Being stuck in the house on a rainy day is no fun for anyone. But especially for kids (and the parents who have to listen to “What can I do?” or “I’m bored.”) Here are a variety of activities your kids can do indoors to have fun. There are activities for kids of varying ages and some require adult help, but some don’t.
Puzzles and games
Here are some easy-to-make or download puzzles and games.
- Homemade jigsaw puzzles are easy and cheap to make from cereal boxes and greeting cards. Simply cut the front from a cereal box or greeting card, and then cut the image into shapes. For young children, cut the puzzle into only 4 or 5 simple pieces, with mostly straight edges (squares and rectangles). For an older child, cut more pieces and make the shapes more intricate (angled cuts and random shapes with many edges).
- Timeless games. DLTK-Kids.com has a page of online games. Our favorites include several versions of Tic-Tac-Toe, Hangman and Word Search.
- Paper fortune teller. WikiHow.com offers detailed instructions, with photos, for creating a fortune teller. This is a simple type of origami that has many variations. DLTK-Kids.com takes it further and offers several different versions for fortune tellers for holidays and seasons throughout the year.
- Playdough: One batch of homemade play dough (also called salt dough) can be mixed from common household ingredients. Each batch costs less than $1 and makes the equivalent of 2-3 cans from the store, or enough for one child for 1-2 hours of play.
To Make: In a bowl, stir together 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup salt, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar or citric acid and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Slowly add 3/4 cup boiling water, stirring until combined. Mix until a dough forms that is neither too mushy (needs more flour) or too stiff (needs more water). Place dough on a large piece of foil. Add liquid or paste food color and knead (massage) using your hands until color is evenly distributed. Form dough into a smooth ball.
Food coloring ideas: Use several drops liquid food coloring or several pinches powdered/paste food coloring (available at candy making supply stores) OR one package unsweetened powdered drink mix, such as Kool-Aid, which makes dough with vibrant color that also smells fruity.
- Flubber: That ooey gooey, slimey stuff that’s virtually stick-free.
To Make: Mix together 1 1/2 cups warm water, 2 cups white glue (like Elmer’s) and a few drops of food coloring into a bowl. In a second bowl, mix together 1 1/3 cups of warm water and 3 teaspoons Borax. Combine the Borax mixture and the glue mixture. Mix. Store in an air tight container or sealable bag for up to 2-3 weeks.
- Slime: There are so many kinds. Basic, Glitter, Glow in the Dark (note some special ingredients needed for this). Lots of fun to be had.
- Moon Sand: That moldable, shapeable sand that can be used to build towers, castles, and more. Be sure to do it on a rimmed cookie sheet or spread a sheet on the floor to keep the mess to a minimum.
Kids in the Kitchen
Kids are far more likely to eat foods they’ve cooked themselves. But cooking can also be a great way to practice math skills. Plus, its just yummy fun!
- Ice cream in a bag. We do this camping all the time, but it’s fun anytime.
- Homemade Pudding Pops. Get creative with flavors or mix-ins.
- Make Butter. The kids will be amazed at how the liquid turns into a solid butter, plus its delicious!
- Make Mini Cakes. Cute way to use empty veggie or soup cans.
- Make a Crazy Cake. These mix right in the pan for little mess, plus no eggs, butter, or milk.
- Try Grilled Cheese Roll Ups for lunch.
Make clothes for dolls or stuffed animals
Here are a few ways you and/or your kids can make some cute outfits for their little friends.
- No-Sew sweaters for stuffed animals: I love this way to use up those extra socks that have lost their mate.
- American Girl Clothes: Great ideas for using clothes your kids have grown out of.
- Barbie Clothes: Felt and some simple sewing is all you need to dress Ken and Barbie.
- Barbie Sweaters: Another way to use of single socks.
Origami (paper-folding art)
Origami means “fold paper” in Japanese. And that’s exactly what origami is. Square paper folded into whimsical shapes. If you have ever made a folded paper hat or paper airplane, you already know how to make simple origami. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, we found several sites that explain origami in detail with step-by-step instructions, many with photos and some with videos.
Basic origami always uses a six-inch square of paper, about the weight of standard gift wrapping paper. If you don’t have origami paper, cut wrapping paper to size.
- Origami-Instructions.com. Start with the Origami for Kids section, which is easy for beginners. Try some other simple origami designs and master base folds before moving on to more complex designs.
- Origami-make.com. Take a look at How to Make Origami, which explains the basic folds in pictures. Then try Easy Origami to practice the folds before moving on to more complex designs.
- Origami Resource Center.com. This collection offers free origami instructions from the paper-folding art community.
- Origami-fun.com. Try the printable origami instructions and origami folding tips. These are great for beginners. Many of the designs are rated to indicate the difficulty.
Once you understand the basic origami folds (including mountain, valley, reverse, etc.) and create a few simple origami pieces, you will be ready to move on to more complex origami designs.
Pool Noodle Fun
Grab some pool noodles cheap at end of summer sales so you’re ready to go with these.
- Make a matchbox car racetrack.
- If you have a Star Wars fan, you’ll have to make some of these easy light sabers
- Try out this simple card holder.
- Build a playhouse.
- Create a marble racetrack.
Storytelling with simple homemade puppets
Making puppets is two times the fun. Puppets can be made from materials around the house and then can be used in storytelling.
