As a parent, your kids are the light of your life. Some of that light, however, can quickly start dimming when you’re forced to keep them indoors for days on end. This may be due to illness, school closure, or anything else that might spring up unexpectedly (like COVID-19), but no matter the cause, it’s important to know how to navigate this situation.
Even if you love them to bits and enjoy the time you spend together, instances that require you and the kids to remain indoors are more likely to leave you frazzled than calm, collected and resourceful. For this reason, we’ve come up with a list of educational indoor activities for kids that’ll keep you sane, and your kids entertained during lockdown.
The following indoor activities were recommended by parents and childcare experts:
1. Teach your kids new life skills
School and extracurricular activity time aside, it can be difficult to find time to impart necessary life skills to your children. The best time for doing this is during the holiday season, or during unexpected breaks in their school schedule. Simple things like learning how to type, how to surf the internet safely, how to do simple cooking, doing basic cleaning around the house, or even using a knife safely when eating are important. You can also do fun things like playing the piano, hula hooping, or singing. Whatever the skill is that you think your kids need to know, take the time to introduce it to them in a fun way at home.
Lena from What Mommy Does puts it this way: “I think this time we have our kids at home presents a unique opportunity to those of us who don’t homeschool to spend quality time teaching our kids life skills that will help them when they grow up and leave the house.”
She adds, “While I don’t dictate my children’s “fun” activities, I do have a list of things I personally want to teach them, and this includes meal planning, making bread from scratch, cooking using only what’s in the pantry, washing clothes, mopping the floor, budgeting for necessities, and learning new skills.”
The Savvy Couple further elaborated on the importance of teaching kids life skills:
“These are skills that seem to have gone by the wayside that we think our kids will pick up as they go, instead of taking the time to teach them. The simple act of kids learning to tie their own shoes is a big one. As busy parents, we often move our kids quickly from one activity to the next. This means we either tie our kid’s shoes for them or use an easier type of shoe with no laces. Take the time to teach your kid a basic skill they’ll need for the rest of their lives.”
Check out The Savvy Couple’s Activities for Kids at Home listing for more helpful ideas!
2. Reinforce and re-learn old skills
Bring back the good ol’ times with some nostalgic or traditional activities. This can range from relearning how to make a friendship bracelet to learning how to navigate a non-digital map. Even simple things like using sneakers with laces (as opposed to Velcro) sometimes need to be relearnt. Go with your gut on what needs to be reinforced or re-learned and fit in some time for a refresher course.
3. Alphabet Matching for younger children
According to Carly from the Mommy On Purpose website, alphabet matching is a great learning activity for younger children. She details the process below:
“Teach them letters using a magnetic alphabet set and a cookie sheet. Write the alphabet on the cookie sheet using washable markers (or alphabet stickers) and have your kiddo match the magnetic letters to the letters on the sheet.”
Another option Carly recommends is writing the alphabet on the fridge.
“Just check an inconspicuous place first to make sure those “washable” markers do in fact wash off!” she warns.
For preschoolers: “Just let them go at it and match the alphabet in any order. Congratulate them for the effort… say something like, “Yay, you matched the letter “D”!
For older children: “Ask them to do it in order (A-B-C-D) and work on what sounds the letter makes while they match it. If your child has a great memory and this is “too easy”, ask them to match randomly by sound only, phonetically - (“Can you match the letter that makes the sound mmmmmm”?).
4. Learn about a new country or culture
You don’t need to have travelled all over the world to be able to introduce your children to new countries or cultures. There are fun ways to let your kids experience different cultures without leaving your home, and this can include trying new cuisines, embracing the culture of new places through the reenactment of entertainment (singing and dancing), and learning the basics in terms of new languages. Play a game with your children by letting them blindly point out a place on a map, after which you all find a way to bring one aspect of that place into your home, if only for one day!
5. Teach them how to garden indoors
Gardening can help your children learn about where food comes from, and how things grow. If you and the kids must be indoors for a while, and can’t go outside to enjoy nature, consider creating an indoor garden. If you’re not sure where to start, there are many YouTube channels which detail this process, even providing advice on the easiest things to grow. To start off with, try regrowing vegetable scraps including lettuce, avocados, green onions, carrot greens, green peppers or celery.
6. Teach them how to cook and bake
The Savvy Couple recommends that parents take advantage of the educational opportunities that come with cooking together.
