We are heading into a dark winter, but we can make it enjoyable for our children with these cheap indoor activities for kids.
Whether you are living under a lockdown or just stuck at home during the long winter months, you probably are looking for indoor family activities that don’t break the bank.
Kids need things to do at home that do not involve sitting at a screen and are cheap and easy to do indoors. We have been social-distancing and doing quarantines for a while now, so I have lots of lockdown activities for kids that I like to do.
Here is the list of some of the indoor family activities that I have put together.
1. Indoor scavenger hunt
Indoor scavenger hunts are super fun and easy to do because all you need to do is print out a list like this one. Have your kids run around the house until they find all the items.
2. Make a personal art gallery
Experiment with different art forms and various paints and textures, and create your own art gallery. After your child paints or draws something, trim the paper, paste it on a different colored paper, and then hang it up on your wall.
If you don’t like hanging stuff on your walls, you can tie a string across your curtain rod and hang the pictures with clothespins.
3. Read books
We love books and reading is such a great activity. Spice it up by having each kid pick a book with a specific theme (like sharing or money or something about sleep) and take turns reading out loud. If you have older kids, you can all cuddle up on the couch with a cup of tea or hot cocoa and read together.
4. Play a board game
Board games are a perfect family fun time. Make a pot of popcorn or open a bag of chips and let the fun commence!
5. Play charades
Charades are super fun and easy to play with no per-planning. Pick a theme (such as something you do or people you know) and have each person take a turn.
6. Science experiments
We love making a volcano or magic milk. Even simple science experiments can be a lot of fun and often use only ingredients in the house.
7. Wash dishes
While cleaning up may be a chore for the mom of the house, kids can enjoy some “fun” jobs. Take out the dirty dishes that are safe for kids to wash and have them wash dishes with way too much soap and water.
They can also take a sponge and soap and clean cabinet doors or even floors. It may not be up to your standards, but it will be fun and slightly cleaner!
8. Play with tape
Painter’s tape is cheap and can provide hours of fun. Take tape and create lines on the floor for kids to jump over, around, or take giant steps. Six lines of tape can easily give you five different games.
9. Build a fort
Building a fort out of a table or chairs and some blankets is the quintessential indoor fun activity. It does not use anything that needs to be purchased and can be an excellent distraction for the kids while putting on a pot of soup or doing a quick survey online.
10. Sort small toys by color
Hear me out: This may seem unexciting, but kids enjoy it. Any toy works for this, but Clicks, Lego or Magnatiles are especially great. Have them sort it all by color (either in piles or in towers). Not only does it take a long time, but it’s a great lesson in color sorting.
11. Learn about animals
I did this with my boys, and they loved it. We picked some animals (you can use this Scholastic lesson here) and learned about them, how far they jump, and other facts. Then we measured out how far they jump and saw how far we could do it as well.
12. Pick a plant and analyze
Go botany! Pick plant outdoors (the plant comes from outside, but the rest is an indoor activity- I promise!) and bring it indoors (see?) and dissect it. Put it on a white paper or white tray and use tweezers to pick it apart and see what it is inside.
Older kids can try to identify the different parts and maybe label it on a paper for a fun visual aid.
13. Learn a dance
Dance party! We love dancing, and it’s super fun to all learn a dance together. That is why those tik-tok dances go viral. You can learn one of those or have different kids choreograph and teach the rest. Extra fun if you record and send it to friends and family.
14. Hide and seek
A massive game of hide and seek inside the while house with adults and kids alike? Yes, please! Kids will enjoy hiding and finding parents in weird spots. With different family members of various sizes, everyone can find interesting places to hide.
15. Small challenges
Have each kid pick a challenge that everyone else has to do. It can be simple, like crawling to the other side of the room, or more complicated, like a sequence: hop four times, jump three times and walk only on the white tiles.
16. Blow bubbles
Bubbles indoors? Why not? Anything that is usually done someplace else but then moved inside is pure fun for young kids.
