Five minute fun activities for busy people to do with little kids

Advice + Tips

“Five Minute Crafts” From Emma @messylittlebugs

Now, those of you that know me and this blog well will think…crafts?! WTF….? I know. I am not crafty. We have a craft box and occasionally I grab it down from above the kitchen units but that’s often to rummage through it looking for something for a game I’ve thought up. Occasionally we paint or stick stuff to other stuff but I am quite loathe to do it, because the effort and the outcome never seem to match up. In fact, this blog was started off the back of a crafting DISASTER, more of which you can read about in my book (shameless plug!)

However Emma, who I follow on instagram and love, has written me this wonderful blog post and I think all of the simple crafts she has mentioned are BRILLIANT. Easy, quick, and limited mess. In fact, I am off to make some salt dough right now. So if like me, you are a bit averse to crafting give this a read, and perhaps you might be tempted to pull that craft box out on a wet, cold November afternoon…FMM x

5 ‘Five Minute’ Crafts

Hi I’m Emma, aka @messylittlebugs. I’m a Mum to 2 boys (1 and 4) and we live in the Cumbrian countryside.

My main idea in starting to use instagram was both to be inspired and to share, with the lovely community of mums online, what we do in the middle of nowhere in the county of wind and rain! The main ethos of my account is using basic materials, things from around the house, recycled items and kitchen store cupboard basics to craft and play in an inexpensive and convenient way.

The Crafty Mamma - Emma!

We craft, we bake, we play lots of play dough and we love sensory and messy play! Craft and mess with kids can be daunting. Sometimes we all feel the last thing we need in our day is more mess to clean and another job to add to the growing list of household chores. I certainly don’t have endless resources, every craft material under the sun and a huge amount of space to make mess in. So, I thought I’d put together a list of 5 easy crafts that should be quick to set up, fun for the kids, don’t require you to spend your savings in Hobbycraft, and (hopefully) will only take minutes to clean up.


If you can craft in the garden do it! Less tidying up and not as conscious of mess. If inside cover your table with anything, newspaper is a good one you might have to hand or scrap paper. Or I like to keep the kids birthday party tablecloths, cut them in 4 and use them as craft table covers until they get too manky and have to be binned. I have a couple of old tatty tablecloths that I use as well as I can throw them in the washing machine and use again and again.


Traditionally this activity is used for 0-2 year olds who can’t be trusted with real paints yet! But this can also be adapted in lots of ways for slightly older ones to practise writing letters and numbers and learning about colour mixing. Which makes it great for siblings to do at the same time and makes for a great ‘baby’s first painting’ momento.

What you need

  • Plastic wallet/ziplock bag
  • Paint
  • Cereal box
  • Sticky tape
  • Pen

How to

  • Cut one side off the cereal box (smaller than the plastic wallet) and draw a simple design with your pen.
  • Put spots of paint dotted about randomly across the design. More paint is more squidgy sensory feels so be generous.
  • Pop it inside the plastic wallet and seal the open edge with the sticky tape.
  • (Should be fairly secure but as with any activity I wouldn’t recommend leaving the child unattended just in case)
  • Tape the wallet down for littler ones onto the table/ high chair tray. I’ve stuck it to a lap tray before and let my 10 month old explore it sat on the floor. Your choice!
  • Let the squidging commence.
  • When it looks gallery worthy or they’ve had enough. Leave for a few mins then take out of the wallet. I wash and reuse the wallets to reduce my plastic waste!
  • Leave to dry. You can go over the design again with a pen to smarten it up. Or leave it as it.
  • Finished!

Notes - If you don’t have paints, you could use yogurt mixed with food colouring, to achieve the same sensory fun for baby. But obviously it isn’t something you could keep

Explore colour mixing by putting dots of different colours on each side of the bag and let them have fun squishing the colours together


We do this all the time. It’s simple but so effective and so fun too. I would do this age 2 plus. I like that the possibilities are endless and this could be easily adapted to any theme. If it’s something they’re interested in your chances of them engaging are higher. I like using the cereal box card for this as it’s reasonably sturdy and so my son will take what we’ve made and play with it. Which I think is lovelier than just sticking on a fridge.

What you need

  • cereal box side as a card base
  • Glue stick
  • Kitchen foil
  • Magazine/coloured paper/food packets/ junk mail
  • Crayons
  • Scissors

How to

  • My example here is to make a fish but you could make whatever you want with the above items. My son had a bit of a finding dory moment and he was studying ‘under the sea’ theme at preschool.
  • Draw a fish shape onto your cereal box card.
  • Cut up your collage pieces. So for us I wanted lots of shiny scales and some colourful ones too. I ripped the foil and paper up with my hands just to be quick.
  • Lay out the crayons, the pieces and the glue stick and you’re ready to create!

Notes - For a young toddler you could even cover the fish body with glue before you start so all they have to do is stick and crayon the face

An older child could cut the collage pieces out and the shape out themselves.

Doesn’t just have to be paper based. Use Pom poms, sticks, leaves, flowers, sequins, wool, anything you want. The more textures and sensory the play the better! If you want to put out paints too then go for it.

We use a lot of non recyclable plastic in this way to upcycle it instead of it going into landfill. Non recyclable wrapping paper is another great thing to keep for doing collages with.


If it all goes wrong the whole lot can just go in the bin and is so easy to tidy up.

