Lauren Nowacki10-Minute Read
UPDATED: August 31, 2022
With many schools closed and kids stuck at home during the COVID-19 situation, parents may be running low on fuel and ideas to keep their kids active and engaged. On top of that, some parents are juggling working from home with caring for their children.
If you’re like many parents across the country, you’re coming up on week two or three of having children at home 24/7 and, thus, may feel like you’ve exhausted every puzzle, book and TV show you thought possible.
Don’t throw in the towel just yet. We have 20 creative activities for kids to do at home that encourage them to use their imaginations, burn off some energy and work through different emotions during this bizarre time.
While adults struggle with uncertainty over the economy, their physical health, their financial health and just how long this will last, kids are also dealing with their own set of problems – missing school, missing their friends and missing the activities that school and friends provided.
And while they may be too young to understand the true magnitude of the COVID-19 situation, they’re able to sense that something’s not right. Keeping kids active at home helps keep them physically and emotionally healthy while providing an escape from the things they’re dealing with in their own little lives.
With the help of a few creative teachers, parents and youth workers, we’ve created a list of our 20 best indoor activities for kids to do while they’re cooped up at home. And best of all? Only one activity requires a screen.
You don’t even need a pair of scissors to make your own puzzle, as long as you already have puzzles at home. All you need is crayons, markers or paint.
Create your own puzzle by simply using the other side of a puzzle you have (it’s usually blank cardboard) to draw or paint your own picture. First, you’ll need to put the original puzzle together, then carefully flip it over. Draw your complete picture, take a picture of it to reference, then break the puzzle apart and build it back using your image instead.
Make it even more difficult by drawing on the separate pieces first, then trying to put the puzzle together without knowing what it will look like until the end.
Before you make your capes, talk to your kids about their talents and how they can use them to be superheroes. Then, think of a superhero name and logo that has to do with their talents and create your cape!
To make yours, grab an old T-shirt and cut everything below the collar – only halfway around – to keep the collar intact. Once you cut halfway around the collar, cut down the back of the shirt on both sides to create the cape.
Basically, you’re leaving the full collar and back of the shirt intact and cutting away the rest. Then, design your cape using markers or fabric paint.
Recycle empty toilet paper and paper towel tubes with this project. Cut vertical slits around one end of the tube and fan them out. Then, dip the end of the tub in paint and press it on a blank sheet of paper.
Use a different tube for each color of paint. To make your fireworks truly sparkle, sprinkle on some glitter while the paint dries.
All spies need to know how to work their way through a laser beam maze. Have kids train like spies by making your own maze down a hallway of your home. Using Command strips or painter’s tape, string crepe paper or yarn from one wall to the other across the hall.
Go back and forth until you create a maze of “laser beams” they must navigate without touching. If they touch a beam, they must start over.
Deriving its name from the Dr. Seuss book, “Bartholomew and the Oobleck,” this weird substance is easy to make and extremely fun to play with. Oobleck is known as a non-Newtonian fluid, which means it acts as both a liquid and a solid.
It pours out like a liquid but hardens when force is applied to it. You can pick it up and hold it, but it will ooze out of your grip.
For even more fun, place plastic wrap over a speaker or subwoofer, place the oobleck on the plastic and turn the sound on to watch the oobleck dance. Creating oobleck is simple and only requires two ingredients that you’ll likely already have: cornstarch and water.
Simply mix 1 part water with 1.5 – 2 parts cornstarch. So, for example, you may mix 1 cup water with 1½ cups of cornstarch. Add a little bit of cornstarch to your water at a time and stir. You’ll have to make adjustments to get it just right.
If you want to make it even more fun, mix some food coloring in. Remember, oobleck is messy, so make it in the kitchen, outside or another area with hard surfaces and wear clothes that can get dirty.
While there are several recipes out there (DIY slime is very popular), our favorite recipe only requires three ingredients: glue, contact lens solution and baking soda.
To make slime, take one, 6-ounce bottle of glue (we prefer the clear Elmer’s glue) and mix in ½ teaspoon baking soda and 2 – 3 tablespoons of contact lens solution. Use a mixing spoon or popsicle stick to stir the slime until it starts to thicken.
Once it forms into a blob, use your hands to mix and knead it. Pieces of it will stick to hands but keep kneading it. The slime will eventually harden to the point where it moves as one unit. For additional fun, add in food coloring or glitter.
A fun activity that also cleans your floors, towel skating is just as it sounds. Squirt some cleaner on your floor, put some rags under your kid’s feet in place of roller skates and let them glide across the floor.
Just make sure they get every inch.
Let kids get creative while getting their exercise by having then create and name their own yoga poses.
Create a deck of yoga cards with regular yoga poses and their own creations, then draw a few cards and hold the poses for a more creative meditation practice.
Using painter’s tape, have kids run strips across a doorway in your home to create their own spider webs. Make sure the sticky side of each strip faces the same way.
Then, toss small, soft objects at the web and see how many get stuck. Make it a competition by having each kid build their own web and seeing whose web captures more items.
Don’t just watch a movie, make it an experience by creating a DIY drive-in theater. Have kids decorate their own cars made from moving boxes or laundry baskets. Don’t forget to make a cozy interior of blankets or pillows, too.
