I don’t want to make myself out to sound like I was an unathletic child, but to describe me as an “indoor kid” would not have been an exaggeration. As a pale, freckled sprite, my lack of melanin required me to avoid the sun whenever possible, therefore I lived inside my imagination well into my tweens. The end result? I know a thing or two about entertaining oneself as a child stuck in the house. These
32 best indoor activities for kids were there for me as a child and they're here for me as a parent, too, and I can promise they won't let you down.
This list includes some old favorites in addition to concepts that might leave you scratching your head (but trust me, go with it). The more you endorse these creative options the more likely your kids will be to embrace them. Also, I've tried to include activities that require little to no additional purchases and can be done with whatever you have around the house. Those old toilet paper rolls? Turn them into pretend binoculars. Random snacks in the cupboard can be a round of “guess the food.” Packet of old seeds? Plant them and start tracking their growth. When it comes to fending off boredom at home, imagination is the name of the game. So get creative and your kids will follow your lead.
1 Break out the board games Phynart Studio/E+/Getty Images
If this extended isolation has taught us anything, it’s an appreciation for board games. I just ordered my son Jenga and you would have thought I’d handed him tickets to Disney World. We played for hours. Now is the time to ransack the house for old games like Guess Who?, Clue, and even chess (follow it up with a viewing of
The Queen's Gambit). 2 Paint a picture
Grab some old newspaper, set a space at the dining room table, and break out the washable watercolors. It’s time to channel Mary Cassat or Monet. You might be surprised how engrossed kids get when given some paints and a little background music.
3 Roll out some PlayDoh
If your child is too young for paints, PlayDoh is a great distraction. Again, prep your space with some kind of covering to avoid finding bits of dried dough in the weeks to come. Then grab some cookie cutters, a rolling pin, and anything else that can make shapes.
4 Build a fort
Ok uptight parents, hear me out. You can always re-fluff those throw pillows later. The joy your children will have building a fort from couch cushions is well worth the free hour it will grant you to do whatever else in the house.
5 Create a family newspaper
Tiny gumshoe that I was, I established many family newspapers in my day — the LabSlab Gazette, the Barge Street Journal, you get the idea. For any curious kid, this is a great way to teach them about listening and writing. If you really want to sweeten the deal, give them a recorder so they can take official notes.
6 Choreograph a dance routine
“Alexa, play Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake it Off.'” Sure you might never want to hear the song again when your kids are done putting together a dance to the song, but the fun they’ll have choreographing their own music video will be well worth it.
7 Put on a play for your parents
Blame it on my drama teacher mom, but my sister and I put on so many DIY shows in our day. The best were when we recruited neighbor kids to perform too, but short of that, having dad help with stage managing and mom doing the lights can make this an entire evening’s entertainment.
8 Make a scrapbook
You’d be surprised how much kids enjoy taking old family photos and compiling them into a book. Short of printed images, you could always let them do some collaging with cast-off magazines as well.
9 Practice doing handstands
Wiggle breaks are essential for most kids, but if the outside is not an option, do some interior calisthenics by finding an open space to practice handstands.
10 Play 'Guess the food'
Have a spice cabinet? A bandana? A willing participant? Then you have all you need to play guess the food. Simply blindfold little brother, then have him guess each food you put on his tongue. Parental discretion advised.
11 Make a time capsule
If you want to have a good laugh, ask your child to collect objects to put in a time capsule. You’ll be amazed what they declare as their most dear items. It can be a great moment to compile some of their thoughts too. And you don’t have to bury it in your yard. Tucking it in a closet and finding it years later is just as fun.
12 Grow some herbs
The internet has all kinds of great little at-home herb kits and come to find out, kids love watching things grow. Make it a whole daily ritual watering your herbs, noting their growth, then harvesting them for delicious meals.
13 Write letters to a pen-pal
Who says you have to know how to write to have a pen-pal? A picture is worth a 1,000 words, so have your kid draw or write a short message and send it to a friend. Encourage the back and forth. It might develop far beyond the early messages to a lifelong correspondence.
14 Climb the doorway like Spiderman
My sister was like Flex Armstrong as a kid. She could contort her body into all kinds of spaces, but her favorite was to scale the doorway to our den using the pressure of her feet and back. Challenge your kids to see if they can too.
15 Read a book
No duh, right? But seriously, hours indoors are ripe for some reading time and it can be a great time to start with a story you read to your kids (then encourage them to take some time for their own reading alone).
16 Act out a story
Reading comprehension can be improved by asking a child to speak back a story they just heard or, better, yet, act it out. Trust me, as a kid who was a late reader, this activity helped me immensely and all the while I thought I was just having fun.
17 Play hide and seek
Who can find the craziest hiding spot in your house? You or your kids? Give it a try.
18 Decorate some cookies
If your child, like mine, loves to watch
Great British Baking Show, let them try to earn their own “Hollywood handshake” by decorating some cookies one afternoon. Gone are the days of having to make all that frosting by hand. Today you can buy it prepacked at most grocery stores for easy clean up. 19 Film a video and send it to your grandparents
Most phones have a video function these days so use it to spread some cheer. Film your kids sending a special message of love to their grandparents.
20 Write a poem
You’re never too young to start writing poetry. Kids who have exposure to Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein might want to give their own poetry a try. Have them jot down a few lines of free verse for a week, then compile it into a poem for them.
21 Rearrange bedroom furniture
As a kid I loved to “redecorate.” This usually involved moving my desk against a different wall or asking my mom for a new bed cover. Customizing and taking ownership for their space is a great diversion for many kids.
22 Learn to knit
Have a granny who knits, does needlepoint, smocks or does crocheting? Get her on Zoom and have her teach your child how to do the same. It’s a great way to pass on a family tradition and learn a new craft in the process.
23 Make Origami
You don’t have to have special origami paper to start folding paper. Grab some computer paper and google some instructions for a morning spent making all kinds of creative creatures.
24 Learn all the names of the states
My husband can name all the states in Alphabetical order. He can also list all the presidents by term. And ya know what? It’s not just a great party trick. It’s a legit way to improve memory and do a little historical research in the process. Kids can do the same and make it a game.
25 Play trivia
Here’s something I recently discovered: the internet is full of kids trivia questions. Just google it, then ask away. You’ll be amazed how swiftly an hour goes by.
26 Cut out paper snowflakes Elva Etienne/Moment/Getty Images
If your children are in need of some instant gratification, paper snowflakes are it. Follow these
Martha Stewart instructions (or don’t) and you’ll have winter wonderland in now time. 27 Play Go Fish
Fun fact: You can play go fish with any regular old set of cards. And once your kids know the game, they can teach others.
28 Make a spaceship out of a cardboard box
Have dozens of Amazon boxes building up? Let your kids go to town on them with their imaginations and turn them into castles, spaceships, and forts.
29 See how many marshmallows you can fit in your mouth
Ok, so parent supervision is strongly recommended on this one, but if you really want to stretch the limits of your children’s afternoon while having a good laugh, see how many marshmallows they can stuff in their mouths. Bonus points if you participate too.
30 Adopt a pet rock
Hey, it worked in the ‘70s.
31 Fold clothes Tanapong Sungkaew / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images
Hear me out, you can make this a game too. Tell them they’re working a Gap or Target and have to fold their clothes like they do at the stores. You might be surprised how into they get.
32 Count your blessings
No joke, this is a legit exercise for kids and really something we all should do. Have them practice gratitude daily. It never hurts to look on the bright side of things.