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20 Indoor Activities for Kids (besides screens)

Finalizing (!) our series during this final year of AoS of the top 12 published posts of all time (measured in simple traffic numbers), this one is officially the most popular of all time on this website. I wrote it when we were living overseas well over a decade ago, and people still read this daily. Daily! That makes me happy.

(Heads up, parents: I know everyone says it goes fast, but it’s true. That grumpy toddler pictured at the bottom of this post is almost sixteen.)

xoxo, Tsh

The Countdown: 12 / 11 / 10 / 9 / 8 / 7 / 6 / 5 / 4 / 3 / 2 / 1

“Mom, can I watch a movie?”

This is how I woke up this morning.  A cute little four-year-old face, inches away from mine, asking for entertainment.

I don’t have a problem with TV or movies—we watch them both.  But we all know they’re far too often the default choice of leisure time for children. They can easily suck away imagination, energy, and the innocence of our kids.

But during the dog days of summer, rainy days, and veritable blizzards in the backyard, it’s also hard to shoo your kids outside. So… what’s a parent to do?  Not much. But there’s plenty that children can do indoors on their own without touching a remote (I’m a big fan of boredom—it spawns creativity).

Here are a few ideas.

1.  Read a book.

Our kids’ books are right in our living room, available any time of day. The kids know they can pull a book off the shelves whenever they want.

2.  Write a book.

Even if your kids aren’t yet writing fluently, they can still create stories. Create a collection of blank books, and let your kids illustrate a story. Later, write the words for them as they dictate them to you, or they can sound out the words phonetically and write the story on their own.

(These books make great keepsakes.)

3.  Act out a book.

Does your child have a perennial favorite book? Have her act it out—the plot may take a unique turn, all her own. While I was making breakfast just this morning, my four-year-old daughter said, “Mom, right now I’m going on a walk at half past nine.”

4.  Listen to a book.

Audible has a great selection of quality books for children, and Librivox has a large selection of free public domain books. Download a few to your device, and either give your child some headphones, or play the book over speakers while they play quietly.

5.  Make an indoor clubhouse.

Build a blanket fort. Get your child started, and see how else they architect a little place of their own.

6.  Perform a puppet show or play.

Collect hand-me-down clothes and thrift store finds as a dress-up box. Kids can create costumes for a play, with you as the audience. Or, they can let their stuffed animals star as puppets, and hide behind the couch for a dramatic reenactment starring their pretend friends.

You can also make a simple puppet show theater with a spring-loaded curtain rod and a piece of fabric in a doorway.

7.  Have an indoor picnic or tea party.

Lay out an outdoor tablecloth on the floor for lunch—kids think it’s a big treat to do the everyday in a special place. Or, brew  some tea (my daughter’s favorite is blackberry), and have a little tea time in cups with saucers, alongside crackers or bread for an afternoon treat.

8.  Make homemade play-doh.

Play-doh made from scratch is easy, and you can make an endless array of colors with natural food dyes. Spread the outdoor tablecloth on the floor, and give them dull knives, a rolling pin, and some cookie cutters.

Photo source

9.  Help with chores.

Chores teach kids that running the house is a family effort and that life involves work and things we don’t always enjoy doing.  (p.s.—A preschool chore chart on the downloads page.)

10.  Save TP rolls and wad up your socks.

Arrange toilet paper rolls like bowling pins on one end of the hall.  Stock up a few balled-up socks on the other. Bowl or throw at the pins, and you’ve got an indoor bowling alley. There’s tons of other crafts you can do with toilet paper rolls, too.

11.  Get your groove on.

Even the parent can benefit from this little break in the day. Crank up the peppy music and get dancing. Even 10 minutes of jiving with release some wiggles, and it’s a stress relief for you, too.

12.  Craft, craft, craft.

Our kids draw or create near daily. Keep a simple art cabinet handy, and your children can grab supplies whenever their muse strikes. If they want to paint, simply use that handy outdoor tablecloth again, and spread it on the kitchen floor.

13.  Write a letter to a friend.

Old-fashioned letter writing is a dying art, what with e-mail being today’s communication method of choice. Let them write a letter to Grandma, her cousins, or a friend, and make someone’s day when they open their mailbox a few days later.

14.  Have a playdate.

Invite your child’s friend over—this sometimes makes for an even easier day, because your kiddo has a playmate instead of asking you to play all the time.

15.  Play shop or restaurant.

A notepad, pencil, apron, tray, and play food are all the kids need to play restaurant at the dining room table. Sticky notes make good price tags.

16.  Rearrange the bedroom.

If your child is old enough to safely move small furniture around, let him explore his creative side and rearrange his bedroom.  Depending on the result, it could be an afternoon set up or a new permanent look.

17.  The classic: cardboard boxes.

Keep a few handy, and watch your child’s imagination take over: a castle, a spaceship, a sailboat for an adventure to a new world.

Photo source

18.  Go on a treasure hunt.

Take five minutes and hide some treasures (toys, rocks, whatever) around the house. Make a list of the items, and have your child go on a treasure hunt. If they can’t yet read, draw a sketch of the hidden item.

19.  Have them help with cooking.

If they’re old enough to stir, sift, and pour, let them help you with the basics—pasta and pizza sauces, muffins, and breads are all kid-friendly. It’s a good way to teach numbers, fractions, nutrition, and basic life skills.

20.  Nothing.

Boredom is good for kids. Make a rule that if your kid announces they’re bored, they’ll have to do chores. So if they truly can’t think of anything off-hand to do…  eventually, they’ll think of something.

i guess she's bored

p.s. 9 ways to encourage your kids to live simply, fostering independence in kids, a nifty method for helping kids calm down, and my favorite early childhood books.

Reading Time:

4 minutes





  1. steadymom

    Playing at the Sink! We fill up the sink with a little water, some cups and spoons for pouring – and often one of my three little ones will be occupied for a good thirty minutes.

    We have assigned video times throughout our day, so they always watch a little (& I get stuff done) – but it is closely, closely monitored. Like most things, moderation is key!

    .-= steadymom´s last blog ..Meet My Students…. =-.

    • Tsh

      Doh! I didn’t think to include sink time, but yes, you’re absolutely right. Both my preschoolers and my toddler love playing around in the sink. Good call.

