Dreaming up indoor games and activities for your kids during the winter months can seem like an endless cycle … you make it happen, and they’re looking for the next big thing within minutes. Stop the madness with a few easy-to-plan activities that’ll span days. Scroll down to see them all. 

Make a giant felt board. We love this make-and-play project.  All it takes is felt, scissors and creative design ideas to make the felt pieces your kids can use on a giant blank board. Get great ideas and the know-how-details at Fun at Home with Kids.

photo: Seika via Flickr

Pull out a puzzle. Somewhere a little out of the way, set up a puzzle table for your kids. Then break out that 500-piecer you’ve been saving for a rainy day. Working on a giant jigsaw puzzle is a simple way to engage kids for the long haul because they’re in charge of just how much time they give to it each day.

Hint: Set out simpler puzzles at your table for tots and preschoolers. That way, they can work their way through this fun activity alongside everyone else.

“Run” a 5K. Whether he runs up and down the stairs, around the living room or even just jogs in place, have him do it for 5-10 minutes each day until he’s knocked out 3.1 miles. Track his progress on a graph to make it that much more engaging. On your mark, get set, go!

kids-crafting-woodlewonderworks-flickr photo: Woodleywonderworks via Flickr

Make a collage. It’s time to download the thousands of pictures you have on your phone so your kids can print them out and make a stunning collage of your family’s adventures for the year. Use a long length of butcher paper to mount all your memories. Then, add drawings and notes to make it complete. Block out time each day to add to the masterpiece until it’s done.

tinkerlab-geode-eggsphoto: Tinkerlab

Grow crystal geodes. With Borax, salt, and a half-dozen eggs, your curious kids can grow their own crystals over the course of a few days (Five works best.). Rachelle at Tinkerlab has all you need to know to set up this experiment.

photo: Lee Simpson via Flickr 

Play a marathon game of Monopoly. This classic game is quick to set up, but depending on the rules you play with, can take days, dare we say weeks, to finally create a crippling monopoly over your opponents. Tweak the rules to your family’s liking, then it’s round and round you all “Go” buying up properties, collecting rents and making improvements on each.

photo: The Merry Thought

Create with cardboard. Rifle through the recycle pile in search of usable cardboard because your kids are ready to build skyscrapers, campers, and rocket ships to take them to the moon. Use these ideas to inspire your little builders.

Bake sugar cookies. Let’s be honest, the idea of baking sugar cookies with your cuties is always a good one. But when it comes to the actual event, eh… not so much. Turns out the trick is to spread it out over three days: Spend the first day making the dough. Roll, cut and bake your silly shapes on day two. Then, pop the cookies into an airtight container (stick in a piece of bread to keep them soft) so they’re ready to ice and decorate on day three.

photo: Lyn Lomasi via Flickr

Plan a play. Whether they’re leaning toward a classic like The Day the Crayons Quit, or want to go with a meatier choice, like something from the Captain Underpants oeuvre or a Judy Moody selection, challenge your kids to turn their best story ever into a play. Write out dialogue, plan simple scenes, put together set pieces, and choose costumes that make the story come to life. Since it doesn’t have to be done in one quick shot, they can take all the time they need to indulge their creativity for this one.

photo: COD Newsroom via Flickr

Build a village. Don’t stop at just one LEGO creation. Go big with a village your kid can build over two, three or four days. It’s easy if you start with a theme, like a mountain ski park, or downtown waterfront high rises, and encourage your mini-me to expand from there. Start construction any day of the week and keep it going until the last brick is laid.

photo: US Department of Education via Flickr 

Complete an hour of code. Promote a little active screen time with your future programmer when you have her complete an hour of code for 20 minutes each day. Everything you need to know is mapped out online, and although the hour is best spent on a screen, you can opt to use screen-free alternatives to teach the same concepts to your cutie at home. The best part? A sweet certificate your tiny techie can earn when she’s learned it all. Gold stars all around!

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Paint, Hide and Find Rocks. If you haven’t caught on to the rock painting and hiding craze yet, winter is a perfect time. Kids start by painting colorful rocks of their own design. Then you hide them for others to find (after sealing properly). Then, set out on a hunt to find painted rocks others have left behind. Get the full scoop here.

boy-reading-paper-kellyb-flickrphoto: KellyB via Flickr 

Publish a family newsletter. Extra, extra! A lot of crazy things happen to your family each week: from funny things the kids say to good grades and weekend outings. During the week, have your kid take pictures, record events, and land big interviews so she can publish your family’s breaking news stories at the end of the week.

perler-bead-bucket-rick-gutleber-flickrphoto: Rick Gutleber via Flickr 

Set up a store. If you’ve got a serious crafter in the family, let him strut his stuff by creating a collection to sell. Whether he works in Perler beads, loom bracelets or cute clay sculptures, he can take time each day to make a few pieces. When’s he ready, set up shop. Take payment in the form of high fives, or donate profits to a favorite charity.

Put on a magic show. Long winter days call for a few tricks up your sleeve. Have your kid make like Harry Potter and learn a few basic magic tricks, practicing them over the course of a few days. It’s all part of the prep for the big show, which comes at the end of the week.

boys-playing-diy-boardgame-mamascoutsphoto: Mama Scouts  

Make and play your own board game. Forget your Parker Brothers favorites. Your kid’s creativity will kick into high gear when she makes her own board game. Her rules, her object, her big win. Amy at Mama Scouts has the scoop on how you can encourage this multi-day activity for big kids. Play on!

photo: Code Name: Mama via Flickr

Map your neighborhood. It doesn’t have to be a beautiful day in your neighborhood to map out streets, houses, parks and other tell-tale landmarks on a butcher paper. Lay out a long sheet and plot the important details of your world, adding a little each day. Bonus points if you take the kids to walk the area you’re drawing the day beforehand.

photo: Alternative Heat via Flickr

Play with corn kernels. It’s amazing how much mileage you can get out of playing with your food. And corn kernels are some of the best play items out there. Start by loading a bunch into a sensory bin and adding Little People farm animals and farm hands to mix. On day two, pull out your spare plastic eggs. If you load in leftover corn kernels and fasten the egg tightly with tape, you’ve got a simple shaker kids can make music with. For the last day, put some (fresh, new) kernels into your favorite popping machine and watch it pop, pop, pop into a buttery afternoon snack. It’s three ways to play with one simple ingredient!

homemade-paper-jimmie-flickrphoto: Jimmie via Flickr 

Make paper. Bring your summer camps days home when you hand make paper. Rachelle at Tinkerlab walks you through the process of this two-day long project. It definitely takes planning (and a couple of special supplies), but the finished product is perfect for writing very special letters or drawing an extra special picture for mom. 

Compile a daily photo journal. Arm your budding photojournalist with a disposable camera or a sweet Polaroid so he can find one subject a day worth documenting. Snap a picture of his favorite stuffed bear, or that strange shadow lurking behind the door, whatever catches his eye. Then mount the pic in a journal and get writing. One picture a day should do the trick!

photo: torbakhopper via Flickr

Host an art exhibit. Make art a daily part of your creative kid’s playtime routine. Challenge her to draw, paint or collage a new project each day based on different themes (think animals, shapes or vehicles) or a favorite artist’s style. After she’s built up her collection, hang it gallery style for friends and family to enjoy. 

photo: Allison Sutcliffe

Grow stalactites. It takes a few days to complete this grow-at-home science experiment. But with Epsom salts, string, and paper clips, your budding scientist can track the growth of his own stalactites when you set up this easy project. Check back often to see how things are growing. 

Do you think you’ll try one of these ideas with your kids? Tell us how it goes in a comment.

—Allison Sutcliffe

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