The weather is finally warmer. Yay! But now it’s kind of gone overboard, and the novelty of all-day outdoor play has worn off. We’ve got playful indoor activities that will get your child moving, experimenting and creating in the cool comfort of your living room, kitchen or playroom. Scroll down to get going.
1. Paint without a brush. If you have finger paints or tempera on hand, your kids can get totally into this art activity from Mini Monets and Mommies.
2. Make crayon creative shells. Older kids enjoy crafting too. Put those seashells from your beach vacation to use with this colorful indoor activity from Fun at Home with Kids.
3. Have a beach party. That is, have an indoor beach party. Grab the towels, pull up a paddling pool (minus the water) and pour a few kid-friendly fruit juice drinks. Fill the pool with torn blue tissue paper or a blue sheet. Pretend to splash, all from the cooling comfort of your home.
4. Play with paper dolls. These ballerina paper dolls from Mer Mag are cute, colorful and completely crafty. Your little arabesque enthusiast will get a kick out of creating their very own chain of dancing of dolls who dance.
5. Ice-capades! Freeze colored water in ice cube trays and then let the kids paint with their slowly-melting watercolors. Check out these other surprising ways you can have fun with ice.
6. Sink or Float
This basic science experiment is perfect for schoolers or makes for an exciting indoor activity for toddlers. And bonus, it uses water—which is perfect on a hot summer day. Fill the sink, tub or a plasticware bin with cool water. Pick a few waterproof items, predict if the objects will sink or float and then toss them in. Observe what happens and record the data.
7. Play store. Set up shop in just in no time at all and play grocery store. Or maybe you’d rather vend faux froyo or play post office? Here are 9 pretend play scenarios you can set up and play all afternoon.
8. Play a round of “Would you rather?” Would you rather have a pet monkey or a pet porcupine? Inquiring minds want to know! Ask your mini-me to answer this and other thought-provoking pairings when you play a few rounds of Would You Rather. All you need are a few good questions. The Family Dinner Project has a great list of kid-friendly ones you can pull up on your device so you can dole out new questions as fast as your Little can answer them.
9. Draw a shadow. Set up toys, place books on their short sides or use any other item that casts a shadow. Place the objects on a piece of light-colored paper and shine a flashlight on it. Your kiddo can draw the shadow. Now move the light, pretending that it’s the sun. draw the new shadows to see how the sun’s rays change as the day goes on.
10. Laugh out loud. Stage a little comedy show in your living room. Here are 230 of our favorite kid’s jokes to get you going.
11. Create a cool collage. Spend the day (or at least part of it) drawing summer-time pictures. Your little artist can create portraits of the family at the beach, draw the swimming pool or recreate what they see just by looking out the window. Use a large piece of poster board or cardboard as a background and collage the pics together into one super summer mural.
12. Have a dance party. Pick a few summer-themed tunes (like anything from the Beach Boys) and dance, dance, dance.
13. Read together. Here are our favorite new releases in the picture book world. We also love these books that help kids learn about and combat racism.
14. Write a story.
15. Sing a song. Choose a favorite family song and sing as a group. Hey, don’t worry if you can’t really carry a tune. The goal here is for your child, and the rest of the family, to spend some time together engaging in a fun indoor activity.
16. Pick a card. Learn a simple card game or trick.
17. Make magic. Transform your countertop into a wizard’s apothecary with pretend potions.
18. Parade around town. Well, maybe not around town. This indoor activity is more like, parade around the house. Gather your store-bought or DIY instruments, and play music as you walk from room to room.
19. Learn how clouds hold water. There may not be a cloud in sight, but that doesn’t mean your science-loving child won’t get a kick out of this experiment. With a few simple everyday ingredients, your child can explore the science of clouds with this fun indoor activity from Learn With Play at Home.
20. Make crumpled paper art. Explore art in a completely colorful way. Learn how to turn regular watercolor paint into an awesome artwork with texture, depth and so much more. Get the full directions from Buggy & Buddy.
21. Teach your teeny Houdinis a trick or two.
22. Freeze water and oil. What happens when you mix oil and water? Make a few regular ol’ ice cubes and a few with veggie oil. Drip drops of food coloring in before popping the cubes in the freezer. Take them out (after they’re completely frozen), put them onto a piece of paper and watch what happens as they melt.
23. Connect the dots. Tic Tac Toe is so yesterday. The Dot Game is clearly today. And it’s one that can easily be re-created when you’re in a lurch. All you need is paper and a pen to make a large scale dot grid. Then, you and your mini-me take turns connecting one dot to the next, trying to complete squares. When you do, don’t forget to claim your property with a big fat initial smack dab in the middle of the box.
24. Go small. Outfit a mouse house, dollhouse or fairy dwelling with some tiny furniture you can make yourself.
25. Get glowing with ice. This indoor activity is completely cool—in both senses of the word. Explore the wild world of tonic water, experimenting with its ability to glow (really, it does). Make tonic water ice cubes, pop them out of the freezer and take them to a dark room. Turn off all the lights, turn on a black light and watch the glow.
26. Create a mailbox and write each other letters.
27. The truth is out there. Ever feel like your kid is kinda strange? Embrace it and turn them into a space alien.
29. Sponge print fun. Take the stack of unused kitchen sponges that you bought at the big box store and put them to use. Cut the sponges into shapes, dip them into tempera and let your little one paint the day away. They can sponge paint print a pattern, make abstract art or put the shapes together to make a picture, such as a tree or a house.
30. Spark a thought. Let your little’s wishes come true with a simple shooting star craft.
31. Make slime. It’s already your kid's favorite pastime. Add in glitter, sequins, craft sand or small toys to make it an even better sensory experience. If you need a new recipe, get your slime-making steps here.
32. Make a water density rainbow. Explore density with this completely colorful experiment. To find out how your mini scientists can use sugar and water (simple, right?) to learn about this concept, visit Steve Spangler Science.
33. Host a dance party. Pick a few summer-themed tunes (like anything from the Beach Boys) and dance, dance, dance.
34. Make sensory bottles. This is one of the easiest indoor activities to try, and this sensory play idea is one that lasts for more than just one day. Fill an old plastic bottle part-way up with water. Add sparkles, colorful craft sand or anything else your child wants. Drip a drop of food coloring in and pour a splash of baby oil into the mix. Close the bottle, seal the top with tape and shake to watch what happens.
35. Set up your own indoor Olympics.
If the kids are stuck indoors, set up your own version in the living room or playroom. Create obstacles to pretend slalom around or set up an indoor aquatic race. Your child, the neighborhood kids and the rest of the family can act out swimming movements as everyone races around the house.
—Erica Loop & Amber Guetebier