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Thursday, February 4, 2010

The big huge list of stay-busy-stay-sane kid projects and crafts

Rainy days, endless summer days, they’re all days that call for lots of kid-friendly projects, games, and activities. So here are all of our favorites, plus your suggestions, in one big huge list:

DSC_2177LR"Almost Out" Baking: Indiana Lori said “I pull out everything in the pantry that is almost out: 1/4th cup of butterscotch morsels, a little flour, some cornmeal, junk I might throw out at the next pantry clean out anyway, that 1/2 cup pasta I'm never going to add to other pasta... you get the idea. Put it all in bowls and let the girls make their own recipe. They stir and mix and add water... it's a mess. Then we put it into pans and pretend to bake it. We take pictures of their grand creations. They LOVE this game." Ro and Ree love this game. One tip: I make sure to put a few edible things in their muffin tins (like graham crackers topped with marshmallows), then they have something to actually eat when we take the tray out of the oven.

DSC_0343Baking: Ro and Ree would bake all day if I was up for it. Tie on some aprons, let go of any delusions of quality control, and let the kids bake something. Bonus points if it's something that needs decorating after the baking (uses up more time...). Also, Mama Duck said "Have you heard of the book "Thunder Cake"? I love that one; a grandma waits for a coming storm with her little one, and to pass the time, they make a thunder cake--a delicious chocolate cake that has a tomato as one of the ingredients (recipe in the back of the book). It's by Patricia Polacco... (Any excuse to make a chocolate cake, right?)"

Bath Paint: Laura said "We like to make bath paint from corn starch and baby wash mixed with food coloring then have a tubby. They "paint" on each other and the walls of the tub."

Birdfeeders: Terrill said "You can roll pine cones in peanut butter and then in birdseed to make birdfeeders--though maybe that's more of an east coast thing."

Boxes: I saw this one online and thought it was a good idea: "Go to the local appliance store and get large refrigerator boxes etc and make big forts. The kids can have hours of fun running through them, turning off the lights and using flashlights, getting dad to play monster, and even sleeping in them. You can also decorate them with paint or turn them into cars etc. My kids love to "invent" stuff out of them. I have even seen playhouses made that include curtains, wallpaper, etc. Check your local library for "The Great Big Box Book" by Flo Ann Hedley Norvell."

DSC_1378LRButton (or Bead) Sorting and Jewelry: The girls are actually doing this one as I type. They were so quiet that I freaked out and ran into the other room thinking they were destroying something, only to find them studiously playing with a huge box of buttons that my mom has. They sorted them into egg cartons for almost an hour (Ro sorted by color, and Ree, well I don't really know what she sorted by but she was very serious about it). Then my mom gave them some dental floss and they strung the buttons into necklaces (Ro's is the multicolored one and Ree's is all red, click to enlarge). You could do the same thing with a large box of big beads you buy at the crafts store.

DSC_1358LRBuild a Blanket Fort: Laurel suggested this one, and we also do this a lot. I tell the kids to grab all the blankets and pillows they can find, then push a bunch of chairs and the kitchen table together to build a huge draped structure that they can play in. We use a bunch of garage clamps and chip clips to keep the blankets from slipping (click pic to enlarge).

Camp in the House: Kayce suggested "make a big tent in the house and pretend you're camping somewhere adventuresome!" I also saw once that you can make s'mores in the microwave...

Can't Touch Ground: Terrill said "We like using chairs to make can't-touch-ground paths throughout the house." We’ve done this many times and Ro and Ree love it. We make a big continous loop that joins the coffee table, couches, raised hearth, flat pillows, every chair in the house, and every blanket in the house, so they can go from the family room, through the kitchen, living room, playroom, back through the kitchen and into the family room, without touching the ground.

Coloring: Emmynems said "Coloring sheets off the internet."

Craft Ideas: Emily said "Go to http://www.familyfun.com/ and get ideas for fun crafts."

DSC_1831LRCrayon Melts: Alli suggested this one and we tried it on 2/18/10 and it was very successful, here are our results. Have the kids peel a bunch of crayons (we used all the old broken ones at the bottom of our crayon bowl). Break them into small pieces, put the pieces in some silicone baking cups, and put the cups on a cookie sheet. (We bought a package of flower-shaped silicone baking cups from the Target dollar bins. You could also use foil cups.) Bake at 250 for about 10 minutes. Cool until hard, pop them out of the molds, and you have fun shaped, multicolored crayons. Note, don't overcook them or your crayons will get too liquid and all the colors will run together and make brown.

Dress-up in Mama's Closet: Lisa said "let the girls play dress up in your closet!! Would be fun to see what they come up with!!"

Food Coloring in Water: Laura said "It's kind of messy, but my daughters love to have little bowls of water and drop food coloring in them and see the results of mixing the colors. Keeps them occupied for quite a long time."

