Indoor Winter Activities to Keep Kids Occupied (and Moms Sane)

Indoor Winter Activities to Keep Kids Occupied (and Moms Sane)

What to do when you are stuck inside?!

While the weather on the East Coast has not been all that cold this winter, there have been a couple of days when snow or frigid cold has kept us more inside than out. On those days, if you are not prepared, you may find yourself saying “no” far more often than you’d like. Here are some ideas to keep in your tool belt so you are prepared for the next stretch when you are stuck inside!

Why do kids need more physical activity than adults?

Kids need more movement than adults, and boys need twice as much as girls. Unfortunately, this need cannot be tossed aside just because you’re stuck indoors. Have you had to stop your kids from sledding down the stairs yet? Have you ever noticed your child spinning for no reason or jumping on the couch or bed? They do it because they need the movement. You may have to get creative with your movement activities when there are many indoor days in a row, but the more creative you get, the less you will have to say “no” to the actions you don’t want to see!

  • Jumping jacks, snow angels (on the carpet), wall push ups – yes, they are exercises, but you can make them fun. Movement is an essential part of learning. Take a commercial break and call it a jump up break. Everybody jump up and do 10 of each. Next break, do 15.
  • Have your kids do animal walk races around the house – bear walk, inch worm, crab walk, etc. Put a bean bag animal on their back and have them slither like a snake without dropping the animal. Try adding two or three bean bags.
  • Try some hopping activities. If you have tiles, play indoor hopscotch on them. See how long your child can hop on one foot or two feet.
  • If you have an agile gymnast like mine, see if they can stand with their back against the wall, put their hands on the floor in front of them and try to walk their feet up the wall. Alternatively, my daughter will spend hours trying to do handstands against the wall starting from a standing position. She will do the same thing on the couch.
  • Obstacle course – Incorporate crawling under the kitchen table, climbing over the side of the sofa, jumping in the hall, climbing up the stairs, jumping on a pile of pillows, walking on bubble wrap, squeezing stress balls, etc. You might want to mention to your child that this is only allowed when you supervise and say it is okay.

Fine motor movement for Infants

Have you ever been fidgety at work or while watching tv and found yourself absentmindedly squeezing a stress ball, playing with play dough, or putting legos together? This kind of fine motor work is great for your kids to build their writing muscles, build strength, and keep their brain active.

  • Clay, model magic, play dough (see recipes below)
  • Punch holes in paper using a variety of hole punches
  • Legos – great for boys and girls, kits are fun, but open ended bins really exercise imagination
  • Tape a large piece of paper under a card table and have your child lay on his or her back and color upside down
  • Squeezing bubble wrap
  • Make a clay tray to write in with a stylus – fill a small tray with a thin layer of clay. Have your child draw with the back end of a paint brush then squish to erase
  • Make soft pretzels – prepare the dough (recipe at bottom) and have your child roll them into pretzels. You can give your younger child a ball of dough to knead and roll while you make the ones to be eaten.
  • Shaving cream in the tub (may be better for ages 3 and up and those without sensitive skin) – squirt shaving cream on the wall of the tub and have your child draw on the wall. My daughter loves to practice her spelling words this way, and we no longer yell at each other while she practices.
  • Medicine droppers with a bin of colored water or in the tub. Kids love medicine droppers! If you have a surplus from medicines, wash them out and repurpose them for your child’s amusement! Add a little soap and color to the water. Throw in some baby formula scoops and old yogurt containers as well. If you have time in advance to plan, make different sized ice cubes out of different yogurt and applesauce containers to put in the bin with the water. You can even freeze a small toy in the cubes and have your child work to get it out.

Some more ideas that may involve a little planning

  • As you are out without children, grab a few small activities or toys to pull out on rainy days or as rewards for good behavior. The dollar section of Target is great for this, as is the dollar section of your craft store.
  • Fruit loop or Fruit Cheerio stringing! That box of cereal can do much more than be eaten or ground into your family room carpet. Use shoelaces or yarn with a bit of tape rolled around the end to make it easy to go through the loops. Make patterns or just string them and eat them.
  • Jigsaw puzzles…if you have more than one child, give them each a puzzle appropriate for their age group and have a race to see who can complete their puzzle the fastest. Then, see how long it takes them to complete one together.
  • Make a fort out of kitchen chairs, pillows, and blankets. Let the kids play inside their fort. My rule is that the kids can make a fort with any of the couch cushions as long as they leave one cushion for me to sit on throughout the day!
  • Ask for a large box from the grocery store or repurpose one you have from a tv or other large appliance, etc. and make a car, spaceship, house, puppet theater, etc.
  • Collect some toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls, wrapping paper tubes, etc and create some tracks for your little cars. You may have to cut them in half, making a half pipe, if the cars don’t fit inside the tubes. Use tape and a creative mind to make them stay together and upright so the cars go down.
  • As a last resort, learn about your town and locations you can go to let your kids run around inside.

I hope this has given you some ideas on how to navigate the days stuck inside without needing an extra cup of coffee. My hope is that writing this all down will be the equivalent of the groundhog not seeing his shadow. Since you are all now prepared, spring will come early, and our kids can all go run outside while we sit on the deck with a cup of coffee!

Play dough recipes

Play dough is a great inside activity if you follow the rules (dough must stay on the table and if it falls, pick it up). It calms the brain and works muscles. Play dough is even more fun if you make it yourself. There are many play dough recipes out there, but you can basically tweak these any way you want. Add a package of kool aid or some spices to make your play dough smell, make several different colors of play dough and give your child license to mix colors at will, replace some flour with cocoa powder.

Basic uncooked play dough

  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 cup salt
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch
  • Food coloring

Mix water, salt, oil, and food coloring together. Gradually work in flour and cornstarch until mixture is the consistency of bread dough.

Oatmeal dough

Mix one part flour, two parts oatmeal, and one part water. Add water gradually to bind the mixture.

Basic cooked play dough

  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 cups salt
  • 2 Tbsp cream of tartar
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 Tbsp cooking oil

Combine flour, salt, and cream of tartar in a saucepan. Mix liquids and gradually stir them into dry ingredients. When mixture is smooth, cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until a ball forms. Remove from heat and knead until smooth. This is a very pliable and long lasting dough. Add food coloring after dough is cooled and have your kids mix the color into the dough.

Soft pretzels

I love this recipe!

  • 1 envelope yeast
  • 1 ½ cup warm water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 4 cups flour
  • coarse salt
  • 1 egg, beaten

Soften yeast in the water. Mix all ingredients (except salt and egg) into it and knead. Place in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until approximately doubled in size. Punch down, roll, and twist into desired shape. Place on a greased cookie sheet, brush with egg, and sprinkle with salt. Bake at 425 for 12 to 15 minutes.

Alternatively, you could sprinkle with cinnamon sugar or crushed almonds.