7 Ideas for When Kids Are Stuck Indoors

Whether it’s a rainy day, a school snow day or just too blasted hot to go out, sometimes kids need to play inside for the day. That doesn’t mean kids can’t have some fun, but at the same time, it doesn't mean you have to let the Cat in the Hat's buddies Thing 1 and Thing 2 run wild in your house.

These fun indoor rainy day activities will keep kids busy, happy, and playing independently while parents attend to other things. These ideas are geared toward work-at-home parents who need activities for kids that they can do on their own, but any parent with a bored kid on a rainy day can appreciate this indoor fun.

Put on a Puppet Show

Girl with animal finger puppets
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Kids are born performers. Even shy ones might "put on a show” for parents, close friends or themselves. And those shows can become very elaborate – sometimes to the point of needing a parent’s help when that parent needs to be working! That's why sometimes the right show is actually a puppet show.

Puppets have many benefits. They are good for one child alone or many. They spark the imagination, but they can also help kids put some structure and action to their fantasies (without leaving a mess in their wake).

Puppets let shy kids perform, perhaps, to an audience of one (themselves). Plus kids can make puppets, so it's an art project first, a performance next.

Make Photo Crafts and Scrapbooks

Brother and sister scrapbooking
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Kids can be nostalgic about last week. They love to reminisce so this activity puts that tendency to work at making something to hold all those precious memories. If you’re going to have kids do this while you work, they probably have to be tweens or teens but if they are younger, set aside a little time in your day to work with them.

Younger kids will not be able to complete an ambitious scrapbooking or photo collage project on their own, but you can scale activities or tasks to their level. Kids love looking at family pictures, so let them sort through your old photos and pick their favorites. For the older kids, there are a lot of possibilities. You can buy scrapbooking kits and let them tell their life story in pictures. Or if digital is more their style, try an online photo craft site. Kids can upload pictures and create flip books, magazine covers, and other projects. Just make sure they check with you before they hit send!

Have Some Science Fun

Science Fun

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Give kids a science textbook and you’ll get a groan; tell them you’ll be doing an experiment and you’ll hear a cheer. Most of these science experiments are going to take some adult supervision unless your kids are teens, so consider carving a little time out of your workday for some science fun. Depending on the activity and the age of your kids, you may be able to bring your laptop in the kitchen and just watch over the experiments. Just keep your office equipment clear of the Mentos volcano!

Make a Dessert

Mother and daughter spooning topping onto tarts

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Most kids want to learn to cook as much as they want to clean their rooms but it’s important to teach kids cooking—as in making a meal. So meet kids where they are and start by making things they like to eat like desserts or, better yet, homemade ice cream.

I have eyed those fancy ice cream makers, but with this recipe for ice cream in a freezer bag, why bother? Kids love this activity! But, of course, what they really love is the end product. Making ice cream is both a treat and activity as are many cooking activities. Once kids are old enough to boil water in a microwave or use the mixer, they can make Jello or instant pudding all on their own. Or try making milkshakes, popsicles, smoothies, or parfaits.

Play Games

Kids Games

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The word “games” has become synonymous with electronic, online, and video games in many kids’ minds. But, parent, don’t forget about old-fashioned board games and cards as a means to keep kids busy while you work.

Sitting in person with friends and physically manipulating the pieces has a value that is easily overlooked these days.

One drawback, however, is that typically you'll need to have more than one kid in the house to play (though you can check a list of games for one). And kids need to be good sports or you'll end up as referee.

String Beads

Girl beading on thread, close up.
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Beading for kids has a lot more potential for fun than I once realized. My childhood memories of it were making ugly necklaces that neither you nor your mother really wanted to wear (though she actually did). Way back then, we just had a bunch of plastic beads and very little direction on what to do with them.

However, now there are so many projects and so many beads! Letting kids choose their own project can significantly increase their interest in beading. I know because a few summers ago my girls and I created long strands of funky beads (some of which we made ourselves) to hang from the ceiling lamp in their room. This was a great everyday summer activity because it wasn't difficult, it spanned several days, and the girls wanted to do it.

Watch Family Movies

Kids TV
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While I'm not a big fan of using the TV as a babysitter while mom works, I never object to breaking out the home movies. There are nothing kids like more than to watch themselves in action. (At least half of our home movies from when my daughter was a toddler end with her making a grab for the camera saying "Can I see?")

If you have hours of unedited video, you might want to show the kids how to work the remote (or if they are teens maybe get them going on editing it). Pull out the photo books, too. Break out the popcorn and let them stroll down memory lane for an afternoon.

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