Fun Ways to Entertain Kids at Home
February 18, 2020
Winter can be tough for any parent or caregiver. The weather keeps you inside most of the time and as February comes around, you’ve just about had enough. The kids are restless but you’ve done all the crafts, played all the board games and don’t want to sit them in front of a screen for hours. While some families go to indoor play areas, gyms or other public venues for a break, this can be difficult if your child is ill, has a weak immune system or faces physical limitations – especially during cold and flu season. What’s a tired, exasperated parent to do?
We’ve come up with a few solutions to distract your children and protect your sanity. Below you’ll find tips to get started, as well as links to additional resources. We hope it keeps everyone occupied and happy until the warmer months. Good luck!
Creative, Indoor Activities to Keep Kids Busy
Get Moving with Exercise
If your kids are bouncing off the walls (sometimes literally!), it can help to turn to some good, old-fashioned exercise. Sure, this sounds boring on the surface, but you’d be surprised how easily basic moves can be adapted into a game. Make it a contest to see who can do 50 jumping jacks fastest. Or have the kids run back and forth like their favorite animals (hop like a frog, walk like a crab etc). You can find even more exercise games here. * Please note, if your child has specific limitations on their mobility or activity levels, please check with your child’s healthcare team before attempting the activities listed in this blog.
For older kids, it can help to recreate favorite sports. Blow up a balloon and get small paddles for balloon tennis. Or set up plastic bottles or cans for some bowling. Your waste basket can become a basketball hoop for a game of HORSE or around the world. And furniture, pillows, string and other household supplies can be turned into an obstacle course. Just make sure to supervise for safety – and use soft balls or crumpled paper to avoid damage!
Finally, remember that everything is more fun with music and nothing burns energy like “dancing it out”. Turn up your kid’s favorite tunes and have a dance party. Or learn a choreographed dance together from YouTube to perform for family members and friends. This will surely generate laughs, on both sides, and they may remember (and perform) the moves for years.
Get a Box
Playing with a cardboard box is a classic activity that never gets old. It encourages creativity and cooperation, while keeping children busy for hours, if not days.
Find a large box at an appliance store, on your neighborhood curb or at a local Target/Walmart etc. Cut it open and with a few swipes of a marker, it becomes a road for cars or a town for make-believe. Or you can leave it whole, cut a door and let your kids go wild decorating as they wish. Boxes make great spaceships, forts, stores, or cars – really anything they can imagine. And when they’re done, it’s easy to recycle, or fold up and store for more fun another day.
Create a Seek and Find
This one takes a bit more prep up front, but requires less supervision once things get going. Create a card with simple pictures, or words if your kids can read, of things found around the house. Examples include blue socks, five spoons, a red crayon etc. You can also make it more challenging with difficult items to find, like a Halloween decoration, or riddles for clues like in a treasure hunt. A quick internet search will provide you with a lot of ideas, and even pre-made cards you can print.
Hand a card to each child to make it a competition or have them work together as a team. Then let them loose. You can see who finishes first or grab a timer and challenge them to beat the clock. Once finished, have everyone present their findings, re-hide them and start again.
Bake or Cook as a Family
For some, cooking every day is a chore. However, getting busy in the kitchen can also be a great way for kids to learn, laugh and spend time with family. Cooking is a life skill, but also helps with the development of patience, fine motor skills, focus and confidence. Baking or cooking also contributes to your child’s understanding of math and science, as well as language development and literacy. And then, of course, there’s the tasty result.
When introducing your child to the kitchen, consider their age and level of development. It’s important to fit the activity to their abilities for safety and to avoid frustration. Toddlers can cut soft fruit with a toddler knife, while older kids may be prepared for the real thing. You can also help younger children by measuring ingredients in advance for them to pour into a bowl. Meanwhile older children can perform the measurements themselves, and even use fractions and multiplication to adjust the recipe’s serving size. Kids also love to help with choosing recipes and ingredients, cracking eggs, stirring, running appliances, and of course, licking the bowl.
Sure, involving the kids may make for a bit messier and longer process, but the many benefits and memories it creates will make it worth it in the end.
Turn Your Kids into Mad Scientists
Science isn’t just for the classroom, and when you’re a kid, everything is an experiment. With a few simple household items, you can harness this natural curiosity and have hours of fun.
Explore scientific properties and chemistry by making playdough or slime. Or test the bounds of physics by doing an egg-drop. Have the kids design a container to protect an egg from breaking and then test it out by dropping it from on high.
You could also explore gravity and propulsion by building a catapult, but this might be better tested outside! And then there is, of course, the good old fashion baking soda volcano. Need more ideas? We found a list of 50 science experiments for kids here.
Bring the Outdoors In
Finally, if you just can’t wait to get outside, why not bring a favorite summer activity in? Recreate the great outdoors and set up a tent and sleeping bags to go camping in your family room. Your kids can bring their favorite toys to play in the tent, or you can set up sleeping bags for a sleepover downstairs. You could even “roast” s’mores on your kitchen stove and sing campfire songs. For more authenticity, surround your campsite with indoor plants, turn on a nature soundtrack, and light a fire if you have a fireplace.
No tent? No problem. You can still enjoy the fun of the woods by setting up a blanket for a floor picnic at any meal. Or simply “sleep under the stars” in your sleeping bags or on blankets. With the convenience of a nearby bathroom, you may find camping inside is even better than the real thing.