Children making models from junk household items
Junk models

Have you run out of activity ideas to keep the kids occupied? Not to worry, we’ve sourced these four great ideas from 101 Things For Kids To Do Screen-Free by Dawn Isaac, a UK-based award-winning garden designer, blogger and the mother of three children. And the best thing – all these activities use items you can find around the house or in your garage.

Junk models

This activity encourages creativity and awareness about the importance of recycling, as with junk modelling you’re going to be using an awful lot of rubbish.

You will need:

Old junk, masking tape, glue, stapler, scissors, coloured paper, card and paints for decoration

It’s worth collecting together plenty of things before they are thrown out, such as old cereal packets, egg boxes, plastic bottles, cardboard tubes and loo rolls, shoeboxes, lids, corks – and anything else that catches your eye. If you have a plan for what to make, then you could look out for specific things to build it with, but it can be just as much fun to let your kids make something up on the spot.

Masking tape is incredibly useful as it will hold things together and can also be painted over if they want to decorate their finished creation. Glue and staples are good for attaching paper and card.

Tip: Supplement the junk modelling supplies with other useful crafting items such as tinfoil, cocktail sticks, kebab skewers, pipe cleaners, tissue paper, beads and pom-poms.

Girl walking on stilts made from cans
Tin can stilts

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Tin can stilts

You will need:

2 clean and empty tin cans, hammer, a large nail, pebbles or stones, strong string or twine, scissors

  • First things first: check your tin cans are the same height, otherwise you’re about to make some very wonky stilts and that’s not a good look. Also, remember the taller the cans, the taller the stilts. Coffee canisters or even paint tins can be used to make bigger and stronger versions.
  • Take the tin cans outside and help your child to use the hammer and nail to make two holes in the bottom of each one, near the edge of the side and opposite each other. This will leave some sharp edges on the inside of the can. Smooth these out a little, by taking one or two large pebbles or stones, popping them in the can, covering the top with your hand and shake it hard up and down. As they knock against the edges of the holes the stones should smooth out the worst parts, but it is always a good idea to double-check before giving them to your child.
  • Next, cut two equal lengths of string or twine – each twice as long as one of your child’s legs. Thread one end of the string down each hole in a can. Pull them through far enough and help them make a square knot to tie the ends together and then pull the top of the loop until it tightens inside the can.
  • When you’ve done both, your kids are ready to test out their stilts. Balance a foot on each, holding the loop of string, pulled tightly, in each hand. Have them do this on the grass or carpet where they will have a soft landing if they topple over.

Tip: Decorate the cans by priming and painting them, or sticking on cardboard, coloured tape or stickers.

Young children playing with homemade face paints
Homemade face paints

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Face paints

Face paints are fun – your child can choose different looks such as a clown, or a cat, or a ladybird, or a rainbow. But if you don’t have a set to hand, there’s no need to panic as you can create your very own.

You will need:

Bowl, teaspoon, cornflour, face or body lotion, plain flour, water, vegetable oil, small pots (preferably with lids), food colouring, brushes, mirror

Begin by adding to a bowl:

4 tsp. cornflour
4 tsp. lotion
2 tsp. flour
2 tsp. water
2 tsp. oil

  • Mix them until you have a smooth paste. Now divide this between several small pots – ones with lids are good if you want to store them for a day or two in the fridge. Finally, add a few drops of different food colouring to each until you have the range of paints you need.
  • Now you can start on your creation. It takes about half an hour to dry, so try not to smudge it while you wait. Also, be careful not to get it on your clothes as the food colouring can stain.

Tip: Wash off the paints with soap and water they’re done.

Little boy smiling at homemade matchbox pets
Matchbox pets

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Matchbox pets

These are perfect pets – small enough for your child to put in their pocket, quiet enough not to upset the neighbours, very good at responding to both “sit” and “stay” commands and, best of all, absolutely no mess to clean up!

You will need:

A small stone, paper or card, pencil and scissors, PVA glue, hole-punched circles or permanent marker (optional), old matchbox, old felt or fabric (optional)

  • For starters find a stone that will fit comfortably in a matchbox. Have a look around outside and remember, your child can make lots of different pets so they don’t have to choose just one. When their stone is clean and dry they can start creating their pet.
  • Use paper or card to cut out different ears, feet or beaks – or anything else they want. Stick these on using PVA glue – hold it in place until the glue is properly stuck. They can also use pieces of paper or card to form noses and eyes – hole-punched circles are useful for this – but they can also simply draw on these details with a permanent marker.
  • The matchbox is going to be the pet’s home so encourage your child to employ some interior design skills. They can use scraps of old felt or fabric to make a bed inside or draw around the base so they have the right size of paper and then decorate it as a “scene” to place their pet in?

Tip: Glue on pretty paper to wrap around and decorate the outside of the matchbox.

101 Things For Kids To Do Screen-Free jacket

Activities have been adapted with permission from 101 Things For Kids To Do Screen-Free by Dawn Isaac, published by Kyle Books (R340).



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