Whether you’re stuck inside because the weather’s too cold or too hot, or the air quality is bad (we get wildfire smoke every year where I live), or there’s an unbelievable plague waging war on the nations outside your door (see- 2020 Coronavirus), there are a million fun things you can do to entertain your kid(s) and keep yourself sane. I have written down 101 of my favorite time killers that are super simple and fun. I have broken them down into three categories: activities that require some form of technology, activities that only require yourself (and simple household items like pencil, paper, string, etc.), and activities that require something that you MIGHT not have in your home. Activities from the last group use things that are fairly common but may not be readily available to your family. I will do my best to provide suggestions on where to acquire these items.
Activities with technology
I know not everyone likes activities that involve screen time, but let’s be realistic, there are so many fun things you can do with technology! My family is fairly technologically savvy but we do everything together. Even when it comes to TV and movie time, we watch together. Most of these (18) activities can be done using a smartphone, tablet, or computer and shouldn’t require any apps or downloads that cost money. I want to keep this list of activities affordable to all or most families!
- Who doesn’t love a dance party? Pump up your favorite tunes and dance like no one (who cares) is watching!
- Make your own cooking/baking video. You don’t have to post it on the internet, but it is fun to pretend you have your own cooking show.
- Play video games. I know this sounds pretty open ended, but that’s the point! Video games look different to different families. Play WITH your kids. Learn some new skills or beat each other’s high scores.
- Baking- try a new cookie recipe. Cookies are usually pretty simple, and there’s a world of possibilities out there. Make a new combination with some items you already have in your pantry! Explore my Pinterest cookie board for ideas!
- Cooking- try a new recipe from a different country. Branch out and try something exotic that is new to your family. Kids LOVE helping with cooking! Here is a link to the “toddler learning tower” we use at home to help elevate our kids to counter-height safely. (This is an affiliate link which means if you purchase anything through this link, I receive commission at no additional cost to you. My views and opinions are not swayed because of this; I only recommend products and services I love.)
- Create a stop-motion video using toys and a smartphone camera. Use toys that you can pose and move, then take a picture after every move. Then splice them all together in a simple video editing app. This kind of activity is great for older kids!
- Learn and practice new hairstyles on YouTube. YouTube is full of great video tutorials of hair styling from simple to complex and crazy! No matter your level of experience, there is something for you to try and learn. Kids can try too!
- Find a new craft on Pinterest to try. This is probably one of my favorite things to use Pinterest for. I’ve saved thousands of craft ideas at this point. Check out what I’ve got on my kids crafts board. It’s filled with activities, crafts, and learning projects.
- Kids Yoga. This is a good activity if the kids are getting restless and need something to focus their minds and calm their little bodies. I’ve heard great things about Cosmic Kids yoga on YouTube. Looks like they also have an app! This is a great way to transition into quiet time, nap time, or even first thing in the morning.
- Music guessing game. Play a second or two of songs your kids know and see if they can guess them. They may surprise you with their crazy good memory!
- Tell stories or read books around a “campfire”. You can create a campfire atmosphere by using an ambient light app, or a flashlight, or a nightlight. In my son’s room we have an Echo Glow, a smart light that pairs with Amazon Alexa and can change it’s color with your voice command! It even has a “campfire” setting that glows like a moving fire! (This is an affiliate link which means if you purchase anything through this link, I receive commission at no additional cost to you. My views and opinions are not swayed because of this; I only recommend products and services I love.)
- Movie roulette. Have everyone choose a different movie or you choose several. Place them behind your back and pick one blindly or from a bag. This can also be done using streaming services by choosing a movie genre, closing your eyes and using the controller to hold the scroll button in one direction and let go at a random point. The movie or show it lands on is what you watch!
- Make-up tutorial. Watch and try or create your own make-up tutorial using play make-up, make-up you’re okay with letting kids use, or buying dollar store make-up. Making your own kid-based make-up tutorial could be really fun!
- Tour the world with Google Earth. Exactly what it sounds like! Let your imagination soar by visiting all the places on Earth that you dream of visiting. Here is a link to Google Earth, have fun exploring!
- Guess the attraction with Google Maps Street View. This activity is great for older kids, especially those who’ve had some geography lessons. Check out this one to get you started.
- Learn some simple magic tricks. Learn them yourself to perform for your kids or have them learn along with you to amaze their friends. Just crack open YouTube and search for “magic tricks for kids” to get you started.
