Your Kids Will Never Be Bored Again With These Indoor Play Ideas
Is indoor play your only option today? What's a parent to do? You could just let go and allow your child to draw on the walls or jump on all of the furniture. But if those options don't sound appealing, check out the great ideas below.
Whether you are stuck indoors due to the heat, cold, rain, illness, or just a lack of motivation to do anything else, we've got you covered. We rounded up some of the best ideas parents and professionals like Dr. Craig Bach, PH.D., Educational Advisory Board Member to The Goddard School and Jacquelyn Oldham, Director of Curriculum at The Little Gym recommend for staying sane.
Save this list and pull it out whenever the forecast makes you cringe knowing you will be stuck with indoor play for the day.
Indoor Play Ideas
The Tallest Towers
Ideally, the activity requires at least four people (two teams of two people). However, it can be done with two people or as a large group working together. Gather boxes of long, dry spaghetti ( or plastic straws), some string, and a bag of marshmallows. The goal is to create the highest free-standing structure with the same materials. If the entire family is creating one structure, each family member can take turns placing a new piece on the tower. Set a timer for 10 minutes to heat up the competition.
Once the tower has been completed, take turns tossing the remaining marshmallows at the tower. The first person to knock it down wins.
This activity can be done with three or more people. Select one person (a lot of fun if you pick an adult) to play the robot. Place oven mitts on the robot’s hands and a sleep mask over the robot’s eyes. The robot should not be able to see anything. Place a tissue box somewhere in the room or in an adjacent room. Turn the robot around a few times and move some furniture around to make it more challenging.
The goal is for the robot to pick up the tissue box and move it to a pre-selected location (goal spot). The robot moves by listening to instructions given by the other family members. Take turns giving the robot one specific instruction on how to move. The “winner” is the person who gives the last instruction before the robot places the tissue box on the goal spot.
Found Object Art
This activity can be done with two or more people. Find a blank space in the house that needs a piece of art. It could be a blank wall space (covered in paper), a counter space, or an empty area on a bookshelf. Work in teams of two or three (if there is an odd number of people). The goal is to use objects that are found in the house to create a work of art that fills the empty space. The work should reflect things that interest them and that are important to them.
Give each team time to talk about what they want to create and what kinds of materials they might need. Then give them 15 minutes to gather supplies from around the house (a safe junk drawer and old magazines are great places to start). If the weather is nice enough, all sorts of things can be found outside, too. When the teams return, they need to create their masterpieces. Once completed, each team tries to convince the other teams that their artwork is the best one for the house.
Indoor Paper Plane Competition
This activity can be done with two or more people. Gather paper of varying sizes and weights, paper clips, tape, and colored pens/pencils. Place the materials aside. Then do online research to find the best ways to make paper airplanes. Read the results together and allow everyone time to play with the materials and make different kinds of planes. Learn what makes a plane go straight, turn, go up, or float in the air the longest.
Create a course and walk everyone through it (e.g., through every room, touching something specific in each room, moving around a set of rooms). Once the course has been established, explain that the goal of the activity is to make a paper plane that can navigate the course in the least number of flights. Explain that after each throw, updates can be made to the plane (e.g., paper clips added, wings bent to turn). However, there is one stipulation: each change needs to be explained to everyone.)
Be a Tree
This activity is based on the yoga “tree pose.” The child pretends to be a tree by standing on their right leg (“tree trunk”). The child places the bottom of their left foot at the side of the right knee. The child may hold their arms (“branches”) out to the side for balance. Now it’s time to see how old this “tree” is! The child and/or the parent begin counting while balancing in this tree pose: “1, 2, 3, 4, 5,” etc. Continue counting until the child loses his balance and place the other foot down. “Wow! That tree was 6 years old! Now let’s try the other foot. How old do you think this tree will be?” Conclude the activity with some much-deserved “tree hugging!”
The Bird Bath
Children love pretending to be animals! These types of activities inspire creative movement, creative visualization and help to make the activity fun! This activity can be directed by the parent through this fun story:
“Can you act out this story with me as I tell it to you?” (To give the child movement ideas, the parent may perform and model the movement challenges and poses for the child to follow as they tell the story!)
One day a bird stood on a tree. (Child stands in place).
Then the bird spread her wings and flew into the sky! (Still standing in place, the child spreads arms out wide, lifts a leg up behind them and bends forward slightly at the waist – resembling a bird in flight.)
