A cold or rainy day is a great excuse to hunker down with a good book, catch up on your series-linked TV show, or indulge in a few home spa treatments. But, hold up—what do you do when you have younger people in the household? A day inside can feel like a lifetime when you’re pre-teen—and after the second hour of “I’m bored,” you’ll be desperate for something—ANYTHING—to do with them.

If you’re at your wit’s end for how to keep everyone busy for a couple of hours, here are my three favorite gloomy day craft activities.

Play Dough

Play dough is a surefire way to keep kids (old and young alike) busy for hours—and for good reason. This tactile activity inspires creativity and imagination aplenty. And although play dough products are easy to buy, what better way to add to the fun than to make your very own!

All you need is the following:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • ½ cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons cream of tartar
  • 1 ½ cups boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Colored food dye
  • Newspaper or an old rag to protect your furniture—it can get pretty messy when you add the food dye, so be sure to protect your counter tops!

And then follow these easy steps:

  1. Sift the flour into a bowl to get rid of any lumps. 2
  2. Mix in the salt and the cream of tartar.
  3. Add the vegetable oil—you can use any oil as long as it’s kitchen oil just in case any of the smaller members of the family get the urge to nibble.
  4. Pour in the boiling water and mix the ingredients. *IMPORTANT* Best leave this step to the adults as the dough becomes very hot.
  5. Leave the dough to cool down and then separate it into as many parts as you have different colored dyes. Roll each dough piece into a ball.
  6. Push into each ball to create a small indentation (the ball will now look like a bowl), and then place a few drops of dye into the indent.
  7. This is the messy bit! Knead the dye into the dough until it’s mixed together.

Voila! Hours of fun; hands-on enough to keep the kids amused and not so mucky that you’ll be spending the rest of the weekend cleaning the kitchen.

Pebble art

This simple activity is surprisingly therapeutic and makes a colorful addition to any backyard. Be super organized and pre-select your pebbles, or wrap the kids up and head out for a couple of minutes of fresh air to go and choose their own.

You’ll need:

Scrubbing brush (if your rocks need cleaning)

Acrylic paints

Selection of rocks and pebbles

Paint brushes

Mixing dish

Glass of water

Clear nail varnish or PVA glue

Newspaper or an old rag to cover furniture

And then follow these steps:

  1. If you need to clean your rocks, put warm, soapy water in a bowl and give them a good scrub. Then leave them to dry, or blast them with a hairdryer for a few minutes.

  1. Choose your design. I’ve seen children paint animals, dinosaurs, insects, people; my daughter doesn’t actually follow any design—she just paints each rock a solid color and fills mason jars with the most beautiful rainbow pebbles. Anyway, whatever you choose to paint, set aside your pebble art to dry when you’ve finished.

  1. Once your pebble is dry, cover with a thick layer of clear nail varnish or PVA glue to protect it—remember, this will dry clear. Once again, set your pebble aside to dry.

Now all that’s left to do is find the perfect home for your beautiful new artwork!


Papier-mâché Bowls

Papier-mâché was always my favorite activity at school—mostly because I loved storing things, so anything that gave me more containers in which to put stuff was a winner as far as I was concerned.

All you need is:


Flour or PVA glue





Acrylic paints


Something to cover the furniture

And then follow these easy steps:

  1. Cut your newspaper into strips (or shredding it by hand = more fun!). Aim for enough paper to cover your balloon 8-10 times.

  1. Make your glue by mixing one part flour to two parts water and stirring until it’s smooth (a little like pancake batter)—you may need a blender to get out all the lumps. If you’re using PVA glue, mix two parts glue to one part water.

  1. Blow up your balloon and tie it off with a knot, then cover the balloon in Vaseline—this stops the paper from sticking to the balloon when it dries.

  1. Dip a strip of newspaper into the glue, wipe off the excess, and lay it over the top of the balloon. Repeat until you’ve covered the balloon.

  1. Start your second layer, this time laying the paper in a different direction so that you can see how many layers you’ve done.

  1. Once you’ve done between eight and ten layers, stand the balloon up in an empty mug so that it can dry, and leave it overnight.

  1. When the papier-mâché is dry, pop the balloon. You can then cut your papier-mâché shape in half so that you have two bowl shapes; the balloon should peel right out.

  1. Go wild! Decorate your bowls however you like. Maybe even add stickers, glitter, or gold leaf.

  1. If you want your bowls to be a little more robust, cover with a layer of PVA glue once your paint has dried.

Now you have two beautiful bowls to keep knick-knacks and special treasures in.

Try them yourself. Be prepared for the next rainy play day with these tried-and-tested activities. You’ll have so much fun that you might even find yourselves looking forward to the next one!