- Learn a few words in a new language. YouTube and Google are both helpful for this. There are tons of great language tutorials on YouTube, while Google offers a translator that will help you pronounce any word. Just pick a language!
- Learn a few sign language signs. There are a lot of helpful books at your local library (especially for baby sign language) and Google is, once again, a great resource here. Google search “sign language” plus the word you are hoping to learn, and you will have many resources pop up instantly.
Activities That Could Require More
It’s difficult to write completely generalized lists because everyone has different circumstances and resources available to them. This next list is made up of 40 simple and cheap activities that shouldn’t require anything too crazy. I will try to provide ideas on where to get the things you need in order to do them.
- Dry food play. In our house we use dry rice that we’ve dyed fun colors and then placed in a sealable container. You can also use beans, lentils, or any other food or material that works. You can use it with toy cars, cups and bottles, shovels and trowels, and anything else you can think of. Here is a link to a tutorial of mine where I show you how to make the colored rice and give you ideas on how to use it to teach your child to hypothesize. It’s never too early or late to learn!
- Ripped paper pictures. This is something I’ve loved since I was a kid. And it doesn’t require scissors! I go to the dollar store and get cheap packs of construction paper to keep on hand for projects like this. All you do is rip shapes out of different colored paper to create a larger picture. This is great practice for young kid’s motor skills. We’ve used this project to make decorations for several holidays or just for fun.
- Spa day. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to have a fun spa day with the kids. You can use sample sized things you’ve collected, take a fun bath, wrap yourselves up in clean towels and bathrobes, paint nails, try out hair styles and accessories, face masks, mini massages, or anything else you can think of to make everyone feel special and clean! I like to sneak in the nail trimming sessions to our spa days, haha!
- Cardboard box race cars. If you’re anything like our family, you’ll have a surplus of delivery boxes sitting around, waiting to go out with the recycling. If you have any large enough to fit a sitting kid, make them into race cars! Decorate them with paper and markers, glue and glitter. Paper plates make great “wheels” on the sides. Then you can slip a towel under the box to pull them around…if you’re looking for a workout, of course.
- Boardgames. It’s always a good idea to keep a decent collection of boardgames on hand to fight family boredom. Collect a wide variety or age ranges and number of players when stores like Target and Fred Meyer have big sales on boardgames. You can also take pictures of the boardgames you’re interested in and search for them on Amazon to see if you can find a better price. (I do this with most things, haha!).
- Masking tape floor maze. When you have kids, there are a million and one uses for masking tape (or colored painter’s tape). If you have a large floor space available, use the tape (which won’t leave a residue) to create as simple or intricate a maze as your imagination can create. Then let kids walk it or drive their toys through it.
- Masking tape hopscotch. Using masking tape, create as short or as long a hopscotch course as your kids can handle. The tape is so flexible you can even use it to create numbers or letter inside the squares. Here is a great option for colored masking tape from Amazon. (This is an affiliate link which means if you purchase anything through this link I receive commission at no additional cost to you. My views and opinions are not swayed because of this; I only recommend products and services I love.)
- Masking tape roads for cars. Using masking tape, you can create nearly endless roads for your kids to explore with their toy cars. Remember that kids’ imaginations allow for a break in the laws of nature. Don’t be afraid to make those roads go up over furniture and over big jumps.
- Build a bird feeder or bird house out of recycled materials. Check your recycling bin for things like milk cartons, jugs, straws, and cereal boxes. Thoroughly clean out your chosen materials and use a little glue and/or tape and a lot of imagination to create a refuge for your avian friends. Bird seed may be the only material you wouldn’t likely have on hand.
- Use toilet paper tubes to make pretend binoculars. Of course, they won’t magnify anything, but imaginations can make up for that! Tape or glue a couple toilet paper tubes together and use your new binoculars to search for local wildlife. Explore further by opening a window (weather permitting) and match sounds with the observed creatures.
- Brick building competition. This is a fun one to do with Legos, Duplos, Megablocks, or anything you prefer. Create an idea to work off of (create a car, spaceship, house, etc.) and let each person build their own. Then award each of them with a different compliment award at the end!
- Build a cardboard box castle. Put those Amazon boxes to good use! Doesn’t have to be pretty, just fun!
- Doll fashion show. Dress up your dollies and walk them down the catwalk with your most inventive fashions. For extra points, use more creative materials in your fashion design like pipe cleaners and googly eyes.
