Mini-eco needs you!

Just lately the weather has been so flipin’ miserable and I sometimes feel like I have run out of ideas for things to do… I’ve ended up flicking the telly on because the kids are driving one another crazy and they are BORED!

Build a den

I thought it would be cool, with your help, to try to get together a list of ’50 boredom busters’ so we all have a list to refer to in case of a boredom emergency? Cool? Can you help?

The only rule is that you have to use common household objects and it’s gotta be something you can do for free! If anyone has any really easy recipes that would be ace too!

Here are a few ideas to get started

1) Make a den! Grab some cushions, a table, sheets and make an indoor den. Perfect for a rainy day and our no.1 boredom buster
2) Make a mudpie. Grab some spoons, water and some plastic pots or muffin trays and head outside to make some muddy pies.
3) Do the washing. Last summer I made a child-sized washing line with some string and a couple of sticks stuck in the ground. My kids had heaps of fun ‘washing’ clothes and pegging them on the line.
4) Make playdough!
5) Ice cube painting – it’s the perfect summer activity!

Leave a comment below if you have any ideas to share πŸ™‚

56 thoughts on “Mini-eco needs you!

  1. Stage a photo shoot – either raid the dressing up box or just as you are. Strike lots of silly poses and pull funny faces.

  2. My little guy can spend an hour playing with flour and a few measuring cups. Of course, it can be messy. So why not beans? And second, what about playing with a flannel board? Can’t wait to see what everyone else comes up with!

  3. Fantastic ideas so far….I’m very very excited about this! Hehe! When we have a huge list I’m gonna replace my “favorites across the web” page with a boredom buster page (i’ll credit where the ideas come from so be sure to include your webpage addy if you have one)! x

  4. Gloop – a mixture of corn flour and water is great to play with as it doesn’t behave as you expect.
    Envelopes from the recycling can be used to make puppets and bracelets (stick them down and cut the end off for a puppet or cut into strips for bracelets. Decorate as required.
    Collage – this is very obvious but I always had huge box which I filled with all sorts of odds and ends – cut up wrapping paper, yarn, fabric scraps, old magazines, bottle tops and sweet wrappers. We couls spend hours doing this as especially as the box contents varied.

  5. make a cake! the simplest recipe would do just fine! my little boy loves to be round me when i cook,
    especially if i give him the title of the ”cook” and he feels he is in charge! the kitchen might get a little messy, but then maybe not that much… anyway it is worth it, plus you ‘ll have something to eat too after about 40 minutes!

  6. 1. Let the kids make sculptures with marshmallows and toothpicks by sticking them together anyway they want. Another fun project is wax resist drawings. Draw with crayons and paint over with water colors. The water color fills in what the crayon missed and it looks beautiful.

  7. love love love all the ideas you lot…..keep them coming. It’s especially lovely to hear from all my silent readers πŸ™‚

  8. I’ve had success with (1) an impromtu bout of bowling using empty plastic bottles and a ball. (2) Baking is always good and it doesn’t have to be sweets: bagels are fun and easy and the rolling and shaping of them into circles and decorating is always kid friendly; crisp, Wasa-type, cracker bread is quick and easy and full of good things (my son LOVES it!); muffins filled with whatever you’ve got in the pantry (oats, bran, raisins, carrots, apples, etc…) (3) Card games — I grew up on card games to pass those long, boring days: War, Rummy, Go-Fish, Crazy Eights, Rook, Uno and, my favourite, Spoons (essentially the musical chairs of card games, in which you have one less spoon for the number of players, every player is dealt 4 cards and then the dealer sits with the deck and just starts going through the entire deck, picking up one card and passing it along (best to sit in a circle here, with the spoons in the middle), the point being to collect 4 of a kind — so you get a card, decide if you want it and pass it or another one on, always keeping only 4 cards in your hand, and the first one to get 4 of kind grabs a spoon and all noticing that then fight to get a spoon as well, the one without is then out of the game and the next round begins with one less player and one less spoon — phew, that was long and convoluted, I know). (4) Salt dough figures — like playdough, but then you can dry it out (air or bake) and paint it the next day. (5) Volcanoes of baking soda and vinegar (with a little dye for colour, if so desired) See: (6) A sink full of water and bath toys is a neverending source of pleasure for my near 3-yr-old. And this is more than enough from me — why can’t I think of all these things when I’m in the thick of it, I wonder…

