In the past 7 school days, school has been closed 4 days, one late start, one early dismissal, and one regular day. So, we’ve all had LOTS of time home with kids and LOTS of snow play, and some parents may need some new ideas for kid activities!
Here are 16 ideas for indoor activities that are easy to do, using stuff you may have in the house, don’t require electricity (since we also have lots of power outages right now, and don’t require a lot of water for play or for clean-up (because if you’re in a cold house, who wants wet hands!)
I’ve linked to the page that has the detailed directions on each project.
Make a constellation viewer – a toilet paper tube, some paper, a pin, and tape, and you can “see the stars.” (You could also make a constellation projector with a margarine / cottage cheese tub, and set it over a flashlight to make a planetarium.)
Build Towers – Out of almost anything… then build pendulum wrecking balls to knock them down with. Challenge kids to build taller or build stronger.
Measurement Olympics – how tall are you? how far can you jump? how much do you weigh? how far can this toy car travel? what if we send the car down a 2 inch tall ramp – then how far does it travel? a 6 inch tall ramp? Build a balance scale with dixie cups and a popsicle stick or pencil.
Earthquake Testing – Build a shake table: you’ll need two flat boards (thick cardboard may do), big rubber bands, and four bouncy balls. Then use blocks to construct buildings on top – shake it to knock them down.
Coffee filter butterflies – use eye droppers to drip colored water onto coffee filters, then clip them in clothespins and decorate the “body”.
Learn about skeletons – Have the child feel for the bones in their hand, then paint where they can feel them. Then trace their hand on black paper, cut it out, and have them glue on q-tips on the paper in all the places they can feel bones on their hands. Make a collage of a skeleton where they use various shapes of noodles to represent the bones. (You can also make dinosaur skeletons this way.)
Build a cardboard finger – With straws, tape, and string, make an “animatronic” finger.
Hammering – If you happen to have a toy hammer or a small real hammer, and you have golf tees, find something to hammer them into (a big piece of styrofoam? a butternut squash?) Kids will hammer for hours.
Animal Costumes from the recycling bin – read Fraidyzoo (check out the ebook from the library or buy it on Kindle) for inspiration, then see what you can make together
Salt vibrations – It’s easy to make one of these devices, using a can or a plastic cup, put on plastic wrap or a balloon and tape it or rubber band it in place. Then sprinkle salt on it and play music – the salt will dance with the vibrations of the music.
Pulleys – Kids LOVE to use pulleys – especially if they can lift things from the first floor of a house to the top of the stairs or another similar accomplishment. Even if you don’t own a real pulley, there’s lots of ways you can get pulley action – even just throwing a cord over a stair railing.
Make a thaumatrope: Kind of like a flip book, but much less work! Make two drawings – and then tape them back to back on a straw, pencil, or dowel. When you roll it back and forth in your hands, the drawings blend together.
Make a button spinner. Run yarn through the holes in a button, spin it to wind it up, then hold it taut and watch it spin.
Playing with symmetry: Get out the blocks and play the symmetry game, draw a butterfly for them to color in – making sides match, paint half a butterfly then fold the paper to print the other half, or make a mirror box where they can put a toy in the center and see its reflection in multiple mirrors.
Play with chemistry: Put a little oil in a dish, make colored water – kids drip it in with pipettes or eye droppers – stir it around – it never mixes in. When you’re done playing with that, pour it in a bottle, and add either an alka seltzer or salt – it’s a fun lava lamp effect. Sprinkle baking soda on a plate. Give the child colored vinegar and pipettes or eye droppers – they drip vinegar on the baking soda – lots of miniature “volcanoes.”
Egg drop challenge: If you have a good height to drop something off of (a bunk bed, a stair landing… ) AND you have something to use as a tester egg (I like putting a rubber bouncy ball inside a plastic easter egg), this could be a good way to occupy kids for a long time and they have to have several successful tests before you give them a real egg!
Playing in the snow: And, if you’re up to more playing outdoors, you can talk about how the snow shovel is a perfect example of simple machines – that bottom edge you slip under the snow is a wedge, and you use lever action to lift it up. Make colored water (with liquid watercolors or food coloring) and put it in spray bottles or squirt guns, and they can spray it on the snow, exploring color mixing. Do some ice melt experiments – what melts ice the fastest: water? salt? sugar? Explore a number of options. Build forts and igloos and other strong structures.
Note: All the activities described in my posts are from Family Inventor’s Lab, a parent-child cooperative class in Bellevue, WA. We are a play-based, STEM focused class for preschool through early elementary (kids age 3 – 7). We do a wide variety of fun, hands-on activities to learn about Science, Tools, Engineering, Nature, and Art.