If you’re stuck indoors with kids, you know how quickly their pent up energy can become a problem. Here are some ideas for entertaining young kids indoors. Some of the activities require adult assistance, and some of the activities are more independent after the initial setup.
Play Balloon Tennis – Blow up a balloon for each child and give them a paper plate to hit it with. You can make the paper plate more like a racket by using duct tape or packing tape to attach a large wooden craft stick (think tongue depressor).
Have a dance party. – This is the easiest and quickest way for me to entertain my daughter. I turn on iTunes or Pandora, or I put in one of her CDs and we boogie down. Sometimes I bring out scarves or a balloon for added fun.
Bake something – Most kids love to help in the kitchen. Remember this is not about the final product here so much as it is about the process. Get out all the baking tools and break down the measurements so the kids can really participate. Cupcakes are probably the easiest thing to make and come with lots of steps perfect for kids (putting paper liners in the pan and decorating the frosting at the end).
Bowling – Do your kids have a soft indoor bowling set? If not, use some empty plastic water bottles or cardboard tubes (five or six will do) along with a small soft ball and you’re in business.
Sort the toys. – I realize this doesn’t sound like a fun activity, but young kids actually enjoy the challenge of sorting and they like to be big helpers too. Once in a while, I pull out my daughter’s toy bins from around the house and she and I go through them to sort the toys into three piles; trash, give-away, and belongs elsewhere. I usually do this after Christmas and my daughter’s birthday. She enjoys helping me, and I get to see which toys she’s actually ready to let go of. Added bonus: she usually re-discovers a toy that’s been long-forgotten and it provides new entertainment for a good while.
Create a sensory sink/tub. – I’m not sure why, but young kids love to play with water. I occasionally add a small amount of water to the sink or tub along with some water beads, foam pieces, bubbles, ice cubes, and anything else I can think of to make for an interesting sensory experience. I also provide some spoons, scoops, and bowls for added exploration.
Play store. Gather materials such as apples, toys, boxes from the recycling bin, etc…, and take turns being customer and cashier. If you don’t have a toy cash register, just use a calculator.
Have an indoor snowball fight. Wad up some paper to make “snow balls” and start tossing. Use blankets or boxes to make forts for added fun. In place of paper, you can use pom poms, or cotton balls.
Make a game out of doing chores. – Lately, my three year old is turning everything into a race, so I try to use that to my advantage. We race when folding laundry (she’s in charge of the wash cloths and matching the socks). We also race when picking up the toys. This racing is a great way to spend some time together and also get something accomplished. And if there’s a prize at the end…all the better.
Build something. Use blocks, tinker toys, etc…to build structures. Add an element of difficulty by setting challenges such as building the tallest or the fastest, etc… Make it a novel experience by building with something you don’t usually use such as paper cups or marshmallows and toothpicks.
Make a band with impromptu instruments. – Go through the recycling bin and kitchen cabinets to come up with some makeshift instruments. Then have the kids play along to popular kid songs such as “Twinkle Little Star” or “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” You could even turn it into a marching band and parade around the house practicing the high-step. Check out our snare drum craft made from recycled materials.
Play some traditional kids’ games like “Duck, Duck, Goose”, Ring around the Rosies,” “London Bridge is Falling Down”or “Hide and Seek.”
Play with cardboard boxes. Make this a free play game by letting kids climb inside big boxes and draw on them with crayons or markers. Or maybe they want to stack them or build a fort. Imagination is key here.
Paint! – I oftentimes give my daughter blank drawing paper and some washable paints and let her free paint. I provide a paintbrush or cotton swab for each color of paint she wants to use (only a few at a time) and then just let her make some art. If you’re worried about this being too messy do it in a dry tub where it (and the kid) can be easily washed clean.
Make some sort of sensory dough. – There are numerous recipes online for a variety of sensory doughs including homemade play dough. Once you’ve made the dough, give it to the child along with some utensils, and let the creative play begin. If you need a recipe, check out my Playdough board on Pinterest.
If all else fails and you’re at your wits’ end, maybe it’s time to let technology take over. You can check out my post about free, fun, and educational apps for preschoolers as well as my list of YouTube channels we love.
I hope you find some useful ideas here of things to do with young kids when you’re stuck indoors. Feel free to share more ideas in the comment section below.