      • M,U,E


    • nanette

      When my daughter was two, I used to fill up a big stock pot with extremely soapy water drain out the water leaving the pot FULL of bubbles. She would sit and play with them for at least 20 minutes before the bubbles disappeared. Shereally enjoyed just playing in the bubbles, and it gave me peace while I cooked dinner.

    • Anonomous

      this helped me soo much with my kindergarteners! I made one with a big table and three chars. under each chair has something, like a library,stuffed animals, and a kitchen with play kitchen set.they love it!

    • mackenzie

      nothing is stupid to do

      • Kizzy

        Lol that made me giggle

    • maria

      i am going to try this with my stepsister we will have a lot of fun together thanks for your idea

    • SNW

      Thanks for your wisdom. ?

    • Iyonna Bailey

      I should punch you that is so stupidest and dump

      • Sam

        I have an activity for you, Iyonna. Go pick up an English book. None of these are “stupid and dump”. Are you a parent? I hope you’re not teaching your child your horrible, immature behavior.

        • Alycia

          lol that is exactly what i was thinking….

      • Krissy

        Stupidest and dump???
        Maybe you should think about what you just said.
        I don’t think her list is the stupid/dumb one around here.

        I hope you don’t have children.

        • Crystal

          I’m pretty sure Iyonna is a child.

      • jamie

        please dont be rude

  2. Shannon

    I love your no nonsense approach to this, Tsh. My toddler loves all things books, but living room tents are always a hit.
    .-= Shannon´s last blog ..Choosing Superfoods & Supplements =-.

  3. PS~Erin

    Great list! We are going to write a letter today. (Thanks for the idea!) The cardboard box idea is a great one, as it continues to entertain. We just got rid of the one we made at the beginning of the summer. It provided hours and hours of amusement. Playing in water is always a good one too, albeit messy. The sink, tub, garden hose will entertain my kids for quite a while.
    .-= PS~Erin´s last blog ..Monday Meal Plan =-.

    • Mia

      I like the idea off reading books, but don’t you think your soon get bored?

  4. Marci@OvercomingBusy

    Thank you so much for this today! I am up early in a panic because our plans for the day have been rained out and when the kids get up and find out that we are stuck inside….. I’ll just go to your list!! Thanks!
    .-= Marci@OvercomingBusy´s last blog ..Benefits Of Sleep =-.

  5. Tiffany

    Great list. I let my youngest daughter play grocery store with items from my pantry, as long as they’ve never been opened before.

    I really like that you mentioned that’s it’s okay (even good) for our kids to feel bored. That’s when real imagination will kick in, as long as we don’t come in and rescue them from their boredom.
    .-= Tiffany´s last blog ..Weekly Menu, Grocery List and Recipes – 4th edition =-.

  6. Jennifer

    Thank you for this list! I especially love the last one. I used to play make-believe games with my siblings for hours on end when I was younger. We weren’t allowed to watch TV very often. Kids definitely need to be able to entertain themselves, at least to some degree.

  7. Shaina

    One thing I am forever grateful of is that my kids simply can’t sit in front of the TV for very long. When I do turn on the TV for them, it is usually for a movie and not just watching the line-up of children’s programming, and they’re good…for about 30 minutes, at which time I have found the TV off and them downstairs, engrossed in some elaborate imaginative play involving blankets and capes and fireman hats, generally.

    I think by setting a good example of only watching the shows you really want to watch and then turning the TV off and doing something else, our kids have picked up on the habit. There is so much more to do and explore than what Dora and Diego can offer, even if I do have a soft spot in my heart for Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and Veggie Tales. 😉
    .-= Shaina´s last blog ..The Monday Menu: August 17, 2009 =-.

  8. Megan at Simple Kids

    YES! Fantastic list, Tsh! I am becoming more of a believer in the “nothing” component. Now that our oldest is 4 1/2, I am finding it’s in the moments of “this is boring!” that she comes up with the most fantastic imaginative play on her own.
    .-= Megan at Simple Kids´s last blog ..August 14: SK Showcase =-.

  9. shelle

    Great list! When my kids announce they are bored, I simply tell them they are lucky because boredom is a gift!
    .-= shelle´s last blog supply rant =-.

  10. Sally

    It’s a fact that kids now a days do not have enough down time. Because of down time, where neither I nor the tv/computer/video games “entertain”, my kids have created a whole world with their stuffed animals that they continually go back to. These animals have re-enacted history, played board games, created shops, gone on adventures…the list could go on. I’ve only let them keep a choice few stuffed animals and therefore they have had the closeness to each to create personalities for them. It’s a lot of fun to watch and even my soon to be 11 year old still gets in the fun. Down time=room for imagination to grow, says I.

  11. Bernadette

    Love this list. My mom used to say to us when we were looking for things to do, “Write a letter, read a book. Read a letter, write a book.” And I agree, that too often we dismiss the time and the power of just being in pursuit of the always doing. The being time can lead to the greatest of ideas!

    Glad I found your blog.
    .-= Bernadette´s last blog ..SURPRISE! =-.

  12. Elizabeth

    Thank you SO much for the AudioBook link. My kids have just recently discovered books on CD and I was wondering what a good online source would be! Thanks again.
    .-= Elizabeth´s last blog ..Maybe a Bird Quilt? =-.

  13. Chloe Alice Wilson

    Great list. The only other thing my 8 year old loves doing is making his own little movies with a video camera and his cuddly toys or action figures. It amazes me how he can hold the camera while filming them move about and do all the voice and sound effects. It’s a lot easier when I help but he can do it on his own too. He’s got right into it and loves sending his ‘films’ off to his grandparents for their review! He even makes the DVD covers and rates them U or PG!

    Cheers, Chloe
    .-= Chloe Alice Wilson´s last blog ..G.I Joe Toys – The Rise Of Cobra – 10 Things Every Parent Needs To Know =-.

  14. Marie {Make and Takes}

    Fabulous list, thanks for including my Circus Puppet show. And I love that you mention being “bored”. I too think kids need to think of things to do on their own. It helps them when they’re older, as Mom won’t always be around helping them figure out what to do!!
    .-= Marie {Make and Takes}´s last blog ..Play While You Paint =-.

  15. Sandra

    Love this list! But seriously- moms of girls can have a play date and not hear anything out of them for hours?! If my son has someone over and I don’t hear from them, I know something’s up. Or broken. 🙂
    .-= Sandra´s last blog ..5 Back to School Items I Love! =-.

