These 20 indoor activities for kids are fun for children of all ages – and will keep them out of your hair for awhile!
By Lora O’Brien
With an almost-two-year-old toddler running around my feet most days, it can be tough being stuck indoors. And though I loved watching Frozen, there are only so many times I can listen to my kid scream through ‘Let It Go’ without wanting to start happy hour at 10am.
Parents, I know you feel me. It’s so tempting to pop the tots in front of a screen when they’re bored, but please – refrain.
Why? Well here are some messed up facts!
According to Rally Health, 92 percent of babies had used a mobile device before their first birthday. Say what???!
They go on to say that nearly 35 percent have their own mobile device at age 2 and that number is 75 percent among 4-year-olds. Nearly a quarter of kids ages 2 and under have TVs in their rooms, and at age 4, almost 50 percent do. I’m sorry – but that just reeks of lazy parenting in my book! And perhaps ignorance. Do parents not understand that the electromagnetic fields from phones, iPads and other devices increase our children’s chances of developing leukemia, cancer and other serious illnesses?
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that screen time may also impair the normal development of fundamental learning, language, and emotional skills. They strongly discourage any electronic media use by children under 2 and warn that screen time also takes away from unstructured play time, which is important for learning and problem solving.
Research has shown that even ‘good old fashioned’ TV can slow language development in kids by displacing time spent interacting with caregivers. Digital devices might have a similar effect. “TV reduces speech between parents and their infants and toddlers,” says David Hill, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media Executive Committee. “It’s really that casual, everyday speech that helps them develop language skills.”
But there’s more: some experts worry that using digital devices to entertain kids or keep them distracted while you shop may prevent them from learning how to deal with boredom and stress.
Additionally, it seems there’s an epidemic amongst youngsters of myopia (short sightedness), and this may be due to heavy use of screen time. For example? In In Seoul, South Korea, a whopping 96.5 percent of 19-year-old men wear glasses. The reason for this may be a lack of exposure to natural sunlight, which is important for proper eye development.
As you probably know, the use of wifi devices has been linked to shorter, lower quality sleep, in both children and adults. And children who sleep less are likely to suffer from anxiety, depression and learning disabilities.
And finally, several studies have found that the more TV or screens children watch, the more like they are to be overweight. Kids with TVs in their bedrooms particularly at risk, and childhood screen-time habits also affect the risk of being overweight as adults.
The takeaway? Screen time and the use of smartphones and tablets is much more likely to do your children more harm than good. So, if you’re looking for lots of ways to limit screen time and have your kids actually having FUN while they’re indoors, then I’ve got lots of activities. Check out these 20 indoor activities for kids below – there’s bound to be something your little ones will love!
What To Do With Kids When You’re Stuck Indoors
This was my favourite thing to do as a kid, and I challenge you to find any child of any age under say, 10, that doesn’t love building a fun fort to play in!
Whether you use a bed, a sofa or a table, finding blankets to drape over and cushions to throw inside, these dens are the perfect fun activity that will provide endless of hours of fun. Read books inside, have a picnic or if you’re super creative, you can even turn it into a makeshift cinema. Which leads me to the next activity…
Since visiting the cinema is out of the question for many of us in quarantine, why not bring the cinema to your home? I love this idea and can’t wait to try it when my little girl is just that little bit older. If your kids are going a little stir-crazy being locked inside – and honestly, who isn’t?! – give them something to look forward to.
Make cinema tickets and give them a time that the movie will start. Use the above den as the cinema, or simply use your living room as the cinema. And if you’re super extra – why not make a little concessions stand? This is one of my favourite indoor activities for kids. Adorable!
Hurray! A sports game your kiddies can play inside that won’t break any valuables! Who knew a balloon could be so versatile? This is a fabulous way to use up any lingering birthday balloons you have and use them to reinvent lots of fun sports for the little ones.
From volleyball to tennis, these balloon sports are super fun for kids of ALL ages, and it’s one of the best indoor activities for kids if you’re looking to help them burn off some energy. Bonus!
