Help! We’re Trapped Inside ALL Day!

Here are ten of our favorite indoor activities for when we can’t get outside. What do you like to do when you’re trapped inside all day?

1. Put the crayons and paper on the floor. 

There is something about doing art on the floor that increases a child’s attention span. It’s true. Try it! One of our favorite things to do when we’re trapped inside is get a LONG piece of paper, trace ourselves and make self-portraits. And when we have lot’s of time to burn, I pull out the big guns! Oh yes, you know what I’m talking about: glitter. Because no self portrait is complete without a glittery shirt.

2. Make a mess. 

I give up on cleaning some days. After all, at my job, the proof of a successful day is a messy room.  In an attempt to keep this fresh, I rotate the toys that the kids have from the basement to the playroom upstairs every month or so. In this way, when we are trapped indoors, I can grab a box from the basement we haven’t seen in a while, dump it on the floor with a grand gesture and VOILA! We have new toys to play with!

3. Bake some muffins. 

Food can cure a lot of things… hunger pains, a headache, boredom. When we’re trapped inside, I like to start baking with the kids. Our favorite thing to whip up is muffins. I like to time my baking with when the older kids get off the bus. If we save our baking projects until late in the afternoon, it gives me and the kiddos something to look forward to! And also, this way the other kids have a warm snack when they get in!

4. Puppets.

We have two favorite puppets around here: Girlfriend, who is a cheerleader, and the cook, who has a Russian accent and tends to be a bit bossy.  I don’t know where the kids get these ideas from... ok, fine. You caught me, I thought of these ones. But when I tire of hearing myself, I sometimes call for the puppets to reveal themselves from hiding. If I yell loud enough, out they come and soon the laughter follows! It isn’t always easy to transition into “puppet mode”, but on a good day I could probably audition for Sesame Street.

5. Movie Theater.

This is something I used to do a lot when I was in college and watched a preschooler. We would spend hours getting a movie theater ready. This took more time than you might imagine. First, we had to decorate paper sacks for the popcorn to go in. And they had to look good. We didn’t want our movie goers to be disappointed. We would color and use glitter until you couldn’t even see that old paper bag!

Then, we would make money. Of course movies are expensive, so you need to make a lot of money. For this I would cut strips of paper out. Then we would practice writing numbers on them, along with drawing lots of shapes. After which, we find our fanciest purses and evenly distribute the money.

And what would a movie theater be without a concession stand and ticket counter? After popping popcorn, making lemonade, slicing apples (to go with the peanut butter of course) we would fill our trays, then stand in line to pay. At last, all of that hard work paid off and we could sit on the couch, snuggle and watch a movie. Phew! We deserved a break after that!

6. Tea Parties.

We have quite a few tea parties around here. Aren’t all the two year olds doing it? While they are getting dressed in their princess and cowboy costumes, I warm up the water. Then, once they come to the table, I give them each a spoonful of honey to stir into their water to make “tea”. On special days, I give them some oranges to squeeze into their tea for a little extra flavor. They love it! And I love it, too. It’s nice to have someone to drink tea with in the afternoon.

7. Alphabet Hunt

For this, we pull out our alphabet flashcards. Then, one at a time, we look around the house and try to find where that letter is. This game is as much fun indoors as it is to play outdoors.

8. Dance Party.

Need I say more? Get those endorphins pumping with a little Neil Diamond. At least that’s what we do around here.

9. Kids Yoga.

You can never get kids involved in yoga too early. Sometimes we drop down into downward dog when we aren’t even doing yoga- it’s just that fun! Yoga with kids is awesome and definitely something that I intend to do more as the kids get older. The positive effects that it has on the kids blows my mind! And this calm physical activity helps to expend a lot of energy without making the kids more crazy! Hooray! What’s not to like about that!?

10. Bath Time.

Not baths for us…baths for the toys? What, even Elmo needs a bath now and then. For this activity I find the biggest bowl in the kitchen, fill it up with warm water and bubbles and toss their little figurines in. Then, I put the bowl on a big towel in the middle of the kitchen. Most of the time, I’ll let the twinners strip down to their diapers, but as they get older this activity makes less and less of a mess. I just give them a little wash rag and let them go at it! Sometimes the twins can do this activity close to forty minutes, which is quite a long time for such little ones! I HIGHLY recommend toy bath time!

Up-Cycled Children’s Project: Making a Bus

Here is a quick, easy up-cycled children’s project sure to busy your toddlers all day long. Trust me on this one.

On the way out of my apartment this morning, I noticed that our closet had more than a few extra egg cartons waiting to be recycled. So, I grabbed two and a ball of spring and headed out the door. I wasn’t sure how I would up-cycle them, but when I got to work, inspiration struck! As they played with their Little People, I told the twins that we would be making a school bus. They absolutely love any and every bus. They love singing about buses. They like watching for buses when we drive. They even pretend like the slide at gymnastics is a school bus. Like I said, they love buses. So, I knew when I said we would be making a bus, it would get their attention.

Tools for Egg Carton

All I did was punch two holes, one in each side of the egg carton. Then to make a handle, I tied a piece of string, looping it through each hole. And magically, ta-da– we have a bus, people!

Egg Carton 1

They were very excited and proceeded to pull the buses around all day, singing and laughing about being the bus driver. It’s extra fun when your twin is a bus driver, too, because then you can race one another up and down the kitchen floor. Beep beep! Watch out!

Egg Carton 2

Yes, I think I will stay two forever. Life is so good here.

Another Rainy Day Activity: Make Your Own Board Game

When the older kids I watch have a day off from school, one of the first things they ask to do is make a board game.  Of course, I have to agree. 

How it works? Collectively, or alone (depending on how everyone is getting along) I ask them to design a game for me to play with them.  They decide the rules. They decide the layout. They decide the colors and the pieces. They decide EVERYTHING! I sit back and watch it all go on, trying to intervene… never.

How long it takes? This is one of the most time consuming projects I know. Typically every child I have ever done this with stays occupied anywhere from one to four (yes!) hours!

Twists? Sometimes in the summer, we use sidewalk chalk outside to draw a board, then use ourselves as the pieces that move around the board. Don’t forget your sun block!

Materials? This project always leads us to one place: the recycling bin. The kids love making cards, boards, pieces, dice, spinners, you name it! from old homework assignments, boxes, marker caps, etc.  It’s fun to see just how many things they want to upcycle with, rather than use new.

Example: The first time we did this activity we found an old posterboard from last year’s secience project and we completely covered it with duct tape. This was a bit tricky and I offered to help for the beginning stages. Since this first time, however, they have found other ways to make boards without my help.

Here is a board they made the other day…

Make your own board game

Lessons Learned?

#1: It’s best to write down all our directions BEFORE we start playing.  It’s easy to make a few tweeks here & there until it’s perfect, but it’s always best to start with some general guidelines. Also, it’s a great way to start organized, focused and get them to write without realizing it!

#2: Some ideas for our board games are best kept a secret. No one likes when their games turn out exactly the same, afterall.

#3: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Wait, didn’t Thumper say that on Bambi? Either way, it also applies to making board games, too!

#4: Even if we never get a chance to play our games because it takes the whole afternoon and then Mom and Dad come home, that’s okay, too. Most of the fun is creating— and there will always be another afternoon to play!