  16. Randa Clay

    Wonderful list! I just wanted to point out some more sources for audio books- we love them and these are free! – just a couple here so far. For younger kids
    LibriVox – huge library for all ages, including kids stuff. Alice in Wonderland, the Oz books, Aesop’s Fables, etc. can be found here
    StoryNory – lots to choose from here too!
    .-= Randa Clay´s last blog ..Monkey Boy =-.

    • Kara

      Thanks for posting these! I’ve been looking for some more free audio books for my daughter. Listening is such an important skill to develop!

  17. Carlton

    Great post. Can I be cheeky and add my site as a suggestion for the Craft, Craft, Craft section? Patterns for Colouring is a free resource for printables and should keep children occupied for a while!
    Many thanks!

  18. OllipopGoose

    My kids are very creative and outgoing! We have a TV, but it only serves four uses. 1. to watch dvd’s. 2. to watch vhs’s. 3. to be a shelf. 4. to be dusted.
    We don’t have cable or satellite, and we didn’t “update” and get a converter box.

    My kids love to read. They love to draw. They also LOVE to cook (great book for this is Kids Cooking, A Very Slightly Messy Manual). They also get pre-occupied with chores as well. They love the organization and such that it involves. Even when things are “messy,” they are still in order. Another activity they love, is jumping on, as my daughter like to call it, the “jumpaleen” (trampoline).

    My kids biggest indoor activities, as of yet though, is the task of helping me prepare for “classes.” I am soon to be starting doing mommy and me/me and my baby classes, and the kids are helping me come up with activities and everything to do (all activities ARE kid approved!) for the classes. They are having so much fun thinking up things that what other kids would enjoy doing with their mommy! It’s too sweet!

    OH, and another great activity my kids enjoy: GIVING. Two examples, and then I am done 😉 (I’m just so proud of my kids)… They love to go through their things (every two months or so) and donate their things to other kids. Why? Because they like the fact that some other kid will get to enjoy it, rather than it being “wasted” and going into the trash. They think that the toys have much more playing potential (and the clothes more wearing potential), but they are done with it, so they want someone else to have fun with it! ALSO, they LOVE to go on Why? To help feed other families. They don’t get on there because it’s fun (although it is), or because they learn (although they do), but to help feed other families. That’s it. We are never bored around here. I only wish I was as productive when I was a child!
    .-= OllipopGoose´s last blog ..Flab vs Fab: Week Two: =-.

  19. Rachael Levy

    Amen to the section on boredom. Couldn’t agree with that more!
    .-= Rachael Levy´s last blog ..My safe Sam =-.

  20. Tricia

    Yes to your ideas about TV. We have a loose rule in our home that’s “only on the weekends.” (And at that, they get to pick out one movie each day.) Granted we bend the rules once in a while, but the default is not TV. Sadly, I think a lot of parents, accidentally or not, are the ones to teach kids the “default to TV” habit.

    OK, now that I’ve said my bit about TV, here are a couple of fun things to fall back on when it gets a little hairy indoors:
    – Take a bath! A nice bubble bath with toys and no rush to get ready for bed is a fun way to change the mood of things. I learned this from my MIL, and used it periodically when my kids were toddlers. (Grab a magazine for yourself, so that you’re not tempted to rush things. Or take off your clothes and climb in!)
    – Make stew. This continues to be one of my 6 yo’s favorite things to do–she started when she was probably 2.5. I give her a large mixing bowl with some flour and water and let her go to town with spices that are old. (I keep them separate from the good stuff so that she can help herself.) Don’t forget the apron which feels like a costume.
    – “Make a set up,” is often heard in my house. They kids use all of one type of toy, i.e. small plastic animals, stuffed animals, Hot Wheels, kitchen toys, to create a little scene. They take their time and use their imagination and then show it off to me in the end.
    – This has been mentioned in some form or other already, but the single best thing we’ve ever committed to in our house is a kid-height “art table” which is in our kitchen/dining room area. It’s always stocked with markers, blank paper, colored pencils and a rotating basket of other cool supplies. Truly, the art table is my children’s default, and I couldn’t be more pleased to see them drawing, writing, cutting, pasting, etc. instead of asking to watch some inane program on the tube.

  21. Cindy

    Great list! I’m having trouble finding things to keep my 12 yr old girl busy. She likes to be active, which is good, but sometimes I wish she would be more interested in reading, writing or crafting. She reads everyday but it is not her favorite thing. Lately we have been taking turns reading to each other from the same book, that has been fun.
    I wanted to let you know that you helped me this weekend. I have recently started Dave Ramsey’s program and printed out all his worksheets at the back of his book. Using those along with your helpful tips I got most of it done this weekend. Now the hard part, sticking to it! Thank you for your help and inspiration!
    .-= Cindy´s last blog ..adding to the winter stash =-.

    • Brittany

      When I was in school, one of my favorite teachers handed each of us a composition notebook (the black and white marble ones), and instructed us to write. She turned on some soft music and said to just simply “write” she said it didn’t matter what we wrote, didn’t matter how, she didn’t care about spelling or grammar, just write. She told us we could write a letter, write a story to fit with the song, write a poem, write a bunch of random sentences or words, didn’t matter….as long as we wrote for 15 mins. Then handed us each a sharpened pencil.

      That was one of the most inspirational things to ever occur in my life for some reason. I must have been 12 or 13 at the time and ever since then, I find myself repeating that exercise. I even have my 2 1/2 year old doing it now. She scribbles, draws, “writes” while we listen to music.

      Oh, an important part I forgot…we had to lay on the floor of the classroom so that we were more relaxed.

      Maybe your daughter will like it if you try this “assignment” with her. You could even put a twist on it and both of you start a journal to one another, you write to her and she writes to you, you have to be completely honest with each other in the journals and you can only discuss it in writing : ) ……might come in handy during those times when she is being a typical teenager. It might keep her from bottling up.

      • Debbie @ Cheaper by the Bakers Dozen

        I agree with the background music and writing assignment for children- and this also works well for drawing and painting. Classical music is the perfect inspiration for art!
        I have two 11 yo’s (my youngest two of 11) and they spend a good part of their day just doing whatever I’m doing. They need to learn these things anyway (making a grocery list, decluttering a closet, making muffins) and some of our best conversations are while working alongside each other.

