The Best Ideas for Kids/Dream a Little Bigger
The phrase parents dread the most comes in a short, two-word statement, but it packs a gut punch: “I’m bored.” Those words can come at any time, at any place, no matter how many toys they have or no matter what the screen-time situation is.
But parents don’t have to fear boredom any longer with this list of the best activities for kids in 2022, meant to cut ennui off at the pass. Most of them only require materials that are probably already somewhere around the house (though you might have to supplement with a specific art supply or two). They’re designed to get kids to use their creativity and imaginations, or get them up and active, or have them practice certain skills like matching or memory or some combination of all of the above. But most of all, they’re designed to be fun, which means they’ll get so lost in their projects that they’ll forget they were ever at a loss for something to do to begin with.
Not enough boredom-busters? If the kids in question are more into crafts than activities, we have suggestions for all kinds of crafts for kids in every season, including summer crafts for kids, fall crafts for kids and winter crafts for kids (and also projects for holidays like Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day). If they’re drawn more to the activities than the crafts, you can find more ideas for backyard games, at-home science experiments, learning activities for preschoolers, learning activities for toddlers, fun activities for toddlers and activities for 1-year-olds. No matter what they’re into, they’ll find something to amuse themselves.
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This is an activity that sparks ideas for future activities. The clothespins that make up this wreath have suggestions for fun days out written on them, like “beach day” or “go to the museum” — aka some “bucket list” items — and every time your family is staring down a day with nothing to do, you can always head over together and pick one out. Refresh the clothespins for summer vacation, for winter break or any other time you expect a lot of downtime.
Those bubbles? They run out in a heartbeat. By creating (and, if the mood strikes, decorating) a DIY bubble refill station, kids will have a useful work of art and a way to re-up their bubble solution supply without parental involvement.
Tweens and teens will love making their own homemade bath bombs (which is a great idea for a birthday party with a built-in favor). Once they’ve perfected the technique, they’ll love experimenting with shapes and fragrances.
The best thing about these felt flowers is they don’t require any sewing. Kids can use them to decorate their rooms, put in a pencil cup or use as a bookmark, but they also make good Mother’s Day gifts!
Give them early map-reading skills by giving them a homemade path to treasure or prize. Then, flip it and have kids make their own maps for you to follow.
Pool Noodle Pom-Pom Launcher
What do you get when you combine a pool noodle slice and a latex balloon? You get something that sends pom-poms flying across the sky! The poms are so soft, you don’t have to worry about damage as kids send them everywhere!
These kids were challenged with finding bug stickers hidden along the string web. Stepping in and around the web is great gross motor practice, and they were given a list of bugs to find, which also made it a matching activity.
With just two ingredients, you can whip up some DIY paint that doesn’t stain bathtubs and rinses down the drain. Then your toddler artist will be so busy making a masterpiece that they won’t notice their hair being scrubbed.
Kids will love answering (or even coming up with) the questions for this extremely portable game. Once it’s done, you can break it out while waiting for dinner, at a doctor’s office or anywhere else they might need to kill a few minutes. (Not a trivia fan? Don’t worry — the tutorial has plenty of questions.)
This is the type of art project that also gets kids up and moving — a win-win. The developer of this craft even did another version on an apron as a gift for Granny.
Kids will be able to spot their backpacks a mile away when they have a personalized charm dangling from the zipper. They can also make some to give away to friends.
The boredom-busting capacity of this homemade journal is two-fold: First, they get to make and decorate it themselves. Then, they can use it to record their best summer memories.
If the kids have so many toys, they might need a whole village to roam around in — and this one can be made with colored cardstock (littler ones might have to lose some of the definition in the window panes if they are too young to use a craft knife, but squares work just fine). A rainbow of houses is certain to look great in a playroom. This one was created to be a holiday village, but without the festive elements it’ll just be a colorful town.
For this activity, two colors of buttons were placed in a storage bag filled with clear gel. Pushing the buttons into the proper spaces is a sorting activity, a color-recognition activity and a sensory activity all in one.
The secret to this flower garden is cupcake liners! When it’s done, kids can use them as garlands around their rooms, or as a summery table decoration for a party.
To make: Have kids fold dyed cupcake liners in half and cut out petal and fringe shapes. Then fold a piece of floral wire in half and twist around the faux flower stamen. Poke the wire through the center of three to four paper liners. Finish it off by wrapping floral tape around the base of the liners and bringing it all the way down the stem.