  9. Great idea – here’s a few from me:

    Super-hero comic collage (uses up some of those old comics):

    Natural Paints – ideally an autumn activity, but one you can dabble in at any time of year:

    Crayon Cookies – an old one, but good fun, and uses up all the bits and bobs of broken crayons:

  10. Do some wool colorful pompons (maybe natural dyed). Another idea is to make a simple shuttlecock with felt (tutorial in portuguese, but with easy to follow photos: Can also do some litle funny characters with potatoes ( Also great is to do shadow theather… And if the child love books (itΒ΄s the case of mine) itΒ΄s fun to create a story together and do the illustrations. Can also use the child favorite toy as the “main character” and take photos of the toy doing the actions (here is the link to “Captain Papaya” photo box:.

  11. We make up games to pass the time.

    Charades: using a heap of my old business cards we made up packs with: animals; actions; toys; and emotions. Then we drew pictures to illustrate these, for younger players (although, to be honest, I’m not sure how helpful some of my drawings were).

    Board games: Print out a blank game board:
    Then create a game with your kids according to their interests and skills. When we were practicing numbers, we would fill the board with + or – 1,2,or 3, and then we would roll the dice and you would move the number on the dice, + or – what was on the square you started on.
    Now my son is a bit older, the latest one is an Indiana Jones game. The board has some places randomly marked with jump to, go back to start, etc. We used more old business cards (this time my husband’s!) to make cards with Indiana Jones type actions: Snakes! You freeze and miss a turn; Great whip action, jump forward two spaces; and Trapped by german soldiers, go back one space. You roll the dice, then take a card and follow the instructions.

    Not rocket science, but good fun. Also useful for practicing reading, writing, maths and creative thinking in a low stress way. (Can you tell I was a teacher!)

  12. Well…this has been a roaring success so far. I can see I’m gonna have to pick your brains more often!! πŸ™‚

  13. memory game- put 10 assorted objects on a tray and give them30 seconds to memorise them-cover with a cloth and see how many they can recall (like the conveyor belt on generation game-oh that makes me sound so old!)
    Claudie loves playing with my fabric scraps and making collages

  14. How about a picnic in the living room, or even under a table? Or making music with household objects, using wooden spoons, pots, pans, etc. Bath time, with snorkles, masks and other tub toys. Play human sculptures: one child molds the other one into great sculptures.
    Can’t wait to see the final list!

  15. Hi Kate, your blog actually inspired me to make this a few days ago: hacky sack darts. At the time I wished I had half of your creative skills to get it looking fabulous. I would love to see your take on it, made up “professionally”.

    It’s been great for my little one to work on his numbers – he already has a great aim.

    I took this impromptu shot of my four year old playing with it a few minutes ago.

  16. Puppetry. We get a lot of toys, and use ourselves, any household stuff as props and stage their favorite story of the week. For the last few weeks that has been Wizard of Oz. but mostly we just keep the Characters and go wild with the story. Like making Glinda and the Wicked witch friends

  17. 1. old fashioned games – we had sack races, egg and spoon, and 3-legged race down the hallway

    2. fun sewing projects

    3. make an inside snowman that won’t melt

    4. dance party!

    Great idea to have a go-to list. I look forward to seeing all the ideas because I have a feeling this is going to be a long winter.

  18. I think you are well over 50 ideas! Great! A simple one that I’ll add to the list is what my kids like to do on those dark afternoons in winter: turn off all the lights and play hide-and-seek using a flashlight. Or just play in the dark.

  19. Ah, I remember the days before homework and hip-hop took over. Obviously I remember them through rose tinted glasses because I’m sure that at the time I was pulling my hair out wondering how I was ever going to cook a meal for two under 5s when they wanted my attention. Here are some of the things I remember doing:


    J-cloth clothes for bears and dolls
    J-cloth type material doesn’t fray, it isn’t expensive and you are more likely to have it than craft felt.
    Cut out T shirts, capes, dresses, in one piece with a hole for the head. Decorate them with felt tips. Put them on the teddy or doll and tie a long piece of wool/J cloth/scarf/coloured tape (we used to get through lots of the cheap electrical tape) around as a belt. Circular skirts are also easy.