        I have taught my children that when they say “I’m bored”, they’re really saying, “I’m boring.” But I never hear that because announcing boredom = more chores around here 🙂

  22. Tashia

    LOVE the List! We also try to stay away from the TV. My kids are finally old enough now (4 & 6) that they love to just “play” together and still young enough that I don’t hear “I’m bored” very often! If there is nothing planned going on, my kids are always playing in the playroom or the basement, usually making a mess:) but at least they are keeping themselves busy!
    .-= Tashia´s last blog ..Busy Mom’s Planner =-.

  23. Stacie @

    I have to admit that I cringe when I hear my children say “I’m bored.” I take it too personally, as if it’s somehow my fault. Or, I think they are ungrateful for the many toys, games, and books we own. Maybe I need to rethink boredom. I guess it’s not an insult after all.
    .-= Stacie @´s last blog ..Before I Was A Mom =-.

    • marcy

      My kids knew from the start that saying, “I’m bored,” REALLY MEANT, “Yes, Mommy, I’d LOVE to clean the bathroom!”
      One time, and I promise, you’ll never hear it again. 🙂

  24. LaToya

    I LOVE this list. I have a few activities that are reserved for indoor play: special paints, playdough, etc.
    .-= LaToya´s last blog ..Hands off!! =-.

  25. Bleu

    Yay, my baby may only be 4 months but I been looking for ideas other then TV, when I was younger me and my dad used to do candle making, bake days, and all sorts of crafts if we didnt go newhere. Im only 20 so a lot of people think im a bad mum (doesnt help the fact i look about 14) its horrible getting dirty looks wherever i go. i spend every moment with my little one, I had 2 hours away from her the other day and it was fun but i missed her. cant wait for special days in and out together teaching her how to cook and playing fun games, so many parents cant be botherd to do anything.

  26. Renee

    My mom used to make give us blankets, pillows, clothes pins… and have us make forts. That kept us busy for hours
    .-= Renee´s last blog ..Gratitude 08.14.2009 =-.

  27. Cheri

    One thing we like to do at our house right now is play board games!

  28. jennifer

    Great list! A favorite in our house is an indoor sandbox. I took a sterelite bin, filled it with cornmeal and a few dried lentils, filled it with some spoons, containers, dinosaur toys, etc and voila! I lay out a sheet in the kitchen and the boys have a blast playing. My youngest (18mths) makes a bit of a mess, but it’s easily swept up, and definitely worth it!
    .-= jennifer´s last blog ..My potatoes in a bag =-.

  29. Courtney

    Thanks for these great tips! TP bowling saved the day.

  30. Greta

    Wonderful list! I’ll be certainly utilizing many of these ideas in the future. One day last week, my three year old asked to help me clean. I gave her a bucket of mild, soapy water and a scrub brush and asked her to “clean” the bathroom. She loved it! The bathroom needed a major wipe down with a towel when she was all through, but I had a good 45 minutes of time to work on other projects. Oh, I should probably mention she insisted on cleaning naked…. didn’t want to get her clothes wet. : )

  31. Jill

    Love your post. We also enjoy puzzles! And playing “find the hidden teddy bear.”

  32. Kimberly Fowler

    Thanks so much for compiling this list. I am looking forward to trying out some of these ideas with my girls. One thing we enjoy doing is playing library. We bring out a bunch of books into the den and make sections all around on the couch and floor and table. Then we take turns being the librarian and the book checker outer. We use their toy cash register (to pay late fees-wonder where they got that idea…) and shopping cart to hold books. Fun!
    .-= Kimberly Fowler´s last blog ..Into the Wild (film) – Wikiquote =-.

  33. Scott (simplefather)

    I love that you included ‘nothing’ on this list. When my eldest is doing nothing, those are often the times when her creativity and imagination really shines through.
    .-= Scott (simplefather)´s last blog ..Who Is Raising Your Children? =-.

  34. Melodie

    My daughters have really been enjoying The Gingerbread Man story. I’ve been sick of reading it but today I acted it out with finger puppets. Not only did I enjoy myself more than usual but the kids were entranced and made me do it twice!
    .-= Melodie´s last blog ..Monday Musings: Would You Buy This Doll? =-.

  35. Maureen

    What a wonderful list. I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s comments. Shelle’s comment that boredom is a gift is so true. Whenever I hear a child say they’re bored I tell them how wonderful that is and now the B word is never mentioned in my house. I really like the blank book idea too. Any idea that connects children with books is a good one.
    Maureen Hume

  36. Mindful Mimi

    Great list, thanks for that.
    I have two little boys (3 and 1,5) who sometimes go wild if they can’t get rid of their energy by running around outside.
    The little one is too young to be following craft ‘rules’. So usually we just sit down and draw or fingerpaint (see here and here
    But they love to help me cook (little one watching).
    The chores is always a good one. My 3 year old is expert at doing the washing, emptying the dishwasher and making pasta.

    We like to play hide and seek in the house as well which is always a blast cause they usually hide in the same spot every time 🙂
    And we make collages of the things we collected on earlier walks (leaves, bark, dried flowers etc).

    .-= Mindful Mimi´s last blog ..Sunday laugh =-.

  37. prerna

    Wow.. Lovely ideas.. We love reading.. My toddler is developing a great love for books and I love nurturing this habit.. So, we have fabric books, board books, nursery rhyme books, touch and feel books as well as the other paper books..
    Another favorite pastime is just play.. simple pure play… blocks, stackable toys, dolls, kitchen utensils.. anything and everything works!
    .-= prerna´s last blog ..Being a Home Maker: Getting Organized. Staying Organized. =-.

  38. Lisa

    We live in the desert, so we’re trapped indoors a lot from about late spring to early fall. (No, the weather here is NOT always nice 🙂 One of our favorite crafts is making paint with condensed milk and food coloring. It’s a bit sticky, so be forewarned of the mess, but it drizzles on and dries with wonderful texture. Also, if you accidentally lick your fingers, it’s edible!
    .-= Lisa´s last blog ..future’s so bright, i’ve got to wear shades =-.

  39. Deanna

    Great list, love suggestion 20, I will keep that in mind for when my little ones gets older!

