Free or cheap Easter kids' activities at home

Free or cheap Easter kids' activities at home

Including cheap Easter baking, make your own 'Play-Doh', virtual tours & family movies on free TV

With all that's going on, you could be forgiven for forgetting Easter is this Sunday (4 April), so we've rounded up some egg-citing free or cheap activities you can do with the kids, from baking and watching movies to taking a virtual trip to the farm and getting crafty.

All of these ideas you can do from home or the local area, and where you need ingredients or materials, we've tried to pick things that you'll hopefully already have. So let's get cracking!

Easter baking with just a few cheap ingredients you may already have at home

Is it even Easter without baking? If you have a bit of flour, margarine and sugar then you can make cheap vegan biscuits using this BBC Good Food recipe. You could always make them more egg-citing using a little bit of orange or lemon zest, or whatever flavouring you can get your hands on.

TOP TIP: Halve or quarter the recipe if you don't have enough flour (or enough of a substitute ingredient), or if you just want to save a bit more money by using less. You'll still get some biscuits to decorate and eat at the end.

If you don't have decorating icing, you can colour some white icing with food dye, put it in a sealable sandwich bag and snip off the corner to make your own.

MSE Jules' homemade vegan Easter biscuits
Here's MSE Jules' colourful attempt at making free-handed Easter biscuits – what do you reckon?

Chocolate nests – cheap and simple to make, and good if you've no flour

There's a number of ways you can customise a chocolate nest recipe, such as the one at BBC Food. You can use shredded wheat, popped rice or cornflake breakfast cereals if your usual choice is sold out. You can also use whatever chocolate you have, and replace the butter with margarine or even oil if need be. As long as an adult melts the chocolate, kids can get involved with every other stage quite easily.

TOP TIP: If you've an egg-shaped chocolate mould, you can make your chocolate 'nests' into egg shapes directly – good if you can't get shredded wheat or cornflakes for some tasty rice krispie chocolate 'eggs'.

MSE Rhiannon's vegan rice crispy Easter nests
MSE Rhiannon didn't have any chocolate eggs, so used macadamia nuts instead. She also used popped spelt and amaranth as well as popped rice cereal, plus mixed in some dairy-free chocolate and hazelnut spread instead of butter

Beam the Easter bunny into your home for free

Thanks to Google's augmented-reality search feature, you can beam a virtual Easter bunny into your home. You'll need to have Google Chrome on your phone, then search for 'Easter bunny'. Click the 'view in 3D button', then 'view in your space' and you should see the bunny hopping about your room on your device's screen.

It works for other animals too, including a tiger, shark, pug, penguin, hedgehog and lion. To access this feature, your device will need to be AR (augmented reality) enabled, so this might not work on some older phones. The easiest way to find out is to try it.

40+ family movies on free-to-air TV including Harry Potter, Despicable Me and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

There's a good selection of movies on TV this Easter for when the kids take a break from arts & crafts, or when you need a break from the kids. Below is a day-by-day round-up, including a mix of family movies that are on free-to-air TV, plus some that require a paid subscription such as Netflix or Prime.

  • Movie Time Channel
    The Karate Kid (1984, 12A) 9.10am Sony Movies
    Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy! (2006, U) 9.25am Children's ITV
    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005, U) 9.55am ITV2
    Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001, PG) 2.55pm ITV2
    Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster (2011, PG) 5pm CBBC
    Hotel Transylvania (2012, U) 5.10pm Dave
    Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002, PG) 5.55pm ITV2
    Transformers: The Last Knight (2016, 12) 5.55pm Film4
  • Movie Time Channel
    Scooby-Doo! Curse of the Lake Monster (2011, PG) 10.15am CBBC
    A Dog's Purpose (2016, PG) 10.20am E4
    Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (2017, U) 11am Film4
    Shrek The Third (2007, U) 12.50pm Film4
    Nanny McPhee (2005, U) 1.10pm ITV2
    Big Momma's House (2000, 12) 1.30pm Channel 5
    Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (2012, PG) 2.35pm Film4
    Despicable Me (2010, U) 3.15pm ITV2
    The Emoji Movie (2017, U) 3.25pm Channel 5
    Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992, PG) 4.20pm Film4
    Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015, U) 5.10pm Dave
    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004, PG) 5.20pm ITV2
    Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009, 12) 6pm E4
    Mrs Doubtfire (1993, 12A) 6.40pm Film4
    Wonder Woman (2017, 12) 8pm ITV2
  • Movie Time Channel
    Flushed Away (2006, U) 11am Film4
    Shrek Forever After (2010, U) 12.45pm Film4
    Hop (2011, U) 1.20pm ITV2
    Ferdinand (2017, U) 2.30pm Film4
    The Tiger Who Came to Tea (2019, U) 2.35pm E4
    Peter Rabbit (2018, PG) 3.10pm E4
    Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005, 12) 3.15pm ITV2
    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005, U) 3.20pm ITV
    The Simpsons Movie (2007, PG) 3.40pm Channel 4
    Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968, U) 4.10pm Channel 5
    Grease (1978, PG) 5.55pm Channel 4
    Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011, 12) 6pm E4
    Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007, 12) 6.20pm ITV2
    We Bought a Zoo (2011, U) 6.35pm Film4
  • Movie Time Channel
    Hop (2011, U) 10.30am ITV2
    The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008, PG) 11am Film4
    Hotel for Dogs (2009, U) 12.50pm Film4
    Hotel Transylvania (2012, U) 2pm Dave
    Despicable Me (2010, U) 4pm ITV2
    Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001, PG) 6.05pm ITV2
    Bumblebee (2018, PG) 6.45pm Film4
    Skyscraper (2018, 12) 9pm Film4
  • If you have a Netflix subscription, here are some picks:

