Fun at-home activities for kids to keep little ones entertained all half-term

If you’re struggling to keep the little ones entertained at home, you’re not alone. Claire Balkind is here to help with these creative at-home activities for kids from Great Family Days In.

Keeping children entertained during the school holidays can be a challenge at the best of times, but now, with some family activities still off the cards and many areas of the UK still under lockdown restrictions, it’s proving even trickier. If you’re looking for half-term activities that will keep little ones occupied at home for hours, look no further.  Claire Balkind, founder of the hugely popular Family Lockdown Tips & Ideas Facebook page, is here to help with Great Family Days In. Full of over 75 tried and tested kids activities to do at home, you’ll be sure to make the most of spending quality time together.  Here, we share just a few of the creative, entertaining and – all importantly – fuss-free indoor family activities from the book.

Discover even more fun indoor activities for kids.

These sticker and activity books for kids will provide hours of entertainment at home. 

Don’t miss Laura Brand’s magical indoor activities for children.

Paint-free marbling

Paint-free marbling

Marbling is very rewarding - you get results quickly and they are quite unlike anything you can create by hand. What is unique about this art activity is that you never quite know what the end result will be. This sense of anticipation is great for kids to experience. When you've tried it out a few times, try not to marble everything in sight. It is tempting, but you may live to regret it!

What you need

  • Nail polish in a few different colours, the runnier the better
  • A tub or mixing bowl of warm water, around half full. The nail polish will Aoat on the water and so shouldn't damage the bowl, however I'd use something you don't mind getting a bit dirty.
  • Small, hard, clean objects to marble such as a plastic pot, cup, coaster or candle. When you've done it once, I'm sure you'll see how it could work on other items you have around your home.

How it works

  1. Put your bowl of water on a flat surface. Place some kitchen roll or an old cloth beside it to catch any drips and to lay your creations on to dry when finished.
  2. Using the wand of the nail polish, swirl different colours of nail polish into the water. A few broad strokes, circles and dots is particularly good to get a varied pattern on your items.
  3. Gather together the small glass or plastic items you don't mind experimenting on, and slowly dip them into the water and let the nail polish catch onto them. Help your kids to swirl them around so that you've gathered the nail polish on the sides - and there you go. You might want your kids to wear rubber gloves for this stage, just to keep little fingers away from the nail polish. My top tip is to try to roll any flat surfaces on the water first, rather than dipping in corners or points.
  4. You'll probably need to add more nail polish after each dip, depending on how big the items are and how much nail polish they attract. Experiment with colour combinations and patterns on the water to see what effect this has on different surfaces.
  5. Make sure you put your new creations on display. You might also like to take some close-up photos on your smartphone to really admire your masterpieces and to share with friends.

Short of time?

Try shaving foam marbling, which is super simple. Spray the contents of a can of shaving foam into a shallow dish or baking sheet, add droplets of food colouring and swirl it around with a cocktail stick to create a pattern. Press a piece of paper gently on the top, letting it absorb the colour, and then carefully peel it back and scrape off the shaving foam with a spatula or dry cloth. Instantly, you'll have something ready to frame, draw on, cut up or use to decorate greetings cards. 

Paint-free marbling activity sheet.JPG
Activity sheet - Paint-free marbling - Claire Balkind - Great Family Days in
Download the paint-free marbling activity sheet

Gratitude tree

Gratitude tree

I'm pretty sure that if I asked you what you wanted for your kids in the future, your answer would feature the word 'happiness'. This activity is one for all the family and it is a great way for you to model to your kids how to be thankful. The aim is to place leaves (luggage tags) on a tree (bouquet of sticks) and in doing so create a physical representation of the things you are grateful for. 

The wellbeing bit: The link between gratitude, or being thankful, and our happiness has been well researched and so we know that expressing gratitude makes us feel more positive. Expressing gratitude can also improve our physical health, our self-esteem, our ability to deal with challenges, and the way that we relate to others. It has even been suggested that it can help us sleep better.

What you need

  • A generous handful of sticks
  • Luggage or gift tags
  • String, twine or ribbon
  • A vase or jug

How it works

  1. Gather together your sticks like a bouquet of flowers. Ideally your sticks will be of similar height to cut flowers that you can buy in the shops.
  2. Tie some string, twine or ribbon around the middle, or simply put them in a vase or jug.
  3. Now gather your luggage or gift tags and some pens. This is the most important bit. Your kids write something they are grateful for on each gift tag and hang it on your stick tree. If your kids can't write yet, let them tell you and you can write it down.
  4. Put your gratitude tree somewhere central in your house. We put ours on the kitchen table for a few days and used it as a talking point over dinner. My five-year-old put on some of her own leaves of gratitude without me seeing, which made me think that it had all been worthwhile.