- Glow stick bath play. Head down to the closest dollar store and stock up on $1 packs of glow sticks. Fill up the bath tub, get some glow sticks glowing and throw them in the water. Make sure to turn the lights out! Just keep things safe by sitting near by. This activity entertains my preschooler until the water turns cold.
- Masking tape cardboard game board. Grab your masking tape and make a grid based on whichever game you choose. You can make the tape grid directly on the floor or grab a large, flat piece of cardboard to put the tape on. Then, search your toy bins for different pieces to play tic tac toe, checkers, 4 in a row, or battleship if you want to get really fancy!
- Card games. Everyone has their favorites. Many are easy to teach and understand for young kids (Go Fish, Old Maid, War, etc.) If you’re drawing blanks, do an internet search. You’ll find so many!
- Plant seeds in egg cartons. Fill up the holes in an egg carton with some dirt and throw in some seeds! Don’t have packets of seeds? Check your fridge! If you’ve got fruit or vegetables with seeds, it’s worth a try. Just set your carton in the window for sun and water it when the dirt gets dry. Your kids can learn about beginning a garden.
- Grow beans in the window. All it takes is a dry bean, a wet paper towel, a zip lock baggie, and a piece of tape! Lay the bean on the wet paper towel and put both in the baggie and zip them up. Tape them to a window to get sun and wait a bit. It’s a great way to see how a seed grows from the very start.
- Build the most epic Hot Wheels track ever built. Yes, this takes a pretty decent collection of Hot Wheels tracks, but don’t forget to let the creativity flow. Start upstairs and run downstairs. Make a chair obstacle course. Use walls to get extra speed. The possibilities are exciting!
- How high can you stack? We love this game in our house. Legos, Duplos, Megablocks, even things like Cheerios are stackable! Choose materials and have a stacking competition. Simple fun!
- Musical parade. Grab all the musical instruments in the house or find things that can work like instruments and hand them out. Every participant should take a music maker and walk in line to create a cacophony of fun.
- Potato stamping. This craft requires a few things- potatoes, washable paint, paper, and a knife. Cut potatoes in half and CAREFULLY carve different shapes into the cut side. The potatoes can then be used as big stamps.
- Vinegar and baking soda volcanoes. This project can be as elaborate as you want. The simplest version is to find a bottle with a narrow mouth and put several spoonfuls of baking soda inside. With the container over a tray, in a sink, or in a bowl to facilitate easy clean up, slowly pour vinegar into the bottle and watch the chemical reaction. Volcano!
- Clay/Play-Doh stop motion animation. Create your own characters and scenery and change it one photo at a time. Then use a simple editing app to string them all together into a fun video. It’s a lot of work but worth it in the end.
- Cat’s Cradle and other variations. A classic game that just takes a long piece of string (yarn or something a bit thick works best), two sets of hands, and a little bit of research if you don’t know how to do it.
- Coloring books. This is another thing that is great to get at the dollar store. I like to stock up on some generic ones plus some favorite cartoon characters. The dollar store also has Crayola crayon packs for those with kids who like to break them (like mine).
- Sticker art. Another great dollar store find is cheap stickers. Stock up! We use stickers to create works of “art” to tell a story on a single page.
- Puzzles. Here is something else I found but didn’t expect to get so much use out of from the dollar store. Cheap puzzles! Dollar store puzzles aren’t the most durable, but it’s a lot less annoying when you lose a piece and the whole puzzle becomes “incomplete”. If we lose too many pieces, it doesn’t hurt us to just recycle it.
- Fastest puzzle competition. When you can find simple puzzles for less than 100 pieces, you can pick up several and see who can put theirs together the fastest, upside down, blindfolded, etc.
- Book Jenga. After a fruitful library trip, we like to stack all of our books on top of each other into a giant tower. After that, take turns trying to pull one book from the pile without toppling the entire stack! In our game, it’s okay to touch the stack to remove your book; you just can’t lift the others from on top of it.
- Color mixing with food coloring and water. Using clear glasses of water, add food coloring droplets in each glass to create a rainbow. Then experiment with mixing colors to create new colors!
- Container drums. Anything can be a drum if you try, haha! We like to use large oatmeal containers and anything else from the recycling bin that makes a good sound. Tape or glue them together if you’d like to create a whole drum kit.
