Inside: Are you stuck at home with your kids? You’ll love these 35 (cheap) indoor activities for kids at home!
I love being a stay at home mom. I do. But sometimes, being stuck at home all day with
four FIVE energetic kids is enough to drive a woman crazy!
Ironically, it’s easy to draw a blank just when you need several indoor activities for kids at home to choose from that don’t involve media. Not that I’m against screens, but eventually, the effect wears off and your kids are right back at you, saying, “I’m bored” and asking you for activity ideas.
You may be home all day because of sickness, babies needing naps, lack of transportation, the weather, or lack of money to spend on outings.
Whatever the reason, I’ve put together a list of indoor activities to make it easier for you on the days when you are absolutely out of ideas (and they’ve already watched way too much TV).
Related: The Case for Unlimited Screen Time from a Recovering Control Freak
Why Stay at Home?
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Why are we “stuck” at home? First, we are a one-car family living the suburbs.
My husband takes the car to work most days, so we have a few options for getting out that are walk-able – a local park, Chick-fil-a, a Greenway, and Wendy’s.
Second, we stay home a lot just to save money. We take advantage of every free program we can and find creative ways to experience eating out without spending a ton.
Even still, going anywhere near a store usually tempts me to spend money we don’t have and makes the kids want things we aren’t buying.
So, home it is!
But sometimes, staying home can get downright boring, which in turn makes the kids bounce off the walls, fight, and make everyone miserable.
When that happens, I use these mostly indoor activities to add variety to our rather simple, slow days at home.
(When you only have a toddler at home, coming up with activities can be especially challenging, which is why I’m so dang thankful for fellow mom bloggers!
It’s been so long since I’ve been in that stage of life. While many of these activities apply, you can find more age-appropriate activities for 2-year-olds HERE.)
35 Activities for Kids at Home
1. Make homemade playdough.
Any time we make homemade playdough, it’s a hit! You don’t even need anything fancy like playdough tools.
Be careful not to overcook it, or the dough will be crumbly. You can use playdough tools, or simply let them play with the dough as is.
Here’s our favorite recipe: The Best Homemade Playdough by Allyson at Domestic Superhero.
2. Put mattresses on the floor.
If you have spring mattresses for your kid’s beds, put them on the floor. They can do gymnastics moves or just jump to their little hearts’ content.
Putting mattresses on the floor is generally novel, which can buy you quite a bit of time.
However, if you’re looking for a more permanent jumping solution, you might want to check out this Little Tikes trampoline. It has held up well over the years for a friend of mind who has seven kids (yes, seven).
3. Build a fort.
Fort-building happens almost daily at our house. The kids usually use couch cushions, which can sometimes drive me crazy: I just want one place to sit, people!
But there are other options, too. You can keep a supply of old sheets on hand – hopefully Marie Kondo didn’t talk you into getting rid of them all just yet (seriously, don’t do it) – and clothes pins (suggestions from the book Simplicity Parenting).
Let the fort building begin!
4. Organize a rock collection.
I’m betting that if you have small children, they already have quite the rock collection. Take advantage of that!
If not, have them gather some from outside to sort and possibly paint as well (if you’re up for it).
Organize them, sort them, paint them. Let the creativity begin!
Speaking of “painting” rocks, we’ve been using these acrylic paint pens the past several months that my kids love. My friend Lauren also came up with this super fun melted crayon rock activity that’s another great option for older kids who can handle hot rocks.
5. Read aloud.
As long as you use your library well, books are a super affordable way to pass the time at home. Our library has no limits of the number of books you can check out, and we definitely take advantage of that.
We will often have one hundred books out at a time.
(Side Note: if your library is closed, you can use their online system to checkout e-books and audiobooks…see the next activity idea!)
6. Audio books.
You can borrow CD audiobooks or the digital version through your local library. Another way to get audio books is by signing up for a free 30-day trial of an Audible membership to get two audio-books for free.
You can also purchase audio books from Audible when they are on sale (I wait until they are $2.99 or less).
Most people don’t know that you can still purchase audio books through audible and use it without signing up for a monthly membership.
We use a portable DVD player to play our audio books we get from the library.
7. Make finger puppets.
Draw your own or find pictures of your favorite television characters online.
Copy the picture into a Word document and resize to finger width. Print, color, and tape the puppet to fit either yours or your child’s fingers.
8. Put on a play with stuffed animals, and record a video of it.
Set up a stage by draping a sheet over a bench, or turn a chair around so your kids can stay hidden behind the chair. Use stuffed animals to put on a play.
Record it using your iphone or ipad and watch it over and over again.
Your kids will find it hysterical to watch their own shows over and over again! Hours of entertainment.
Because I get the majority of my paper for free from Staples (Update: They seem to have discontinued this deal – sad, so we started getting Amazon Basics paper with subscribe & save), I allow my kids to use as much paper as they want for drawing.
