Stuck inside with the family and everyone’s going a little stir crazy? We can believe it – we’re going through it too… That’s why we’ve put this fantastic list of activities, free printables and play ideas together to keep your little ones entertained… and to help you maintain your sanity. Hang in there folks, we’ll get through this!
INDOOR PLAY IDEAS FOR BABIES & TODDLERS
Keep them entertained with low-effort, so-easy activities that encourage fine motor skills development, and that give you some precious downtime to enjoy that coffee.
- Gather your child’s animal, dinosaur or car figures for this Animal Tape Rescue activity by Busy Toddler. Tape them down onto a cookie sheet, the refrigerator door, or even into a muffin tin, and let them at it. An ideal activity to boost fine motor skills, this will have them focused and hard at work… for at least a little while!
- Most kids love to paint, but the clean-up after an arty afternoon can be overwhelming. This mess-free canvas paint activity will sort that right out. Stock up on cheap blank canvases, drop blobs of non-toxic paint on them, and wrap the canvas with cling wrap… a terrific idea by Adore Cherish Love… And you could even end up with a gorgeous painting to display.
- The Lean Green Bean has come to our rescue with this uber-simple activity. Flatten out a piece of thick cardboard, draw some “roads” on it, and prop it up so that your car-loving toddler has a neat little ramp to play with. There ya go.
- Washi tape or painter’s tape is all you would need for this activity that’ll keep your toddler entertained and hone those fine motor skills. Simply stick strips of tape on a safe surface, leaving the ends easy to grab on to, and let your little one un-peel and re-peel over and over again to their heart’s content.
BUILD A MINI-CITY FOR PRETEND PLAY
Whether they’re 3 or 8 years old, your children will love creating a mini-city, populating it with their toy cars, trains, figurines and other play accessories.
- Round up those cardboard rolls, empty cereal boxes and milk cartons, set out the paints and crayons, and encourage the kids to create houses, skyscrapers and other buildings. This city skyline by The Joy Sharing was made using cardboard rolls and paint. More inspiration can be found at Today’s Parent, which used empty toilet rolls to make these mini-buildings.
- Meanwhile these brightly colored buildings are made with cereal boxes and milk cartons. What’s so great about this activity is that the process of creating and painting a mini-city is easily a day-long activity on its own. Setting it all up and playing with it could well last much, much longer!
- You can also add to their mini-city with the Blocktown Set ($14.99), a 22-piece play set that comes with 5 houses (4 detached and 1 with two townhomes), 6 people, and 11 trees. One home has a steeple shape and can serve as a church, while another has a rounded top that can be a synagogue.
- If you have the buildings you need, but would love to add some people, our popular Little Professionals Character Set ($19.99) offers 15 wooden figures (painted both sides), each with a backstop to keep them standing. There’s a doctor, astronaut, teacher, baker, construction worker, fireman, musician and plenty more options that’ll add so much dimension to your little one’s imaginative play.
- If you don’t have the materials to create mini-city buildings from scratch, invest in the Blockopolis Play Set ($29.99), which has 100 pieces all neatly packaged in a handy storage box. There’s pretty much everything your child would need to construct the city of their dreams, including a hospital, post office, police and fire stations, town hall, school, car wash, grocery store and pet shop. It comes with its own Blockopolis citizens and even vehicles.
INDOOR PLAY IDEAS FOR ACTIVE KIDS
When your kids are buzzing with energy, and an art project is not going to cut it.
- Who wants to be a spy? Or ninja? This crepe paper obstacle maze by Brassy Apple uses painter’s tape to keep strips in place for kids to navigate through. Mix yours up so that they’ll crouch, crawl and step, adjusted to their height, age and physical ability.