She flew for 3 miles! Let’s count; 1, 2, 3! (Parent counts to 3 while the child continues to balance on one leg. Adjust the amount of “miles” according to the skill level of the child!)
Then she landed in a bird bath and touched her wings in the water …. and her tail in the water … her wings … and her tail … (While still one leg, like a teeter-totter, the child bends forward to touch their hands on the floor – back foot up in the air; then touches their foot to the floor – hands in the air; repeat.)
Then the bird flew back up into the tree! (The child stands back up on two feet – and gets a hug!)
“Do It” Dice
This is a fun game for kids three and up that combines counting and number awareness with movement and body awareness; a good brain workout to get in the “back to school” mode! Here’s how to play:
- Your child rolls the die and recites the number rolled (counting the dots on the die in the process).
- Your child is now challenged to position themselves on the ground with the same number of body parts touching the ground as the number on the die! For example, if a 4 is rolled, the child could put two feet and two hands on the ground.
- Hold that position for the same number of seconds as the number on the die!
- Now it’s Mom’s turn!
The fun comes when you encourage your child to get creative with their “body part” selection! For example, 4 body parts on the ground could also be one foot, one knee, your head and a hand! You REALLY have to get creative for numbers 5 and 6!
Throw It In
This is a fun, easy game to play that also helps develop throwing skills, hand-eye coordination and number concepts for kids 2yrs. and older. (Children start developing their throwing skills at around 18 months.)
– Place a laundry basket on the floor. Place a throwing line on the floor about 1-2ft. away from the basket (a piece of string, shoelace, piece of tape, one outstretched sock, etc.)
– Have several soft throwing items that can be held and thrown with one hand: balls, rolled up pairs of socks, wadded paper balls, small stuffed animals, etc.
Simply have your child stand behind the throwing line and see if they can throw the items into the basket (underhand or overhand). At first, the most difficult thing for the child will be resisting the natural temptation to simply walk right up to the basket and drop the ball in! A few demonstrations by a parent or older sibling will help the child get the idea of staying behind the line. Have the child help count how many “baskets” they make! Cheer for each attempt and be supportive.
- Raise the level of the basket! This not only forces the child to throw harder – it also is a great way to encourage the “overhand throw” technique for those who tend to always throw underhanded.
- Increase the throwing distance.
- Create a “moving target”! The parent can hold the basket at waist or thigh level and slowly rotate in a circle. The child is challenged to be patient and wait until the basket is in view – then they must perceive the motion of the basket and throw accordingly!
- Count the number of “baskets” in a different language.
There are endless ways to add fun challenges and variations to this game. Have fun!
As a parent, I find that when it comes time to play with toys on days stuck indoors I find the more open-ended the better! Some of our favorites:
Imagination Toys: Look for toys that allow your children and you to take on various roles. This ice cream cart that can be turned into a hot dog cart from Melissa & Doug is a great choice that allows endless possibilities for taking on various roles and creating various scenarios for play.
Kids can take turns selling or buying treats and being inventive with their combinations. Since almost every kid loves both ice cream and hot dogs, every child can jump right in and joyfully serve up, or “eat”, the ample included treats. A puppet theater or even just some puppets are other great options for kids and grown-ups to create endless stories.
STEM Toys: Building and coding are great activities with no limits, even for very young children. One of the newest and best is Botley, one of the only coding toys for children to not require a screen to use. Not only can kids build the robot Botley using different configurations, but there is no limit to the number of ways kids can program Botley to follow patterns and lines. Botley is simple enough for even my three-year-old to use to grasp basic coding concepts and it's one of our favorite rainy day activities to do together.
Legos are another good choice for indoor days and this Lego Duplo Steam Train helps incorporate an interest your child may already have in trains with basic coding and building skills. The STEM Jr. Wonder Lab from Little Tikes is a great option that puts a new spin on the popular workbenches by substituting lab equipment and experiment ideas for tools.
Fort: All it takes is a good old-fashioned blanket to create a fort. But don't the let fun stop there. Stock up on some good books to read inside the fort, make some hot cocoa for a fort cafe, or grab your tablet and watch a movie inside. For even more fun, turn off the lights, bring a flashlight inside, and put on a shadow puppet show or read.
Smart Games: Try using Google Home to play games like Freeze Dance, guess animal sounds, play Mickey Mouse Adventure, listen to audio books, and more.