- Toy ice rescue. This one takes some planning to freeze some waterproof toys into large bowls of water in your freezer. Then give kids (safe) tools to use to excavate their frozen friends. Be aware that this one is messy because of the melting water. Have towels on hand and place the large ice pieces into something that can catch the melting ice.
- Cereal box inventions. Save multiple empty cereal boxes from the recycling and have an invention contest using other materials from the recycling or craft supplies on hand. See what you can make out of a cereal box!
- Pickup sticks with plastic flatware. Accumulating a lot of plastic spoons, sporks, or knives? Throw them in a pile and try to remove one (not from the top) without disturbing the others.
- Build a pirate ship. This one can be a great mashup of pillow forts and cardboard box castles. Find and old sheet for sails and remember, every good pirate needs a parrot on their shoulder!
- Temporary tattoos with washable markers. I get that not every house allows drawing on oneself, but wouldn’t it be fun to try it just once? Pick a design and then do art on each other. Make sure to take pictures because washable markers don’t last long.
- Play UNO with added rules. Have an UNO deck? Every time someone puts down a Draw 4 for someone else, the person who put it down has to do a different dance move. This is just an example of weird new rules you can add to the game to change it up a bit.
- Magazine “vision” boards. If you don’t have any magazines at home, a thrift store book section might have just what you need. You can find stacks of cheap, colorful magazines way past their release date. Then use scissors and glue to add pictures, colors, textures, and words to a large piece of paper to create a goal/vision board. These can feature a specific goal you want to work toward, or something special in your life you’re looking forward to.
- “Operation” toy removal. This is a fun game for all ages. It works best to run string or yarn randomly, back and forth through the holes of a plastic hamper. Then place different size and shape toys at the bottom of the hamper. Using hands or tools like chopsticks (for the highly skilled), carefully reach through the yarn WITHOUT TOUCHING IT and remove the toys safely. More string lines makes it more challenging.
Activities That Don’t Require Much
These activities are the easiest to do because they don’t require anything but yourself (and maybe a pencil and paper)! Several of them are things you’ve probably already heard of, but if you haven’t, give it a Google. They’re all pretty simple.
- Hide and Seek
- Leap frog
- Slow motion tag. It’s like regular tag but you have to move in “slow motion”. This is the best indoor alternative I’ve found to prevent injuries.
- Mad Libs. Don’t have a book? Write you own “story” and then ask your kids to fill it in. Keep it simple for the littlest ones and stick to adding in nouns.
- Short story writing. This is extra fun when you let each kid write a different line or a different character.
- Create a superhero costume. These turn out funnier and more creative when you use only clothes and items you already own.
- Build pillow forts
- Read books in different voices. This is a good opportunity to re-read some of your favorite books, but in a completely different voice. Now read it again in another voice!
- Spring cleaning (any time of year). You might be surprised at how much kids can like cleaning. They enjoy having a “job” and doing things they see adults doing. Why not get some things cleaned WHILE playing? Make a game out of it.
- Donate some toys. Spring cleaning doesn’t just have to be about dusting and wiping. It can also be a good opportunity to lighten the load and organize the toy box. This is a great opportunity to teach your children about being grateful for what you have and generous to others.
- Fashion show. Using clothes you already have, come up with some of the wackiest combinations you can imagine and then strut your stuff on the runway (a hallway works great for this!). Don’t forget hair accessories!
- Create a “store”. Kids love acting out things they see modeled in every day life. Even if you don’t have any fancy store front, collect toys or items you would like to “sell” and then act out the buying and selling part of everyday life. In our house, we like to use old, empty gift cards as credit cards. Go for the full effect and get some bags to pack the new purchases in. Old receipts are a fun way to add authenticity too.
- Sock scooting. This works best on hardwood floors but can also work on any smooth surface. Put socks on feet AND hands (that’s my son’s favorite) and scoot around on all fours. We pretend we’re doggies, or cars, or skiing, or pretty much anything.
- Sightseeing around the house. This is another activity where toilet paper tube binoculars come in handy. But really, you don’t need them when you have two hands that can act as pretend binoculars. Walking in a line with the tour guide leading the way, give a tour of sights and scenes around your house in the silliest voice possible. I guarantee you’ll see things in a new light.
- 20 guesses game. Can you guess what I’m thinking of in only 20 guesses? Yes or no questions only!
- Charades with toys. Try playing the classical charades game but using only toys you already have instead of your body.
