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Entertaining bored children is easy with these recommended boredom-busting activities. The good news is that you won’t necessarily need to go out and buy anything. It’s all about repackaging, recycling and upcycling.

It should take you less than an hour to round up most of what you need to keep your children entertained for hours, without even leaving your house. Gather used plastic bottles, tins, cardboard, boxes destined for the rubbish bin. Then take a sniff through your handwork cupboard because the chances are you’ll have all the materials needed to embark on these crafty boredom-busting activities.

Arts and crafts

Round up old cereal boxes and other cardboard packaging, scrap paper, old magazines, wool, buttons, pipe cleaners, strong paper glue, beads, a pair of scissors, socks that have lost their partners, felt, needle with an eye big enough for threading wool, chunky knitting needles, glitter, paint, paint brushes, pencil crayons, kokis, newspaper, old wrapping paper, tissue paper, string, raffia, empty matchboxes, recycled foil and foil pie cases, masking tape, play dough, clay and bits of ribbon.

20 boredom-busting activities


  • Cut paper dolls out of recycled paper.
  • Make pipe-cleaner people (dye the pipe cleaners in food colouring to make them interesting colours).
  • Try string weaving. Make a loop of string (about 40 cm in length). Then reach back into your memory because you’ll need to recall how to weave the Cat’s Cradle or Teacup and Saucer between your fingers.
  • Give spool knitting, also known as French knitting, a try. This form of knitting uses a spool with a number of nails around the rim (easy to make from an old cotton reel) to produce a narrow tube of fabric. Spool knitting is a traditional way to teach children the basic principles of knitting.
  • Once the children have mastered the basics of knitting, let them attempt to knit a scarf, or make squares and sew these together to make a baby or doll’s blanket.
  • Make hand puppets from old socks. Characterise by using wool for hair, stick on googly eyes and add a tongue of felt or fabric, for example.
  • Try your hand at origami birds, butterflies, cars … the sky’s the limit.


  • Create a cardboard and wool bangle. Cut strips of cardboard, long enough to create a circle that fits over the child’s fist onto their wrist. Next, glue these into a ring and then wind different colour strands of wool around the width to create a bangle.
  • Create beads from strips of magazine paper. Tightly wrap long, narrow triangles of paper dipped in glue around a kebab stick. Apply a layer of clear nail polish when complete, carefully remove from the kebab stick and leave to dry. Then thread onto wool or string to make a necklace.
  • Create a pair of sunglasses using pipe cleaners and cardboard. Decorate with glitter and paint.
  • Create pom-poms. You’ll need two doughnut-shaped cardboard circles and wool.


  • Make a two-humped camel using egg boxes (for body) and pipe cleaners (for legs).
  • Use buttons and pipe cleaners (bend and twist to make legs, wings, feelers) to create fun creepy-crawly creatures.
  • Convert cardboard toilet-paper inners into colourful racing cars. Decorate the body with paint, after that add some wheels, using, for example, Liquorice Allsorts and toothpicks.

Fashion fusion

  • Create a range of clothing out of newspaper, then hold a fashion show to show off the creations.
  • Make a coat-hanger mobile. Hang painted paper shapes on strings of different lengths from the hanger, then cover the hanger in a cardboard “hood” decorated to match the theme.
  • Have a funny hat competition. Children can use cardboard, foil, newspaper, pom-poms, for instance, and other bits and bobs to come up with their own weird and wonderful creations.

Creative play

  • Make your own play town. Cover matchboxes in paper, add a cardboard roof and paint and decorate to look like little houses, shops, and schools. Arrange on a large piece of cardboard; draw in roads. Position the odd tree (green pom-pom on toothpick weighed down by a blob of clay or play dough, for example). After that, you just need to add toy cars and away you go.
  • Build an air soccer pitch. Tape a sheet of newspaper or cardboard to the floor using masking tape. Mark the halfway line and create goals using two old shoeboxes. Glue these in place. Get the children to decorate a cardboard tube to use as their blower and paint a ping-pong ball a bright colour.
  • Create a 3D collage, for example, a skyline, farm or street scene, using corrugated and other cardboard, paper clips, pie tins, and other bits and pieces. After that, you just need to add a touch of paint and some glitter and you’ve got a great birthday present for Dad or Grandpa.

Here are some more ideas for making crafty creations.

More games to play at home:

Be a Sport

Gather items such as: a skipping rope, old pairs of stockings tied into a three-metre loop for that ’80s playground game “stocking” or “elastic”, a dingbat, home four-square kit (tennis ball and masking tape to mark court on tiled or wooden floor), badminton rackets and shuttlecock, ping-pong balls and bats (children can play on your dining-room table – just mark the halfway line with masking tape or string and Prestik), duster hockey set (newspaper rolled into a baton and secured with masking tape becomes the duster hockey stick, a pair of rolled up rugby socks the ball) and skittles (you can make these from plastic bottles filled with water or sand).

Roll the Dice

Dig out all the board and card games, such as Uno, Scrabble, Risk and Monopoly, gathering dust in cupboards in the house.

Play by the rules

If you’ve forgotten the rules or lost the instructions, a book like Reader’s Digest The Treasury of Family Games by Jim Glenn and Carey Denton will help. It has easy-to-follow instructions for dice games, board games, domino and card games, old-fashioned parlour games, word games and lots more.  There is also a very helpful section on children’s card games.

Read about other age-appropriate indoor boredom-busting activities for those rainy or windy days and our 10 tips for fun family activities.

Elaine Eksteen