10 Easy Low-Cost Kids Activities 

I have a confession: I am not a “fun mom.” I don’t plan elaborate crafts and activities or drop everything when my kids are bored. I want to most of the time, I mean, they deserve it, right? But I just don’t have the kind of endless energy that they do. I am the only introvert in a house with five extroverts. It is loud and crazy all the time and sometimes I just need a little peace and quiet.

Today my daughter really wanted my attention. I really wanted to fold the mountain of laundry alone in my bedroom while watching a non-animated semi-grown-up TV show.

First, she politely asked me to read to her. I told her I had a lot to do and to go play, so she quietly, and somewhat dejectedly walked away. I had a nice, quiet thought that ten minutes of reading now would help us both be happier for the rest of the afternoon. I ignored it and un-paused my show anyway.

A few minutes later, she came back, mildly whining that she was bored. I hit pause again and rattled off some suggestions.

Shortly after that, she stomped into my room and loudly announced that she was hungry.  I went with her to get a snack and started to walk away. She asked for help, but this time when I told her she could do it herself, she said, “darn, I was hoping to trick you to stay here longer.”

I stopped on the stairs and took a deep breath. Compromise, right? I told her to let me finish the basket I was folding (and the last six minutes of my show, let’s be honest) and then I promised I would read to her. She agreed, but a couple minutes later, all the kids were yelling at each other.

I finally turned off the TV and acknowledged to myself that this was my fault, I had seen it coming, and I could have prevented it. Not only had she had been patient and polite, but she also has ADHD and these were the exact things we have been working on recently. She had done her part and done it beautifully, even as it got increasingly difficult.

She had finally reached the end of her rope. I wouldn’t play with her, so she pestered each of her siblings until they cracked.

The TV and the laundry are not more important than my kids, but that was the message I was sending. Sometimes things really need to get done, and sometimes we really need some time to ourselves, but I hadn’t communicated that to her and I hadn’t taken the time to listen.

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I joined them in the kitchen and asked what they really wanted to do. They asked for art projects and I suddenly remembered a stash of water colors we had bought with the back-to-school supplies several months ago. A few minutes of quick preparation and they were blissfully creating masterpieces for the refrigerator while I stood nearby, still talking to them, and washing dishes. Win-Win.

I am not advocating ignoring your children in favor of housework. I should have stopped sooner and read to my daughter. I know that. But I am thankful that I was able to recover from that one and find something fun for the kids to do.

Whether you need a minute to yourself or whether you are looking for fun ideas to do with your kids, you have come to the right place.

Ideas for Kids Activities

I have gathered some ideas for you (and me) that are free or very low-cost and require very little preparation.

#1. Painting. This one sounds harder than it really is. You can purchase watercolors for less than $2, or around $1 right before school starts. Lay some newspaper on the table, grab a stack of white paper and a cup of water, and you’re good to go. If you have disposable cups, you can easily throw everything out when they’re finished.

#2. Sponge fight. My kids love this one in the summer. You can get a package of cheap sponges at the grocery store (you might even have them already) and cut them in half so you have twice as many. Fill a bucket with water and send the kids outside. They’re better than water balloons because they can be used over and over. Throw in some squirt guns or a sprinkler, maybe let them invite the neighbors, easy peasy.

#3. Read-a-thon. Grab all the pillows and couch cushions in the house. Throw them on the floor or build a fort. See who can read the longest, or the most pages, or the most books, etc. You can even give them prizes or treats if you want to, or just enjoy the snuggles.

#4. Make brownies. We like to stock up on brownie mixes when they’re on sale so we always have some on hand. It only takes a few minutes to whip up and you can teach the kids some basic cooking skills while you’re at it. And then, of course, you get to eat them afterward!

#5. Sidewalk chalk and bubbles. This one is pretty self-explanatory. Both of these are usually everywhere during the summer and you can get pretty large amounts for only a few dollars.

#6. Make popsicles. I think a package of kool-aid costs about a quarter. Pour it into an ice tray, cover it with plastic wrap and insert tooth picks. The plastic wrap will keep the tooth picks from falling over. Or use popsicle molds. I don’t know why, but my kids think this is the coolest thing ever.

#7. “Paint” the driveway. All you need is a paintbrush and a cup of water. The pictures vanish quickly, but it entertains the kids for a lot longer than you might expect.

#8. Obstacle Course. Tell each of the kids to gather a certain number of items. Go outside or in a large area and assemble an obstacle course using each of the items and anything else nearby. Time them to see who is the fastest, or so they can try to beat their own time.

#9. Masking tape roads. Stick tape to the floor and make a neighborhood or race track. Drive toy cars around the track.

#10. Draw a neighborhood on butcher paper. Get a giant piece of paper and see if the kids can draw their neighborhood. Or make up a new one.

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