17. Make a calm down jar
These calm down jars were super fun to make and fun to have. It calls for pretty basic materials, and you can use your imagination to adapt them to whatever you have.
18. Make sand art in jar or bottle
We took salt, poured it onto a plate, and then colored it with chalk. We did it with a few different colors and then poured it in layers into jars (old honey, baby food or jelly jars work great for this).
19. Ripped paper project
Kids really love ripping things. Like, really love ripping things. You can take different types of paper: scrap paper, old wrapping paper, construction paper, magazines and circulars and use them to create different ripped paper projects. We did this one of the planets, and it came out great.
This is fun and awesome but MESSY. Please don’t say I didn’t warn you. We started it off in a big bowl in the living room but ended up in the bathtub to attempt to contain the mess. It’s great sensory fun! Add different bath toys or other washable items into the foam for more fun.
21. Make animals out of yogurt containers
I love projects that use recycled items! Take yogurt containers, wash them well and decorate them to look like little animals. You can use pipe cleaners for hands, googly eyes, construction paper or whatever you have on hand. You can try to do real animals or have each kid invent an animal and then describe it to everyone.
22. Object guessing game
Each child gets a dark-colored bag or a pillowcase. They have to go through the house and pick an item (it can be anything or something related to a theme). They place the item inside the bag and pass the bag around. Everyone can feel the item and have to guess what is inside.
23. Go through old clothes and toys
Do you have boxes and closets full of old clothes and toys? It’s time to clean it out! Go through the items and decided what you should keep, what can be re-purposed and what can be given away or sold. Have fun with it and have the kids make some decisions.
24. Make and decorate cookies
Baking cookies is self-explanatory! We like to make this recipe and to put sprinkles on top instead of inside. Kids can take a chunk of dough, roll it themselves, and dip it into the sprinkles. Tons of fun!
You can also make a DIY cookie decorating kit and have each kid go to town while decorating with frosting, sprinkles, and anything else you have.
25. Paint cookies
I love this cookie painting activity from Ree Drummond, and we do it often. Kids and adults can decorate cookies with this paint wash and then bake and enjoy! We recently got black food coloring to have even more fun with our cookie decorating.
26. Ice cream sundaes or hot cocoa bar
Winter or summer, an ice cream sundae with all the toppings or a hot cocoa bar with all the mix-ins is always an appreciated treat! Everyone can put as many or as few toppings as they want.
27. Wash toys in the bath
I love this activity because it’s fun for the kids and convent for me! I take toys and dump them in the bathtub with the kids in bathing suits and hand them sponges with soap.
Next thing I know, I have happy kids and clean toys! You can use your small plastic toys or even big riding toys or large plastic toys like a toy kitchen.
28. Grow seeds
Grow seeds in your house! You can find out how to grow each seed here, and then once they are growing, you can replant them in dirt in your window. You don’t need a garden to have fresh foliage in your home!
29. Make Shrinky-Dinks
Who remembers those shrinky dink makers? You can make them in your own home with hard plastic. Take a plastic plate, bowl, or cup and color on it with sharpie markers. Bake on low in your oven.
We didn’t have the right plastic and just used a cheap plastic cup, and it still came out fine. You can hang them up or string them on a string for a fun necklace or window ornament.
30. Make an “About Me” book
A fun art project that is also a learning activity. Have the kids make an about me book with each page illustrating something about themselves. You can use a template like this to make it a little bit easier.
31. Obstacle course
Create an indoor obstacle course with items you have in the house. Clear a biggish area of all random toys and then set up chairs and a table. Use pool noodles or jump ropes to make obstacles, and the kids go on the chairs and under the table. Use your imagination!
32. Transfer water
This is so simple but tons of fun. It also helps kids work on their fine motor skills, so it’s a win-win. Place water into different containers, and the kids transfer the water back and forth. You can do it with larger containers or other transferring utensils to make it more difficult.
33. Dirt painting
Collect dirt, sift, water and paint. This needs some outdoor access, but it can be done inside. Collect dirt into a container. Have the kids sift it through a strainer so it’s smooth and take out all the rocks and sticks. Mix the dirt with water and paint pictures using the dirt.