- Practice/learn counting money. This can be done using real money, play money, or even cut out paper money.
- In house camping. Find a part of your house that you don’t normally sleep in and bring blankets and pillows. Build a “campfire” and lay around together telling stories or reading pretend constellations on the ceiling. Did I hear a bear?!
- Draw something using only one continuous line. Don’t lift the pencil! Can you tell what it is?
- “Warmer/colder” game. This has been something I’ve loved since I was a kid. Hide something and help someone find it by only using the descriptions “warmer” for when they’re getting close to it and “colder” when they’re getting farther away.
- “Copy this rhythm” game. Clap out or stomp out a made up rhythm and challenge someone to repeat it.
- “Copy this dance” game. Same as above but with dance moves.
- Hand tracing art. Trace your hand and turn it into something other than a turkey. Use both hands!
- Clapping games. Standing face to face, try to keep a rhythm of clapping your own hands and then clapping your partner’s. There are so many variations to these games that you can find many on the internet or make up your own.
- Strength training using only a wall. This is a great way to add fitness into the fun. Some good options are: handstands, pushups, wall sits, etc.
- Hide and seek BINGO. On a piece of paper, make a bingo board and fill each square with a drawing or description of things hidden around the house. The kids then have to find those objects and whoever can fill up a whole row or column wins!
- Animal charades. It’s like regular charades but only about animals. Play by acting out different animals. This is a great one for the young kids who have learned multiple animals.
- Hot potato with a stuffed animal.
- Gross soup. This is something I loved doing as a kid. Take a pot or bowl and put some water in it. Then, using (old or expired) spices, let them measure out or dump those spices into the water and stir it up. They can pretend to cook something without wasting the good stuff.
- Guess the animal. Similar to animal charades but only using animal noises as the clues.
- Race to get dressed. Pick out one article (or multiple for extra fun) of each type of clothing (socks, shoes, pants, shirt, sweatshirt, scarf, hat, sweater, jacket, etc.) for kids to race against each other to put on. This is a good game for older kids who have plenty of experience getting dressed.
- Red light, green light
- Simon says
- Find the number. Search your home for things in only certain quantities. Give a number to search for and the first person to find something in that number or displaying that number is the winner.
- Guess the item only by feel. You can use a box, a bag, or a blindfold to blindly try to guess a mystery object only with your sense of touch.
- Shadow puppets. In a darkened room, cast a light on the wall or ceiling and use hands or objects to tell a story using shadows.
- Puppet show
- Theater production of favorite movies. Using homemade costumes, improvised scenery, and untrained acting, recreate your family’s favorite movies. And if they’re musicals, sing them!
- NEW rock, paper, scissors. Add one or two NEW items to the old rock, paper, scissors game with rules on what beats what, then play!
- Paint/draw what you see. Using whatever drawing/crafting materials you have on hand, choose a scene or create one with toys and objects and try your best to recreate that scene on paper.
- Kid interviews. Think of basic questions you can “interview” your kid with (like, what’s your favorite color? Who is your favorite character? What do you like best about school?) and write down their answers no matter what. Then, have them ask you the same questions and write down your answers.
- I spy. With OR without binoculars.
- Toy fishing. Create your own fishing rod with a string and “hook” on the end. The hook can be something with a magnet, something sticky, or something actually hook shaped. Then place several toys on the floor behind a tall chair or couch and try to pick up the toys from the floor. Make sure to choose toys that CAN be picked up by your hook apparatus.
- Plan a dream vacation. This is the totally free version of getting to do something you’ve always wanted to do. Plan out every part of your dream vacation and then verbally discuss how that would look. Where you would go, what you would eat, what things you want to see. Who knows, maybe all that daydreaming could motivate you to make it happen!
This list can be used for so many things. Please share it with school teachers you know, moms struggling with ideas during spring, winter, or summer breaks, or Grandparents looking for fun things to do while watching their grandkids. To give you one last use for this list, I’ve included a printable version of this list (below) that you can cut into pieces and put into a container to draw each idea out blindly. It makes for a fun family play night or for when you have cousins visiting and the kids are bored.
Here is the printable I promised below. I even included some blank spaces for you to add your own ideas! And once you’ve cut them out, feel free to throw out the ones you don’t like or that don’t work for your family.
*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This means if you purchase anything through my sponsored links, I receive commission at no additional cost to you. My views and opinions are not swayed because of this; I only recommend products and services I love.)*