Games: A bunch of folks suggested board games, Dominoes, card games, etc., and I agree—we have an extremely well-stocked game bin now. Anything that you haven't done in awhile will hold new appeal. We've been playing a lot of Zingo -- if you don't have that one, it's worth getting.

Get Wet: When it's really pouring, the girls and I like to put on our weather gear (raincoats, boots, umbrellas, etc) and go tromp in the rain. Jumping in puddles is always fun, running in the rain, trying to catch raindrops on your tongue, and anything that involves getting wet and muddy. Here's a video of Ro and Ree playing in the rain (and getting soaked). Afterwards we throw the wet clothes directly in the washing machine, take a warm bath, and snuggle up with jammies and hot chocolate.

DSC_0400LRGoop: AJ's Mama first suggested this winner, and it was seconded by several mamas. Mix cornstarch and water in a bowl to form this thing that's kind of half-liquid half-solid and all fun. Add food coloring or glitter if you feel like it. We tried this one and the girls loved it, here are the amazing pictures.

GuessWhereThisIs-000001Guess Where This Is?: Terrill said "Have one girl take a picture of something in the house and then the other kid has to go find it." We tried this one on 2/7/10 -- click on pic at right to enlarge -- and it was really fun. I did a few pics to explain, then sat on the couch (always a bonus) and let one girl at a time walk around the house with my old purse camera, zoomed in to make the pictures harder to guess. She'd come back with 3 or 4 pictures, and her sister and I would try to guess what/where. Sometimes, the girls ran off to go find the item, and sometimes they'd just shout out what it was.

Hopscotch: Tonggu Momma said "Tape out a hopscotch grid on the floor and let them go." Ro and Ree took this a step further (as usual) and made an INSANE hopscotch grid outside. Here are the details and our video.

Ice Skating: Indoor sports rinks are great in the rain! One commenter said "Most four year olds love ice skating, so if there is a rink nearby, I think Ro and Ree may really enjoy if they got to iceskate."

Indoor Basketball: Tonggu Momma suggested "use a soft foam ball and a hula hoop on the ground to "shoot hoops" like in basketball."

Indoor Picnic: Suggested by Tonggu Momma. Ro and Ree love to do this, and we put a couple of twists on it by having the girls make the whole lunch (they pick the food, make it—PBJs and mac and cheese are quite popular—pick the plates and utensils) and they also wear their bathing suits.

Jumpolene: K said "For rainy days, my solution with my daycare kids is to inflate the Jump-O-Lene, turn on some fast music and let them jump until they can't any more. Then I dump in a couple hundred plastic balls for them to roll in. This keeps them busy for nearly two hours and lets them get exercise!" If you don't have a Jumpolene, see what the drop-in hours are for your local bouncy house place.

Leapster: Emily said "they love leapster and the TAG reading system." Ro and Ree love theirs too, this system is great for roadtrips too.

Legos: Aj's Mama and Emily suggested Legos. Emily said "My kids are soooooooo into Legos, it'll occupy them for hours."

Library: Suggested by Emily.

DSC_7011LRMoon Sand: 4 cups of sand, 2 cups of cornstarch, 1 cup of water. Add more water (a few drops at a time) as needed to get to the desired consistency (kind of like cookie dough). Let the kids loose with the sand, a bunch of oddly shaped kitchen utensils, and a whole bunch of cookie cutters. See our pics and full details here.

Mural: Tonggu Momma said "if you have butcher paper, have them draw (or paint, if you are adventurous) a mural." I've also seen this done in classrooms where you trace the kid's body and then have them add accessories and color hair/clothes/shoes/etc to match their own looks for the day.

Museum: Visit your local children's museum. We have an annual membership to ours, so that "per-visit" cost goes down the more we use it...

Musical Parade: Tonggu Momma said "Have a musical parade through every room of the house."

Nuudles: Big rainbow-colored styrofoam cylinders that stick together with a little bit of water. You can get them at a crafts store. Suggested and written up in detail by Lauren.

Obstacle Course: Saw this one online: Set up an obstacle course in the living room or the basement using chairs with pillows over them (kids crawled under) different things to make circles they could step in with different feet, a jump rope, and a mini-trampoline.
PlayDoh (homemade of course): In bowl, mix 1 cup water, 1 cup salt, 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, and a few drops of food coloring. Gradually add flour and cornstarch until the mixture matches the consistency of bread dough. Store covered. Ro and Ree love this project, we make this stuff all the time and the mixing and coloring is at least half of the fun (and takes forever, which we all love).

Popcorn and a Movie: Suggested by Emily.

Pretzel Baking: Terrill said "Making pretzels--it's fun to form them into letters and animals. (King Arthur Flour has some good mixes for kids to bake with)."

Puzzles: Emily said "Springbok has great 400-piece puzzles for families - big pieces for littles and small for you."