Gratitude can be about anything. But to get you started, here are some useful prompts:

  • Family or friends
  • A quality or talent that you have
  • Something in nature or outside
  • A hobby or something you love to do
  • Something you love to eat or drink
  • Something you've learnt this year
  • Something you love about where you live
Gratitude tree activity sheet.JPG
Activity sheet - Gratitude tree - Claire Balkind - Great Family Days In
Download the gratitude tree activity sheet

Toy zip wire

Whenever we go to the park, and there is a zip wire, my kids make a run for it. And in all honesty, when I was a kid, I was obsessed with zip wires too. That feeling of freedom that

comes from whizzing through the breeze is magical. Saying that, I’m a bit afraid of heights and so anything too high up and I think I’ll pass! What’s fun about making a toy zip wire at

home is that it brings your kids’ toys to life – teddy bears and dolls are suddenly able to move! And this activity has been kept as simple as possible so that you can just set up and go.

What you need

  • A ball of string, twine or some plastic-coated wire
  • A clothes hanger – ideally a small children’s one
  • A variety of different toys
  • Washing pegs
  • Sticky tape
  • Pipe cleaners

How it works

  1. The first decision is where your zip wire is going to be positioned. You’ll need to have a bit of space and a descent so that the toys get some momentum as they fly down! I would suggest down a flight of stairs, over a banister or even out of a window into your outside space. Everyone’s home is different, and so pick a space and size that will work for you.
  2. Take your string and attach it at the top and bottom to something secure such as a banister or door handle (providing the door is shut) in the area you have selected. How long you make your zip wire is up to you!
  3. Take some toys and attach them in turn to your clothes hanger, or to multiple hangers if you have spares. Use pipe cleaners or pegs to do this, depending on the size of your toys, how big and how heavy they are. Getting your kids to work out how best to attach the toys to the hanger is great for their problem-solving skills, so don’t do the hard work for them!
  4. Now simply have fun hooking the toys at the top of the zip line and seeing how fast they travel to the bottom! It is great to time each toy and have a conversation about why some might go faster than others. And have your phone or camera ready – toys hurtling down a zip wire really do make a great picture or video!

Frozen palace messy play

Messy play is essential. Messy play is learning. Messy play helps kids to connect with the world around them. Messy play supports communication, particularly before words are spoken or when they are perhaps tricky to say. Messy play promotes physical development and it also fosters independent learning in kids of all ages. There are, therefore, very few reasons not to give it a go. But, and I know what you are going to say, what about the mess? Well, let me present to you frozen palace messy play, where you’re literally building a palace from ice, so the only risk is getting a bit wet. Yes, I’ve included shaving foam and some paint, but stay with me. This activity can occupy kids for hours – and on that basis, it’s worth giving it a go.

What you need

  • Plastic cups, bowls, food containers
  • and other freezer-safe moulds
  • A large tray, plastic box or Tuff Tray
  • A large bowl
  • Shaving foam
  • Washable paint
  • Paintbrushes

How it works

  1. The night before: clear a space in your freezer and fill as many plastic bowls, cups, silicone cupcake cases, jelly moulds, food boxes and other small and freezer friendly containers with water. Put them in the freezer and leave to harden overnight.
  2. Explain to your kids that they are going to build the palace of their dreams, out of ice! Decide on a good space to do this (outside would be ideal) and lay out the plastic tray or box that
  3. you are going to use to build on. The ice will melt and so bear this in mind.
  4. Take the containers out of the freezer and let your kids help you get the ice out of each one. Place the pieces on the tray along with some metal spoons which can be used for chipping
  5. at the ice.
  6. Squirt out the shaving foam into a large bowl and pop in a few spoons for your kids to use. This can be cement, snow, sea, mountains . . .
  7. Water down a few colours of washable paint by adding about a teaspoon of water to each tablespoon of paint (although don’t feel you have to measure, you just want a runnier consistency) and put these into small plastic bowls along with a paintbrush. The ice will clean the paintbrushes and so no need for a separate bowl of water.
  8. Now sit back and let your kids chip, paint, mould, lift, manoeuvre and create their palace out of ice – and don’t forget to take a photo of the finished product at the end.

Great Family Days In

by Claire Balkind

Book cover for Great Family Days In

Full of fuss-free games, crafts and challenges to keep children and adults of all ages entertained, Great Family Days In helps you make the most of quality time together. From thirty-minute time-fillers to ideas to fill a whole afternoon, these activities can be adapted for any age or timescale. This collection of activities shows that you don’t need fancy plans or monety to keep your family entertained at home.