We live in Canada and the winter is brutal and long. As much as my kids enjoy outdoor activity all year long, some winter days are just too painful to be staying outside in -20°C temperatures (or worse) – for long – not to mention the constant flu and colds that linger around kids this time of year.
Due to the climate where we live, we have probably already tried most of the indoor activities imaginable. There are never enough fun activities to do in our house and we are always hunting for new ideas.
Having tried many possibilities, here we share 10 of our favourite activities that my children had the most fun with – and did not lose interest after only a few minutes!
1. Nail Painting
Regardless of gender, kids generally love playing this nail salon game. Draw many different sizes of hands and feet showing their nails on a big piece of cardboard – making sure the outlines are big enough for clumsy little hands to easily fill with colours. You can even give them different kinds of stickers to decorate with after colouring.
Materials you might need: Large piece of cardboard or paper, colour markers or paints, stickers
2. Build a fort
Children love cozy forts where they can snuggle in with their stuffed toys and a glowing lantern. Provide them with some small blankets, cushions, pillows and boxes, the possibilities are endless. Let them build whatever shape they please, and you could even add some sound effects of thunderstorms or crickets to spice up the ambiance.
If you have some LED candles or lanterns to boost the mood even more, all the better. You could even nestle in the fort with your children and tell a spooky story or read books to them.
Materials you might need: blankets, pillows, cushions, big cardboard box, popup tent, LED candles or lantern, sound effects from your phone
3. Paper airplane target
You will need a big sheet of paper that covers half of the door frame (or you can make one by taping 9 sheets of A4 together) and cut a few different sizes of holes for paper airplanes to pass through. You can add different points for each hole based on the difficulty.
It is fun to fold all different sizes and styles of paper airplanes and decorate them with markers or crayons, and finally have a contest to see who gets the highest score.
Materials you might need: a big sheet of paper at least 3 ft wide x 2 ft tall, paper for building airplanes, tape, scissors, crayons or markers
4. Magnetic fishing rod
If you want to encourage your child to learn the alphabet or practice their motor skills, try this fishing game. If you don’t already have a bag of alphabet or number magnets, you can easily find inexpensive ones online or at the dollar store. Once you have some magnets, you will need to make a fishing rod by connecting a strong magnet to a stick with a length of string or a pipe cleaner. Any lengthy toy might do as the rod, or you could even use the cardboard tube from a roll of paper towel or baking parchment. Hand each kid some sort of basket or bucket, and a fishing rod. It’s time to go fishing.
Spread out the alphabet magnets on the floor, and ask your children to fish for certain colours, numbers, letters, or how many of them they got in their baskets.
A good way to develop motor skills while learning about letters, colours, and numbers.
Materials you might need: magnet toys – ideally colourful letters or numbers – and one strong magnet for each fishing rod, pipe cleaners or string, any long stick or pole, basket or bucket
5. Homemade playdough
If you are looking for sensory-rich playtime, homemade playdough is one of the best activities you can do with your children. It is easy and fun enough to involve your kids in making the dough, picking and adding colour and even scent to make the dough extra special, and personalize according to their likes. The texture, colour and scent are all great for sensory play.
Once the dough is made it is time to use all the toy tools you can find to cut, roll and squeeze, and do some play cooking. You could act out the part of a voracious monster who needs copious amounts of food to fall asleep. Your kids’ little hands will be moving busily to make all kinds of silly food to help the monster sleep.
You also can also find some small objects to bury in the playdough and let your children use tools and hands to gouge and dig out the objects while trying to guess what they might be.
Materials you might need: ½ cup salt, 1 cup flour, 2TBS cream of tartar, 1TBS oil, 1 cup water, food colouring
Mix the dry ingredients, water & oil in a pot
Stir on medium heat until thick
You can add colour (and essential oil if you like) once it has cooled off.
Store in an airtight container to keep it soft
6. Animal farm or zoo
Children seem to have a special place in their hearts for animals. They enjoy playing with animals and they like to create habitats for them and feed and groom them.
Provide a variety of materials such as a generous-sized cardboard box they could colour or stick coloured paper on to decorate (you could use a plastic or wooden container, but these would limit some of the fun, they are harder to colour or stick things onto). Adding real materials like grains, leaves, and rocks seems to boost children’s interest and creativity more than plastic store-bought accessories.
Materials you might need: cardboard box, leaves, grains, rocks, branches, paper, tape, glue, toy animals
7. Hit the balloon
Blow up a balloon and attach it to a string so you can hang it over the door frame. You will need to rig a loop of tape, string, or pipe cleaner, etc for the string to slide through freely. A plastic baseball bat is perfect for hitting the balloon, but if you do not have one, improvise with some rolled-up newspaper wrapped in tape, or a parchment roll would do the job.
You pull or let out the string to raise or lower the balloon while kids take aim at the moving target. We sometimes spice it up on special occasions by using a pinata instead, but usually, a big balloon is sufficient to have fun.
Materials you might need: balloon, string, tape, newspaper, plastic baseball bat, optional: cardboard tube, pipe cleaner
If your kids’ motor skills allow them to stand blocks, you could provide templates of swirly zigzagging domino paths for them to follow. It requires concentration and patience for children to stand the tiles along the path without knocking them over, which will help your kids to exercise and develop that important skill set while having fun, watching their hard work tumble down in exciting patterns.
Materials you might need: dominos or flat rectangular wooden blocks or tiles, paper, tape
9. Roll the Donut
This only requires one or more, donut-shaped rings (the plastic ones babies use for stacking on a peg work really well), and a book or two if you would like to add obstacles. Two people seated at least five feet apart take turns standing a donut vertically and rolling it forward speedily. Books laying in the path can cause the donut to jump or change direction. You can vary the rules by setting goals behind each player; keeping score is optional.
Materials you might need: plastic ring around 5 inches in diameter
10. Hide and seek
This is the perfect way to break children’s boredom. Something about hiding while someone is trying to find them gives kids a thrill and a giggle. Children can become surprisingly patient, staying in one place, although they might let out some giggles or breathe audibly, or even answer if you talk out loud while searching for them.
11. Everything craft
The key for this activity is to provide kids with enough materials that they might not normally have access to. Just showing them all sorts of materials and allowing them to free rein usually captures their interest. It is fun to create something silly while using all five senses and working with unfamiliar materials together with your children.
The possible materials you could include in the crafting are endless. Discuss with your children what to make. It is always fun to see the end results those little hands create according to their point of view on the world.
<Materials you might need>
Basic craft supplies:
Coloured paper – even better with different thicknesses and textures
Additional special materials:
Different sizes of boxes
These are just a few of the ideas you could try with your children to zest things up this winter. But children have the most fun when they see their parents having fun with them, as opposed to passively watching them. Joy is infectious – Join in with your kids and show them how much you also enjoy playing and doing these activities with them.