“You have math, health, independence, following directions, reading and so many more aspects you can bring in. Have your child research what they want to make. Help them with a budget to shop for the ingredients or find what they need in the pantry/refrigerator. Read through the ingredients and instructions and discuss with them different aspects of the recipe. Get out the measuring tools and have them do all the measuring, pouring and mixing. Cooking is a life skill they will also need for the rest of their life!”
7. Practice storytelling aloud and writing stories
There’s a difference between reading aloud and reading in your head, and this is likely to be something you can work with your child on improving. Let them build their confidence and make use of their vivid imagination as they story tell straight from their head. If this is a new activity, you can help them build the story until they’re more confident. Storytelling is a skill they can have fun with now and appreciate later. Get into the storytelling activity by asking questions when there’s room to do so. Afterward, try to help them get that story onto paper!
8. Teach them about uncommon spices for cooking
Go beyond just cooking with your children – introduce them to commonly used spices, and the differences between each. This will involve a lot of taste testing, and a way to get them even more involved is allowing them to help select recipes to make together. Even the pickiest eater may be a little more willing to try new things, especially if they cooked it up themselves!
9. Create a family time capsule
Create something you can look back on in a year, or even as far off as ten years with your own family time capsule. You can include photos, letters, lists of best local spots, favorite foods, or even a magazine or two. The kids can also write and toss in the names of some of their best friends and most loved toys to look back on later. DIY capsules can be made by placing these items into a box, bottle, or a paper bag. Hide it away somewhere safe and set a date to open it up!
10. Read a new (or old) book together
Whether your little ones are strong readers or they’re just getting started, reading is a great way to bond and help them build their vocabulary. Reading with you may give them a different perspective on a story they’ve read before, and you’ll enjoy the snuggle time together!
Rese Buse from the lifestyle blog Tiaras & Tantrums recommends going a step further for younger school-aged children by creating a curriculum around a book.
“Simply select a book and create assignments around the book in each subject. It is very simple to create 10-12 different activities based on one book,” she notes. These assignments can be science, math, or even art oriented, which will help your kids learn while enjoying a good book.
For more Tips for Remote Home Schooling During Emergencies check out Rese’s blog!
11. Start a new craft project
Craft is always a good idea if you want to keep the kids busy while they’re at home. While this is a popular at-home activity for many parents, Maggy from Red Ted Art says “finding the right kind of activity” is key. This means that whatever you do should be age appropriate. She also advises parents to “manage your expectations”.
“With younger kids there are lots of Preschool Crafts you can try out,” she says. “Go for easy ideas that will really engage the children and help develop cognitive and fine motor skills – you can also introduce things such as color theory and shape activities.”
If your kids are under 5, Maggy advises parents to remember that the goal is to work together.
“Few under 5’s can truly work independently,” she says. “So you will have to set the time aside to work with them. It’s a good idea to pick out projects you can make together that they can then play with. Our toilet paper roll characters are great for this, or maybe something like a DIY Dolls house that you can add to over time.”
For kids 8 and over Maggy says parents should look towards getting into projects that encourage “independent crafting”, while for those between the 5-8 year mark, parents should help as much as possible, while still taking cues to know when to let them work independently.
Tip: Stock up on all the necessary supplies before getting into a craft project. This will cut out the need for spontaneous trips to the craft store with the kids. Oh, and if you run out of ideas, Pinterest can help!
12. Teach them how to paint or draw
Creativity is something many children are born with, but this can also be encouraged through immersion. If you’ve tried quilling or making origami hearts for special occasion cards, the next step might be teaching the kids how to draw or paint. Feed their imagination by teaching them what a pencil and a paint brush can do. Chances are, you’ll be surprised by how quickly they learn!
13. Play some old educational board games (or puzzles)
Board games and puzzles, especially educational ones, are great for reducing screen time for kids of all ages and can help with family bonding.
Kirsten Maxwell from Kids Are A Trip notes, “As a parent of three teens, the biggest battle (when indoors) is getting them off their devices. We find time every day for family time, trying activities like tennis, one-on-one walks in our neighborhood, family game time, and even baking together. I’m trying to teach my kids life skills they might not be learning in school.”
In terms of educational games to make use of the time, try games like Yahtzee, Scrabble and chess. Also get a few puzzles which are great for problem solving. Other lessons puzzles can help teach include patience, recognition of shapes, and delayed gratification. If parents will be involved, look for more complex puzzles.
