Winter is here. Those dreaded three long months where none of us moms can seem to catch a break. Maybe you have a new baby and are trying to hunker down until they receive their immunizations, but your toddler is going stir crazy. Perhaps your kiddos haven’t built up their immune systems, and you are constantly stuck at home with whatever virus they licked off of the Target shopping cart. Or quite possibly it’s the seventh snow day of the year, and you are about to pull your hair out with all of the energy that is usually harnessed by the walking angel known as your child’s teacher. Whatever the situation, there is bound to be many cold, blustery winter days that have you cooped up at home with a given number of kids who are ready to climb the walls. So, instead of caving in to Daniel Tiger (but that’s OK, too!), try these five boredom busting indoor activities that require minimal materials or preparation and are bound to keep your children engaged and stimulated at any age.
Boredom Busting Indoor Activity #1: Water Play
Many people think of water play as only a summer activity, but it can also be a great indoor activity if you take certain precautions. Use warm water in a shallow plastic storage tub and set up a few towels to catch the spills. Younger children will need to be coached in proper indoor water play etiquette such as keeping the water in the tub and not using the tub as a pool, but most catch on quickly, especially if you are close by to give encouragement and reminders.
Water play can be such a fun and calming activity at any age. All you need to do is change up the setup depending on your child’s age and interests.
Wash Your Toys (Ages 1-3)
Toddlers will enjoy washing their favorite toys, and it’s also a great way to keep the toys free of germs during cold and flu season. Throw in a set of water safe toys such as plastic animals, toy cars, or water-safe baby dolls. Then, fill your shallow tub with soapy water, sponges, or scrub brushes and let them get to work!
Scoop and Pour (Ages 3-5)
Preschool children love to use kitchen utensils to scoop, pour, and transfer water. Give them measuring cups, different sized containers, ladles and turkey basters. Then sit back and enjoy the silence that will follow!
Foil Boats (Ages 6 and up)
School-aged children are always up for a challenge. Give them a few sheets of foil and challenge them to create a boat that will float and hold as many pennies as possible. Their competitive nature will keep them building and busy trying to beat their record!
Boredom Busting Indoor Activity #2: Recycled Art
Are you even a mom if you don’t receive at least three Amazon deliveries a week? Instead of tossing those boxes in the recycling can, save a few for those desperate days when you need an activity. Better yet, create a collection of cool items you would usually recycle and you will be stocked and ready when the time comes. Cool items could include egg cartons, toilet paper tubes, bubble wrap, caps, and lids. The sky is the limit!
Recycled art is also a fun activity for all ages; however, it’s best to start simple and let your budding artists slowly add more materials and techniques to their repertoire. Here are some suggestions for different ages:
Amazon Box Canvas (Ages 1-3)
It’s a risky venture, but toddlers love to be given the opportunity to paint. Set up a drop cloth, give them an amazon box as a canvas, and stick to one or two paint colors.
Print Making (Ages 3-5)
Preschool children love to push the limits with everything, right? So why not appeal to that side of their personality and let them paint with all of those fun recycled materials you’ve been collecting. They can stamp with lids, paint with a plastic spoon, or make prints with bubble wrap. Again, don’t forget the drop cloth is key!
Creation Station (Ages 6 and up)
I’ll say it again…school-aged children love a good challenge. So give them the items you’ve been hoarding, along with basic craft items like construction paper, scissors, tape, and glue, and challenge them to make something cool. If total creativity is too broad, then you can always narrow the parameters with ideas such as create a house, robot, or vehicle.
Boredom Busting Indoor Activity #3: Forts
Who doesn’t love a cozy spot to hide out in on a cold winter day? Maybe it’s the mammal in us, but there is a natural tendency for us to want to hibernate. And kids in particular love to hide. So help your child set up a fort or hideout, and stock it with snacks, books, and small toys. You may even want to offer a designated amount of screen time in said fort. Don’t be surprised if all goes quiet, and you find your little one asleep in their fort. Forts have that napping effect!
There is an evolution of forts that you will thank me later for sharing with you. Kids are wiggle worms, so you don’t want to give them anything too elaborate until they are capable of fixing fort malfunctions on their own.
Keep it simple with a pop-up tent or a big box.
Drape some blankets over a table.
Ages 6 and up:
So long as they put it all back, let them go to town moving the furniture, couch cushions, and every blanket in the house to build the ultimate fort!
Boredom Busting Indoor Activity #4: Obstacle Course
It’s best to stay ahead of witching hour on a long winter day, am I right? Everyone always gets antsy right around the time the adults are trying to cook dinner. A simple obstacle course can be set up in a matter of minutes and can get those little bodies moving and grooving.
You don’t even need fancy gym equipment to make a fun obstacle course. Use a big pillow as a trampoline station. Lay painters tape on the ground to use as a balance beam. Grab some Tupperware lids and scatter them about to be used as stepping stones. Line the chairs up and create a tunnel to crawl through. Set some toys out as hurdles. You can make the obstacle course as simple or complex as you want depending on your child’s age. Your children will soon catch on and love to add their own flair to the obstacle course.
Boredom Busting Indoor Activity #5: STEM Challenge
There are so many long winter days that seem to end in failure. Too much screen time, too much fighting, too little movement. It always feels good to be able to provide your child with a simple activity that is also rooted in learning.
A simple and fun challenge can change the mood of any day, so you can end on a good note. Here are three different STEM Challenges that involve almost no prep and use items we all have lying around the house. Keep these in your back pocket to use when help is needed!
Cheerio Towers (Ages 1-3)
Stick a dry spaghetti noodle vertically in a hunk of playdough and show your child how to string and stack cheerios to make a tower. Give them three noodles to stack on so that you can talk to them about measurement. Which tower is the tallest? Which is the shortest?
Solo Cup Challenge (Ages 3-5)
Give your child a stack of solo cups and challenge them to build a tower that is as tall or taller than they are!
Index Card Challenge (Ages 6 and up)
Give your child a stack of index cards and challenge them to build the tallest tower they can.