  40. Jenn - Walk With Me

    I love this list! I just found your website last night and love it! I am a new mom to twins so I am taking notes! Everyone keeps telling me the grow up in a blink of an eye so I am sure I will be needing this list sooner than I think. Thanks!!!
    .-= Jenn – Walk With Me´s last blog ..Tuesday Tribute =-.

  41. Sandee

    Oh…you echo my house….My 6 year old, first thing in the am, first thing home from school, first thing after dinner. MOmmy, can we watch a movie. and I only allow it on Fri and Sat nights! sigh.

    I too are looking for ways to unplug…and recently some of the stuff we did was make life-size tracings of each child, colored them in and pinned them on the walls….so fun, my sons also made faces on rocks and made their own “warriors” to fight battles….

    I also found some great doodle books at Costco (blogged about them) that are a BIG hit!

    And I have each of them in soccer…so we are constantly finding ways to unplug and looking for more.
    .-= Sandee´s last blog ..A Simpler Momma =-.

  42. Elaine Power

    Totally agree the TV that children are allowed to watch is crazy loved all your tips another great game is have a tray of items eg hair brush toothe paste ect then cover it with a towel & the kids have to guess what they saw as they get better have more items great brain building & fun at the same time. Lovely blog too 🙂
    .-= Elaine Power´s last blog ..Pewter Bottle =-.

  43. Zoe

    We’ll put some fun music on and have a good dance and sing-along – we all feel better for the jiggling, and the singing (even if awfully out of tune) lifts our spirits. If it’s too hot we’ll have a cool bubble bath just for the fun of it. No washing, just lots of bubbles and toys and getting wrinkly. On the book front a winner for us is to “reorganise” all the books and play library – to get all our books on the floor and then but them together according to whatever themes the kids come up with – sometimes subject related, sometimes size or colour related. It’s a great way to re-find old treasures and discover books we’ve had for ages but which for some reason didn’t grab us immediately.
    .-= Zoe´s last blog ..Flower Power =-.

  44. Robin Baker

    “arts and crafts” for sure… and puzzles. But I do let them watch their movies – mainly in the morning when we’re doing dishes and making breakfast. When enough is enough, it’s all about creating.
    Great list!
    .-= Robin Baker´s last blog ..Clogged =-.

  45. Deanna

    As children, if my sister and I complained that we were bored my mother would say in THAT voice “Oh, I can find something for you to do.” We were in our rooms doing anything except what she would come up for us. It usually involved scrubbing something.
    .-= Deanna´s last blog ..Operation Sandcastle Cake =-.

  46. Meegan

    One thing my 4 year old often plays with when we are stuck inside, is a string of blue beaded garland that was supposed to make it on to the tree. In nearly 4 years it has never adorned the tree, but kept him busy for hours throughout the rest of the year. Now my 10 month old gets in on the act too!

  47. Rana

    This is a great list. We do a lot of these already and I plan to add some of these to our list.
    .-= Rana´s last blog ..We’re Back! =-.

  48. Kirsty-Abu Dhabi

    I love this list! It;s crazy hot here too and we’re all cooped up inside!

    One project we’ve been doing and loving this year is making a big collage with pics of all our far flung relatives – we sit and go through and choose a few pictures each week and then have a trip to the photo developers shop and keep building it up! Great for kids like mine who live far away from their extended families. My 3 year old loves linking everyone up (who’s whose cousin, and auntie and Grandma etc etc!)
    .-= Kirsty-Abu Dhabi´s last blog ..Under the weather | Abu Dhabi Child Photographer =-.

  49. Meaghan

    Great suggestions…especially with summer coming to an end and the cooler weather forcing us inside!

  50. Stephanie

    This is an excellent list! We don’t watch much TV in our house so we do many of these activities on a regular basis, but it’s always nice to get a little added inspiration. Thank you. 🙂
    .-= Stephanie´s last blog ..How much does it cost to have a baby? =-.

  51. mandy

    Release some wiggles with the debut album AlphaBeat from The Singing Lizard.

    The Singing Lizard creates original music for kids! She also takes the children songs we all know and love and infuses them with a fresh new sound.

    You can preview the entire album on the website:

  52. Kids Music

    I’m glad to have visited your blog and good to know you! I find it interesting and informative.

  53. Tina

    What great ideas! I have to say that I never thought about having the kids write their own book. I always encourage reading but writing is such a great way to spark their creativity. Thanks for the ideas!
    .-= Tina´s last blog ..A Power Wheels Tractor That Can Perform On Any Surface =-.

  54. Richard

    Notice that the word book comes up in the first four entries? Parents, your children need to read…it’s a must activity that engages their brain and turns them into actual thinking human beings 🙂
    .-= Richard´s last blog ..How To Be Scene =-.

  55. Debbie @ Cheaper by the Bakers Dozen

    How about a spa day, with Mom as the client? 🙂 My kids love to play with my hair, rub my back, massage my feet. Get out the supplies, turn the lights low, put on some music, and “sacrifice yourself” for the good of your children!

    We live in hot, humid Florida but I still like for my children to be outside some each day. As long as there is water involved (in their bodies and out), they are fine. Sprinklers are fun, washing the car, filling the driveway with chalk art for Daddy’s arrival,….and water balloons keep them busy for hours (it takes a long time to fill them up, and a short while to use them.)

    Sometimes just taking an older toy to a new place can be entertaining. Set the doll house up in the foyer or the castle in the kitchen.

    I also agree with the bathtub idea. Let them put their swimsuits on and use it as a pool (keep towels ready for the splashing.)

    • Yana

      spa day, sounds great!

  56. Jennifer

    I give my toddler a set of watercolors, a couple of paint brushes, fill up the tub about an inch and let her paint away on the walls, the shower door, the faucet and of course her body. She loves the freedom to paint and my encouragement to make a huge mess. It is a very easy clean up by ending with a bath.

  57. Lisette

    That was a great article! Thank you 🙂

  58. PLL

    Look for board games that are designed for kids. These can be fun along with help them learn vital skills. Learning doesn’t have to be boring. But be careful, you don’t want kids to think that learning will always be fun. This is a major problem for kids, as they get older they don’t have the motivation to learn as it’s not always fun.

