Being stuck inside can give any kid cabin fever. But kids who struggle with hyperactivity or impulsivity may seem to be literally bouncing off the walls. Here are nine indoor activities that can keep even the most active child entertained.
Come up with a list of hard-to-find or hidden things in your house and give it to your child. Searching for the items can help keep both body and brain moving. Just be sure you match the quest with your child’s age and abilities. Here are some age-specific ideas:
Variation for preschoolers: Use pictures to show your child the things to try to find.
Variation for grade-schoolers: Write down a list of things for your child to look for, but leave some open-ended, such as “something you can draw with.”
Variation for tweens: Use riddles as clues. For example: Find something that gets wetter the more it dries. (A towel)
Fun with bubble wrap
Bubble wrap can inspire all kinds of activities. Roll out the bubble wrap carpet and let your child walk the “runway.” Make a hopscotch grid with squares of bubble wrap. Or use permanent markers to write letters on the bubbles, and see how quickly your child can “pop” the alphabet. You can even let kids paint the bubble wrap and then press paper down on top of it. When the bubbles pop, they’ll have spectacular “bubble print” paintings.
This game couldn’t be easier. Blow up a balloon and use a piece of tape to mark the center line or “net” on the ground. Balloon volleyball is a great game for two or more kids, but it can work for just one. If there’s nobody else around, have your child play both sides by running back and forth over the line to hit the balloon before it lands on the ground.
Variation for tweens: If you have more than one child playing, you can add more balloons to make the game more challenging.
All you need for this active game is some free floor space, a penny to throw in the squares, and painter’s tape. (It’s like masking tape but easier to peel off when you’re done.) Use the tape to make a hopscotch grid. Have your child make tape numerals in each box. If you’re both feeling creative, you can even make the grid with circles, triangles, or diamonds instead of the traditional boxes. Then start hopping!
Your child has probably noticed that some letters reach above the middle space on lined paper, while other stay inside it and some dip below it. In this game, you translate the way letters look into body positions. For tall letters, you jump up; for medium-size ones, you stand in place; and for ones that drop down, you crouch. So for bag, you jump up for b, stand still for a, and crouch for g.
To start playing, write down a list of words. Then take turns choosing one and acting it out to see if the other person can guess what it is.
With five to 10 empty plastic water bottles and a soccer ball (or another ball about the same size), you can create a home bowling alley in your hallway. Use tape to mark where each bottle should go. And if you can, pour a little sugar, salt, sand, or even unused kitty litter into each bottle so they don’t tip over too easily.
Variation for tweens: Your child might enjoy “glow bowling” in the dark! Just add a glow stick to each bottle and turn the lights out.
This classic game is a great way to keep kids moving, help them work on gross motor skills, and give them practice telling left from right. If you don’t have the game, you can use colored paper or other supplies to create your own grid (check Wikipedia for a description you can use as a basis).
Indoor snowball fight
When it’s too cold outside to have a real snowball fight, have one inside instead. And don’t worry about having to clean up melted snow or broken lamps — you can use Nerf balls, balled-up (clean) socks, or even crumpled-up paper for your snowballs.
Designate a safe space and decide which pieces of furniture are OK to hide behind. You can even use cardboard boxes to make forts. Then have at it! One note of caution: You may want to consider setting a time limit to help keep your preschooler or grade-schooler from getting overexcited!
Don’t forget the power of music to help your child burn off some extra energy. Put together a playlist of music your whole family can enjoy. Then challenge everyone to dance, dance, dance! Younger children might enjoy dancing with props, like scarves.
Variation for tweens: Play a game of Freeze Dance. When the music stops, everybody has to freeze in their current dance pose. If you move, you’re out.
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About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days.
Ginny Osewalt is a dually certified elementary and special education teacher with more than 15 years of experience in general education, inclusion, resource room, and self-contained settings.