- We’re all about sofa cushion forts, but if you’re looking for something that’ll keep your furniture in one piece and build your child’s STEM skills, the award-winning, bestselling Crazy Forts collection is it. The Flexi Forts version shown here ($54.99) comes with 44 flexible sticks and 25 balls, allowing your child to connect and create curved structures, but there’s also a Glow-In-The-Dark version ($54.99), Crazy Forts in Pink ($49.99), and Purple & Green ($49.99). Once disconnected, the entire set packs up neatly and is easy to store.
- This Classic Wooden Ring Toss Game ($19.99) is sized a little smaller than usual, making it ideal for indoor play. Players are challenged to toss the rings at the 5 pegs, gathering points of 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25. A fun, lightly competitive carnival classic that will suit kids aged 3 years up, and build their hand-eye coordination and motor skills as they play.
- If you don’t mind the clatter, the Jungle Bowling Game ($19.99) is a winner with active preschoolers. All they have to do is line up 6 animal pins, and aim the ball – perfectly weighted and sized for smaller hands – to knock ’em down. They can even practice their math as they count up their scores.
- Play tunnels like this dino version ($29.99) are always popular, but if you want to go next level, why not use it as part of an indoor obstacle course? Use toys, sofa cushions, chairs, laundry baskets, cardboard boxes, and anything else you have lying around the house, to create an obstacle course for any age, from crawling baby to older kids. If you’re stuck for ideas or inspiration, visit Playtivities for links to obstacle courses for all different ages and abilities.
- Loving the Get The Kids Moving Game by Paperelli at I Heart Naptime! Simply download, print and assemble the cubes. Players throw two dice at a time – one is a number and the other an activity – which tells you what you need to do and for how long. So if 35 seconds of crab walking doesn’t tire your kids out, we reckon 50 seconds of bunny hopping will!
ARTY IDEAS FOR KIDS
- These paddle puppets by Happy Hooligans can be as simple or as creative as your art supplies dictate. Made of cardboard, they can be brightly painted, or totally jazzed up with the addition of stickers, yarn or glitter. Get the kids to work on their paddle puppets in the afternoon, then put on an evening show for the family.
- So simple, yet absolutely riveting for creative little minds. These free printables by A Girl And A Glue Gun are pages of triangle, square and circle shapes that challenge young artists to create unique designs in every empty space.
- Picklebums‘ free comic book templates are a hit in our home, especially with our 9-year-old Dav Pilkey-wannabe! There are two different sets available for download – one is larger and has fewer spaces, so ideal for younger kids, while the other has more, smaller spaces, making it more suitable for older kids. Each set also has additional free pages with speech bubbles, exclamations and spaces, plus there are extra pages with thought bubbles, arrows and other classic comic book design elements.
PRETEND PLAY IDEAS
Whether you call it role play, imaginative play, or pretend play, children love to mimic the real world and grown-up life. Here are our picks of free printables and toys that’ll bring new life to their play.
The pretend coffee shop/ bakery:
- Must Have Mom has put together a beautifully designed set of free printables for coffee shop pretend play, from signage and a menu, to cup sleeves, tea bags and sugar tags.
- Shop these favorites: (2) Good Mornings Coffee Maker ($29.99) (3) Baker’s Dozen Donuts ($19.99) (4) Mixer Play Set ($24.99) (5) Scrumptious Cupcakes ($12.99) (6) Espresso Express Coffee Play Set ($29.99).
The pretend restaurant:
- There are plenty of free printables to help set the stage for some serious pretend restaurant play – from signage to menus, such as these from Amy J Delightful.
- Add to their imaginary play with these faves: (2) Simmer & Serve Cookware Set ($19.99) (3) Traveling Pancake House ($24.99) (4) Primo Pasta Play Set ($17.99) (5) Fast Food Dinner ($20.99) (6) I Love Sushi ($17.99).
Pretend grocery store:
MORE FREE PRETEND PLAY PRINTABLES
- Movie theater
- Library cards
- Detective, FBI and licence cards
- Doctor’s clinic
- Post Office
- Veterinary clinic