When it is raining, freezing or sweltering outside you may feel like you are trapped in a loony bin with your kids. However having fun activities to do can help cut the boredom and make even indoor play fun. Here are some easy and affordable indoor friendly kid activities for those days you are stuck inside:
Book Poetry – Here is an activity that can change with children’s learning levels. An easy way to make book poetry is with the titles of books. Lay down books to see the titles on their spines and then stack them up to create fun poems. If your kids are older they can also create poetry by cutting out words or phrases from magazines and newspapers to create poems. Or mark over all the words in an article or page except the ones for their poem to create a found poem.
Car Wash – A somewhat messy but fun activity for car obsessed kids is to create a car wash. Use a tray or baking sheet and cover up some toy cars in shaving cream. Give kids a spray bottle and rag to ‘wash the cars’. They can also drive the cars around in the shaving cream to make fun tire tracks. A great sensory activity!
Cardboard Catapult – Using a piece of cardboard and a sturdy fulcrum, create your own catapult! This also works well with small plastic trays. Set a fulcrum in the center of the bottom of the tray and attach firmly. Then attach a shallow cup or lid to one side to hold the things your child will launch. Paper balls, pomp oms, or other light objects work well. Lean it back and the kids can flip the ball again and again. Create a paper target for more precise shooting!
Dig Them Up – A sensory bin is a great way to keep kids entertained. One idea is to use rice or beans and then hide a bunch of small toys in it. Have the kids use tools to dig out the toys and have fun pouring and scooping. You can also use sand and dinosaurs to create an archeologist training ground. Have kids use paint brushes to carefully uncover the dinosaurs and make discoveries.
Fun With Balls – While playing with balls indoors sounds like a recipe for trouble you can find ways to do it safely. First of all, start out with soft balls. Nerf balls, bean bag balls, and ping pong balls work great. One way to focus the ball fun is to create a carnival game. Cut holes in a box and label each hole with a score. Higher points for smaller holes, lower points for bigger ones. Kids can even practice their math skills by adding up points to see who won. You can do something similar with plastic cups. Tape them together to make a ball toss and use a line of tape to have kids toss the ball from behind and see how many they can get in. If you have stairs you can set up empty boxes on the stairs and have kids throw the balls up, or down, and see how many they can get in. Some kids have fun just watching the balls roll down the stairs! Spider ball is another fun game. Use tape to create a spider web in a door frame and then have kids toss newspaper balls to see how many will stick. Your kids can play a version of pinball with ping pong balls as well. Set up a table with obstacles and have them use a straw or pencil to shoot the balls down the table towards a goal. Or play ball air hockey with cups taped under the table as they try to make a goal while the other person tries to block and goal themselves.
Ninja Practice – A fun and easy way to keep kids busy is with ninja practice. In a narrow hallway, use masking or painters tape to create ‘lasers’ for kids to dodge. Then watch and laugh as the kids try to wriggle, jump and squirm their way through without touching the lasers.
Old Fashioned Whirligig – This old fashioned toy is very easy to make and kids love it. Using a round piece of cardboard and some yarn you can make this in seconds. Punch a hole in the cardboard circle and thread the yarn through. Tie finger holes in the ends of the yarn so it doesn’t come unraveled and it is easy to hold. Then have kids hold the ends of the yarn and spin the circle around. Once it gets going they can tighten and loosen the yarn to see how it affects the spinning wheel.
On the Road Again – Create your own roadways using painters or masking tape. Lay down some ‘roads’ across your floor, windows, walls and more. Kids can drive their toy cars everywhere and use up some of that energy. You can create a raceway ramp out of a stack of books and a cookie sheet. You can also use butcher paper or posters to have kids draw their own roads with markers. They can also create bridges and parking garages out of Legos or other building toys. A box can become a fire station or train station. Just let your imagination go wild.
Oven Fun – Create your own play oven with a cardboard box. Cut out a door for the oven part and draw on burners for the stove top. You can even add in knobs made of bottle tops for extra effect. Give your kids some plastic bowls or old cookware to mix up their own pretend food.
Paper Boomerangs – A fun active indoor craft is making paper boomerangs. All you need is three sturdy strips of paper, bookmark sized. Tape them together forming a triangle at the center. Packing tape works well. Then have kids toss them like a boomerang! It flies through the air like a helicopter and since it is paper it is not heavy enough to break anything.
Pretend Wallet – As much as some kids love digging through mom’s purse or dad’s wallet, you might want to give them one of their own. Get a cheap wallet or use an old one of yours and add in empty gift cards, expired store cards, and even game trading cards. Some fake money and coins can add to the realism. Then let the kids have fun playing banker, making change, and yanking out the cards.
Ribbon Dancing – If you have even seen those ribbon wands then you know how much fun kids can have with this (mostly damage free) activity. Take a short stick and attach a long length of ribbon to one end. Then let kids dance around the house with it, making it whip and flow with their movements.
Seek and Spell – For a fun learning activity you can do fast and easy, try hiding letters in rice. Have the kids sift through the rice, using a slotted spoon or the like, to find each letter. Then match the letters to the picture, toy, or stuffed animal on the table. Pigs, cats, bells, dogs, cars and such work great! For younger kids you can write the words next to the image and they can match up the letters. Or you can hide small toys in the rice and have toddlers match them to the picture on the table. Endless variations for stages of learning are possible!
As you can see there are tons of fun things to do indoors with kids. Best of all, these ideas are easy, affordable and mostly not messy. Try one of these adventures with your kids the next time you are stuck indoors.
Ken Myers is a father of three and passionate about great childcare. He’s always looking for ways to help families find the support they need to live fuller, richer lives. Find out more about expert childcare by checking out @go_nannies on Twitter.