I also occasionally purchase a single large roll of paper for a change of pace.
10. Make smoothie popsicles.
Smoothies popsicles are a great way to get nutrients into your kids without the extremely high amount of sugar found in typical grocery store offerings.
We keep a decent amount of frozen fruit on hand all the time (it’s cheaper than fresh produce, and you don’t need to add ice).
The kids help make the smoothie in the morning (we make extra to have leftovers for popsicles) and watch you pour it into the molds. They are generally ready by the afternoon.
11. Freeze water to play with.
We have these IKEA cups that the kids love to fill with water and put into the freezer.
Later on, they pop out the frozen water and play with it on a plate for over thirty minutes. Seriously – it occupies them for that long!
So easy, but so entertaining.
12. Sensory bins.
Sensory bins offer children the chance to use as many of their senses as possible in play. These bins are simple to make, as they often use toys combined with kitchen pantry items.
The only problem I’ve encountered is when your kids like to dump or throw the items in the bins (picture beans EVERYWHERE).
Melanie at Mostly Under Control has written a great post to give you plenty of ideas for different combinations: 6 Sensory Bins for under $30.
At a minimum, you will need bins, beans or pasta or rice, and small toys like these animals.
13. Bathtime fun.
When I had only two or three kids, bathtime was my immediate answer to chaos. At the time, we had way too many bath toys. After decluttering, we own one simple set of bath toys from Target and one rubber duckie. As long as your child doesn’t have sensitive skin, you can add bubble bath to keep it entertaining as long as possible.
You can also make DIY Bath Paints. Morgan from Modernly Morgan provides an easy recipe and instructions in her post DIY bath paints.
For her recipe, you’ll need:
14. Make a book.
Staple paper together, and help your kids write and illustrate a book. You can use real books for direct inspiration or come up with a plot entirely by yourself.
I am a horrible story-teller; I prefer to read the real books, and concoct my own stories based on their plotline.
That’s why I love this game that gives you picture cube prompts to make up your stories (my kids don’t need it as much – I definitely do!).
My daughter, on the other hand, wrote an entire children’s book on her own for her brothers. If you really need a break and cannot handle another activity, have them draw the illustrations first.
15. Building contests.
LEGOs, Duplos, and Magna-tiles are our main building toys. My husband is constantly announcing, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, are you ready for the contest to begin?”
My only caveat here is to think carefully about how you want to judge the contest.
Will there be one winner and loser? Categories with a prize for each one?
Without some forethought, this could end with lots and lots of crying and screaming (at least at my house).
16. Bowling with empty soda cans.
If you don’t drink soda or seltzer, you could try setting up water bottles instead. Make sure the cans are rinsed and fully empty, or you’ll have a nice mess to clean up, too. We’re trying to make the day better, not worse!
During one particularly long winter in Boston, my kids went through a serious puzzle phase (they were ages 5 & 3 at the time). They literally did all twenty of our puzzles over and over and over again.
I honestly don’t know how you can do the same puzzles so frequently without getting tired of it, but apparently it’s possible!
18. Dance party.
Having dance parties has really saved my life when the kids have tons of pent up energy. Just announcing, “Dance Party!” sends my kids running to the family room. They love it, especially since we don’t do it every day.
We love the Disney Pandora station. We also have the Bethel Music Kids: Come Alive album. You can find music videos from the album on Youtube, where the singers do some pretty impressive dancing that my kids try to copy.
Add some pizzazz to your dance parties with this disco light! We bought it for our kids for Christmas this year, and it was by far the most inexpensive gifts that was the biggest hit (go figure, right?).
19. Board games.
Board games can be tricky depending on the age mix of your kids.
The three-year-old pretend plays and is assisted by the older kids.
20. Write letters to friends.
Who doesn’t like receiving something other than bills and junk in the mail?
Have some blank cards or plain paper on hand and have your kids draw a picture or write to friends or family.
21. Indoor hopskotch.
Use painter’s tape to set up a grid for hopskotch on any non-carpeted floor. Give the kids a small block or socks balled up, and let them have a blast.
22. Paper airplanes.
I am terrible at making paper airplanes that actually fly. That’s why I am thankful for the internet.
Check out How to Make the World’s Best Paper Airplanes from The Art of Manliness with instructions on how to make a decent paper airplane that actually flies.
You’ll be crowned mom of the year (especially by your little boys)!
23. Call friends/family using Google Hangouts or Zoom.
I recently discovered Google Hangouts. How amazing to be able to talk with one or multiple people at the same time?! As not everyone owns iPhones, this is a simple, free way to make video calls that anyone with internet access can use.
You don’t even need the app – you can use the Google Hangouts website. My kids have been able to stay connected to old friends this way.