    Dustbin liner and newspaper clothes
    Cut arm and head holes in a large bag and then let them decorate with scissors, sticky tape and newspaper.

    Tin foil – just give children a piece of tin foil and they’ll make things; bangles, boats, the goblet of fire.

    Make a model building kit out of drinking straws and pipe cleaners.
    You push the pipe cleaners into the drinking straws leaving an end sticking out onto which you can push another straw. I used to cut the pipe cleaners into smaller sections to make one packet go further.

    Pipe cleaners are great things to keep in your handbag for emergency entertainment. They make bangles, necklaces, crowns for teddy, and on a recent very long car trip, decorations to hang from handles and neck rests.

    Iif your children are young enough, let them do the washing up. There was a time when my son would spend hours standing on a chair (so he could reach the sink) “washing” non breakables. Now he runs a mile if I mention washing up.

    Fruit crumble
    Couldn’t be easier and can’t go wrong. Use half the amount of fat to flour. Rub in the fat – this is the messy bit . Add sugar, oats, dried fruit. Put fruit in the bottom of an oven proof dish. You’ll need to partly cook apples or rhubarb first. Or you can use tinned fruit. Sprinkle the crumble over the top. Put in the oven and bake.

    Cheese straws/penguins/daleks
    Use half fat to flour. Rub fat into flour. Add grated cheese. Sprinkle a little milk or water over the mixture and see if it will stick together. If not add a little more water. Roll out and cut into sticks or use biscuit cutters.

    Water that red cabbage leaves have been boiled in will change colour when acids or bases (alkalis are added to it. Bicarbonate of soda will fizz when an acid such as vinegar is added to it. What more could you ask for? My children are now aged 10 and 12 and I’ve still got a large pot of bicarb and a big bottle of vinegar in the cupboard for rainy days/days when I can’t bear the noise from computer games.

    Magic potions
    You’ll need- lots of pots, preferable see through, I used to cut the tops of plastic bottles.
    vinegar, lemon juice, bicarbonate of soda, red cabbage water. Just add and admire the colour changes and the fizzing. (Best done outside due to the mess and the smell).

    Magic painting
    Paint red cabbage water all over absorbent paper – cheap watercolour paper or the sort of paper the children don’t let using felt tips on because the ink spreads. Let it dry. Then let the children paint with lemon juice, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda dissolved in water. They’ll get different colours depending on the acidity of the liquid.

    Volcanoes (someone else has given you a link)

    Photography film canister rockets.
    For film canister rockets you need something small with a pop off lid like a film canister – vitamin pill tube? – you put a little vinegar in the canister, add a little bicarb, slam the lid on as quickly as possibly, place the canister on the ground with the lid on the floor and wait. The vinegar and bicarb react giving off a gas. The pressure builds up inside the canister until eventually the lid is forced off and the canister shoots into the air, spraying anyone standing too close with vinegar. You can decorate the film canisters using paper and felt tips so they look like real rockets.

    Sherbet – icing sugar, citric acid crystals and bicarbonate of soda. Because all the ingredients are dry they don’t fizz until they get wet in your mouth.

    Have fun.

  20. Hi Jo – thanks for taking the time out to write all that down. Funnily enough I’ve just been putting together an invisible ink post using red cabbage juice and lemon juice…….love the whole magic potion idea though….very cool!!

    Thanks everyone for all your suggestions…i’ll get the page fully written up in the next week or so.

    I can see we are going to have to do things like this more often!