  59. Christina

    thank you so much for writing about the importance of boredom! i used to rant and rave about the proliferation of entertainment-based technologies to my high school students when i was teaching, and now that i’m a SAHM i really consider quiet, “boring” time a gift for my daughter. how can you be creative or even think if there’s always something to do?

    to keep things interesting on indoor days, i’ve parceled out a bunch of my (only child, only grandchild, GENEROUSLY provide for by EVERYONE) daughter’s toys into bins that are rotated out for play only occasionally. this way they’re much more novel on rainy days when i get them out.

    thanks for a great post!

  60. Joseph Condron

    Tip number 20 was my favourite. Very good tips. Reading can be such a pleasure.

  61. chelsea

    i live with my boyfriend, his mom, and his 6 year old brother (my boyfriend and i are 19). his little brother has ADHD, cannot do one thing for more than 5 minutes, and lastly, watches TV soooo much i say that it watches him. we live in a cluttered trailer so theres not much room. he has tons of toys that are not ever played with. he cries if the tv gets turned off. i did the bowling idea for him but with empty soda cans and he liked that. he doesnt care much for coloring, reading or writing. theres no room for hide n seek, clubhouses, or puppetshows. i usually spend half my time trying to find something to entertain him instead of tv and videogames. any ideas for someone living in a small trailer??? thanks. great ideas. i encourage him to use his imagination and play with all his toys but he wont. it gets frustrating….

    • Joyce

      1. Collect all the cars, dinosaurs, animals etc and make a play area on the bed. Make it dramatic, (Oh no! Here comes the dinosaur (or lion or monster)- quick, get in the car, lets drive to the mountains! ) The mountains are the pillow. Get the idea? Just use your imagination.
      2. Put a blanket over the table. Pretend it is a cave. Pretend to be cavemen, or batman.
      3. You can do a puppet show over the side of the bed, or behind a box. Act out one of the TV shows he like.
      4. Find things with different textures. Put them in a bag. Have him feel each item and guess what it is.
      5. Go for a walk outside. Make it a scavenger hunt. See who can find the items on a list first: gate, bug, dog, bird, flying jet, fire hydrant, etc. Give a small prize for each thing he finds.
      6. Play with boats in the tub.
      7. Play with playdough.
      I hope some of the ideas help. You are a caring person to try to help your boyfriend’s brother. You are awesome!

  62. Sarah Clachar


    So glad you talked about boredom as a boon. It’s one of the best things for nurturing creativity and resourcefulness! And we love tp bowling.

    I’ve also listed 3 of our favorite active indoor kid activities on my blog;

    Chelsea, just a word of encouragement. It takes time to wean off TV and learn to enjoy other activities. It will probably take some absolute limits to TV time that you build on over time. Because given the choice, kids will gravitate to electronic entertainment.

  63. Zuraimah

    Hi Tsh,

    I am your silent reader for the past few days. Stumbled upon Simplemom.Net while browsing and i loye your idea on Home Management Notebook. From there, I started to read your entries and this entry captured me a lot. Love the contents, love the idea.

    I am having 2 girls that are growing up. One is 6 another one is 4. Yup, agree with you, watching TV full day really drive me crazy. I did organize some activities but the kids love TV most.

    As for now, i tried to switch their interest to play with hamster that we just adopted for a week. Hope it will success…

    Last but not least, nice reading your entries.

    Thanks, Come visit to my simple blog. But the language are mixed English & Malay as I am from Malaysia…:)

  64. Teresa

    Great ideas but my little one is younger…his level of entertainment is much shorter then a 4yr old. We do play-doh, swings, color time, read books, bubbles, cooking, pretend, chalk, throwing balls in laundry baskets…
    We are also expecting our 2nd in just 2months. I’m not really in shape to do a lot of floor time fun. When you only get about 15-20mins for each activity where do you turn next?

  65. MHF

    Our daughters used to love to play store, taking turns being the customer and the salesclerk using all items in our house as merchandise, used a basket for purchases and then put them in bags at checkout and finally restocking the shelfs with returns….also Library was another favorite, I gave them a date stamper and pad and index cards and a basket, one would be the patron and the other the library lady they would puruse their book shelfs for their favorite book to borrow…..and then of course playing school was the best, chalk board, pointer, a pair of old glasses without lenses and a pair of high heels, maybe some star stickers or a happy face stamp for the work pages….the girls played for hours on a extra cold or rainy day….

  66. mikelis

    I totally agree about the homemade playdough! Kids just don`t get bored with it!

  67. Andrew

    I’m a 46 year old man and some of these sounded fun to me – as a guy dating a “mom” this site is excellent at keeping me informed and helpful


  68. Milla

    Thanks for a great list! I love those simple activities that entertain and boost creativity as well. My toddler is also a great fan of movies but I find he gets bored and low on energy where he’s just much more energized when he is doing creative activities. I’ll definitely try out the sink fun as well.

  69. sophistimom

    I love what you say about boredom. It’s true, they do need it. We live in such a media saturated world that they expect entertainment to always come to them. Great post.

  70. Jenn

    My kids love that they have a cupboard full of metal bowls and 2 wooden spoons.. If you can handle the noise at any rate ;-). This usually buys me at LEAST 20 mins to get some of my own housework done with out having a little shadow.

  71. Sara

    I love ‘Nothing’ – boredom is the mother of invention. 🙂 many great things happen when Nothing is the motivator.
    Christopher Robin: “It means just going along, listening to all the thing’s you can’t hear, and not bothering”

  72. puppet shows

    Perform a puppet show or play.
    -love this suggestion. It’s true that you can set up your own home theatre with just recycled materials. It’s fun and you get to bond with your kids. children nowadays are so exposed in high tech gadgets and tend to forget the ‘old school’ entertainment.

    But yeah, thanks for sharing your thoughts! Love em 🙂

  73. Niesha

    I love playing board games with my older kids. We have had some serious, competitive games and some games spent entirely in hilarious laughter.

  74. Mar

    One of my fondest memories growing up is helping my mom bake cookies from scratch. Love this list!

  75. Misty Massie

    This is great advice. I think even people who know there are other things to do besides TV and video games, and probably know about these specific things, could still use a good list of activities to look to (and hang on to for dear life) when things get hectic and kids get whiny. I am going to post a summary and link to this page in my blog. Thanks!

  76. your mom

    your an idiot ……#20 – nothing use your imagination

    sincerely ,
    and kid

    • mother hen


  77. Teresa

    We have what we call the “Rainy Day Box”. We keep it full of all sorts of arts and crafts and I make sure I add to it with different types of things so there are suprises when they open it.