This one is perfect for all ages but is especially great for toddlers who are getting a little bored. My almost-two-year-old LOVES to make noise, and so these DIY rainmakers are a fun way to let her do just that – and it’s not all that irritating for me to hear, either!
You can use cardboard from empty toilet rolls to make these, so they’re pretty inexpensive to make. These use dried beans, but you could use anything you have on hand, from dried popcorn to tiny stones. (Always supervise little ones with all toys, but especially these in case they open!)
When I was younger, I used to have a friend who would find empty snail shells and paint them. I loved seeing the bright colours littered around the garden and I so traded snail shells for stones!
Now, whenever we go for a walk with my girl, I always try and find flat stones that are perfect for painting. You can get all ages involved in this one (so long as you don’t mind the mess) and there are SO many ways to paint them. Let them paint pretty patterns, or create stones that can tell a story or be educational in learning. My little girl loves her alphabet stones.
What to do with the stack of coloured card most parents have stored in a cupboard somewhere? Turn them into these cute and colourful paper strip rainbows! These are really simple but so much fun to make, and you can tape them to the kids’ bedroom walls as decoration later!
I don’t know what’s going on in your country, but here in the UK, families are putting rainbows in their window to cheer up other families when they go outside for exercise, and these are the perfect ones to use!
Ok, this one may have you reaching for the Aspirin, depending on how big your house is and how thick your doors are. But I reiterate: anything that makes a noise is usually a winner for any kid I know! And who knows? You may just be cultivating a musical interest in the next Amy Winehouse or Mick Jagger.
Now is a great time to grow some herbs and veggies, if you don’t already do so. And what better way to grow food than by turning old tin cans into planters? You can grow a surprising array of fruits, veggies and herbs at home that are really easy to get started and super fun for the kids to help plant and maintain. The easiest fruits and veggies to grow are strawberries and tomatoes, but you can also just grow houseplants if you want.
Teaching kids how to grow plants is an important lesson in where our food comes from. And when the plants get to be too big for the tins, you can transfer them together to larger pots or the garden.
Fact: Just about every parent hates when the playdough comes out. In fact, for some of us, it makes us shudder in horror when we imagine where the playdough will end up. While many parents fear it being trodden into their carpet, my fear is it being shoved up my daughter’s nose or being eaten before I can stop her.
Well, this DIY non-toxic playdough is one of the easiest indoor activities for kids to make. It can be made with just a handful of ingredients and is even safe if it accidentally ends up being eaten! Lay down a messy mat and let them have fun with cookie cutters.
If you don’t already know Stick Man off by heart, then you’re lucky! My daughter went through a phase of reading the book 5x a night, and I didn’t even have to read the pages as it was burned into my memory forever! However, it’s a really lovely (kind of) story and this is an adorable way of combining nature with craft to make your kiddos a stick family of their own.
If you don’t have googly
This is a simple and free activity and one that can really get your children concentrating. Find toys and other objects around the house that have a distinctive form. Place them in the sun on top of paper and then use a pencil to trace their shadows. It’s really fun seeing all the different shaped shadows you can create, and if you have more than one tot, they can then try to guess which object each shadow belongs to.
Looking to incorporate nature into your activities? These pinecone bird feeders are a great activity to help the kids make food for the birds. This is yet another craft that will have everyone, from kids to grandparents, happy to get stuck in and involved with. They only take around ten minutes to make, but of course, you will need to hunt for the cones outdoors, first.
Simply coat with peanut butter and then dip into bird seeds. Then you can have fun hanging them in the garden and watching out for the birds. Why not ask them to then make a bird book, where they draw and name each species that visits? This is definitely one of the best indoor activities for kids to teach them about different bird species!
If you’re a parent, then you’ll be all too aware of the slime craze where basically every kid wanted to make their own slime at home. Well, this is just like regular slime, except it’s fluffy and puffy and oodles of fun to make and play with! It’s more foam-like in texture, and kids will LOVE getting their hands dirty with this.