Two-dimensional puppets can be made very simply from construction paper cutouts taped onto a holder, such as a thin wooden dowel, ice cream stick, sturdy twig, fork, chopstick, or wooden spoon. Alternatively, draw characters on paper or cut them out of magazines, and then glue onto cardboard before securing to a holder.
Three-dimensional puppets can be made using simple household items such as tennis balls, wooden spoons, socks, potatoes, paper cups or even a letter-size envelope. For these puppets, you might use thumbtacks for eyes and corks for noses (stick on with tape), or write on paper with a marking pen. Use yarn or curling ribbon for hair. Use rubber bands to secure cloth and form bodies and hands. Doll clothes and hats can provide more personality and props.
For a little inspiration in puppet-making using household items, watch this vintage show on YouTube showing Jim Henson making puppets. This 15-minute show originally aired on public television in 1969, before Henson joined the then-fledglingSesame Street television show. Eventually, Henson helped create some of the most famous puppets of our generation, including Kermit the Frog, Bert and Ernie, Cookie Monster, Big Bird and many more. His advice is simple but timeless, creative, fun and cheap.
For story inspiration, kids can create puppets to re-enact a movie, vacation adventure, family history or a story from a favorite book.
Dollmaking is another fun kids activity that young girls and boys alike will enjoy. We found instructions for several types of dolls using leftover fabrics, socks and corn husks. Try these sites:
- Primitive dolls. Ideas and materials for making folk art dolls.
- Corn husk dolls. Several ideas for Native American corn husk dolls. Dried corn husks can be purchased where Hispanic groceries are sold and soaked until pliable for doll making.
- Sock dolls. These easy sock dolls require no sewing.
- Rag dolls. These rag dolls require simple sewing.
- Fabric dolls. Instructions and patterns for charming handmade cloth dolls from Martha Stewart.
Handmade dolls share some of the techniques with puppet making.
Fort building is a quintessential kids activities. The basic fort-building equipment includes two to four sheets or blankets and something to help create structure. Figuring this out is part of the fun. An adult should usually help at this stage, especially if there is a need to move large furniture or to approve the use of materials.
For the basic fort structure, a large table is ideal, but large furniture, a cardboard box, an ironing board, a camera tripod or high-back chairs are also useful. Simply drape the sheets to create the basic fort. You can also hang a sheet over a clothesline or rope, if you can tie it to something sturdy. Or tape one edge of the sheet on a wall using duct tape or blue painter’s tape, and then tape it to furniture a few feet away. Just be sure to test a piece of tape in an inconspicuous area first. You don’t want to remove paint or the finish on a piece of furniture. Other options for securing sheets to objects (or each other) include clothespins, safety pins or large binder clips.
Inside the fort, put a blanket on the floor. Pillows or chair cushions can create comfy areas for sitting and laying in the fort. Add other decor, such as cutout foil stars taped to the “ceiling” of the fort, or a strand of holiday lights. Flashlights or glow sticks also create an interesting aura.
For a twist on your basic fort, you can try an Air Fort with the addition of a fan and some tape.
Wax paper art using natural and household items
Pressing leaves in wax paper is perhaps one of the most common kids fall or winter activities. But don’t stop there. Many other items can be pressed between wax paper to make beautiful and personal artwork. Wax paper art requires some adult supervision, or a responsible (not to mention willing) teenager. Set an iron on medium-low heat. Be ready to iron artwork as your artist finishes assembling their masterpiece.
If the weather is bad, you will need to have collected leaves or flowers ahead of time. But you can also use household items, such as construction paper (or drawings), glitter or pieces of foil, ribbon or yarn, wrapping paper, tissue paper and wax crayon shavings (using a pencil sharpener). Note: Just a little wax crayon shaving goes a long way — so don’t use too much of this. Photos can also be used to accent the artwork. For leaves or any other bulky items, it is helpful to iron the item flat before assembling the artwork.
To assemble the artwork, tear out two equal-sized sheets of wax paper. Pieces of wax paper that are approximately 12 inches x 18 inches can be used as table placemats.
Place one piece of wax paper on a piece of newspaper on a flat, soft surface that you can iron (such as an ironing board, or a tray covered with an old t-shirt or thin kitchen towel). Arrange leaves, flower petals, or any of the other suggested items on the wax paper. Do not cover the wax paper entirely, leave some portions of wax paper to show through, and leave the edge free to create a good seal all the way around.
This is where the adult steps in. When the décor is in place, place the second wax sheet over décor; be sure to line up the sides of the top sheet to match the bottom sheet. Cover everything with another piece of newspaper, taking care not to disturb the artwork. Iron the top sheet with a warm iron, pressing down lightly from the center of the artwork, and working out in a circular motion all the way to the edges in every direction. This will melt the wax and seal the two sheets together, with the artsy bits in-between. Check the artwork; if the décor can shift or the wax paper still separates, repeat the ironing process and check again. Repeat as needed until a complete seal is attained, usually no more than 3 passes. Remove the artwork. Use scissors to trim the edges as needed.
Hang the artwork in a window and let some light shine through for maximum effect.
Use these cheap kids activities and homemade toys whenever boredom strikes and weather keeps them inside. The creativity used to source materials for handmade toys is as much fun as the activities themselves.
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