  78. Mary Miller

    I’m so glad that there are other people that think too much TV or video game time is a bad thing. People often ask me why I don’t let my kids watch TV. One movie a week is all they watch, the rest of the time is outdoor/indoor activities. The tinker toys and lego’s are always out in my house.
    My sister and I have also invented a game we call,”Simon Says Dance.” It is a cross between musical chairs, simon says, and charades. First I pick a card from the kids charades (for ideas), then I tell them what they have to act out, like dance while you are washing the floor. Then I turn on the music and they dance until the music stops. The first one to stop moving wins. The kids love it because they can act as silly as they want to, and they never want to stop playing.

  79. Misty

    We live in WA so rain is nothing new for us. I have had to be pretty creative with my 3 year old when the days are just too wet to get out. I have a rug in my kitchen, this often becomes our “boat”. His step stool is placed on the “boat” as the captains seat, along with the paper towel holder as our anchor, the swifter broom stands tall with the kitchen towel tied on the top as our sail & imaginary shark & fish are swimming all around us. Oh, and the rolling pin is our ore!
    Card tables work great with a blanket/sheet draped over the top as a secret cave!

  80. Mark

    Send the kids on a spy mission they will have a blast!!!

  81. Suzy Bos

    Awesome ideas!! We homeschool and that means LOTS of extra time at home, which means more time to be “bored”. I can’t wait to try some of these ideas out. Thank you for sharing them!

  82. Lydia

    I love this list- we’ve been doing a lot of shop days ourselves lately , we also like painting and my oldest loves to write her own stories that I write the words for. Another favorite is pretend camping out days- it’s something we go back to all the time. I agree with what you said about just letting be but I like to have recomendations when they get into each other’s hair! 😉

  83. Maggie

    I adore all of these great ideas! Especially crafts! In fact, I found a cute craft on Etsy that might be attractive to parents looking to get artsy with their kids. I love these lantern making kits.

  84. Maggie T.

    I adore all of these ideas but I especially love the craft idea. In fact, I found a cute craft idea on Etsy that would be good for parents looking to get artsy with their kids. Check out these lantern making kits!

  85. courtney

    I think that if our kids say they are bored, I don’t think we should make them do choirs. That’s a little much…

  86. courtney

    If my kids are bored, I am not going to make them do choirs, that’s kind of mean and demanding…

  87. Gennarina

    We had a beige carpet in my home and in the winter time, I got out my son’s beach toys, rocks and sea shells and we would sit and play beach for hours. I also have a BIG roasting pan and fill it with water and rubber ducks, frogs, etc. and play duck pond. And our idea of treasure hunt is taking the BIG roasting pan and filling it with uncooked rice and dried beans and other objects such as coins, a toy car, something small that can be hidden in the rice and beans and then searching for it, also a good activity for children who have texture sensitivity issues.

  88. Jaclyn

    Our new favorite activity too for winter time boredom is painting with water on the chalkboard easel! My daughter loves this and will spend an hour straight just painting with water, drying the board, and starting all over! Looking forward to trying some of your ideas as well! Thanks for sharing!

  89. activites for kids

    You can write down a clue to find an item, and when they find that item, hide a clue under that item and so on until they find the last item, which is a prize.

  90. Marissa

    I don’t necessarily think movies “easily suck away imagination.” The right movies can expand and enhance imagination – you just have to choose the right ones. As a child, I can’t tell you how many times my sister and I watched and then acted out musicals on our own. We’d spend hours as the orphans from Annie, following the Yellow Brick Road, or pretending to be the Von Trapp children. Fantasy movies also deeply immersed me into the imaginative world of fairies and that extended into writing stories about fairies, creating fairy homes in the yard, etc. (and I was even allowed to watch freaky movies like Labyrinth!) I don’t think all movies are bad.

  91. joey lomboy

    nice, games

  92. joey lomboy

    i like it ..

  93. Brenda

    My grandchildren stay with us overnight one night on the weekends. They recently started creating things using artistic duct/electrical tape. Wallets, book holders, airplanes, hair pieces, glass cases, no end to what they can make. They are going to be holding a “sale” when the weather gets nicer and donating the proceeds to needy families in our city…

  94. Janani Ravikumar

    Thank you for the detailed and the very useful information.
    Let me try some for my 4 year old son now.

  95. Kristin @ Preschool Universe

    Even though he is 3, my son still loves dumping and pouring anything – rice, beans, flour (if it’s warm enough to do it outside!), etc.

  96. katie


  97. Marilon Katibe

    I thought the last one was stupid. I know that children should learn patience but if they dont have anything to do, their just going to come up to you and piss you off.

  98. april

    My boys enjoyed a pile of flour in the middle of the table with their dinky cars. They would make roads through hills and create interesting tracks in them. It was easy clean up and we stored the flour in a container to reuse… with their cars and trucks only!

  99. Malika Bourne

    Loved your post so well. I couldn’t do it better so I added your link to my blog about summer heat safety. “I’ve steam heat and a microwave:” Hop it is OK. Malika

  100. Faith

    I’m 13 and me and my 11 year old sister just built a HUGE blanket fort in our basement… We are now playing games in it! It took about an hour but it was worth it! (: Forts are fun to build no matter how old you are!

  101. miranda

    my son is 5 he loves building houses out of cardboard boxes….and out of wood.

  102. Lois Rumsey

    Love this list! In our house (with a nine and ten year old) we have ‘Technology Tokens’ – each is worth 30 minutes of either TV or computer time and they get 2 of these on a school day and 3 on a weekend or holiday day. The kids set their own timers and switch off when the 30 minutes is up. It’s worked really well for us to limit screen time and encourage the kids to use their imaginations.

    • Jamie

      Great list! Here is one my kids love!!
      Grow a pet TIckleMe Plant from seeds and watch how the leaves fold together and the branches droop when you Tickle It! See video…this is a winner

  103. Jamie

    Grow a pet TIckleMe Plant from seeds and watch how the leaves fold together and the branches droop when you Tickle It! See video…this is a winner

  104. JJ789

    Sounds like too much catering for the kids. Boredom is not only good. But it is essential. But not the main ingredient. Discipline and responsibility, as well as learning etiquette and humility are the primary activities in our home. And they should all revolve around biblical principles. Anything fun should be limited and highly appreciated. Today’s children are drunk on themselves. Spoiled silly. They are taught that life is all about finding ways to get what you want. That’s a quick road to a place called Hell.

