Are you willing to keep one of my dirty little secrets? I love television. ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT. Sometimes the thought of curling up on the couch with a glass of wine and Olivia Pope is just about the only thing that gets me through a tough day. The problem is, Pinterest and Facebook and all that jazz tell me that I probably shouldn’t let my kids indulge in so much television that they turn into a tv loving zombie like their mom….at least I will let them make that transition once they are at college. I really do see the point that you don’t want to turn your kids into tv zombies….they don’t sleep as well, they pick up on some words and actions that I am not too thrilled about, and well, I truly like interacting with and playing with them. They are my kids after all, and I want to take advantage of the time I have with them before we all go back to school full time.
So here is my list of ways to avoid the television and have tons of fun while doing it. Most of these activities are pretty simple and can be accomplished with whatever you have lying around the house, which makes this list even more awesome. Because really, who wants to do go the dollar store when it is only 10 degrees out or there is a monsoon outside? Not this mama, let me tell you. I’m sure you will find a ton of these “screen free activities” lists on other blogs, which is great, but this list is what works for me and my little guys, requires little to zero prep work, and includes fun things that my little family and I enjoy. Here are our tried and true 25 Fun Indoor Screen Free Activities.
1. Cook something. It’s never too early to get kids involved in cooking, and I have found that having them help gets them to be more likely to try new foods and be excited about eating. I have found that my boys do a great job helping me with baking (something that I do not enjoy AT ALL), so we bake a lot of muffins, breads, cookies, etc. Since I love to cook, my boys have now become in charge of helping me create the salad we eat every night…and they devour it every night as well. Winning.
2. Bust out the puzzles. Depending on the age of your kiddos, chose puzzles that are at their level. Want to make wooden puzzles more complex? Put a bunch of the mixed up puzzle pieces in a bag and spread the empty boards out in front of them. Have them pick a piece out of the bag, decide which puzzle it goes to, and then have them match the pieces. This extra challenge makes it much more fun and unique, as well as boosts brainpower.
3. Make your own play dough. I don’t know if you are anything like me, but my heart beats a little faster every time I see my three year old mix together two or three different colors of play dough, especially when the dough is brand new. Doesn’t he know how expensive that is?!? Since he is a preschooler and obviously doesn’t, we have started making play dough ourselves. Not only is it fun mixing all of the ingredients, they get to choose the color and add details like glitter (yes, Daddy, the “devil’s dandruff” that you hate so much), dried lavender, etc. Click here for my favorite play dough recipe.
4. Have a read a thon. Get into a cuddly and sunny spot with a ton of books and read! Read together, have your little one “read” to you…just simply interacting with books is so incredibly powerful (trust me, I’m an expert). You can even create a little reading tracker as well to mark your progress and provide motivation. We like to cut out little books out of construction paper (ok, they are really just squares, but whatever) and put one on my little guys’ doors every time we read a new book. They LOVE counting the books on their doors and are so incredibly proud of themselves. Makes this mama’s heart burst. Looking for a great book? Check out our suggestions.
5. Clean! Yep, that’s right, put your kids to work. Give them rags (or even anti-bacterial wipes) to wipe down surfaces like counters or the refrigerator, give them brooms to sweep (ok, so they might not get all of the dirt, but they will have a ton of fun), etc. Kids can do chores, I swear. I love all of these great options on this Pinterest board.
6. Allow the little monkeys to jump on the bed. Because really? It’s fun. Just put all of the pillows in the house around the bed so it can be as safe as possible. And maybe have some bananas as a snack.
7. Have a silly bath. My boys love taking baths, and to break up the monotony, I like to make baths special, especially when we are cooped up inside all day. Some of our favorite things to do is to add some food coloring to the water and use some special toys to make a “theme.” For example, we use blue food coloring and ocean toys to create an “ocean,” turn off the lights and light up the bathroom using colorful Christmas lights, add foam letters and go “fishing” for letters…the options are endless! Here is a great Pinterest board of bath ideas.
8. Have a tower building contest, using only objects that are in one room. Yes, there might be legos and traditional blocks in the room, but you can also use shoes, pillows, books, etc. to make your tower as fun as possible. And the best part? When they go “baboom” and you get to create all over again. One of my favorite rooms to use for this challenge? The kitchen. Our towers end up including pots, pans, dried pasta, marshmallows….so fun! And if you want to stick with Legos, check out my favorite ways to play with them.
9. Create an obstacle course. Set up things to climb over (ottomans, stacks of pillows), stations to throw things into (socks into a laundry basket), certain amounts of hops to do on one leg while holding an object, etc. The options are endless and can get really fun once kids are involved.
10. Have a dance party! I absolutely love to dance and my boys love when I make a fool out of myself, so dance parties are a hit in our house. We also spice it up with “freeze dance” and songs like the hokey pokey where we have to do certain movements.
11. Play hide n’ seek. Funny, my boys think we are playing this game every time I try to go to the bathroom by myself. But when we play the game for real, the boys have a blast hiding from me and I enjoy getting some quiet time to myself. “Mommy just can’t find you!” Hahaha….
