Kids back indoors and bored? 15 activities to keep them occupied
When they get in from playing outside, make the most of the Snow Days and avoid the screens
There are a variety of card games kids can play, from Swiss or Old Maid for the younger ones to Go Fish. Photograph: Getty
The blizzard warning has lifted and it’s ok to go outdoors, so the smaller ones are probably outside enjoying the snow.
When they get back inside after construction, battle or transport activities (aka building a snowperson, having a snowball fight or sledding downhill, which is the best of all), they’ll be cold and wet. When they’re dry and warm and complaining of being bored, what do we do with the rest of the afternoon and the days ahead?
There are board games, and these Snow Days give all of us a chance to go back to basics and to the games we played as kids. Here are some more ways to amuse them before they run back outside to grapple with the Beast From The East again.
1. I Went to the Shop and I Bought ...
Somebody starts it off saying I went to the shop and I bought ... bread (obviously). The next person in the game says I went to the shop and bought bread, and adds another item to the list. You keep going until somebody forgets one of the items in the chain and they are out. You can make this game more exciting by calling it I Went to the Moon or I Went to the Hardware Shop. Endless fun and good for everyone’s brain cells.
2. Twenty Questions
A guessing game that works best for up to five or six people, who try to identify a person or object in 20 questions or less. One person is “it” and chooses a person, place or thing. The others take turns and ask questions which must be answered with “yes” or “no” to figure out the answer.
3. Build a fort with blankets and pillows
Forget keeping the house perfect; what’s a home if you can’t turn the living room into a giant fort? Build a den out of sofa cushions, chairs and a clothes rack with a blanket draped over it, or create a fort out of a big cardboard box with tape to hold the sides together.
This is not a contest and there are no winners or losers. You just use words to create a very random and disconnected story. Each person playing has a sheet of paper. You play by writing words on the paper and folding it to hide the previous words before passing the paper on to the next player.
Each player starts by writing two adjectives to describe a man. Then everybody folds the paper to hide the words and passes it along to the person beside them. Now write a man’s name – someone you know or someone famous. Fold the paper and pass again. Two adjectives for a woman. Fold and pass. Woman’s name. Fold and pass.
Now write down where they met. Fold and pass. What he said to her. Fold and pass. What she said to him. Fold and pass. What he gave her, what she gave him.
And finally, you have the consequence (a description of what happened in the end). Each person will end up with a story folded in a kind of concertina. Take it in turns to read out the stories, and you’ll certainly be roaring laughing.
5. Play cards
Dig out the deck and check online if you forget the rules. From Swiss or Old Maid for the younger ones to kids Gin Rummy, Beggar My Neighbour, Go Fish, Sevens, 25, and Knockout Whist.
6. Chinese Whispers
A big hit if there are lots of children. You form a line and the first person in the line whispers a message to the ear of the next person in the line, and so on, until the last player is reached who announces the message to the entire group. Compare the original message with the final version – the aim is to pass around the message without it getting garbled, but the crack is in seeing what goes wrong.
7. Bake a cake
You probably have the ingredients in the cupboard, even without depleting the milk or bread supplies. And the added benefit is that you get to eat it afterwards, snuggled up by the fire.
8. Hold a talent contest
If there are a bunch of kids in the house, give them two hours to come up with an act, with a handsome prize for the best, and set them to it. They can rehearse in different corners of the house.
9. Make music
Get your instruments out or make your own (with pots, wooden spoons, tins, spatula) and make some “music”. You can look online for suggestions for more elaborate home-made instruments.
10. Tidy the playroom or the bedroom
Yes, you read that right. Don’t present it as a chore but as a way to find long forgotten toys which they can play with after the job is done. (But be prepared to finish the job yourself as they head off to play with the long lost toys!)
11. Drawing challenge
Ask the child what they want to draw. Google how to draw a dinosaur, a yellow submarine, animals, a fairground, whatever, and let them get going.
12. If the electricity is gone: Make shadow shapes
Using a torch, take turns making shadow shapes on the walls with your hands. See who can make the best shape.
11. Lego-Building Contest
Get out your boxes of the best toy ever (you must have some it somewhere) and have a lego-building contest. Pick a theme, set some rules and go.
12. Micro treasure hunt
Everyone gets a matchbox to fill with as many tiny objects as they can find. They have 10 minutes to find and fit as many tiny whole objects as they can. Tiny stuff can include: A paper clip, a drawing pin, a pea, a button, a piece of Lego, a bead.
Or have an indoor scavenger hunt. Make a list of items from all over the house. Lend them a mobile and set them off to find and photograph each item on the list.
13. Make a playlist and have a disco
Create a playlist of your favourite songs (everybody choose, say, five), put it on shuffle, move back the furniture and have a mini disco. Maybe have a best dancer competition, or try the Can Can or limbo dancing.
14. Play dress-up
Either using dress-up boxes or letting them loose in your wardrobe.
15. Indoor Obstacle Course
Create an indoor obstacle course with plenty of climbing, crawling, hopping, jumping, falling on cushions/mattresses, and time them doing it.