13. Make Chalk Ice
Who doesn’t love sidewalk chalk? I myself spent many childhood years happily colouring in the pavement all the pastel shades of the rainbow. And this is a super fun twist on chalk – using ice! Kiddies will love creating art using these paintsicles. The colours melt together and are super fun to watch as they dissolve into a beautiful mess. Plus, making them is pretty fun, too!
Candy is dandy – unless it sets your kids off running all over the house on a sugar high! The good news is that there are plenty of sugar-free or low sugar candies you can make with the kids at home. Not only will it give them something to do, but it will give them something sweet to eat that’s not packed with tooth-rotting sugar. Get some healthy candy recipes here.
Got a surplus of empty cereal boxes littering your kitchen? I feel you! We seem to hoard these boxes in my household as you never know when you’re going to need an emergency piece of cardboard for a craft project. Well, if you’re looking for something to turn those boxes into, why not make these super cute rainbow mobiles? Once complete, you can hang them in their rooms.
We all need a little break from time to time, more so when we’re all confined in the house together. A scavenger hunt is a great way to send the kids off to steal five or ten minutes all to yourself. This can be as simple or as complex as you like, depending on the age of the kids.
For those under 10, a colour themed scavenger hunt means giving them one or multiple colours and sending them off around the house and garden to collect things of that colour. Super fun, and you can all sit down and see what they managed to find. Why not offer a prize for completing the task? Tell them if they find 10 objects per colour, there’s a cookie or two in it for them!
17. Cook Up A Storm
There are plenty of great recipes you can make with kids, and frankly, it’s always a good idea to teach them this essential life skill! If they’re very little, you can do most of the work, then have them participate in the final details. For example, for these pizzas below, you can prepare the toppings beforehand, and set up little stations where the kids can get creative. But if they’re a bit older, why not teach them how to make something basic – like a delicious sandwich, smoothie or dessert? This is also one of the best indoor activities for kids to pass on your family heritage – why not teach older kids a recipe your mom or grandma taught you?
18. Set Up A Good, Old Fashioned Tea Party
There’s a reason small children love this. It has been one of the most popular indoor activities for kids for centuries! They can ‘hang out’ with their imaginary or stuffed animal friends, and allow their imaginations to run wild. Plus, if you supply some actual ‘tea’ (i.e., juice) and cookies or scones – or better yet, get them to set it up – they’ll feel like they’re really having a party! Place dolls, pets or stuffed animals in a circle, serve the snacks, and allow the little ones to entertain!
19. For Babies, Play With Balloons
Babies can be the hardest children to entertain sometimes. They never get bored of games like ‘peek-a-boo’ – though we do, very easily! And when they’re unhappy, they wail. But if you have some balloons and string on hand, they can stay busy for hours with this idea! Whilst helium balloon work best, if you just have regular ones, that’s fine too – just shorten the strings (and always be sure you tie them very lightly around their wrists and ankles).
The idea is to help baby learn about hand-eye coordination by showing him or her how s/he what happens when s/he moves a limb. Baby will be entertained by not only the movement of the balloons, but their bright colours, too!
20. Make Memories
I know it’s hard and some days feel like SUCH a battle when you’re stuck indoors with children, but try to remember that one day, we’ll all wish we had more time. I’m already looking at my 22 month old thinking when did you get so big? Try to use this time to make memories. My favourite memories, even now, are the times when my parents were relaxed and creative and we did fun things together as a family.
Put on some music and have a dance party. Sit together and read books and have movie nights. Let your little ones have an extended bathtime to let them stay up half hour later before bedtime. Have a family pillow fight. Put a scrapbook of family pics and mementoes together. And always take lots of photos!
Make stuck-inside time as fun as you can, so when your children look back at this unique stage of their lives, all they’ll fondly remember is the precious time you all spent together as a family.