  105. Connie Todd

    I LOVE these suggestions, and MUST share them with my facebook customers! I am also going to let my daughter know aobut this blog! She has 2 girsl under 3 years old! I’ll be back for sure! 🙂 Connie

  106. Debbie

    Awesome ideas, thank you. When I gave my daughter(5) choices of what she wanted to do while her brother and dad build a model… she was so excited about re-arranging her room! I would have never even thought to mention that as a fun thing to do, lol. Way more productive than playing pet shops with her!

  107. nivethikaa

    no;20 is boring for kids actually

  108. Duncan Faber

    We spice up all our indoor activities by having an audiobook play in the background. We have them on when the kids are playing, cooking, relaxing… whatever. There’s lots of great sites to get them, but we use this site a lot because all the stories are free and original. Here’s the link if anyone is interested.

  109. Lisa

    My kids(4 and 7) love empty cardboard boxes. When we get gear for testing the first place they go is inside the box with blankets, flashlights and their trucks. They call them their secret cave or house, and of course there are no girls allowed. I have also been getting my older son to help more with dinner, which keeps him with me for 45 or so minutes and not fighting with his brother:)

  110. Sharron

    this is cool

  111. Tanja

    My favourite indoor activity, well for my kids is to do the xbox just dance videos, we dance to the super mario dance, Dora and Micheal Jackson’s, thriller. My son loves to dance, as long as I dance with him. He also likes to play pretend and usually, I just watch him when he is in his own little world, as long as I am watching he feels like he is performing for his little sister and me. I also like to bring out the tooth picks and marshmallows and see what shapes he can make. He usually just makes abominal snowmen or little figurines and then he eats the marshmallows. There are a lot of times when there is boredom, especially since I took away a lot of the sonic video games.

  112. Kitty

    OUTDOORS, OUTDOORS, OUTDOORS!! Kids are indoors at school all day, looking down at their desks, reading or writing. When they’re home, get a break from computers and tv, and go outside with a ball and PLAY! (School works on the mental side, outdoors adds the physical, uplifting side- a HAPPIER day! Vitamin D in sun is vitally needed.)
    The SUN wakes us up (whether cloudy or not), exercise the key, playing any type of sport or hobby. Simple (like kicking or passing a ball, kites, bikes, etc.) or a literal sport, both fun!
    Playgrounds and parks will be the most energetic, and usually the FUNNEST for most all kids, ANY AGE- even teenagers!
    DON’T FORGET THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SUN, DAILY- NOON BEST (vitamin D and emotionally uplifting)!

  113. Trina

    In about a month, I have agreed to babysit my two nephews, under age 4, for two weeks while their teacher parents chaperone a trip to Europe. I am a little panicky at the idea of entertaining them all day every day. Thanks for the great ideas and the assurance that boredom is OK.

  114. A

    I wanted to thank you for including the piece about “nothing”. It seems like kids constantly need to be entertained these days (whether from television, insanely intricate/noisy/flashy toys, scheduled activities and even well-intentioned caregivers trying to enrich the lives of their children) that we forget about some of the simple things…including just sitting and doing nothing. There’s a lot to be said about a child being able to find something to do on their own. The rest of the ideas listed, however, are amazingly helpful when those moments of self-initiated entertainment need a little help!

  115. Janice

    When my grandson was three he was very active. He loved playing with a ball so I would put a clothes basket in the hall in front of my home office door where I was working on the computer. This way he could see me every time he would ring the basket and I could see him and give him praise and interact with him while doing my work.

  116. fogart hardpoo

    I’m the biggest fog hat, when you aren’t playing what will eating be belly jumps? STOMPITY STOMPITY STOMPITY STOMPITY STOMP. tap tap tap. It’s a layer cake!

  117. madame butterfly

    thank you for sharing this list! my kids are like that too, they always ask me if they can watch TV..Sometimes watching TV all by them selves makes me worry bec. other shows are not very child friendly, so i need be with them all the time whenever they ask to watch just to make sure that i can guide them and make sure that what they are watching is good for them. But i have many things to do aside from watching. So i decided to look for sites that can help me to have an idea in to what activities me and my kids can do inside our home aside from watching TV..And this list of yours are really great! I have recently buy this book and i guess i can finally used it..This book allows my kids to have fun coloring the butterflies inside it, while i do my work, they can have fun coloring this book. And i can also read it to them for them to learn more.. This book is great! they can enjoy coloring, and appreciate nature and at the same time learn from it.. I will also definitely do all those activities on your list with my kids…

  118. muss and chass

    thanks soooooo much for this it is sooo useful
    we have to watch our younger sibs and this makes it soo much easier!!
    thanks a ton

  119. Kris Costa

    When my daughter was about nine years old and with a long summer looming, she would come up to me and say I’m bored. I told her to make a list of things she could do and when she was bored and couldn’t think of something to do take out the list and do something on it. Thus was born the “summer fun list” She is 29 years old and still makes her adult summer fun list. In fact she has gotten a lot of people including myself making a summer fun list every year and we post it on a Facebook site. Sometimes we accomplish a few things sometimes a lot. Examples of my summer fun list last year: Read 3 books, contact an old friend, make pickles, have a girls day, walk the beach (I live in AZ). It encourages each child and adult to accomplish goals, be creative and try new things. She writes it on a scroll like paper and hangs it up and then crosses things off as she accomplishes them. It’s fun to look back over the years and see all the new things we have tried and done.

  120. Jahanzeb Babur

    Hi. My kids loved this. Except doing nothing. Make a website about things to do with dolls. Thanks 🤩

  121. Cece

    My little brother won’t do anything. But these are great.

  122. milasa

    I loved everything except the last one I want my kids to do something. I am going to ask my 10 ten year old Adam to make a fort with Jade my 5 year old son. As a mom, its hard to take care of a house that we rented and 5 children. But it’s kinda is easy because all my daughters have a job and are now a adult. thanks for the info for my kids. And maybe you should add “let them play side in the garden” or other outdoor activities!

  123. alex

    what about for 10:50pm

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