  21. bake cupcakes and decorate them :)) or make crafty cards πŸ™‚

    i just found your blog two days ago! and i love love love love it :))


  22. off the top of my head
    1) Popcorn picnic – make some popcorn using your preferred method, spread a cloth on the floor (we usually do this in the living room as eating in a room other than the kitchen is a treat in itself) and enjoy.
    2) Chalk outlines – children lie down on concrete and I outline their bodies with chalk. With my 4 year old I extend the activity and we then draw on clothes, hair, faces etc.
    3) Sticky pictures (especially loved by my 20 month old) – gather a variety of coloured paper scraps. Cellophane is also good, cut up some paper patty pans, little pieces of knitting wool also work, old paintings, get the children to rip tissue paper or foil and when you have a good amount take the backing off a piece of clear adhesive book covering and let the children cover the surface with the paper etc.When they are done place another piece of adhesive book covering on top. For best effect display in a window and you get a stained glass type effect. To mix this up we sometimes each do small scale pieces or you can do a large collaborative piece on an easel or wall. The finished product can also by cut into a shape like oval / egg at Easter, heart for valentines. All leftovers are easily stored for a future sticky picture
    4) paper planes and drinking straw gliders – good simple fun and can be flown indoors or outside
    5) make a fresh batch of play dough and gather some plastic figures / animals and create some scenes. My son loves to make a dinosaur world – but it could be whatever little toys you have .
    Press in the feet to make footprints

    Will the complete list be published on the blog? Its the kind of thing that I would love to print out and stick on the inside of a cupboard door for easy reference.

  23. Hi Ronne,,,thanks for the suggestions πŸ™‚ Yes I’ll gather the list together and put a new page on my blog. I’ll get it done in a week (or so) and repost when it’s up.

    Hi Deana, that’s really kind of you – thank you. I’ll be sure to pop over.

  24. ping pong/marble art:

    Dip ping pong balls or marbles into different coloured paints.
    Line a tray (preferably with high-ish edges!) with paper.
    roll them around and create some beautiful artworks!

  25. * dipping toy trucks in paint then driving them over paper. We always keep a roll of cheap wallpaper lining paper in the house for big painting projects.

    * bubble prints. Mix paint 1:1 with water and some washing up liquid. Use a straw to BLOW then drop paper on top to take a print.

    * fold a large piece of paper in half then open out. Using a spoon or squeezing straight from the bottle, put blobs of paint on one half only, fold in half again and use your hands to gently squish the paint blobs around. Open out to find a symmetrical print. When dry cut into a butterfly or blob monster shape.

    * mix paint with flour to make a thickish paste (cheap finger paint). Spread all over a tray then use fingers to draw a picture. Place paper on top and press gently to take a print of your picture.

  26. Get a large piece of paper. Place on the floor and draw roads, traffic lights, houses, rivers, shops, etc . then get the toy cars out and let them drive around the “town”.

  27. We love making origami paper aeroplanes – 20 different models here

    We also used a roll of paper (could use lining paper) to draw a body outline, stick on some skeleton parts, draw on some clothes, paint veins and arteries – a continual project really.]
    I should add that my son is only 4 so the circulation looks more like a bloodbath and the organs are mostly missing. We don’t have much in the way of bones on yet – but it is stuck on the door ready for another rainy day πŸ™‚

  28. Many thanks to you all for your amazing input. I’ll re-post as soon as I have put the page together. Hope you have all had a fab weekend πŸ™‚

    Rose…the description of 4yo sons cut-out body made me laugh out loud. V funny.

    Hi Roisin….lovely to see one of my Aussie mates on here! Missing you a heap x x

  29. My 2-yr old daughter recently came up with her own boredom buster. It was very cold outside, so I blew up a few balloons to play ‘keep in the air’ and give them something active to do indoors. My daughter pointed to the three balloons and said “I want them taped together like a snowman.” So we taped them together with painters tape and added paper cutouts for the eyes, mouth and nose. We even tied a scarf around him. My daughter loved it!

  30. Wow! What a fantastic list! The first thing that popped into my head was Sun Prints. It’s so much fun running around just finding the things to use for them.

  31. Hey Wendi – lovely of you to drop by – please can you explain the sun prints? I presume you mean the prints you make using light sensitive paper? πŸ™‚

  32. Hey Kate! That’s exactly what I’m talking about. The “Sunprints” company now makes larger sized paper too. I think once the kids see how it works, the scavenger hunt to find the neatest stuff can be a lot of fun and then for them to see the different result each one makes is so rewarding. It’s really, very affordable. Then they actually look very pretty when framed.
    This place is an amazing resource for ideas, projects, how to’s and they also sell sun printing supplies including t-shirts and things! (no, I don’t work for this place, I just really like it. πŸ™‚ )

  33. Hi Wendi, thanks for the info – looks really cool…I think it would make an ace birthday/chrissy pressie. I was wondering whether you take a DIY/lo-fi approach using sugar paper/construction paper. It fades really easily…..I’ve got some so I’ll give it a blast and report back! Cheerio for now πŸ™‚

  34. We are in a warm climate and my 1 and a half year old twins have spent hours playing with the hose and a large bucket of water. In the bucket are cups, a small pitcher, two spray bottles and two condiment bottles as well as pieces of our tea set.

