how to keep kids busy for cheap

Frugal Fun with Little Ones

Looking for frugal fun activities to do with kids while social distancing?  Check out these cheap, fun activities to keep kids occupied at home!

cheap activities for kids to do while social distancing

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We are going on day one million fifty five of social distancing (well, maybe an exaggeration, but it sure feels like it)!  This pregnant mama is running low on energy, and ideas of how to entertain her 6 year old, 4 year old and 2 year old.

The weather here in South Western Ontario has not been the greatest and as a result, my kids have spent a considerable amount of time stuck indoors since social distancing protocols were made.  My house is a disaster, my kids are spending way too much time on devices and I have super bad mama guilt for not having the energy to be improving myself as we try to survive in our new normal.

So, I decided to stop dwelling and start doing something.  A big part has been de-cluttering and selling stuff that doesn’t bring joy on Facebook Marketplace.

The next step is finding ways to engage my kids that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and can be done indoors, at home. So I sat down and starting making  a list – here it is:

Fun Frugal Things to Do With Kids While Quarantined

Home Movie Night

Cheap Family Movie

Yes, we’ve had more screen time than I’d like to admit, but there’s something incredibly magical about a family movie night/afternoon.  Simply pop some popcorn, pull up a family favourite (or new) movie on Netflix and snuggle up in a cozy blanket.  This has been one of our favourite activities when we just need to relax and escape for a bit.

Blanket Ford

Remember when you were a kid?  How awesome was it to build and hang out in a blanket fort!  Simply pull out some sheets, cushions, and chairs, and let the kids create their own special hide away.  For even more fun, give them a flashlight to use in their fort!

Write Letters

Write letters to missed loved ones during quarantine

Since we had to spend Mother’s Day away from the kids’ grandmothers, I had the kids write letters (or colour Mother’s Day pictures) which we mailed to their respective grandparents’ homes.  They absolutely loved it!  Since they email regularly and video chat daily, I didn’t think much of good ole fashioned snail mail, but the act of writing the letter, putting it in an envelope with a stamp and dropping it in the mail was beyond exciting for the kids.  Letter writing will become a more frequent activity here!


coloring during quarantine

There are so many psychological benefits of colouring (for kids and adults), so taking some time to colour each day definitely has mental health benefits.  There are some great adult colouring books that can easily be found on an Amazon search (and children’s books as well).  A quick Google Search will also find many great colouring pages for kids and adults alike, that can be printed and used immediately!  So pull out your favourite markers, pencil crayons or crayons and start creating a colourful masterpiece together!

Toilet Paper Roll Crafts

toilet paper roll crafts for kids

Remember at the beginning of the pandemic when toilet paper was so hard to find?  Well, there’s likely some empty toilet paper rolls kicking around.  If not, in a house with young children, there’s likely to be some soon!  Save up the rolls and then head over to DLTK’s Crafts for Kids site where you will find tons of toilet paper roll patterns!  Simply print out the ones that interest your kids, give them some crayons, scissors and glue and then let them create toilet paper versions of some of their favourite characters!

Decorate Boxes

box activities for kids during social distancing

You know all those Amazon boxes you now have laying around from the increase of online shopping?  Put them to use before recycling them!  Give your kids some markers or crayons, and the box, then let them go at it!  Boxes around here have been made into cars, rocket ships, houses, stores and TVs!  The possibilities are only limited to your child’s imagination!

Story Time and Craft

reading stories during quarantine

Kids love to be read to.  Quite often, it does end up being the same book, over and over and over and over again.  Nevertheless, it’s a special time to bond and activate their brains.  Take story time one step further by completing a craft related to the story once you’ve finished reading it.  It can be as simple as a colouring page, or even a diorama.  Need inspiration?  Simply Google the name of the story + crafts which will likely result in a number of fun activities that go along with a story.

Paper Bag Puppets

There are tons of great Paper Bag Puppet templates online!  Even if you don’t have paper bags laying around, they can easily be picked up at your local Dollarstore.  Having kids create paper bag puppet versions of characters from a book you read together can be a lot of fun, and having them retell the story with the puppets is a great extension activity.  Or simply have them make puppets of whatever interests them and then create their own play to perform!

