If you live in a very warm or very cold climate, chances are you might have long periods of time each year when outdoor activity is more limited.  And have high-energy kids cooped up in the house all day with no outlets for their energy is a recipe for disaster!  Fortunately, there are some great indoor activities that can brighten up even the coldest or gloomiest day and give your kids something fun and interesting to do with their time.

Indoor Campout

4349987319_c7efc8f924_bWhat kid doesn’t have great memories of going out with the family and camping under the stars?  The good news is that you can bring the fun of a campout right indoors with a little bit of preparation. This activity is sure to bring your kids fun for hours on end!

The best place for this is the basement if you have one, but you can make do with any room in the house in a pinch.  A day or so before the activity, get some glow-in-the-dark adhesive stars and put them on the ceiling: you can even get a star guidebook and make actual constellations here if you want to add some astronomy into the fun!  Then pitch a tent in the room and fill it with sleeping bags and pillows. You can even set up a few butterfly chairs outside the tent to give it an authentic look.

Once the scene is set, let your kids loose. They will have fun for hours with pillow fights, “star” gazing, eating hot dogs and S’mores (made in the kitchen) and circling up to sing campfire songs and tell ghost stories before going to bed.  It is a great way to bring the outdoors right into your home!

Scavenger or Treasure Hunt

Whether you’re 5 or 55, it is hard to resists the romance of hidden treasure – and you can use this enticement to your advantage when designing either an indoor scavenger hunt or treasure hunt with your kids.

A scavenger hunt is probably better younger children who can use a list made up of the pictures of objects they have to track down. You can have a theme to the scavenger hunt or make the objects on the list completely odd and random. This is also a good activity to really give them a lot of exercise by having to go all over the house to complete their challenge.

Older kids might enjoy a treasure hunt.  You can start this activity off by giving them a clue which they must solve to get to the next clue and so on until they find the treasure. This activity is great on its own but can be added to others –such as a birthday party or sleepover – to make the event more fun. You can also choose a theme for this activity: the pirate theme works well here, but so does a cool, Indiana Jones buried treasure motif.

Tub Time

Some kids might balk at taking a bath, but not when you make bath time this amazingly fun!  Start out by drawing the bath then adding a few drops of food coloring and a few drops of your child’s favorite essential oil to make the water look and smell amazing. Add some tub toys – new ones or old favorites — and let your child jump right in. Another fun thing to do is to turn out the lights and add a few glow bracelets to the bottom of the bathtub to let it light up from beneath. With additions to the tub like this, don’t be surprised if your little one wants to stay in the water all afternoon!

Let’s Eat!

Most kids love to eat – and many of them, if given the opportunity, also love to get into the kitchen and help with meal preparation.  To be fair, this can be quite messy but it also is a lot of fun and again can take up large chunks of time.  Here are some different variations to consider:

  • An Old-Fashioned Tea Party. Especially if you have a girl or group of girls on your hands, a good old-fashioned tea party is a great way to spiff up a dreary afternoon. Get the girls into the kitchen to make up little sandwiches (egg salad sandwiches work well, but if they balk at this, you can’t go wrong with a less traditional peanut butter and jelly!) and also fresh-baked muffins (it is best if you make these from a mix, as it’s easier).
  • Pizza Party! For kids of either sex, pizza is a very popular choice for kids of either gender and any age!  Again, you can make the dinner a lot easier if you start out with a pre-made pizza crust (such as a Boboli shell).  Let the kids spread the pizza sauce onto the shell, sprinkle the cheese, lay out the pepperoni and slice up the veggies to lay them out.  While the pizza is baking, have them help to whip up a salad as a healthy go-with.
  • Breakfast for Dinner. Another fun way to get into the kitchen with your kids is to make a “breakfast for dinner” meal.  Instead of the traditional meat and veg, get your kids working on a stack of fluffy pancakes, frying up slices of bacon and whipping up/scrambling some eggs. This is a simple meal to make but one that kids will really enjoy, especially as it is something out of the normal routine.

Another great thing about getting kids into the kitchen is that it can teach them like skills (like cooking and putting together a meal) but also things like basic math (from measuring out ingredients) and completely a project with multiple steps.

Livingroom Olympics

While it’s difficult to keep your kids as active indoors as they would normally be outside, there are ways to help them get some good exercise. One of these is to stage a “livingroom Olympics”, especially if you have a group of kids on your hands and want to get some of their energy out in a productive way.  There are a lot of great races and relays that lend themselves well to a smaller space and that will still give kids a great time. These can include any combination of the following:

  • An egg-and-spoon race. The kids must get from Point A to Point B while balancing a hard-boiled egg on a spoon that they are carrying. This is better for slightly older children, as younger kids will likely not have the balance and control that it takes to manage this feat.
  • A sponge relay (or race). Kids start off with a bowl of water for each time. The kids must soak up some of the water with a sponge, run to the empty bowl across the room and empty the water into that bowl. The first team to soak up all their water wins. This can get the carpet a bit wet, but it will dry up and if you just use water, there won’t be any stains!
  • A three-legged race. Tie the leg of one child securely (but not too tightly!) to the leg of his/her partner, have them loop their arms around each other’s shoulders then race other teams to the finish line!

In short, while it is more difficult for kids to be inside for long periods of time – usually because of the weather or time of year – it is also possible to come up with some great ideas for indoor activities that are fun, will take up large chunks of time and can even be educational or otherwise beneficial for your child’s development. So if it looks like there’s a snow day or rainy day coming up, don’t worry – try any of these activities on for size and watch how quickly a gloomy day can start to shine!