We're reader-supported and only partner with brands we trust. When you buy through links on our site we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Learn More. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date and time indicated and are subject to change.
If we had to pay for every activity we did with our children to keep them entertained, our wallets would be bone dry! Instead, try using what is literally dirt cheap and can be found in your front yard. Rocks, leaves, and sticks are worth gold if used creatively! Here are some fantastic ideas to try with your kids:
1. Design leaf animal art.
My older kids love creating their favorite animals with different-shaped leaves and colors! Use regular school glue like this one and dilute with water if needed for really delicate leaves.
2. Create a garden caterpillar by painting rocks.
Let your child paint his or her favorite designs on rocks with cheap sponge brushes and acrylic paint. Stack them up (use Goop or hot glue to stick them together), glue little sticks on for the antennae, and place them in your front garden or on your porch.
3. Make leaf rubbings with crayons and food coloring.
Place a piece of paper (butcher paper works really well) over leaves that are vein side up. Then, use a crayon to rub over leaves. To create a wax-resistant effect, add food coloring to water and brush over colored leaves. These make great decorations for fall.
Related: 6 Easy Ways to Paint That Will Make You the Best Mom Ever
4. Collect seashells, and make ladybugs with liquid watercolors.
Use liquid watercolors and a pipette to color seashells. Pipettes are great because they help with fine motor skills, but you can use a regular paint brush as well. Once dried, use a permanent marker for your ladybugs’ heads and spots.
5. Paint the bottoms of pinecones for a pinecone bouquet.
6. Use flowers as paint brushes.
Daisies, mums, and carnations create interesting patterns and shapes when dipped in acrylic paint. Try asking a local florist for wilting flowers; most are happy to give them to you for free if they know they’re being used for educational purposes.
7. Learn letters with alphabet rocks.
These rocks are embossed with alphabet stamps, but you can use acrylic paint or even a permanent marker. Find these rocks on the beach or even at a dollar store. For more learning games, consider making a set of numbered rocks as well.
8. Create a painted stick mobile.
You may need to help your kids a little more with this one, especially when it comes to cutting wire. After painting similar-sized twigs, use wire to connect sticks and hang with electrical wire.
9. Make pet rocks with free printables and paint.
Use acrylic paint, and hot glue these free zoo animal printables from U Create to your kids’ new rock buddies.
10. Play tic-tac-toe in the garden.
Color or paint a favorite design, or go for the classic X’s and O’s.
Related: 7 Insanely Creative Ways to Reuse an Orange Juice Bottle