Activity Books

online learning at home resources

Do you have a pile of activity books that are just sitting there?  Often bought with the intention of doing some learning during summer vacation, these books can be an absolute gem for occupying kids in a meaningful way during the pandemic.  Distance learning is happening with various levels of success, and as such, kids may enjoy just sitting down and working through a work book with you!  Now’s the time to pull those out and review key concepts with your kids!

Board Games

social distancing board games

Board games are a great way to spend quality time together and there are a plethora of games to choose from!  We especially love Guess Who, Shoots and Ladders, and Pop the Pig around here.

Play Doh

cheap indoor kids activities

I’m not going to lie.  I hate Play Doh.  I hate the way it smells, I hate its texture and I hate the mess it makes.  Nevertheless, my kids absolutely love it.  So, I have been far more lenient with my Play Doh permissions while we’ve been stuck at home.  There are plenty of recipes online for home made Play Doh, or a quick trip to the dollar store will let you stock up on pre-made stuff for pretty  cheap.  There are plenty of Play Doh kits, or simply add some cookie cutters and plastic utensils and let the kids go at it!

Water Beads

water beads fail

I honestly had never heard of water beads until one of my kids watched a random Youtube video with kids playing with them.  These things are amazing fun for kids and keep them entertained for hours!  Fill the sink, or a bucket with them and let the kids play!  Add some kitchen utensils or small toys like dinosaurs, LOL Dolls, or animals and kids will be entertained for hours.  Just be warned, the water beads get big and you really only need a tiny amount before adding water, otherwise you could end up with copious amounts of water beads (I hate to say I know this from experience, but I know this from experience ha!)

Make and Play Instruments

music instrument craft

Don’t mind even more noise?  Why not make and play instruments?  There are plenty of makeshift instruments that can be made with items around the house, or with the help of a quick dollar store trip.  Have your kids create their own instruments and then experiment with the sounds to make their own songs!

Indoor Scavenger Hunt

fun simple indoor activities for kids

Get your kids moving around the house with an indoor scavenger hunt.  There are many different angles that can be taken with this to add variety.  For instance, an alphabet scavenger hunt would have everyone looking for objects that start with a certain letter.  A number scavenger hunt could have everyone search for as many items that are a certain size.  A shape scavenger hunt would have everyone search for items of a certain shape, and a colour scavenger hunt would have everyone make a list of all the items they could find of a certain colour.  The options are endless – which means much more focused time for the kids!


keep kids busy during self distancing

The change in routine, diet and exercise of the quarantine has certainly affected a number of our waistlines.  Nevertheless, baking is a really fun way for parents and kids to spend time together.  Choose from family favourites or new recipes to experiment with and then enjoy the fruits of your labour!

Classic Games

classic kids games

A fun way to spend time together is to remember back to your own childhood and some of the games you played. like Red Light/Green Light; Follow the Leader; Simon Says.  While your kids likely already know many of these games, playing them together will help you connect and bring up some of your own nostalgic memories.

Dance Party

get kids moving during quarantine

My kids have a lot of energy.  Like a lot.  With all the cold rainy, snowy weather, they haven’t had as many opportunities to burn it off as they normally would (thank goodness for our indoor trampoline though!)  One great way to start shaking out the wiggles is with a dance party!  Not only does it help kids get energy out, but is also a great cardio boost for mom and dad!  We use our Amazon Music memberships on our Alexas for our dance parties, but Youtube works just as well!  Play some classic kid artists like Sharon, Lois and Bram, Raffi or the Wiggles; or for a more modern twist, put on Mini Pop Kids and then get moving together!


fun with balloons during quarantine

Kids love balloons.  They are honestly a great source of frugal fun for kids!  Blow up a bunch of balloons and let your kids go at ’em!  They will likely entertain themselves for a quite a bit, but if they need some guidance, encourage them to try and keep the balloons off the floor, or play volleyball with each other, or grab some raquets and they can hit the ballooons back and forth.

Cosmic Kids Yoga

kids yoga

This is one of my absolute favourite kids Youtube channels!  Cosmic Kids Yoga has a wonderful teacher who incorporates yoga poses while retelling children’s favourite stories.  Pull out some yoga mats and let your little yogis stretch while being entertained with a story that goes along with each move.  Namaste.


What fun frugal things are you doing while stuck indoors with your kids?

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