24. Learn a new language.
If you haven’t heard of Duolingo, you need to check it out. This website provides free language instruction for many different languages. You and your kids can learn languages together.
Youtube is another great source of language instruction, which requires much less involvement aside from screening advertisements. There are several channels with foreign language videos for kids.
25. Give them a cardboard box.
We use Amazon Prime for staple snacks, diapers, and other toiletries. Our poor mail woman!
Every month, she staggers up the walk with this humongous cardboard box. Yes, Amazon ships it all in the same box.
Anyways, every month my kids are delighted to have yet another cardboard box to play with! They build forts, pretend they are rocket ships. I plop the toddler into the box with markers and let him go to town without fear of him drawing on the walls.
If you love cardboard boxes like we do, you will love the book Too Many Toys by David Shannon. Every time my kids are reluctant to declutter, we read that book.
They laugh hysterically and are much more willing to give up the toys they don’t really play with.
I learned a long time ago that keeping all our art supplies accessible all the time in our tiny house with only one good surface for eating, playing games, and drinking. The benefit is that when I bring out watercolors or other paints, it is completely novel and therefore, a longer lasting activity.
Be sure to lay down newspaper or craft mats to make clean-up easy.
We keep our dress-up clothes stored away in our laundry room and bring them out about once a week.
You’ve probably heard me say it before, but novelty is HUGE.
28. Build a stomp rocket.
I had no idea how fun they are or how kids of any age can be entertained for hours! Even my toddler got the hang of it.
KiwiCrate has been particularly great for engaging one of my kids who loves hands-on activities, science and math. You can also find great tutorials on building a stomp rocket yourself with basic materials found at home.
29. Poetry tea time.
We generally do this once a week. It comes from a homeschool approach to teaching writing called Brave Writer. Essentially, you just prepare a special treat or snack and read poetry. That’s it.
I was reluctant to add poetry teatime into our weekly schedule at first. I don’t love poetry – I’m far more a prose girl, myself. But I heard so many great stories about it that I finally bit the bullet and did it.
My boys LOVED it. Probably because I happened to choose randomly a hilarious poetry book.
30. Invent new uses for old toys.
We love our Magna-tiles because they are so versatile! When we get tired of just building structures with them, it’s time to change it up.
We bring in the cars (Magna-tiles make excellent car ramps) or mix them in with pretend play.
This may take a little encouragement from you at first. My husband is the king of non-verbal communication.
He simply takes a bin of toys, sits down, and starts playing. He doesn’t even ask the kids to join him!
Get the ideas flowing. Then step back and let the kids’ imagination take off.
31. Picnic in the house.
Some families have “you can only eat in the kitchen” rules. I wish I could say that was us.
If that’s you, however, this will be an even bigger hit! Picnic in a different room of the house will be memorable and change things up.
Your kids will probably be talking about this one for ages. In fact, when they keep talking about it well into the future, you will wonder will you ever spent so much money on trips and amusement parks.
It really doesn’t take much to make kids happy.
Bubbles are always a hit with kids of any age. If you decide to do bubbles indoors, they will be even more of a hit. I try to save this for when I am totally out of options, as it can make a bit of a mess.
If you tired easily of bubble blowing, like I do, try a bubble machine.
The joy of bubbles without hyperventilating? Priceless.
I personally don’t like to bake, which is why I stopped, for the most part. However, I can handle basics like brownies from brownie mix.
Thankfully, I rarely need to bake because my daughter is now old enough to do so on her own. She can also bake with two younger brothers without going crazy (most of the time).
34. Bird watch.
This activity requires a decent pair of binoculars if you hope to occupy your kids for a decent amount of time.
Side Note: We frequently attempt to google birds by color in order to discover their names, but what a frustrating process. That’s why I was thrilled when another blogger recommended these these bird books. The birds are sorted by color! Genius!
Blow up a pack of balloons from the dollar store, and you have just bought yourself at least 30 minutes of entertainment, if not more.
And now that Bluey is a household name, I’m certain kids will be so excited to play “Keepy Uppy”!
36. Have a LEGO-Building Competition
Do you have a box of LEGO bricks lying around? Host a building competition!
If you only have so many bricks and multiple kids and want to avoid fighting, divide up the bricks in advance. This will up the creativity, too, as they are limited to the assigned bricks.
Ask kids to build unique creations and give random awards. You’ll buy yourself 30 minutes at least.
Being Stuck at Home with Kids: It’s Rough
I know how hard it can be to feel trapped at home. I don’t know about you, but when I hit a wall, I forget every single creative activity and idea I had.
I unfortunately succumb to more TV if not for lists like these.
When you have lists of activities for kids at home on hand, it’s easy to stick to your game plan and opt for something engaging and educational.
There’s nothing wrong with screen time (my kids watch/play their fair share)…except when you use it all day, every day.
I hope this helps you pass the time with your kids ,and even have a little fun!