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Indoor Activity Ideas for Kids

Leah O’Brien is the Program Director for both the Hyman Novack Medical Day Care and Franciscan Family Child Care Center programs at FHC. Here she shares with you her rules and tips for keeping kids busy and happy indoors.

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As the Director of two day care programs I’ve spent my fair share of winters stuck inside with children under the age of five. Couple that with being a mom to my three young girls, I’ve faced the challenge of keeping cooped-up kids busy for days at a time… and had fun doing it!

First and foremost, set some “rules” for yourself.…

Rule #1 – Don’t be afraid to get messy, get LOUD or act like a kid. You will create better memories with your kids and, trust me; you will have a blast doing it.

Rule #2 – Have a plan. Know what you are doing and when, and plan around a time when your children will respond to the activity best (i.e. after a nap or early in the morning when they have the most energy). Be prepared with the supplies you need and have them ready so that when you start your activity you can just run with it.

Rule #3 – Do what your kids love, but don’t be afraid to try new things. Be creative!  We have the opportunity to introduce our children to new things, so be daring and give them an opportunity to paint…even if they are 10 months old. Just think of the treasures they will create!


Now that we’ve established a few rules, here are some examples of activities to try:

1. Get Loud – I love a good ol’ pots and pans parade. Grab a pot small enough for your little one to manage, a wooden or plastic spoon, and just bang and march around the house singing their favorite song. Brace yourself, it will get loud, but remember that you are making memories. You can always adjust the volume – bang softly, sing softly, bang loud, sing loud. Are you having fun yet?

2. Cook Together – Any kind of cooking activity is great for kids. They respond so much better to a meal they help to prepare, a vegetable they help to wash, or ingredients they measure. Science and math, as well as a lesson in healthful eating, are all coming into play during this kind of activity. Share and create a family recipe, or make your house smell yummy by making chocolate chip cookies…the possibilities are endless.

3. Bring the Outside In – For those of you with little ones that are still wobbly in the snow, bringing snow indoors is a perfect idea. In our child care centers, we bring a shallow container or tinfoil pan outside and fill it with snow, bring it inside, and use it to build a snowman or make snowballs indoors. Just be sure to place your container on something that will absorb drippings so that no one slips. When you’re finished playing, watch it melt slowly. For older kids, incorporate science by asking them to log the progression of the melt. For younger kids, incorporate literacy by sitting down to read the story of Frosty the Snowman together.

4. Build a Fort – Use pillows, blankets, couch cushions, flat sheets and flashlights. Be creative and allow them to help you build, it gives kids an opportunity to exercise the mechanics of problem solving. Once completed, bring a healthy snack, sit inside, and hang out. They may want to take their favorite “lovey” or toy in with them to expand on the imagination of what the fort can become for them…and for you too!

5. Explore Textures – Textures are fun to experiment with while introducing kids to fun new feels. Boil some spaghetti and spritz with a smidge of oil, place in a shallow pan or bowl and allow them to dive in with their hands. Remember Rule #1. This kind of activity can be very therapeutic and soothing. You can also put different objects in a bag and have them reach in and try to guess what the object is by what it feels like.

6. Use your Imagination – Kids are a blank slate and have vivid imaginations that should be fostered and explored. Give them something simple, like blank paper or cardboard, and see what they come up with. A great example of this is a little boy in East LA who created a worldwide movement by simply using empty cardboard boxes to create his own version of an arcade. You can learn more about Caine’s Arcade here.

7. Make your own Playdoh – Lastly, and one activity that is a “go to” in our child care centers, is making your own Playdoh. It’s easy and creates a product that the kids can feel proud of and use for many days. We use this recipe which contains simple ingredients you probably already have in your home.

Long winter days, rainy days, or a chilly Saturday with no plans? Take this list and run with it.  These indoor activity ideas for kids can be altered for any age, creating endless possibilities for fun and learning. Your child will remember these times with you for years to come and that’s what it’s all about in the end…isn’t it?  Have fun!

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