise is still there until you catch a glimpse of them in the schoolyard and they look like they have scarlet fever because yesterday’s spiderman never got washed off properly. Don’t buy this face paint. This is not a good investment.
Buy the good stuff that costs $10 for one color. Build it up over time and look after it. It’s worth it and trust me, kids are into face painting well into their pre-teen years so you’ll get plenty of use out of it.
OK, these may not be for everybody. A little bit more skill and patience may be required from the resident adult to make this go off successfully but once you’ve got it figured out everybody will have a great time. Trust me, your kids will think you’re a whole new level of cool if you can whip them up a balloon monkey and a few giraffes to entertain them. Obviously, it’s tempting to stick to the standard snake balloon animal if you’re not sure what you’re doing, but there’s nothing you can’t learn from a Youtube video and your balloon animal knowledge will be expert in no time. Stick with it and, before you know you’ll be creating entire safari parks in your living room.
The bonus about this activity, apart from the very low cost involved, is that it’s relatively mess and clean up free. Just while away an hour or so entertaining the tiny humans and, as soon as everybody’s had enough, boom…the mess is gone and they all take their animals away with them!
Balloons for this can be bought at any dollar store or supermarket so you won’t have to go far and there’s zero preparation involved. Well, apart from hours of studying balloon animals on youtube the night before. Who knows! You might even enjoy the challenge and learn something new yourself on a rainy day!
Now, in the mess steaks, this one is probably right up there with handing a monkey a wet paintbrush and sending him off around your house. This activity is not for the faint-hearted or for those who value a tidy kitchen table. Drying time is also required after the activity so, chances are, the table will be out of action for the rest of the evening too. That said, it’s an incredibly fun activity and the kids think it’s amazing to see their creations come to life.
There’s no boundaries here on what they choose to design and the only limit is their imagination which, lets face it, at their age is pretty limitless. Animals, masks and countless other fun, crafty items can be brought to life. This activity usually carries into the next day too as everything needs to dry out overnight before its painted so it’s more of a full weekend commitment. In other words, be prepared to see it through to the end or you’ll never hear the end of it and you’ll be forever haunted by grotesque looking half-finished paper mache masks lying around your house.
There are various different ways to do paper mache. My preferred materials are warm water (free from the tap!), old newspaper (free from the giant collection of old newspapers that everybody seems to keep!) and a cheap bottle of PVC glue. NOT SUPERGLUE! I repeat NOT SUPERGLUE!!! Sounds obvious but you’d be surprised. Anyway, check out these videos here on youtube for a handful of different materials and methods and see which works best for you.
It really is great fun and great mess for an incredibly low cost. Don’t forget the glitter! 😀
Messy messy messy messy messy! If you’re a control freak in the kitchen and a bit OCD about weights, measures and general basic standards of food hygiene then this probably isn’t for you. Or you could view it as an amazing challenge to keep your cool and build on those amazing parenting skills that we all run short of from time to time…patience and tolerance.
Kids love baking! Which always amuses me as never once have I seen them eat their finished product. In fact, I usually end up with a few Tupperware boxes full of malformed cookies sitting on top of my fridge for several weeks waiting to go furry. Now, when I say kids love baking, I mean they love the first half of baking. The fun and the mess and the measuring and the mixing and licking the spoon (yep, there’s that food hygiene I was talking about earlier).
As for the second half…the cleaning and scrubbing and tray preparation and the “putting things away back in the cupboard”. This bit doesn’t seem to be as popular in my house funnily enough. All of a sudden the kids become very interested in something in the next room and vanish without a trace, leaving me to scrape the last bits of cookie mix out of the bowl and eat myself…awesome!
Plenty of help on Youtube
There are sooooo many kid-friendly baking recipes on Youtube. I mean recipes that are easy to manage when baking with children. Not the Hansel and Gretel meaning of “baking with children”. I’d just like to clarify that. Keep it to 4 ingredients and your cost (and mess) will be minimal. Experience has also taught me to stick to recipes with a cooking time of 3 seconds or less.
