When going outside is not an option: Activities to Occupy a Child’s time Indoors – An OT’s List of Tips

It is that time of year, when the eerie cold slithers in and the blizzards come rushing by. Or for maybe those situated on other parts of the globe, it's that time where perpetual rainfall floods the yard or the blazing hot sun melts your shoes. In any of these scenarios, serious weather implications can drastically change a child's daily activities, especially if that child lives for the outdoors.

So, what can parents do to assist their child in participating in meaningful activities inside their homes all day, potentially for several days in a row? First, consider some of your child's preferences by asking yourself the following questions:

  • How old is my child and what indoor activities are appropriate for their age?
  • Does my child enjoy completing activities alone? With siblings? With friends? With me? All of the above?
  • What types of body demands does my child tend to participate in? Heavy lifting? Wrestling or rough-housing with others? Swinging? Running? Jumping? Drawing or coloring? Reading? What's a good mix of mellow and movement-demanding activities for my child?
  • What activities do I need to be around to supervise or should participate in with my child?
  • Should I let my child get bored and for how long can they tolerate it before I need to intervene with an activity for them?

The goal of the following list is to provide parents and caregivers with ideas that pull their children away from the cop-out activities such as watching T.V. or using the I-Pad to kill time. In moderation, there is nothing wrong with letting children veg out in front of a screen for an hour or so. However, the latest research has shown the repercussions of exposing children to over-stimulating screen time, details of which we will not be discussing in this article. 
Note: before structuring your child's day with a list of activities to keep them busy while indoors, remember that it is alright to allow for some down time in which your child will experience "boredom".  As a parent or caregiver, it is not your responsibility to keep your child occupied 24/7. Allowing your child a few minutes to an hour or so of down time gives them opportunities to come up with their own creative ways to occupy themselves. With that in mind, here's some indoor activities that you may be able to apply:

  • Stairway games: Set up games that require your child to run up and down the stairs several times (i.e., retrieving balls from the bottom of the stairs and running up to place each one in a basket). It will only be a few minutes until your child gets worn out.
  • Drills: Simple army drills can be very fun, especially if your child has siblings or friends to complete routines with (i.e., push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, knee lifts, squats, etc.).
  • Kid's yoga: Hop online and look up some basic yoga routines that you can participate in with your child. It will surprise you how early on in age you can start with your child.
  • Reading time: Sit down and read an enjoyable book or two with your child. If you want to go the extra mile, have you and your child dress up or act out the parts of the book.
  • Stage time: Create a small space in your house that can provide a stage setting in which your child can act out their favorite or their own original stories. Encourage them to go all out with costumes. Video record them so that they can watch their own play.
  • Drawing and/or craft time: Sift through your favorite Pinterest pages and come up with several arts and crafts activities that you and your child can do together. 
  • Fort games: Using tables and other pieces of furniture, drape several blankets to form a tent. Fill the tents with pillows, toys, and flashlights and let your child go to town.
  • Paper-shredding: Find old bills, junk mail, and other paper products that you no longer need and place them in a pile. Have your child tear up the paper and toss the pieces around.  Depending on how much paper you have, this could create quite the mess but luckily paper scraps are relatively easy to clean up.
  • Bath time games: Lengthen bath time and fill it with water games.
  • Dance and Karaoke party: Turn on YouTube or other sources for music and have a dance party with your child.
  • Board games: If your child is old enough, yank out some classic board games.
  • Messy party: Buy a cheap mat or tarp and place it on a floor surface that is easy to clean (tile, wood, linoleum, etc.). Have your child dress up in their swimsuit and bring out messy products such as finger paint or shaving cream (whipping cream for small children who put everything in their mouth).
  • Cardboard cars: Pull out saved up cardboard boxes and make a crude-shaped car for your child to race around the house in.
  • Sock skating: Have your child slip and slide around on the smooth floor in their socks.
  • Hide-and-seek: An old-fashioned game of hide-and-seek can keep your child occupied for several hours, especially if you invite friends over to join in.
  • Treasure hunt: Hide toys around the house and award small prizes for locating a certain number of objects.
  • Baking: Some kids absolutely love it when their parents let them help with baking or cooking a meal.
  • Pillow fights: Pillow fights can release all sorts of wiggles and can include other deep-pressure activities like jumping into a pile of pillow, wrapping the child in a blanket burrito, etc.

Choose activities based on your child's interests as well as what you would like to accomplish. Create a healthy mix and experiment with all sorts of activities to alleviate boredom, to create exercise opportunities, to resolve hyperactivity, or to just let your child have fun.