34. Picnic on the floor
Anything different is fun and eating breakfast, lunch, or supper on the floor is no exception. Take a blanket or tablecloth, spread it out on the floor and have a nice indoor picnic. No ants or winds will ruin this picnic!
Make your playdough with this recipe and then take out some cookie cutters or other random kitchen utensils (tuna strainer, knife, fork, different size measuring spoons and have them play around). This is a super fun sensory activity for children.
36. Play with pompoms
Blow pompoms across the tape or table with straws or Sort pompoms by color using different utensils like tongs or spoons. This is an excellent fine motor skill-building exercise.
37. Write letters to loved ones
It’s good practice for your new writers. They can decorate the letters and envelopes for extra fun. It’s super fun to do and a lot of fun for someone to receive. Grandparents particularly love these types of things.
38. Free art
Take everything and anything you can. I like to use different scraps of art supplies and some recycled times like boxes, paper towel rolls, magazines, containers or anything else and have the kids use their imagination to create anything they want.
You will be surprised how exciting this is and how engaging this activity is. The best part is that whatever you have, you can use it!
39. Melt ice block
Take a clear container and find some small items around the house (something like a Lego, a magnet or a toy animal). Place it in the container, and cover the items with water, half-way up the container. Freeze.
Once it is mostly frozen, do the same thing again- this time until the water reaches the top of the container. Freeze. Set the kids up in an empty space and give them the ice block. Have them try to get the toys out using warm water and syringes. They fill the syringe with warm water and let it melt the ice around the toys.
40. Magic art
My kids call this magic art, and it stuck. Take a paper and make lines every inch or so. Color within each line a different color, so it looks like a rainbow. Take a white paper, place it on top of the colored paper, and draw a design on top, pressing down hard with the pencil. When you finish, the other side will have a pretty colorful design.
41. Make lunch or supper
If you are home and making meals anyway, there is no reason for kids not to get in on the action. Give out age-appropriate tasks or teach them a new skill, like peeling and cutting safely and have them chip in for meal prep!
42. Lily pad jumping
Take colored construction paper and cut it into large circles. Place them strategically around the room (based on the kid’s age level). The point of the game is to get around the room by only stepping on the construction paper. If you step off of it, you lose! This is great for working on kids’ gross motor skills.
43. Re-purpose old crayons
Take all the old crayons that are crushed or too short to use for coloring. You can use them to make new crayons or a candle if you have the right equipment.
44. Follow the leader
Turn on a song and sit in a circle. Each person takes a turn to move their hands and feet to the music, and everyone has to copy them.
45. Keep the balloon in the air
Blow up balloons and throw them in the air. The object of the game is to try to keep the balloon up in the air as long as possible
Lockdown Activities for Kids
A note on lockdown: When you are stuck at home and can’t take toddlers or little kids to any fund venues or do outdoor activities, then you may feel like your kids are climbing the walls (and you can’t even go rock-climbing!).
We may not be able to go to amusement parks, bouncing playhouses, trampoline places or even indoor ice-skating. All these activities that used to be part of our winter schedule (when outdoor activities were challenging) are no longer safe. Summer was easier because we could take the kids outside for sidewalk chalk, bubbles, water activities and other fun outdoor games.
Now, we are stuck inside. It is hard for moms (and dads) everywhere. I get it. I am struggling as well. Some of these activities may seem silly or a waste of time, but kids don’t care how stupid or silly an activity is. They care that you are trying to have fun with them.
When our kids look back at this period, they will remember all the fun family activities we did with them. They will remember that we were positive and focused on our family even when there was so much that we couldn’t do. That makes all us moms superheroes. Good luck!
These great indoor activities can keep little ones (or old ones) busy on a cold winter or rainy day. These fun indoor activities will keep kids engaged and stop them from going crazy without resorting to letting them watch kid’s TV shows. Which of these best indoor activities for kids are you going to use for your next rainy day?
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