As the summer continues, and Florida heat is forcing me to stay inside as much as possible, I am on the hunt for activities to keep my four year old occupied while we are anywhere indoors.
A few years ago, I started collecting amazing parenting ideas that I wanted to “save for a later date” – a tangible Pinterest of sorts made up of magazine clippings and pages torn out of random printed materials.
So, in an interest to keep my son and myself happy when we are running errands or indoors somewhere where he can’t run around, I emptied the contents of my folder and found a treasure trove of ideas from an old Parenting magazine that only require items that you already have with you or none at all. Here are my top twenty:
In the Car
1. Baking Sheet – Give you kids a small baking sheet with lots of colorful magnets in a variety of shapes. Letters can be used to spell words, too. Let them create masterpieces that are equally as impermanent as they are fun. Store it under the seat when they are done!
2. Laughing – This quick game is addicting! Start by saying “ha.” They say “ha ha.” You add the next “ha.” Keep this going without actually laughing. It will become a favorite.
3. Stickers – Give your child a square piece of cardboard, preferably one with sturdiness to it, and several pages of stickers. You drive, they stick. So simple, but somehow so consuming and fun for the back seat.
At the Store/Mall
4. Keep Count – Give your child a specific object to watch for (people with green shirts, men with beards, strollers) while walking through. Provide a pad and crayon to tally his finds, or make it a contest between several participants.
5. Honks – Choose a funny sound (I personally like “honk”) that you say every time you see a predetermined object (baby, lollipop, hat). This keeps the focus on taking in the environment, and hones observation skills.
In the Waiting Room
6. I Spy – Open a magazine to a page with lots of images. Tell your child you spy something blue, or a food. He guesses correctly, and then it is his turn.
7. Hide – n – Seek – Close your eyes and ask your child to hide a small toy in the waiting room for you to find. Then hide it for her.
8. Puzzle – Take a magazine subscription card and tear it into 4-6 pieces for young kids or 10-12 pieces for older kids. Have them try to put them back together.
9. Float Test – Take a half-filled water bottle and find objects in your purse small enough to drop inside. Test what items float and what sinks. Coins, cheerios, raisins, small piece of paper, or paper clips are good options.
10. Cereal Drop – Place an empty cup of any kind on the floor and have your kids try to drop a small object into the cup. A piece of cereal, a toy car, a hair barrette, or anything else you can find in your purse works well. Such a fun challenge.
11. Back Art – Draw a shape or write a letter on your child’s back with your finger and have your child try to figure out what it is. A square? A heart? The letter “B?” Then switch and let him be the artist.
12. Mannequins – Have your child strike a pose and pretend to be a mannequin until the line moves again. Stand on one foot with an arm up, for example. If the child moves before the line progresses, you get to choose the next pose.
With a Tissue
13. What’s Inside? – Wrap a small object from your purse in a tissue – a key, lipstick, quarter – and have your child try to guess what it is from feeling the shape.
14. Trampoline – Use a tissue as a trampoline to launch small objects into the air and try not to let them fall. A mint or a penny works well for this game.
With a Lipstick
15. Find the Spot – Have your child close her eyes. Put a small lipstick mark somewhere on your skin and see if she can find it. Wipe off and repeat.
16. Double Take – Give your child a scrap piece of paper and let him make a lipstick mark on it. Show him how to fold it in half and press it together. When he opens it up, there is a magic matching mark on the other side.
With a Pen
17. Doodles – Scribble a line on a piece of scrap paper and let your child use it to serve as the first mark of a full-fledged drawing. Will your doodle become a dinosaur or a banana?
18. Pictionary – Draw something that is nearby that you can see, like a clock or a toy. See how long it takes your child to figure out what you are drawing. Then add to the fun by making her spot it in the room.
With a Mirror
19. Foggy ABCs – Breathe on a compact mirror to fog it up and then use your finger to draw a letter. Once your child figures it out, let her have a turn.
20. Reflecting Sun – If you are near a window, show your child how to reflect the sunlight onto a nearby tree or fence or onto the ground. By shaking the mirror slightly, he can make the light jump and dance.
These are such easy and fun activities to cure any problems of boredom and inactivity. As always, finding simple tools that allow you to play with your kids in creative ways improves bonds and creates memories for you and your children. I hope you feel better equipped to handle those moments indoors that previously might have been challenging with a new found plan based in playing!