12. Build your own racetrack. We love playing with cars in our house (typical for boys, eh?) so we have a blast making new and fun race tracks for our cars. We have a special “road” tape that we use to make race tracks climb up the walls, but you can do this with simple tape as well. Another option is to prop up a crib mattress and use it as a ramp to zoom cars off of. So incredibly fun.
13. Play dress up. Wearing cowboy hats, huge sunglasses, capes….even Mommy’s shoes are a fun break for the norm. And even funnier? When Mommy tries to wear some of the kid’s clothes. I like to put their shoes on my big toe and walk around. The boys roll around laughing every time!
14. Find stuff to donate! As mentioned in my decluttering blog post, I like to avoid having TONS of toys out for the boys. Not only does it make more clutter in our house, but I also want them to learn to appreciate having a small amount of things instead of having everything one could ever dream of available for playing 24/7. So instead of being sneaky about decluttering, get your little ones involved. Explain to them why people donate things to help the world become a better place and have them pick out one or two things to donate to another child who might like it.
15. Do the laundry together. We are finally at the point where my boys love to be helpers. And since I do laundry at least once a day, it is a great starting point in creating helpful kids. The boys will literally fight over who gets to put more clothes into the washing machine, and my oldest loves to help sort the clothes once they are dried. The little guy just likes throwing napkins into the air, which can be annoying, but also serves as a reminder to take a break and throw some napkins into the air. Why? Because it’s fun. Just don’t let your kid crawl into the machine.
16. Build forts. I must admit that I do not have a lot of experience in the fort building arena since my sister and I preferred to play with dolls, read books, and play “restaurant,” but I sure make up for that with the amount of extra throw pillows, drapes, and blankets I have stored from my many ventures to Home Goods, Target, etc. As long as we can crawl under some type of blanket, my boys are happy. And when I break out the flashlights for us to use when we are in the fort? COOLEST. MOM. EVER.
17. Throw things into buckets/baskets/bowls/etc. When I was a little girl, I was picked to be on the Grand Prize Game as an audience member at the Bozo Show. I remember how nervous I was throwing the ball into the buckets, and that Bozo kept calling me the wrong name, but I can’t remember how far I got or what I won. One clear memory from this exciting event: the fun of throwing something into a container. I know it seems just about as basic as “kick the can,” but it is really pretty fun trying to aim things into buckets/baskets/bowls/etc. My boys really love to get creative with this game, and tend to raid my sock drawer for good “balls” and all of the storage baskets around the house as targets for their “sock balls.”
18. Color something. Sounds simple, but it is oh so fun. Use different materials to create something new and unique. Chalk, crayon, marker, highlighter, paint…try it all.
19. Make snowflakes and dance in the rain. Since it is so cold outside, bring the prettiest thing about winter, snowflakes, inside. Take a sheet of white computer paper and fold it in half, then in half again. Using scissors, cut designs out of the paper. Unfold and “ta da,” you have a unique snowflake. I also really like this snowflake game. Dealing with rain? put on your rubber boots, bust out the umbrellas and “sing in the rain.”
20. Try out different types of hot cocoa. Top one with marshmallows, another with crushed graham crackers…get really crazy and add a candy cane, or even a scoop of ice cream. My favorite decadent addition is a spoonful of Nutella. The delicious options are endless!
21. Play the getting dressed game. This is a fun and silly way to get your preschooler and toddler to practice getting dressed and undressed. But what makes it so fun is having them put on as many layers of clothing as possible. They end up looking like sumo wrestlers, and you can even add Mommy and Daddy’s clothes into the mix.
22. Play “Simon Says” with each person taking “Simon” turns. Great for listening and getting the wiggles out!
23. Tell a new ending to stories. My boys already have some beloved books that they know by heart, and it is fun to try and get them to come up with a new ending to the story, or to tell me what happens “next.” We will even draw their ideas from time to time, getting us geared up towards when they are a little older and ready to write their own sequels.
24. “Theme” study poster. Have your kiddos pick something that they want to learn more about. Then get researching! Use books and magazines around the house, as well as the factoid filled Internet to learn about a specific idea. My boys tend to want to learn about animals, so we will print off lots of pictures of animals and put them on one big poster board for them to look at and “tell about.” They love sharing what they learned with anyone who comes over.
25. Write letters to family and friends. We have a large family, so it is nice to keep in touch with them in a way other than a rushed phone call during nap time or exchanging of Facebook pleasantries. So we will spend time writing letters to family (write now it is a lot of scribbling and Mommy writing) and then making a trip to the mailbox (in the car, of course, it’s still cold out!) to mail them. It is always a delight to hear how much our family members loved receiving their letters.
So there it is, 25 fun and low maintenance things to do indoors instead of turning on the television. Now that everyone is tired out from all of the fun activities, put them to bed and tune in… I’m sure there is a reality television show marathon on!
Looking for where to play when the weather gets nasty? Check out our top picks for indoor play.