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Beat the heat! Cheap Indoor Activities to Keep Their Brains Busy

It’s easy to keep kids busy in the summer when the sun is shining and a swimming pool (or beach) awaits. But the rainy days can be a bit more of a challenge, especially when you’re trying to avoid raising couch potatoes.

Here are 10 ideas to help you keep your child’s brain engaged without breaking the bank.

  1. Think INSIDE the box. Call some local retail stores to ask if they have any oversize cardboard boxes. Or start now and put an ad on Craigslist. Kids of all ages love turning boxes into houses, tables, stoves, clubs and more. Be sure to stock up on thick washable markers.


  1. Give them a wall. Removable dry erase clings will change your life! You can buy then in single sheets or in rolls and use them over and over again in different rooms.

COST: $9.96 for a 17.5” x 24” cling at Walmart.

  1. Send them on a scavenger hunt. Make a list of general items for your child to find around your house. Things like “anything you can trace to get a circle” or “something with stripes” forces them to be more creative.


  1. Assign collage homework. Pull out your old magazines, some child-friendly scissors, a glue stick and a big piece of paper. Create a fun scene: a day at the beach, their ideal bedroom, a picnic at the park – or let them choose.

COST: FREE with items on hand

  1. Make a birthday banner. Roll out 8 to 10 feet of paper on the floor and tape the corners down. Break out the crayons, stickers, glitter pens and even a few family photos and have your child make a birthday banner for a friend or neighbor or just a “We miss you” sign for a faraway relative.

COST: $5.98 for 75’ of paper at Walmart

  1. Let them build an obstacle course. Encourage them to build an obstacle course for themselves, a favorite doll or a small race car. Help them get started by giving them a few building items, like an empty paper tube, a board or cookie sheet, a stack of books, some canned goods (to turn on their sides like barrels), etc.

COST: FREE with items on hand

  1. Play fashion/costume designer. Gather long pieces of fabric or sheets, aprons, belts, hats, scarves and any costume accessories (eye patch, superhero mask, police hat) and break out the camera! You can give them a list of characters you’d like to see (“Create a new superhero, complete with name”) or have them create their own to have you guess what they are.

COST: FREE with items on hand

  1. Build an indoor sandbox. Lay down a sheet and fill a large plastic bin with sand, beans or small pasta. Toss in some measuring cups, wooden spoons and plastic cups and you’ve got fun for all ages!

COST: $3.36 for a 50-lb. bag of sand at Home Depot, $5.98 for 28-gallon storage box

  1. Let them make a book. Depending on your child’s age, have them write and illustrate (or you write and they illustrate) a book about themselves. This could be an actual story, or pages of items about their life (their pet, their favorite food, their favorite activity, etc.)


  1. Play bake shop. Fill the table with small bowls of healthy treats (pretzel sticks, Cheerios, raisins, sunflower seeds, nuts, dried fruit, Goldfish) and binders (honey, peanut butter, almond butter, cream cheese). Give them a list (words or pictures) of things they can try to make: a turtle, a reindeer, a monster, a cat, a car, etc.

COST: FREE with items on hand

“Instead of TV, look for ways to build your child’s cognitive skills,” says Tanya Mitchell, Chief Research & Development Officer for LearningRx (, the world’s largest personal brain training company. “These include things like attention, processing speed, working and long-term memory, logic and reasoning, and visual and auditory processing. When in doubt, choose something that requires them to use their imagination or creativity – and unplug the television.”