Like most parents, I'm always on the lookout for cheap and easy activities that will keep my little guy entertained. My budget isn't limitless, but it seems that my son's energy levels are.

With a few supplies from the dollar store (aka my favorite store), I got to work to test a few DIY activities that cost less than five bucks. How did they turn out? Take a look to see how we kept ourselves busy on a rainy day. 

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1. Felt board

1. Felt board
Emily McWilliams |  Diply

I used to play with felt boards all the time as a kid. 

For this project, I decided to mount it to the wall since August doesn't really have anything like this to play with yet. You could easily make a portable version by sticking the felt to a cookie sheet or some cardboard.

To mount my backdrop, I used some adhesive Velcro dots from the dollar store. 

To mount my backdrop, I used some adhesive Velcro dots from the dollar store.
Emily McWilliams |  Diply

Since the felt is so light, they work perfectly at sticking the felt to the wall. I also used black felt for my backdrop to make a contrast with the colors of the shapes. 

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Next, cut out some shapes from your other felt colors. 

Next, cut out some shapes from your other felt colors.
Emily McWilliams |  Diply

As you'll see, you don't have to make your shapes perfect. Your kid won't mind if some of your lines are a little wonky.

I added the "hook" part of the Velcro dots to the back of each shape so they would stick really well. 

I added the "hook" part of the Velcro dots to the back of each shape so they would stick really well.
Emily McWilliams |  Diply

Felt has a natural cling to other pieces of felt, so this is an optional step and only if you want your pieces to really stick.

This activity has a nice tactile component and helps children learn shapes and colors. Win-win!

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2. DIY shakers

2. DIY shakers
Emily McWilliams |  Diply

As I've mentioned before, August loves raiding our kitchen cupboards. Usually, when he finds a new box he'll start shaking it and create his own one-man band. That's what inspired this next project. 

I picked up a few small Tupperware containers and filled them with items from our pantry. 

I picked up a few small Tupperware containers and filled them with items from our pantry.
Emily McWilliams |  Diply

Dried pasta, rice, and Cheerios work well for this project. If your kids are older, you can use beads or small bells. 

Since August still loves to put things in his mouth, I stuck to things that were edible in case he got a hold of them. 

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For awhile, he was way more interested in eating Cheerios than putting them in the Tupperware containers.

For awhile, he was way more interested in eating Cheerios than putting them in the Tupperware containers.
Emily McWilliams |  Diply

Notice all the Cheerios on the floor in the background?

Once you've filled your containers, make sure they are sealed tightly. 

Shake it, baby! 

Shake it, baby!
Emily McWilliams |  Diply

Once I gave the containers to August, he got right to work shaking them. By using different materials, you can create a few different sounds. 

When children are older, you can even turn it into a memory game to see if they remember which material creates which sound. 

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3. Magic glow bath

3. Magic glow bath
Emily McWilliams |  Diply

If your child can be a bit difficult when it comes to bath time, you'll want to try this cheap and easy activity. Pick up a few packages of glow sticks from your local dollar store. 

Follow the directions on the package to activate your glow sticks. 

Follow the directions on the package to activate your glow sticks.
Emily McWilliams |  Diply

It brought back so many memories to snap these and give them a shake. It's really comforting to know that some things haven't changed.

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When you're ready, run a bath and toss the glow sticks in the water.

When you're ready, run a bath and toss the glow sticks in the water.
Emily McWilliams |  Diply

Why didn't anyone think of this when I was a kid? I might just have to try this for myself sometime. 

Now turn out the lights and have a glow party! 

Now turn out the lights and have a glow party!
Emily McWilliams |  Diply

August loves baths to begin with, but the glow sticks took this routine to a whole other level. It was really fun watching him splash and play with the glow sticks. We'll definitely do this again soon. 

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4. Pasta strainer maze

4. Pasta strainer maze
Emily McWilliams |  Diply

If you have a little one, you probably know how much they love to explore kitchen cupboards. Since they're going to play with the pasta strainer anyway, you might as well make it a bit more fun. 

Grab a pack of pipe cleaners and start sticking them in the holes of the strainer. 

Grab a pack of pipe cleaners and start sticking them in the holes of the strainer.
Emily McWilliams |  Diply

As kids get older, they can practice fitting the pipe cleaners through the holes themselves. It's a great way to practice their fine motor skills. 

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Since my son, August, is too young to really put the pipe cleaners through the holes himself, I did it for him. 

Since my son, August, is too young to really put the pipe cleaners through the holes himself, I did it for him.
Emily McWilliams |  Diply

It kind of looks like a piece of modern art, but the idea is to create a tactile experience with the textures and colors of the pipe cleaners.

It was a hit!

It was a hit!
Emily McWilliams |  Diply

My sculpture was dismantled pretty quickly, but August was even trying to thread some of the pipe cleaners through the holes himself. As he gets older, it'll be interesting to watch him make his own patterns. 

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5. Mess-free finger painting

5. Mess-free finger painting
Emily McWilliams |  Diply

That's right, I said mess-free. To be honest, I haven't done a whole lot of arts and crafts with August because I have a feeling that it would get really messy really fast. That's why I love this project. 

Dot some paint on a piece of paper. 

Dot some paint on a piece of paper.
Emily McWilliams |  Diply

You don't want to soak the page, but a healthy glob of paint is what we're aiming for. I'd say a dollop the size of a quarter should do it.

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Once you've covered the paper in paint polka dots, slide it in a large Ziploc bag. 

Once you've covered the paper in paint polka dots, slide it in a large Ziploc bag.
Emily McWilliams |  Diply

Seal the bag and tape it shut. You'll also want to tape it to the table, unless you're confident that your child won't toss it on the ground. 

Now your child can press on the paint dots and swirl it around through the plastic. 

Now your child can press on the paint dots and swirl it around through the plastic.
Emily McWilliams |  Diply

No mess! Even though August is crying in this photo, he had a lot of fun. He was just upset that I wouldn't let him eat the paint bottles. 

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6. Rainbow busy boxes

6. Rainbow busy boxes
Emily McWilliams |  Diply
This activity is genius because all you have to do is round up toys you already have along with a few storage containers. Group the toys by color and feel free to add scraps of fabric or ribbon for some extra textures.

Unfortunately, the dollar store was out of colored storage boxes.

Unfortunately, the dollar store was out of colored storage boxes.
Emily McWilliams |  Diply

The first time the dollar store has let me down. Instead, I wrapped some cardstock around each box to color-code them. 

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For older children, you can turn this into a sorting game and encourage your child to place the toys in the correct box. 

For older children, you can turn this into a sorting game and encourage your child to place the toys in the correct box.
Emily McWilliams |  Diply
For now, August was mostly interested in dumping the contents of the boxes.

This is also a great way to rotate your toys. 

This is also a great way to rotate your toys.
Emily McWilliams |  Diply

Box up some toys into the busy boxes, and when it seems like your little one is getting bored, just pull these out. It's kind of sneaky, but as parents, sometimes being sneaky is essential.

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