Rice Art: This project was a big hit! See all of our instructions and pictures here. Basically put 1/2 cup of rice in a bowl, add 5-8 drops of food coloring and 1/2 teaspoon vinegar. Make as many colors as you want. Stir, then bake at 200 degrees for 45 mins. Draw some shapes or letters on cardboard, put on some glue, sprinkle on rice, then pour off the excess. Repeat with each color.

DSC_0337LRRainy Day Rice: Put down a big tablecloth on the floor and give the kids a package or two of dried rice or beans or small pasta and a variety of containers, sorters, measuring cups and spoons, funnels, etc. We tried this one and it was a blast, here are the pics/details. They were busy for HOURS. Cleanup is easy--just get out your vacuum. Darcy added that you can also color the pieces: "As a former teacher, I used to color the rice and different shaped noodles. All you need is food coloring, ziplock bags, and rubbing alcohol. Pour the alcohol in a ziplock bag, add food coloring, mix. Then add noodles and shake. Dry out overnight on cookie sheet. Voila!!"

Scavenger Hunt: Tonggu Momma suggested a "scavenger hunt (using photos instead of words, so they are independent in their search)."

DSC_1292Shaving Cream Free-for-All: Brandi, Vanessa, and Tonggu Momma suggested taping down a tablecloth or big black plastic garbage bag and letting the kids play with shaving cream. Brandi said "Have you ever just put them at a table and sprayed a big pile of shaving cream in front of them? This keeps our kids busy for like an hour at a time. So simple! Just a pile of shaving cream for them to squish around in, maybe some plastic animals to wash/walk around in it or some little cars or trucks to drive through. Just add more when it starts to dry up or run out. so much fun!" Ok, we tried this one with Ro and Ree and it was rip roarin' fun but incredibly MESSY (results may vary if you're not doing this with daredevil twins). Next time I'll put them in bathing suits and let them do it in the bathtub with the clear shower curtain closed. The somewhat-horrifying pictures of our experience are here. (We tried this again in the bathtub, and still had big trouble with cleanup.)
Sidewalk Chalk Paint: Get a bunch of cups, put 1/4 cup cold water, 1/4 cup cornstarch, and a few drops of food coloring in each cup. Stir gently, then dip your paintbrushes in and paint any sidewalk or patio in sight. Everything washes off in the laundry or with a hose. Read our full directions and see our pics here.

Slime: Mix glue and borax to make slime (recipe here). Borax can be found in the laundry soap aisle. I think this was the similar to the one Basket full o' Plums suggested: "Have you tried the one where you take Elmers white glue, stick it in a bowl, add the same amount of liquid laundry starch (maybe a cup of each is enough). Mix it with a spoon until it makes a weird slimey sort of putty. It will be white when you make it, but you can add a few drops of food coloring to it. It's SUPER cool stuff. Finding the liquid laundry starch can be a tricky thing, though."

Soap and Water: AJ's Mama said "My mom used to fill the kitchen sink with soap and water and give us all the fun kitchen stuff to play with. Turkey basters and funnels are the most fun."

Soapy Bubble Wrap: Indiana Lori said "Idea for little kids, but my 4 year old and 2 year old never seem to tire of it: I tape bubble wrap to the island and cover it with soap and water. They run their hands through it and scream. They also scrub it with vegetable scrubbers."

Spaghetti Noodle Push: One commenter suggested "Easiest activity--and oddly intriguing for young kids. We started this when our little one was 18+ months. She's now 5 and still enjoys it. Put a colander upside down on the table or floor. Place a pile of uncooked spaghetti noodles on the table/floor next to it. Have fun putting noodles in the holes. For some reason they love to watch how the noodles can stick out in funny shapes, or disappear if they push them down. I can get whole meals cooked while they play... "
Tissue-Paper Bowls: Cover a bowl with saran wrap. Spray it with cooking spray. Then cover the bowl with four to five layers of Mod Podge and torn tissue paper. Remove bowl and saran wrap and you have a delicate tissue-paper bowl. See our full directions and pics here.

Ro and Ree are having a ball going through this list. They love to plan out what’s we’re going to do today and tomorrow: "What's our project for today, mama? What's next on da list?"

If you have any other ideas, please let me know, we'd love to twinado-test them! Or, if you try any of the ideas, please let me know how they turned out. I added this list to the top nav bar of this site as Kid Projects so you can always find it easily. Thanks! And happy crafting.


  1. We tried goop last weekend when we were stuck inside with sick kids. My 3 year old had a blast. Cleanup was easy and I thought the stuff was fun, too! Thanks so much for the suggestion. We're expecting snow in PA this weekend - so we may be trying out some of your other suggestions!


