With just a few kitchen cupboard ingredients and basic supplies, you can keep little ones busy for hours at home with these activities for kids. Perfect for when they’re home from school or if there’s a rainy day ahead, you’ll find plenty of inspiration for indoor projects that are cheap and cheerful – you’ll often save money on the shop-bought version while encouraging plenty of imaginative play along the way.
Most of these activities take less than 30 minutes before the kids can get stuck in, using items you’ll already find around the house. They can be enjoyably messy, though, so be sure to cover your kitchen table in newspaper before you start!
For more inspiration, see our collection of the best dishes to cook with kids, plus find more gadgets and useful products in our reviews section, including the best foodie gifts for children, kids’ baking sets and kids cooking set ideas.
1. Make your own playdough
Once you’ve discovered how easy it is to make your own playdough at home, you’ll never look back! Using just plain flour, table salt, vegetable oil and water – plus whatever food colouring you can conjure up from the back of the cupboard – this easy-to-follow playdough recipe is one of our favourite indoor activities. Kids can use biscuit cutters to press out shapes or make their own models.
2. Create a bath bomb
Want the kids to get excited about bath time? Teach them how to make a bath bomb and they’ll love watching their creations fizz in the water.
The reaction between bicarbonate of soda and citric acid is what makes the magic happen – you might need to buy the ingredients in advance for this one, but we’ve tracked down where to buy citric acid. Experiment with different colours, essential oils and shapes to make your own unique versions.
3. Get creative with papier-mâché
Papier-mâché, or paper mache, is cheap and easy to make, with the added bonus of allowing kids to get very messy indeed. You only need three ingredients – newspaper, plain flour and water – to get started. You can use paper mache to cover all sorts of objects, then once it’s dry you can paint it, or decorate with glitter, feathers or beads. Learn how to make paper mache and get creative!
4. Learn how to make salt dough
Model-making is a great indoor activity, and kids will love displaying their finished creations on the mantlepiece. Learn how to make salt dough for an afternoon of fun! The ingredients are cheap and easy to find – your little ones just need a little patience as it takes three hours for the models to bake in the oven on the lowest setting. Once they are cool and sturdy, you can paint them however you wish.
5. Make potato stamps
Toddlers especially will love using these simple stamps to make cards and pictures. Adults are needed to make potato stamps first and prepare a few pots of paint, then little ones can get creative and make their own designs. No potatoes? There’s always hand and finger painting, too!
6. Blow some bubbles
If you’ve run out of store-bought bubble mixture or need a quick entertainment idea for the kids, it’s easy to make your own bubbles from washing-up liquid and water. You can also have plenty of fun finding different items around the house that could make bubbles – we made our own bubble wands from paperclips, straws and even biscuit cutters.
Remember to cover up any soft furnishings first if you’re doing this one indoors.
7. Play with slime
Gloopy slime is really popular with kids of all ages, so here’s an all-natural way to make your own at home. Some ready-made versions have chemicals in them, so we teach you how to make slime without borax. That means it’s safe for children to put in their mouths – although we’d advise against making a meal of it!
8. Learn how to cook
As you’d expect, one of our favourite ways to spend time indoors is to head to the kitchen! Our kids’ baking collection has lots of easy biscuits, cakes, traybakes and muffins that children will love making and eating – for savoury ideas, we also have our popular kid’s cooking collection.
Short on the essentials? Our kids’ baking recipes without flour are full of storecupboard alternatives.
9. Try rock painting
All you need is a rock from the garden and some paints to make your own cute ladybird – or get creative and make up your own design! Easy rock painting for kids is a wonderfully quick, cheap and simple afternoon activity.
10. Make a puppet theatre
Transform an old cereal box into a puppet theatre, then present your very own show! Kids will love learning how to make a puppet theatre, which comes with free characters for you to download, print and colour in at home.
11. Plant an indoor herb garden
Follow our expert advice for beginners on how to make an indoor herb garden – soon, your children will be fascinated by their growing plants and excited to use them in their cooking! If you want to turn it into a longer and more creative activity, learn how to make a bee flower pot.
12. Make your own musical instruments
Elastic band guitars, paper straw panpipes, tin can drums, wooden spoon maracas and lolly stick harmonicas – create your very own family band with these clever homemade instruments. All our instruments for kids have easy-to-follow instructions and only use budget-friendly, everyday items.
13. Play with fake snow
You can make a batch of simple fake snow whatever the weather outside – young children will love squidging and pressing it into shapes. This indoor sensory activity can be made less festive with a few drops of food colouring. Add yellow to make it into sand, then kids can build their own sandcastles!
14. Make a pom-pom pet
Homemade pom-poms are such an easy craft, and the simple addition of googly eyes turns them into a fun pet monster! Learn how to make a pom-pom then let your imagination do the rest – you could turn them into a trendy wreath or a decorative garland, if you like.
15. Try a science experiment
Part recipe, part science experiment – children will love making our instant vanilla ice cream. Watch as milk turns into a delicious dessert before your very eyes! The secret here is adding salt to the ice, which lowers the temperature and allows the milk to freeze in minutes.
Discover more ways to keep kids busy
Rainy day cooking projects for kids
Top 10 easy bakes for children
5 half-term recipes for kids
Find over 400 guides on everything from the best wooden play food and kids baking set ideas to amazing space projects for kids in our reviews section.
What are your favourite activities on a rainy day? Let us know in the comments below…