A pillowcase race is one of our favorite indoor games
Whether the weather is keeping you inside or you’re on lockdown (again) active play is not only stimulating for the body, but it can also boost the brain. From balloon games to literally acting like animals, we’ve found 28 inventive ways to keep kids moving indoors and keep their little minds occupied. Check out our favorite indoor games for when it’s too cold to play outside.
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Take the kids on a walk through the forest without leaving the living room. For each prompt, demonstrate a movement while you tell the story out loud. For example:
You are walking down a path in a forest (walk in place).
You see a deer leap across the path (leap!).
You chase after the deer (run in place).
But you trip on a branch and fall (slowly fall in place).
You roll down a hill (roll around on the floor).
You can take this in any direction you want and make it last as long as you need to!
Grow, Little Seed, Grow!
In this scenario, you're going to "plant" your kiddo and watch them grow.
Have your child curl up in a little ball on the floor. If they're small enough, you can carry them to the spot.
Declare you are a gardener, and you are planting the rarest seed.
Tickle their back while you say, "Water, water, water!"
Lightly tap their back while you say, "Sun beats down, sun beats down!"
Now the seed can start to unfurl. "Oh, the seed is reaching through the soil!"
As your child slowly comes to standing, at each stage say things like, "Oh, the leaves are unfurling!" and "Look, there's a flower on the top."
Finally, have your child stretch to the sun.
You can end it there, or you can go and pick the flower, having the kiddos collapse in a giggling heap as you "chop" at their heels.
The Alphabet Workout
This one takes a bit more prep, but it's super easy to learn and guaranteed to burn off energy in no time. First, you need to associate a specific exercise with letters of the alphabet (example: A, 5 burpees, B, 10 jumping jacks, C, 10 jumps in place). You can repeat exercises, so you don't have to come up with 26 new ones! You can also find a pre-made one, like this one from Leash Your Fitness.
Next, you take turns doing the exercises based on your name. Adjust to kids' ages and fitness levels. For example, you can do middle and last names if the kids need more. Or choose random words. Your heart will be pumping in no time (It makes a great break from work for adults, too.).
Pool Noodle Jousting
Okay, we'll admit this one could be a recipe for trouble among certain siblings, but it's ever so easy and ever so fun! Just be sure to establish rules like no hitting faces, body parts, etc.
All you need are two pool noodles. If the kids are small, you can cut a pool noodle in half.
Arm each child (or yourself and a child).
No noodles? You can get a set of two 52" long noodles for $21.99 on Amazon right now.
Choose a few colorful old socks; fill each sock with dry rice, beans, or something similar, and tie the ends together. Place sheets of paper on the floor—with one for each color of the sock. Your child can toss the homemade bean bag onto the corresponding color of paper.
Related: 21 Easy Play Ideas for Kids (Whether You Have 5, 15 or 30 Minutes)
Can your kiddo waddle like a walrus? Walk like a penguin? Gallop like a horse? Call out animal names and watch as your child imitates the creature’s antics.
Indoor Games for Kids That Use Balloons
Bat the Balloon
Fill a balloon, toss it into the air and count how many pats your child can bat the balloon before it falls to the ground. Add another balloon to make the game more challenging.
All it takes to play balloon volleyball, baseball, basketball, or hockey is hot air (to blow up the balloons!) and a little ingenuity. Use trash cans on opposite sides of the room as baskets and a simple painter’s tape line to divide the room for a volleyball net. For hockey and baseball, use pool noodles to bat balloons in the air or on the ground.
Blow up as many balloons as you can, and divide them up so roughly half are inside a painter’s tape-made circle and half are outside of it. Then free the kids, challenging one to get as many balloons into the circle while inviting the other to keep out as many as possible. It’s a Ying/Yang situation that’ll wear them out faster than you can say, “nap time!”
Active Indoor Games for Kids
Take follow the leader to a whole new level. Pretend your child is a mirror and have them imitate your movements—reflection style. Reverse the course and give them a chance to play the role of leader as you mirror them.
Are you looking for games for kids that don’t require materials, cards, boards or anything else? Try a quick game of freeze. Let the kids run, dance, twirl or move to their beat. Yell, “freeze,” and watch them suddenly turn into statues.