When they’re done making their car, have them help make signs for the drive-in and its concession stand, stocked with popcorn, juice and candy. Make it more authentic by making drive-in speakers for each “car” using cups and string.
Ok, this activity may be one you immediately regret doing, but kids will have a fun time making these and playing with them – even if the playtime is short-lived. First, clean and dry empty water bottles.
Next, decorate the outside of the containers. Glue on streamers, paint the bottles and apply glitter and gems.
Then, search your craft supplies and kitchen cabinets for different items that would make noise when shaken. A few ideas of items to fill your bottles include: dry rice or beans, popcorn seeds, small jingle bells or beads.
Once you fill the bottles (leaving a lot of space for the objects to move around), close the lid tightly and glue or tape it shut.
If kids are stuck at home due to a natural disaster, national situation or other scary event, it can be a stressful time for them. A happiness box is a great resource for when they feel worried, anxious or scared.
Decorate an old shoebox with bright colors, smiley faces, suns and other happy things. Once the outside is decorated, fill the box with things that make your child happy – their favorite book, a photo that makes them smile, their favorite jokes, pieces of candy, a letter from a loved one, etc.
Tell them that whenever they feel sad, they can open their happiness box and feel better.
Another fun activity that can help kids experiencing different emotions could be a DIY stress ball. All you need for this activity is some flour or corn starch, a balloon and a funnel.
Start by stretching out the balloon, then stick the funnel in the opening and pour in the flour or corn starch. You may need to tap the sides of the funnel to help the flour move down the funnel.
Once the balloon is filled with flour (it will not expand much), simply tie it. You may want to consider placing it inside another balloon to make the exterior stronger.
Once the stress ball is made, kids can use a permanent marker to draw a silly face or other image that will stretch out when the balloon is squeezed.
Making your own ice cream can easily become a lesson in science, and all the shaking your kids will do can help tire them out. Here’s how to make homemade ice cream.
Mix ½ cup whole milk with ½ cup cream. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. For chocolate-flavored ice cream, add ½ tablespoon of chocolate milk powder. For strawberry-flavored ice cream, add ½ tablespoon of strawberry milk powder.
Pour the mixture into a plastic bag that zips shut. Make sure the bag is sealed. In a second plastic bag, pour in one or two handfuls of ice and about ¼ cup of salt.
Place the first bag into the bag of ice and salt and seal it. Then, shake the bags until the mixture freezes and forms ice cream. This can take 5 – 10 minutes. Keep in mind, it will not be as thick as normal ice cream.
Once the ice cream forms, remove the bag of ice cream and wipe it down before removing the ice cream since there will be salt on the exterior of the bag. Cut a corner off and pipe the ice cream into individual bowls and enjoy.
Build a space in your home dedicated to reading for kids who love books. Build a fort or turn a giant box into a little nook and lay down some floor pillows and blankets to make it extra cozy.
Accessorize the space with your child’s favorite books, a small reading lamp or flashlight and some decorated bookmarks and “do not disturb” signs. Pick a time each day for your child to visit their nook and read for a few minutes.
This activity encourages your kids to get creative and use their imagination. Make a pile of unused items in the home that are headed for the trash – broken appliances, empty bottles, wrappers, etc.
Give your kids 5 minutes or so to invent something new with the pieces. After 5 minutes of building, have them explain their new invention and give it a name.
Go even further and have them make up a commercial for their product, too.
Minute To Win It games are party favorites, but you don’t need a big group of people to play them. These games involve several different physical challenges that each must be completed in 1 minute.
Here are a few examples of one-minute challenges you can try.
There are a few different types of “hunts” you can make to keep kids busy. Create a map from the floor plan of your home that they can follow to some hidden treasure.
For kids who are a little older, make a scavenger hunt with a clue at each spot that leads them to the next. Younger children may like a simpler hunt that asks for specific things, like something that is green, something that is soft or something you love.
Pretend you’re astronauts discovering a new planet. You come across unique “rocks” that you want to take back to your ship to study – but beware. These space rocks may be radioactive.
Use balls of aluminum foil to create the space rocks and place them in a basket at one end of the room. Put an empty basket at the other end of the room. Your kids must race to put as many space rocks in their empty basket as they can.
But wait! Since the space rocks could be dangerous, take extra precaution. Your kids must handle them with only chopsticks, tongs or spoons – and wear oven mitts too.
If you have multiple children playing, see who can get more in their basket. If you have one child playing, challenge them to get as many space rocks in their basket as they can in under a minute.
Right now, people and places all around the world are banding together to offer educational and entertainment opportunities for the world’s youngest inhabitants. For example, there are many educational places, like museums, zoos and historical landmarks, offering free virtual field trips.
Streaming services are unlocking kid’s programming for everyone. A number of educational companies, like Scholastic and Khan Academy, are offering free subscriptions. Celebrities are reading stories to kids, musicians are performing live concerts and fitness instructors are offering free classes for kids.
Hop online and see what you can find to help you keep kids active at home during this time.
Please use caution when doing any of the activities listed or any activities from other resources, too. For activities that involve different solutions, make sure you test them on a small part of your skin first.
As with any activity, there is a risk of injury involved. Use these ideas at your own discretion.
The physical and mental health and safety of our kids is always the No. 1 priority. That’s why the most important activity to do with your kids while they’re at home is to just spend quality time with them – no matter what that looks like.