Keeping your kids entertained while spending little to no money can be unbelievably simple. You do not even need to be exceptionally crafty or make a huge mess to get the rainy day, outdoor, or indoor winter fun rolling!
These DIY activities for kids can also be used as educational extension activities for preschool and early elementary school students. Make learning fun while and bring math and science to life while teaching lessons about weight, texture, colors, matter state changes, and weather concepts.
Top 5 DIY Activities to Entertain Kids
Underwater Magic Sand
The sand will expand and move about while forming interesting shapes before it fuses together into a big colorful mountain. The sand can be used multiple times if allowed to dry thoroughly in between each use.
- Scotchgard – or your favorite brand of fabric protection spray.
- Colored Sand
- Large bowl filled with warm water
- Cookie sheet or shallow plastic container
- Aluminum foil or wax paper
- Large spoon
- Colored Sand
- Line the cookie sheet or shallow plastic container with the aluminum foil or wax paper.
- Spread the colored sand into a thin layer around shallow container
- Heavily Coat the sand with the fabric spray
- Wait 10 minutes then stir the colored sand thoroughly and coat it with the fabric spray again.
- Allow the sand to dry for 1 hour.
- Pour each color of sand into an individual container – plastic freezer bags or baby food jars work great.
- Allow the children to slowly pour the colored sand into the water and watch it move and finally settle.
- Permit the children to touch and mold the sand while it is in the water. It will not stick to their fingers and will begin moving about in the water and form new shapes again.
- Pour the container of water and colored sand through a strainer with the help of the children. They will be amazed at how quickly the fluffy sand resumes its natural state as it quickly dries.
Shadow Shape Drawing
While the children are decorating their drawing, talk to them about how shadows are created and how the changing of the seasons impacts the weather. To make the activity even more educational, have the children write the name of the objects beneath them, match a label your or they create to the appropriate object or use a color-coded key for the children to follow when decorating their shadow art.
- Markers, chalks, Crayons, or paint – or all four. Textured decorative items like pieces of felt, craft foam, glitter, crinkled up leaves etc. can be glued to the traced shadow shapes, as well.
- Poster board, construction paper, or butcher paper – or use the sidewalk when outdoors
- Sunlight or light source that can be directed – flexible light, flashlight, or lamp with its shade removed all work well.
- Toys or other small objects – toy animals or cars work very well.
- Base for the toys or objects to be placed upon – building blocks, brick, or shoe box work great.
- Place the chosen paper onto a table, or situate an outdoor activity area on the sidewalk so the sun is at your back.
- Position the light source so it will cast a shadow onto the paper if doing this activity indoors – test with your hand to make sure a shadow will be cast onto the activity space.
- Place the base for the objects onto the paper or sidewalk – they will also cast a shadow. If creating a specific scene with the shadow objects, position your bases accordingly.
- Put the toys or objects onto the base blocks.
- Children will trace along the outline of the shadow cast by the objects.
- Turn off the light if indoors and allow the children to color or paint their creation.
Nature Scavenger Hunt
Teach the children about the natural beauty of each season by going on an outdoor scavenger hunt. This activity is also an excellent way to teach older children (or a scouting group) how to identify specific types of trees, plants, rocks, or wild edibles during a hike in the woods.
- A scavenger hunt search sheet printout on a piece of paper – it can also be drawn or painted upon either a piece of fabric so it can be folded and placed in a pocket during the hike, or a piece of cardboard to make it more durable.
- A collection bag for the scavenger hunt items. A freezer bag glued to the sheet of cardboard works well. If using fabric, sew (or gather and tie a string around the fabric to create a closure) it into a pouch that can serve as both a scavenger hunt guide and a collection pouch. A grocery store bag or similar sack can also be used as a holder for items collected in the woods.
- The scavenger hunt list can be as simple as finding items to match a color swatch on the search sheet for young children, or a photo of a specific type of tree, plant, wild edible, moss, etc. Searching for items with a particular texture – soft, hard, scratchy, or smooth, can also be included on the nature scavenger hunt search list.
- Once the scavenger hunt is over, discuss what the children found to learn more about the items. Turn the activity into a math lesson by counting the items found and weighing them.
Outdoor Race Track
This is a great way to repurpose leftover scraps from other home improvement and backyard projects. The race track (or railroad track) design options are limited only by your imagination and the materials on hand.
- Scrap wood paneling, plywood, particle board, board planks, bricks, old tires, cinder blocks, or pieces of PVC pipe
- Black and white or yellow paint – and other colors of your choosing for track adornments
- Power tools – saw, drill, and screws
- Hammer and nails if not using a drill and screws
- Paint brushes
- E600 glue or wood glue – optional
- Dirt or sand – optional
- Look over the scrap materials you have and lay them out in the grass to design the race track shape.
- Paint the road pieces black and then add yellow and/or white lines ones the base coat has dried.
- The pieces can be placed on the ground to play and then picked back up when the children are done, or mounted to dirt-filled tires or on top of tree stumps, with screws or nails to create a permanent play space.
- If using PVC pipe, bricks, and cinder blocks, you can create hills and tunnels as a part of the outdoor race track. The track adornments and any additional scenery, can be painted in vibrant colors to add to the pretend play fun. Bricks can be painted to look like homes or businesses and placed around the exterior and interior of the track.
- Dirt and sand can be used to create mountains inside of the track for additional play opportunities.
This non-sticky slime recipe will keep the kids entertained for hours on a rainy day. It is also easy and cheap enough to make that it could be used as a make-it-and-take it birthday party or classroom party favor.
- Shaving cream
- Plastic food storage container
- Saline contact solution
- White craft/school glue
- White school glue
- Food coloring
- Fill the bottom of the food storage container with glue. The glue layer should be approximately ¼ of an inch thick.
- Add in up to four drops of food coloring.
- Stir the glue and food coloring together thoroughly.
- Pour in the glue. The glue layer should be about ½ to ¾ of an inch thick.
- Mix the glue into the existing layer of shaving cream and food coloring thoroughly.
- Stir in 1 tablespoon of contact solution. Repeat this pouring and stirring step 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture can be formed into a ball shape.
- Pour the slime onto the counter top or a baking sheet and knead it with your hands. If the fluffy slime is still sticky, place it back into the container and add more contact solution. If the slime is too watery, add a spoonful or two more of shaving cream until the mixture holds together firmly – and is not sticky.
- After playing with the fluffy slime, store it in a container with a firm-fitting lid. It should keep about seven days if stored in the refrigerator or a cool place.
What are you favorite DIY activities for kids that get them up, moving, and discovering more about the world around them?