14. Lego kits
Putting all those tiny Lego pieces together is something best suited for older kids. This will seem more fun than educational to them, but little do they know the levels of creativity that are being encouraged through the process. This activity can also improve fine motor skills, problem-solving and other areas tied to overall brain development. You can purchase a basic Lego set, or a themed set featuring anything from Disney’s Frozen to Star Wars.
15. Open a workbook that feels more like a play book
The best workbooks won’t even feel like work at all, and this is the case for many of the fun and educational workbooks available from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. This will keep the kids quiet for a while, but they certainly won’t be bored – you may even have to ask them to take a break, or to leave some for later! Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Achieve! Workbooks have vibrant colors, humor, and captivating photos, and can be downloaded for free online.
16. Become a bird watcher and feeder
Teach your kids about responsibility and compassion through the simple act of allowing them to feed birds right in your front yard. All they’ll need to do is leave food out for the birds via the feeder (if you have one) every day. If you don’t have a birdfeeder, you can make one yourself with the help of your kids. While the birds are feeding, you can all scope for species you recognize. Encourage the kids to take lots of photos of the birds or try some sketching. Later, you can check out the Bird Watcher’s Digest for more intricate details.
17. Become a fish watcher
Much like bird watching, fish watching is an interesting pastime that’s free. Consider getting your kids a couple of fishes so they can learn about what fishes do day to day. If you don’t think they’re ready for the responsibility that comes with having a fish as a pet, you can also stream a live feed of the National Aquarium where they’ll be able to watch fishes swim about to their heart’s content.
18. Watch the NASA livestream with them
Spaceships, far off planets, astronauts and aliens… all of these are likely to be intriguing to your child. They’ll likely have lots of questions about the whole process of astronauts going up to space, and then some. Satisfy their curiosity – well, at least some of it – by letting them watch a NASA Live Stream which often features views from the International Space Station (ISS). If you’re lucky, you may even be able to see astronauts moving around in their space suits!
19. Teach them about the undersea world, coral reefs and why they are important
What can rival learning about the undersea to introduce your children to something worlds apart from what they see every day? The great thing about this lesson is that you won’t even have to leave your house, as there are lots of educational programs you can tune in to with your kids. You can teach your children about the different species of fish, coral reefs, overfishing, pollution, and any number of topics that will likely come in handy when they’re back at school.
20. Write thank you cards
Is there anyone you’ve been meaning to send a ‘thank you’ card to, but haven’t found the time? Is there someone your child would like to give a well-meaning card to? If either of these questions was answered with a yes, then this might be a great project for you to get into with your kids. You can make this into a DIY project where the kids get to decorate their own cards. Stock up at the art supply store beforehand!
Origami is associated with Japanese culture, and the process of making origami is very hands-on. Your children will love an opportunity to learn more about this art form which will stretch their imagination and inspire them. For this process, all you’ll need is a few sheets of colored paper, which will make it possible for your kids to make just about any paper animal under the sun. Origami making can help improve fine motor skills and brain development. During the process of making origami art, younger kids will be exposed to a world of colors!
22. Make multiplication fun
Math can be hard, but math at home can be a little less stressful. This is especially true when you allow kids to learn things like multiplication through play. Fun ways to do this is by playing games like baseball multiplication which involves flashcards, playing ‘rock, paper, scissors’ with a twist where kids are required to multiply the fingers that come up, or even playing a few rounds of multiplication wars with playing cards. Youngers kids may find it super fun to simply hop around on one foot and see how far they can get counting by 2s, 3s, or even 4s!
23. Perform basic scientific experiments at home
Though many children find science to be one of the harder subjects, doing this at home can help your child learn how to translate scientific ideas and methods to real life. If your kids already love science, they’ll be over the moon to try fun projects which can include growing salt or sugar crystals on a string, learning about reflection and refraction, and doing density experiments. With the latter, try using a jar with honey, water and oil in equal parts and have your child add various items to see which ones sink or float!
24. Learn a new language
Nowadays, kids don’t necessarily need to be planted in a foreign space to learn a new language – there are lots of web platforms and apps parents can introduce them to which make learning a new language fun. As you learn together, try to speak the new language around the house. Your kids will love this form of ‘secret’ communication. Try the When I Grow Up app, or the Count the Animals app for younger kids. You can also learn ASL (American sign language) with your children!