    • Bee Movie (2007, U)
    • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005, PG)
    • Duck Duck Goose (2018, PG)
    • Gnomeo & Juliet (2011, U)
    • Madagascar (2005, U)
    • Matilda (1996, PG)
    • Minions (2015, U)
    • Shrek The Third (2007, U)
    • Shrek: Forever After (2010, U)
    • The BFG (2016, PG)
    • Watership Down (2018, 12)

    If you have an Amazon Prime subscription, here are some picks:

    • Early Man (2018, PG)
    • Fantastic Mr Fox (2009, PG)
    • Hop (2011, U)
    • Lego Batman Movie (2017, PG)
    • Madagascar (2005, U)
    • Paddington (2014, PG)
    • Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon (2020, U)
    • Shrek 2 (2004, U)
    • The Spiderwick Chronicles (2007, PG)
    • Yogi Bear (2010, U)

Make your own 'Play-Doh' salt dough to save on the branded cost

Branded Play-Doh usually costs about £4 for a pack of four 112g tubs, but you can easily make your own playdough cheaper. You only need four common household ingredients (vegetable oil, plain flour, table salt and food colouring, plus warm water), which should cost about £3ish total, and you'll be able to make more than four small tubs, so you'll save money in the long run. You can use an online recipe, such as BBC Good Food's playdough recipe.

Homemade Play-Doh salt dough
Remember to store it in plastic wrap or an airtight container if you want to reuse your dough, but dough-n't eat it!

TOP TIPS: Use less food colouring to make a lighter shade, eg, make pink playdough with a small drop of red food colouring. It's probably best to make lighter colours anyway, as the salt dough can stain clothes and other soft furnishings.

MSE Rhiannon warns not to let the kids loose with red food dye. Her dad still has nightmares about the time her sister got hold of red food dye – literally catching her red-handed.

Free virtual museum tours including the Natural History Museum and Anne Frank House

Some of the most famous museums in the world offer free online tours, where you can take a virtual 'walk' around the exhibits, as if you were actually there. Here are a few of the top tours...

Natural History Museum

You don't need to be in London to enjoy one of its most popular museums. The National History Museum has several virtual tours online including The Fantastic Beasts Wonder of Nature exhibition, an audio-guided tour from Sir David Attenborough, or take a virtual walk around at your own pace and zoom in on the museum's thousands of specimens.

Anne Frank House

Have a wander through the hiding place where Anne Frank spent over two years during World War II and wrote her diary. There are then a further seven settings within the house for you to explore.

The British Museum

Closer to home, London's British Museum covers the history of cultures across the world. You can take a virtual walk through the museum at Google Arts & Culture, or take a look at this interactive timeline dating back to 2,000,000 BC, where you can select various artefacts that are housed in the museum and learn more about them through images, text and audio.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

The ecology of African elephants, the skeleton of a massive sea turtle, human evolution, and of course dinosaurs are just some of the exhibits in this Washington DC museum. You could spend a lot of time in here as it's a biggie, spanning three floors. As if it were Night at the Museum, you've got the whole place to yourself, even the empty café… which seems a tad odd, but it does contain a jaws-dropping 52-foot-long model of a mega-toothed shark.

Watch animals spring onto your screen with free virtual farm tours

We're now into spring, and for families that often means a trip to the local open farm for a peek at some cute little lambs and other farm favourites.

Animal Farm Adventure Park in Burnham-on-Sea gives a virtual tour on its Facebook page or YouTube channel, introducing us to its resident animals – including pigs, llamas, George the raccoon and triplet lambs (all together now... "awwww"). Here's one of its videos...

Virtual Open Farm Sunday including free tours & cookery demos

Open Farm Sunday is a popular annual event where hundreds of farms across the UK open their gates to the public for a baaa-gain day out. As farm visits can't happen in-person right now, the organisers set up a virtual Open Farm Sunday on 28 March 2021 – you can watch all the videos of the farm tours, food growing and cooking demos, and more at the Open Farm Sunday Facebook page.