Don’t count out the games you played as a child. Set up chairs in your playroom, turn on the tunes, and play a game of musical chairs.
A long stretch of wood or tile flooring is all your little ones need to play indoor hopscotch. Lay out the game using painters or washi tape so it won’t stick to your floors. Then off they go, tossing and hopping down the alley until they reach 10. Get more on this sweet idea over at Toddler Approved.
Who doesn’t need an excuse to change the bedsheets? Have the kids stuff themselves into their pillowcases, then send them off down a carpeted hallway or across a room with a rug toward an imaginary finish line. Add in obstacles to make it more challenging and to keep the fun rolling.
To play this silly game, all you need are buckets, potatoes and kids with a good sense of humor. Set the buckets up at one side of the room. Next, ask each child to carry a potato between their legs (no hands allowed) across the room and plop it in the bucket before turning and running back to tag the next player in line.
Indoor Games for Kids That Like Color
Who can paint a portrait, landscape or still life the fastest? Choose a subject, hand out the canvases and race to see who can paint their masterpiece the fastest.
Add science to your indoor games for youth! Preschoolers and younger kiddos will get a kick out of this fun-filled full “STEAM” -ahead game. Drip a few drops of food coloring into water and freeze colorful cubes. When the ice is ready, place different colors on one side of a piece of poster board paper and race the cubes to see which one melts the fastest—and wins!
Color Wheel Magic
Preschoolers will dig this simple game you can make with construction paper. Place colored papers around on the ground cakewalk style and turn on some music. Then start your crew out around the circle. Whatever color they’re on when the music stops becomes their challenge color, and they need to race through the house to find an object in that color. The first one back to the circle wins!
Put your plastic dixie cup collection to use. Line the bottles up bowling pin-style and use a soft, squishy ball to bowl!
Icy Building Blocks
No blocks? No problem! Freeze colorful cubes of ice and use them to build skyscrapers in your kitchen. Have a parent-child contest to see who can build the highest tower—without toppling the freezing blocks.
Related: 14 Low-Key Games to Play with Grandparents
Raid the dress-up bin or pile all your best costumes together. Then call out open-ended prompts your kids can respond to with their clothing choices. Dress up as someone who helps others. Dress up as someone who builds things. Dress up as a hero. Have kids race against each other or set a timer for singletons as they take on this best-dressed challenge.
Cup Flip Fun
This simple game is a total energy burn. To play, grab 20 paper or plastic cups from the cupboards and scatter them around the room—10 facing up and 10 facing down. Divide your crew into the Up Team and the Down Team before setting a five-minute timer. Once the timer is set, send the teams off to flip cups in their direction (up for Up Team, down for Down Team).
Combine two favorite activities into one when you help your kids get their favorite book ready for its stage debut. Think out costumes and dialogue as you prepare them to act out their favorite book for the most approving audience around—you and your parenting partner! It’ll be standing ovations and encore applauses when they’re done.
Family Wrestling Match
This simple activity pits your kiddo against mom or dad in a battle of physical strength. To play, create a circle using painter’s tape or something that will easily peel off your floors. Make sure it’s big enough to move around in. Plant yourself firmly in the middle before motioning to your sidekick Matrix-style to try and wrestle you out of the circle. Set a timer for each round, or keep it going until you finally get pushed out.
Host an indoor dance party with a game-filled twist. Turn on your kid's favorite tunes, and dance follow the leader style. The leader twirls, whirls and swirls around the room while everyone else follows.
At-Home Obstacle Course
Indoor games get an activity boost with this obstacle-filled option. Use all the cardboard delivery boxes in your basement or pile pillows together. Then have your ninja warriors test their skills on the course that gives them a legit reason to climb the furniture.
Photo Scavenger Hunt
Make your kids’ day with this simple activity that you can play virtually anywhere. Write a list of random items your kids can find around the house. Then, send them off with your phone to find and snap pictures of each of the items. Make the list as long or as short as you like and change it every time you play.
Stage a rainbow-filled scavenger hunt at home. Give your child pieces of colorful construction paper and ask them to find something around the house that matches each one.