25. Help them learn hard subjects that may not be learned in school
Consider subject areas your kids aren’t already learning about in school and give them an at-home introduction. Try focusing on topics that address frequently asked questions, like where do babies come from? You can also discuss racial inequality, and how to deal with the loss of a loved one, with older kids. Talk about these things using simple language that your child can understand – don’t underestimate their ability to share feedback or ask thought provoking questions.
26. Download educational printables
There’s plenty of online material available to help you create conducive learning conditions inside your home. Whether you need a simple worksheet (like those available on Education.com), or something craft oriented, you’ll just need to do a search to find the options that work best for the project you have in mind. You can also download free PDF versions of educational workbooks from publishers like Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which will help keep your kids occupied and in learning more.
27. Watch an awesome documentary
Documentaries have a way of taking you into a whole new world, and since the kids are home, you can take them with you this time around. Take a break from the home schooling, make some popcorn and get cozy as you get sucked into a kid-friendly TV space. The Disneynature: Earth documentary is highly recommended, as are compilations you can stream through Netflix or other mediums, like Spellbound, Penguins, and Winger Migration.
28. Spend screen time smarter and teach them the importance of low screen time
Limiting screen time is important for the holistic development of your child. If you’re from a household where screen time rules are lax though, keep in mind that when you switch things up, there are likely to be protests. As far as screen time goes though, the younger the child the less they should be watching – and that certainly does not suggest that older kids have free reign to do as they please! Try diverting the need of your kids to be glued to the screen with more educational activities that can be done offline.
Tip: Want to find out more about the importance of setting screen time limits in your home? Check out our post which details 12 Effective Expert Methods To Limit Screen Time For Children.
29. Teach them about charity and kindness
Being kind and charitable are traits kids can learn to emulate from their parents. You can emphasize the importance of these characteristics by explaining to your kids how they can help make life better for others. With that said, one of best ways to encourage charity is by getting children involved when you sort out clothing items or toys they have outgrown. Have set times of the year where you donate to charity and be sure to get your kids involved in the round-up process of putting together these items for donation. You can even let them search for a charity they like (older kids) so they can potentially get more involved later.
30. Teach them about being resilient
Resilience is important, especially in uncertain times. One of the people who highlights the importance of fostering this trait is Amy McCready, Founder of PositiveParentingSolutions.com and author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World.
Recently in a Facebook video centered on Positive Parenting Solutions, the author spoke about what parents can do at home with kids during school closures. Teaching kids’ resilience, which is by definition the ability to recover quickly from difficult situations, was at the forefront of the conversation.
31. Teach them the basics of sewing
It’ll be easier to teach older children to sew, what with the art of threading a needle and all. This will appeal to children who like being able to do things on their own, and especially those with an interest in fashion. Maggy from Red Ted Art recommends teaching kids to sew, noting: “It will take longer at first, and then they can work on projects independently. This can keep them busy for long periods of time.” Sewing is also a skill that will come in handy later, like when they get to college, and need to quickly patch up a cherished clothing item.
32. Teach them the basics of knitting
Similar ‘rules’ apply for sewing and knitting, in that this is an activity which is best suited for older kids. Maggy from Red Ted Art recommends knitting in a group, or sitting side by side and working on a knitting project together.
“What’s fun about this exercise is that once they get the hang of it, you can help them put their projects together and they can either wear or use what you both made,” Maggy adds.
33. Teach them how to relax
Knowing how to relax is a skill everyone needs, and kids are not excluded. Bouncing off the walls seems a regular state of being for most kids, but this state of being tends to get old quickly. You can teach your kids though that taking it easy has benefits, including greater concentration and lower stress levels. If you’re into yoga, you can do a group session with your kids, or try guided meditation. Not only can these activities help them reel in their boundless energy, but they also help with increasing flexibility and overall fitness.
34. Practice cursive or calligraphy
Calligraphy and cursive are art forms related to writing, and this may or may not be something your kids are familiar with. In the age of texting and computers, very few people even pay attention to this at all, but you can teach your kids to appreciate both cursive and calligraphy. Older kids especially will catch on quick, while younger kids will have fun trying to form the different letters. You can look up an online course for calligraphy, which will be a useful skill for everyone involved!
Whatever it is, the thing that has you and the kids locked indoors for longer than usual is sure to get back to normal in time – and then of course, you’ll be back to missing your little munchkins while they’re at school. Enjoy the extended time together while it lasts!