  2. How much mess are you up for?

    The kids I nanny for get a KICK out of painting themselves with water colours. They put on their swimsuits, and decorate their arms, legs, bellies, and faces (I do their backs!) with bright water colours. It's a bit of a mess, but fairly easily cleaned up-- stick the kids in the shower, run a sponge over the surface that was used and-- ta da!-- all is clean again.

  3. Great list! I can't wait to try these. We're at my in-laws in Virginia and 24 inches of snow is coming. Oh Good Lord. Looks like you had a blast in Disney! I was cursing that I didn't get the laptop/craft desks purchased before our 10 hour car ride today.


    Indiana Lori

  4. What a great list. I've done a lot of these things with my girls, but there are still a lot of ideas for a rainy day here in Ohio :-)

  5. Ummmm...would I be a terrible mom if my favorite rainy day activity was pre-school?!

  6. Thanks for posting, we're getting hit with rain too (east of SF, CV). Some great ideas we will be doing when the girls are out of school.


  7. Please note that borax ("Slime" idea) is poisonous. One Web source (don't know how reliable) says as little as an ingested teaspoon full can make a child very sick. Apart from this, all the ideas sound great.

  8. Since the girls like the buttons, here is another fun idea. I teach kindergarten and first grade and bought some pop beads a few years ago at Walmart (they still have them with their craft supplies). I keep these with my indoor recess things. My students never get tired of making necklaces and bracelets for themselves and for me too! They're inexpensive and provide hours of playtime.

  9. These are all awesome ideas... but I must admit that I am SO grateful on rainy days that my 4 year old is in school from 8am-3pm :)

  10. These look like so much fun! Seriously, this list is going to save my sanity.

    I'll also add that something we do pretty often on rainy days is grab some friends and go to a fast food place with an indoor play yard. There's a Carl's Jr right down the street.

    Another favorite rainy day activity is going in the jacuzzi. It doesn't seem to matter that it's cold and rainy when you're splashing around in a nice warm spa!

    Okay, now I'm off to build a big ol' blanket fort with the girls! See ya!

    Our Blog: Double Happiness!

  11. We have a variation of 'Get Wet' - forget the raingear and let them run around naked.

  12. Home made play doh!! I shamelessly stole this off the internet:

    Play Dough"
    1 cup flour
    1/2 cup salt
    1/2 cup water
    Mix well until it forms a ball. Knead add food coloring if desired. If sticky add some flour and if to dry add a small amount of water.

    Play dough 2
    1 cup flour
    1 cup warm water
    2 teaspoons cream of tarter
    1 teaspoon oil
    1/4 cup salt
    food coloring

    Mix all ingredients (add food coloring last). Stir over medium heat until smooth. Remove from pan, let cool slightly, and knead until blended and smooth. Store in a plastic bag or airtight container when cooled.

  13. We did the goop a few days ago, and it is something that I had forgotten all about...anyway, thanks for the suggestion!
    It occupied my 8 and 5 year olds for 40 minutes, and even more golden, it kept the 3 year old busy for 1 hour and 15 minutes!!! That is PRICELESS.

  14. Anonymous2/05/2010

    if you need paper for murals, you can get big rolls from a local newspaper printer, usually for free. they don't want to put a roll on that's almost gone. in my town, "almost gone" has enough paper for my troop of 20 girls scouts to trace their bodies! new idea - trace the girls and have them color an outfit. my troop did it to talk about body image.

  15. Totally loving this!!! Since Maylin spent more time in front of the TV today than anything, I have printed your list. THanks for being such a good mom.

  16. What an awesome list of ideas. I was going to say ice skating too, but the pretend kind. All you need is some wax paper. Tear pieces a little wider than their feet and let them "skate" on the carpet. It's hilarious to watch and so much fun!

  17. Thank you for this awesome post!! We just got this game and love it...
    Great States Junior

  18. Oh my GOSH - I am sooo happy that Tonggu Momma sent me over here. She and I are both trapped in the East Coast blizzard and we have been trapped in our house with our two boys for 4 days now. I desperately needed entertainment re-inforcements!

    This list is just BRILLIANT! Thank you,thank you!

    My sanity thanks you!

  19. Lately my two littles have been amusing themselves with wrapping paper. They wrap books and pillows and blankets and then open them up with great fanfare and oohs and aahhs. Too funny.

  20. I'm totally enjoying the list down here in L.A. Today (my sick day, but the foul weather is coming) we boiled the pasta in colored water and then I let the kids cut it with plastic knives and scissors. When it dries, we will decorate clovers with dried green and blue pasta and glitter glue.

    They totally dug the goop. Great ideas! Also love the playdough. PreK teacher suggested using kool aid (sugarless) packets to color and smell the dough, and to throw in some glitter. Hit!

  21. http://dollarstorecrafts.com/2010/04/indoor-hopscotch/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+dollarstorecrafts%2FVSZK+%28Dollar+Store+Crafts%29