Compare the meerkats and more animals at Chester Zoo with free virtual video tours

For more exotic animals, Chester Zoo has opened up its virtual gates with various tours around the zoo, introducing its red pandas, Asian elephants, tigers and more. Check out all the past virtual zoo days at the Chester Zoo YouTube channel:

  • Day 1 – red pandas, giraffes, Asian elephants, Sumatran tiger and penguins
  • Day 2 – meerkats, rhinos, frogs, jaguars, okapi and more
  • Day 3 – tree kangaroo, lions, komodo dragons, chameleon and penguin chicks
  • Day 4 – otters, elephants, aardvarks and more
  • Day 5 – red river hogs, chimpanzees, cassowary and python snake
  • Day 6 – red panda, Asian elephants, crocodiles, orangutans and more
  • Day 7 – bears, otters, bugs and sloths
  • Day 8 – penguins, giraffes, tiger and aquarium life
  • Day 9 – marsupials, okapi and meerkats

Here are the baby meerkats...

Embedded YouTube Video

For live zoo cameras across the world and other virtual experiences, see MSE Oli's guide to virtual globe-trotting and tours.

Free Peter Rabbit and Friends audiobook

Audiobook service Audible has released hundreds of kids' audiobooks for free. You don't even need to have an Audible account or sign up to one to listen.

Along with big titles, such as Winnie the Pooh and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, it also includes Timeless Tales of Beatrix Potter: Peter Rabbit and Friends – a 20-chapter audiobook lasting over three hours.

The National Gallery free online creative sessions

Pre-pandemic, The National Gallery in London offered free art workshops and drawing sessions aimed at children during school holidays. For this Easter break, it's offering free virtual sessions, including:

  • 'Decoding pictures – discover how to piece together clues in paintings' (Wednesday 7 April at 3pm or Thursday 15 April at 11am). Most suitable for age eight and over.
  • 'A mindful moment – take time out as a family and be transported into a painting through mindful looking and drawing' (Thursday 8 April at 3pm). Most suitable for age eight and over.
  • 'Musical tales – online musical storytelling' (Tuesday 13 April at 11am or 3pm). Suitable for families with children under five.
  • 'Story studio – wander into a painting with a storyteller, then make-along with an artist' (Wednesday 14 April at 11am). Most suitable for age four and over.

These online events are hosted via Zoom, but you won't be required to have your camera on. You'll need to pre-book and an adult must be present throughout the whole session. To take part you may need some materials such as sheets of paper, a pencil or pen and a gluestick.

Raid your recycling to make cheap Easter baskets using common household materials

Easter baskets are another popular festive craft, and there are a few quirky ideas at Good Housekeeping which use common household materials, so you shouldn't need to buy anything special. Raid your recycling for empty jam jars and you'll be able to make a decent Mason jar Easter basket.

Of course, you can use anything you have, like a clear plastic bottle or other recycling to make Easter baskets – just make sure to tape any sharp edges if you cut anything up to use before your little one gets involved. You can even paint your old yogurt pots to look like these Micky and Minnie Easter baskets – great fun if you're planning an at-home egg hunt (see below).

Free printable Easter colouring page and card... or make your own

Crafty retailer Hobbycraft has several free Easter-themed activity sheets that you can download and print at home, including this free Easter egg hunt colouring page or free Easter card.

If you're feeling really creative, have a go at designing your own card with the kids – it's fun, and MoneySaving too. Have a look around the house for items you can repurpose. A good place to start is the recycling bin – just don't let the lil' darlings raid your stash of expensive headed paper you use for work.

For some inspiration, here's the card MSE Jules made from coloured paper, a black Sharpie and double-sided sticky tape:

MSE Jules' homemade Easter card
Look at the size of that egg... definitely a velociraptor. Run, bunny!

TOP TIP: Reuse cut-outs from any past Easter decorations you've squirrelled away.

At-home Easter egg or scavenger hunt, including free downloadable clues

A big part of Easter is the fun of a scavenger hunt! You can always hide small chocolate eggs in foil around the home, or if you've not got any eggs, why not use small toys or other treats instead? If you already have reusable plastic eggs that pop apart (think the inside of Kinder Surprise eggs), then you're set – but otherwise small Tupperware or plastic food containers filled with snacks, choc, small toys or even jokes would work.

Hobbycraft has free clue sheets you can print to help you set up the hunt, or they're eggs-tremely easy to make yourself if you've got paper and pens.

MSE Jules' cute homemade clue cards

For a socially distanced Easter hunt, you can print off free Easter scavenger hunt templates online from Hobbycraft – share them with neighbours who each put an Easter character design in their window, such as a chick, lamb or bunny – then use the prompt sheet to mark off the Easter characters as you spot them in the local area.

What are you planning to do with the kids over Easter? Do you have any top Easter craft ideas? Let us know in the comments below, or on Twitter.