Well, maybe not 3 seconds but you get my point. Turns out kids aren’t very good at patience and will happily stand there peering into the oven door for over half an hour, asking repeatedly “are they ready yet Mummy! Are they ready yet Mummy!” to the point where you’ll actually consider feeding them raw biscuits. Anyway, check out a few of these links for some easy fun baking ideas. And of course, don’t forget to invest in some edible glitter to add to your finished product! I repeat…EDIBLE glitter, not regular glitter! This does not go down well.
Wait! There’s no way play dough is under 10 dollars I hear you say. Of course, it isn’t. Commercial Play-Doh is right up there with diamonds for cost per square inch. Seriously, between Play-Doh and Lego, I’m bankrupt. But, there is an alternative! Hurray!
Homemade play-doh is easier than a bowl of cereal to make, and it’s fun, and it’s’ soooo messy and smells really bad after 24 hours. But it’s brilliant. Especially because you don’t feel bad for throwing it out after the 24 hours when it’s inevitably covered in pet hair and has managed to work its way into the back of the sofa.
Similar situations with commercial grade play-doh leave me with a dilemma of whether or not to actually attempt to put it through the washing machine rather than throw it out due to its original cost.
It’s super easy
Seriously though, it really is the easiest thing in the world to make. There’s plenty of different recipes out there online but I tend to keep it reeeeeallly simple. I don’t even use that “cream of tartar” stuff. Like, what is that?? I’ve never seen it at the store in my life! I think it’s good to make your dough nice and stretchy but, to be honest, it seems a bit unnecessary for something that’s more than likely going in the bin at the end of the day.
The basic recipe is throw a handful of flour into a bowl. Add a few good size blobs of hair conditioner (my secret recipe) and mix through. Add small amounts of warm water gradually and mix until it becomes something resembling play-doh and there you have it!
A pleasant suprise
The hair conditioner is genius because it gives it a nice smell, rather than the slightly rancid smell of wet flour that you’ll get after a few hours of using it. And it stops the family dog from trying to eat the play doh…brilliant! Throw a handful of salt in if you want it to last a bit longer than a day but, to be honest, it’s well used and usually pretty disgusting by the end of one day. For the small amount of money and time involved, I’d probably just throw it out.
Things to add…glitter of course! There’s only one thing better than play dough and that’s glittery play-doh.
Food colouring. Any colour you like. Just a few drops are fine and it slowly blends in as you play with it. Be warned though…a few drops of red food colouring does initially make your play-doh look like something scary from the butcher’s counter until it mixes through fully.
Mess-free and a great way to burn energy, this really is fun for the whole family. If you don’t mind looking a bit silly that it. But I think most parents are used to looking a bit silly on a regular basis.
Add in some fun games like musical statues, or combine it with dress-up for a completely ridiculous looking afternoon for all the family. Having a little indoor disco is a great way for everybody to burn off all that excess energy that they seem to accumulate on rainy days, and you might even manage to burn a few calories yourself from it.
It’s no secret that exercise boosts mood with those “feel good” endorphins. The physical activity, combined with whatever cool beats you choose to listen to, will have everybody in a great mood in no time. It helps to keep the “rainy day squabbles” at bay, for a while anyway.
And the best part…it’s 100% mess free. No tidying up required afterwards. Just happy tired children flopped on the sofa…great stuff!
Use Your Imagination
Cost of imagination…zero dollars. This seems like a strange “activity” to organise. Basically, sometimes it can be just as effective to turn off the TV, leave the room and let them organise their own activities. If your house is safe and child-friendly just leave them to it. Of course, check in on them every once in awhile. Although, if you’re like me, your parent radar knows that eerie feeling when everything is just a little bit too quiet.
Kids are very inventive
Kids left to their own devices will come up with the most amazing imagination games. Things that you’d never even think off. They’ll be building fortresses, using the bedspreads to go camping in the living room. Have pillow wars, teddy tea parties (or in my house teddy kidnappings), scaling the side of the house with a rope. Nah I’m kidding. Don’t let them do that one. Seriously, really don’t let them do that one. Apart from that though…they’ll have a great time and will figure out how to work and play together. They will also learn compromise and teamwork, hopefully without too much yelling!
So there you have it! Plenty of things to do when the sky is a cold steely grey. Don’t fear those rainy days…embrace the challenge and get active indoors.