If they’re not interested I just put the whole lot in a tub/sandwich bag and keep it in the cupboard for a rainy day. And put it out again and see if you have any more luck.


The reason I love salt dough is because every time my child makes something cute out of play dough he wants to keep it and it goes gross and goes in the bin. Not before crumbling and being smushed into the carpet a little for good measure.

Salt dough solves these problems and also it’s cheaper than play dough, it’s super simple to make, and you can make so many things with it to extend other play, make seasonal ornaments/ gifts. If you’re feeling super crafty you can even make your own play resources, numbers, letters, fossils, play food, such a cheap way (if you have the time or energy) to make things to play with. You could be making letters for future use in a five minute Mum game while your little one has endless fun cutting, squishing and moulding and honing some lovely fine motor skills.

What you need

  • 3/4 cup salt
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • Water
  • Paint/pens to decorate (optional)

How to

  • Mix the salt and the flour in a bowl and pour water bit by bit into the bowl, mixing, until a ball of dough starts to come together. Then get your hands in and knead it together to form a smooth ball of dough.
  • This takes about 2 mins!
  • If you don’t want to decorate after you can colour the dough with food colouring by mixing it into your water before adding. We did that when making our little lizard above.
  • You’re ready to go!

You could use play dough tools if you have them. You could use plastic cutlery and a rolling pin, cookie cutters (all age appropriately of course) or just completely freestyle with your hands! Use toy animals to make imprints and foot prints.

  • Play exactly as you would with play dough.Once your shapes are ready pop them on a baking tray in a really low oven for a couple of hours.
  • Or alternatively you can put them in the microwave for 1 min at a time until hard and dry. Usually I find around 12 small items on my microwave plate takes 10 mins in total. I am an absolute microwave method convert for the speed! But watch out they get scalding hot after a minute or two.

If decorating do what you like! Felt tip pens work on hard salt dough as do paints. If you want to keep them for a long time then you need to varnish them, a common easy varnish to use is clear nail polish. If you’re not bothered about longevity don’t bother!

If there is some left over at the end of play I just cut out plain circles as I can draw/ write what I like on them later to use in other play or being them out with some paints or pens on a rainy day and let my kids decorate them as a quick activity.

You can also use wholemeal flour to give a rougher very tactile texture that is so lovely I don’t bother painting them. Here my eldest made a lizard and we made some toy cookies together to play with. I recently also made wholemeal letter stones to use in learning activities


I do with craft exactly what five minute mum does with her games - the golden rule!

And sometimes I’ll make 2 bases for the collage and start crafting or obv with the salt dough start getting stuck in. Pretty quickly there’s a little person wanting to join in. Often we have fun making the dough together too!


I first did this when my eldest was just turned 3. If they don’t fully understand what they’re supposed to be doing it could be very messy! So it’s probably a preschool upwards art. This technique is commonly used to make firework pictures but I think it’s great for making any animal that is leggy; Spiders, octopus, jellyfish, monsters and also stars, suns, flowers.

What you’ll need

  • Loo roll
  • Scissors
  • Paper
  • Paint
  • Paper plate/bowl suitable for paint use

How to

  • Cut slits into the toilet roll to about 1/2 of the way down.
  • Cut as many as you need for the activity.
  • To make these spiders I cut 4 on each side with a little gap in between (see below) to create the spider like shape. Good opportunity for scissor practice if your little one is old enough.
  • Put a good squirt of paint onto your paper plate or bowl .
  • Dip and stamp onto the paper!
  • You can draw on any facial features/ add googly eyes at the end if making an animal.

The no mess paintings and these make great homemade greetings cards! Our family absolutely love receiving them as they have that personal touch (also saves the side if your own fridge being so covered you can’t find the handle if you’re the type of mum like I am who can’t bear to throw their art away!)


This is a really nice one for any age as I deliberately use wax crayons so that even my 1 yo can have a scribble and make one! You’ll see much fancier versions of sun catchers online made with cellophane, and tissue with cut out borders etc but I designed this activity to be a simple, easy and non fiddly way to achieve a pretty effect. And again I try to use only things you’ll have in your house already to be both cost effective and mean you can grab the things and get started on any given rainy day when you need to amuse the kids.

What you need

  • Greaseproof paper
  • Scissors
  • Crayons
  • String (you could hang them with just sticky tape if you don’t have any)
  • Small stick - I got ours from the garden

How to

  • Cut a butterfly shape out of greaseproof paper that is the right size roughly for your stick to be its body
  • Colour with wax crayons on either side
  • Fold the butterfly down the middle
  • Carefully poke 2 holes along that central crease
  • Attach a piece of string to the centre of your little stick and thread it through your two holes keeping the string in the middle
  • Hang up by the string like fluttering butterflies and enjoy!!
  • You could of course make any shape you like, anything that might interest your child or fit in with their current learning topic at school or play prompts online etc.
  • I plan on making cut out snowflakes like this in the winter. And covering the back door pane with them.

That’s it for my 5 simple quick craft ideas! Of course if you have any questions please send me a message over on my Instagram page @thecraftymamma and of course if you do make any of them please send me a picture or tag me in your photos I would absolutely love to see them! Hope this has been helpful for a few of you and thanks for reading x

Thanks Emma for this fabulous blog - such simple ideas. I’m definitely going to be giving them a go! FMM x

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