    We’ve been doing water paintings lately: we found that our concrete floor will turn darker where a puddle or wet hand/footprint touches it. I gave the kids and their 3 year old friend a variety of paintbrushes and they could paint areas or just make marks. Different brushes make different strokes. This works well on a sheet of construction paper as well. I feel that they are learning such great skills doing these water paintings, and then there is no clean up! Once everything dries you can do it all over again!

    I am a big fan of your blog! Thank you so much for all the great ideas that you share!

  35. Hi Susan,

    My two used to spend ages water painting when we lived in Australia! Pretty cool if you use chalk too….no cleaning up as the water just washes it away.

  36. make binoculars from toilet or kitchen rolls and go on a toy animal safari. Hide a toy and make them search for it…you sit down and relax whilst t hey search. …hide it well!!!

  37. Oooh what a great idea! I have two easy recipes for you:

    Easy shortbread (great for colouring or cutting out or decorating) 300g flour, 200g butter, 100g sugar, here are our Rainbow Cookies and we also did Alphabet ones, which started my son off on his journey discovering letters.

    Yoghurt pot muffins: one yoghurt pot (e.g strawberry flavour), one pot of sugar, 3/4 pot of oil, one egg. Mix. 3 pots self raising flour. 1 pot frozen/ fresh fruit (e.g. raspberries/ blueberries). Mix. Put in muffin trays and bake at 180C for about 30min (keep checking). My son loves tipping in the pots and giving it all a good stir.

    Make recycled household item puppets -we played over a week with ours (

    Maggy x

  38. looks like you have more then 50 great ideas but here’s my contribution… these are all things that we have done many times

    easy recipes, 5 cup cake – my son makes this by himself now (bar the oven bit)

    make an explosive volcano

    one for a hot day – digging for ice treasure

    salt painting

    making potions

    and if all the fails, tip out the recycling box and let them loose with the sellotape, it is amazing what they will come up with.

  39. Thank you all for such wonderful suggestions….I will I will I will get this page up in the next week. Life has been a bit crazy lately but it’s very near the top of my to-do list!! πŸ™‚

  40. We like to play ‘the food game’:

    version 1: have a covered up tray with 5 or 6 different types of food – eg a cherry tomato, a grape, a block of cheese, a cracker, a cookie for finals… Then close your eyes and taste and guess what it is. Finish off with a treat food! This can work both ways i suppose with them feeding you if you are brave enough and hide the anchovies!

    version 2: play ‘sniff the spice’ – and catch the expressions when you get to cumin!

    version 3: play cut-outs with cookie cutters on a variety of flat foods, cheese slice, bread slice etc

    version 4: make popcorn and ‘forget’ to put the lid on – messy but hilarious with a 3yo!

    fun and they will eat something good

  41. 1) We do a treasure hunt and to get the directions, I place some stencils under butcher paper and tape it on the table. The kids use crayons and rub over the paper to get the message that helps find the treasure.
    2) Hiding Easter eggs. Good inside and out and all year round.
    3) Making fake fossils – Put some modeling clay in a plastic container, press footprints, shells, etc. on it, then pour Plaster of Paris over it. Once dried, take it out and paint it with brown watercolor to get an aged look.
    4) Painting in the tub and then cleaning it up or painting on windows and giving them water so they can clean it up.
    5) Make instruments with household items and have a parade.
    6) Gather the ride on toys and make buckets of soap and have a car wash. You can use those line toy sprinklers and hang it up for a drive thru car wash.
    7) Raiding the pantry and playing store using hand made money or made up money (beans, leaves, rocks, etc.)

  42. AJWeddingPhoto is the obvious choice you can make as far as documenting your wedding are concerned. The most beautiful wedding photography I have ever seen around.

Comments are closed.