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25 Frugal Kids Activities

It’s easy to fall into a routine of letting your kids use electronic devices for hours on end, especially if you’re busy working or running errands.

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children should not watch television more than two hours a day. They need time to get some exercise, play outside, and engage in creative activities.

So, I am collecting ideas that: that are:

  • Frugal – we won’t invest our money in purchases until we have a job and know that we can stay in Pittsburgh – if we move again in the near future, we don’t want to have accumulated a lot here.
  • No-Prep/Low-Prep – Our time right now is dedicated to job hunting and working through all the practical things involved in moving to a new country, so we need activities that are engaging but aren’t too time-consuming to prepare.
  • Minimal Space Required – sometimes kids are not available very much space, so activities that are convenient and do not take up much space are handy..

After brainstorming some ideas with friends and going through some of the activities we enjoyed as children, I have compiled the following list – looking forward to hearing your recommendations! Do you have other frugal kids activities you do with your children? Share them in the comments!

Anything with sponges

Don’t use sponges that have steel scrubbing surfaces…

  • Sponge fights – provide everyone with a bucket and a few sponges and let them have at it!
  • Simply cut sponges into interesting shapes. – You can even make an entire farm or ocean of sponge toys!
  • Sponge towers – make towers or fun structures with sponges cut into even strips.
  • Sponge transfer –  move water from one container to another with sponges.

This bubble wrap activity looks great! It could serve as a great learning opportunity as well as a fun game if you use letters and numbers or images of new vocabulary words.

Make your own books

You just need some paper and pens (crayons or colored pencils would make it more interesting), and something to hold the papers together, like an elastic band or staples. Even young toddlers can make image books. Younger children can also partner up with older kids who help them add phrases or words to the books.

Sorting activities

You can let your children sort through socks, piles of clean laundry, or anything else you have a lot of. They can sort by size, color, type of material, owner, or other factors.

Indoor basketball

Crumple up old newspapers or magazines into balls and place them into a bucket or wastebasket.

Play with empty boxes

Build tents and castles, play hide and seek, draw on the outside of the boxers to make them look like cars, planes, houses, etc.

Make masks

Make masks out of paper plates, crayons or pens, and scissors. Attach the masks to the plates using string or glue/tape a Popsicle stick on the bottom as a handle.

Puppets

Put on a puppet show using socks or paper bags!

Play dough

This activity can keep kids busy for hours, playing, creating and exploring.  If you already have play dough, it doesn’t take any prep. 

Make telephones 

Using tin cans (or paper cups) and string.

Play with marbles

kid playing with marbles
  • Simply roll the marbles around and try to make them hit each other (this is more fun with magnetic marbles, which can form chains).
  • Tape paths for them on the ground and try to keep them there. You could even make a maze out of the tape and feed the marbles through the maze.
  • Use empty toilet paper rolls or paper towel rolls to make a marble run.

Kitchenware

  • Take all the lids off the Tupperware containers or pots and pans and then let the kids match the lids with the containers.
  • Put a variety of small objects inside the pots and pans, and put the lids on. You can put multiple objects in the same container, or one thing in each. Your kids should try to guess what is in each container by shaking it. Before you hide the objects, show them all so they know what they might be. Until they’re older, limit the number of objects to 3 or 4. they get the hang of the guessing game. Then you can gradually expand the number of objects you work with.

Play with plastic cups

  • Build towers and pyramids. Then shoot marbles at the base or use water and spray bottles to knock them down.
  • Line the cups up and throw ping pong balls or anything else at them.
  • Turn all the cups upside down and see if your kids can find the hidden thing. They can take turns turning them over until someone does.

Pipe cleaners

Poke small holes in paper cups or plates and let your kids practice threading pipe cleaners through the holes.

Dress Up

Pull out old clothes and let your kids have fun trying them on and coming up with new combinations. It doesn’t matter if the clothes are old, if that just makes them more fun. This activity can also give you some good ideas for Halloween costumes too.

Playing Cards

  • Play simple card games like War, Go Fish, Slap Jack, and 52 Card Pick Up!
  • You can also flip them over and play memory or let your kids make something with them or make a different arrangement. Or, you can mix up the cards and then have your kids figure out how to put them back in order.