Melted Pony Bead Wind Chimes
Kids love seeing the cause-and-effect, before-and-after of melting down pony beads into different molds. When they’re in a proper shape, the melted beads can be strung into wind chimes.
When those pool noodles start to get worn out, give them a second life by cutting them into floating boats, decorated with straws and sails. The good thing is one noodle can make a whole fleet, which you can then sail in a bath or kiddie pool with small toys as the passengers.
Falling Leaves Snow Globe
This is a fun activity that gives kids a chance to dig in their hands as they make art. Fill a tub with foaming shaving cream, add food coloring or paint on the tip, then swirl with a butter knife or stick, and when you lay a piece of paper on top, it comes away with a cool, marbled pattern.
With oven-bake clay, kids can put trendy items into globes and make a desk accessory with a cactus, donut, hot dog, pineapple or whatever they can imagine.
Kids can whip up these bird feeders from birdseed, popcorn and an orange peel. When it’s hung, give them a sketchbook and some art supplies and see if they can draw and identify the visitors that stop by.
We know tweens and teens love nothing more than personalizing their rooms, and wall art made from paper chains is a versatile DIY for these purposes. They can use the tutorial to get the rainbow pattern, or sketch out their own ideas on graph paper.
Pool Noodle Obstacle Course
Paper plates and yarn transform into these denizens of the deep. If you use glow-in-the-dark acrylic paint, you can even see their “bioluminescence” in action when you turn out the lights.
If you have a printer, you can get some printable temporary tattoo paper and use it to dress up old planters, mugs, pencil cups and the like. (And if you don’t have a printer, you can just use a lot of little, store-bought temp tattoos.) Tweens will have a great time finding patterns that match their bedrooms or school supplies.
Lava lamps are back, baby, in a groovy new way. And if you want the homemade look, you can do it yourself with vegetable oil, food coloring and antacid tablets.
These may not sound like the real thing, but they look adorable — and you can dress them up basically any way you want. They’re the perfect doll-sized instrument for a pretend band.
These paper planes are perfect for kids — just fold and let your imagination fly. Increase the challenge by making some cardboard targets for the planes to fly through.
We love a two-for-one activity: First, paint abstract shapes with watercolors, and then have older kids cut the paper into strips and fold them into wearable art.
Get in touch with your roots via a hands-on genealogical project. Dot the print-out template with thumbprint leaves, then start mapping extended relatives galore.
With bookmarks this cute, they might even be motivated to do more reading. You can whip these up in a snap with some felt, googly eyes, glue and elastic.
You’ll probably have to help with the sewing on this one, but the kids can help design and craft their own slip-on, slip-off mermaid tail for pretend undersea adventures.
This three-ingredient recipe is a little bit of art, a little bit of science. The paintable foam (which kids can pipe out of plastic bags) hardens overnight into super-cool, puffed-up masterpieces.
Slime is the trend that’s never going away, and the only thing better than making a mom-approved mess is doing so with the extra fun of polka dots. (Can you guess what they’re made from? That’s right, more slime!)
This explosive science experiment (disguised as permission to make a mess) is a lot more palatable when contained in a glass dish. Add food coloring for colorful lava.
Transform your salad spinner into a carnival-style spin art machine. Just make sure you fill squeeze bottles with washable paint, in case splatters land outside the coffee filter canvases.
These paper frogs really jump! When the fun of folding origami frogs is over, extend playtime with sidewalk games to see which hopper can leap the farthest.
The old backyard sprinkler gets a major upgrade with this kiddie car wash, which uses PVC pipes and a hose connector to become the ultimate backyard car wash. Your kids will have endless fun running between the sponges and pool toys.
To you, it’s just glitter; to them, it’s magical pixie dust. Sprinkle some over your pint-sized garden and wait for the fairies to come out and play!
Thrift store finds become a backyard music station (and save your everyday cookware from your little maestro’s enthusiastic playing). With a few modifications, you can probably set up an indoor version of this one-man band wall, too.
Fashion straws into 3D shapes for an activity that’s one part at-home science experiment, one part silly fun with bubbles. With practice, you can make square and triangular bubbles!
Water Balloon Batting Station
Skip the cupcakes and make this sprinkle-packed, two-ingredient play dough instead. The mixture is even edible (but nearly all sugar, so don’t turn your back on little ones for too long).
When they start using pool noodles as makeshift swords, tie the toys to a pegboard and hold a good, clean water race instead. Just be sure to keep the towels handy.
File this under genius parenting hacks: A piece of rain gutter picked up at the hardware store becomes a slick racetrack when you add water and an adorable soap boat. All kids get to make their own flag!
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