Free and Cheap Activities to do with Kids: Rainy Day Edition

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This post is written in solidarity with other parents who are also dreading the daily question during the school holidays, “what shall we do today?”.   

We have two kids under five and here are some of our favourite things to do on a budget (when we can’t escape to a local beach/park).

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash


At the beginning of lockdown when nurseries were closed we set up a drawing corner at the end of our dining table.  There’s a waterproof tablecloth down and we have pots of colouring pens and pencils and paper to hand.  Having it all set out means the kids are happy to fill a spare 20 minutes drawing and we don’t have to put it out each time.

I save money on materials by getting through Top Cashback (affiliate link) or looking out for cheap pads at Lidl or pen sets at CostCo.  

YouTube Channels like Art for Kids Hub are also great for learning to draw step-by-step, or copying different styles from children’s books can be fun too.

I recently bought a refillable fountain pen and we’ve been enjoying drawing with this.

Photo by Carolina Garcia Tavizon on Unsplash


Another craft activity we enjoy is Origami – you can watch instruction videos on YouTube or copy from a book if you’d prefer to be screen free.  If you want to buy the books and/or paper secondhand (and cheaper) World of Books has an amazing selection of Origami options.  When I searched for “origami” more than 600 listings came up.  I ended up buying three while writing this post (blogging can be an expensive hobby!).

Photo by Filip Urban on Unsplash


Gardening can be a fun way to spend some time outside without the faff of leaving the house, particularly if there are just short breaks between showers.

Some ways we’ve done this on a budget are:

  • Using seeds that green fingered neighbours have collected from their flowers (the app NextDoor is supposed to be good for this if you are not on seed-swapping terms with any neighbours)
  • Planting the ends of vegetables instead of throwing them away. This works really well for spring onions.
  • Getting gardening magazines which include free seed packets.

If in doubt there’s always weeding, which is probably my daughter’s favourite job of all (or watering, which is my son’s).

Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash

Building Lego

Lego isn’t cheap, but can very easily be found second hand on sites like Ebay and Gumtree.  

If you go via the TopCashback app you can also get up to 7% cashback back as well as a £2 bonus for signing up to their free Lego magazine.

The Lego website also has free instructions for making animals and other things out of your existing Lego.

Photo by Jeremy McKnight on Unsplash

Making a dressing up box from clothes from a charity shop

Charity shops are a treasure trove for fancy dress items.  If you can create a dressing up box then it’s even easier for kids to start a game by themselves (I’ll often come upstairs to find my daughter dressed as a witch or a doctor – or a doctor witch).

If there’s a song that your child(ren) love you can help them to learn the words and perform it.  We’ve done this with a lot of songs from musicals, even one of the Polynesian songs in Moana.  

Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

Creating a donation station

OK, so admittedly this could go one of two ways as most children are not going to want to give away any of their beloved toys or clothes, even (or especially) ones that they haven’t seen for years.

But just on the off chance that you have a particularly altruistic and generous child, you could get them excited about choosing items to put into a “donation station” for the local charity shop.  I’m including this one as I realise how many of us are going through a decluttering mania during the pandemic and this is a great way to get the kids involved.

If your children are a bit older and more fiscally motivated, you could also list the items to sell so that they have the incentive of being able to use the money for something else.  

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Baking something

I’m not sure how much explanation this one needs! If you can’t be bothered with weighing things and lining tins etc, if blackberries are in season then a really easy and fun activity could be to go out to pick blackberries and make a crumble (equal parts flour, sugar and butter for the topping).  

We’ve just had a week’s staycation made special by the fact that the kids’ grandparents are in town.  Having a cake around has made last-minute drops ins and visits easier and has given us a treat to take on days out.  

Photo by Victor on Unsplash

Doing Yoga and/or Meditation

More kids are getting exposure to yoga and meditation nowadays but even if yours don’t do any at nursery or school, resources like the YouTube Channel Cosmic Kids Yoga make it easy for them to get started as the host uses stories and characters to create the sequences.  

My daughter now likes to make up her own poses and can improvise the relaxation sections at the end.  

For us parents this is pretty much guilt-tree screen/babysitting time, or if you are able to join in then you can get some exercise/mindfulness time too.

So there it is, a quick round up of some of our favourite cheap and cheerful at-home activities for the wee ones!  Hopefully this helps if you are budgeting or running out of the funds in the final weeks of the holidays.  

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