12 Things to Do When You’re Stuck Indoors With Kids


indoor activities for kidsThis past week has reminded us how lucky we are, those of us who have homes that are still standing, in the wake of the horrific fires here in northern California.  For families in San Francisco and cities further south and east, our hardships have been negligible compared to what our neighbors further north have endured.  

After we have checked in with friends and loved ones, made donations to disaster relief funds, and offered what we could to those affected, many of us are now looking at the weekend upon us, thinking, “What will we do – indoors – for the next 48 hours?”  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Paint the bathtub with shaving cream.  This is best done with the kids in the bathtub wearing just a diaper / undies.  Buy a few cans of shaving cream and let them (or help them) “paint” the bathtub using shaving cream.  Add a few plastic cups, spoons, paint brushes and sponges for extra fun.

  2. Paint inside the shower.  Similarly, this can be done inside the bathtub or shower but using washable paints (Note: “washable” is a key word in this phrase!  Look for it on the label of the paint.)  Your little one can let his/her inner Picasso out … all over the shower walls … it will easily rinse off using the spray from the shower head.

  3. Make playdough.  Many recipes exist, but we love this one because it’s simple and doesn’t require cooking anything.  We use water hot from the tap rather than boiling it, and it works fine.  Kool-Aid packets were surprisingly hard to find at SF grocery stores, though.  Amazon to the rescue!

  4. Decorate with Christmas lights. Who says those strings of lights are only for the holidays?  Build a fort using sheets and pillows, then decorate the inside with twinkling lights.  This also works well if you have a walk-in closet with space to play on the floor.

  5. Easter Egg hunt.  Dig around for those plastic Easter Eggs, fill them with whatever you have on hand (stickers, quarters, raisins, etc) and surprise your little ones with an impromptu Easter Egg Hunt when they wake up from their afternoon nap.

  6. Build a city out of cardboard.  Cut apart a large cardboard box and lie it flat, then build tunnels, buildings, and towers using smaller cardboard boxes or pieces.  Draw roads for toy cars to drive on.  Make trees from construction paper and glue them on. Flip through old magazines to find pictures of the “townspeople” to add to the scene.  Let your children’s creativity take this activity in any direction they choose.

  7. Scoop rice.  Fill a bin or large plastic container with rice, give them some scoops of various sizes and let them dig in.  This is also fun with multiple containers of different grains (rice in one, lentils in another, etc).  For easier clean-up, host the entire activity on an old bedsheet laid on the floor.  

  8. Carve pumpkins.  If you haven’t carved your Jack-O-Lanterns yet, this is the perfect time to do it!  If you’ve done one already, create a family of Jack-O-Lanterns with a few more pumpkins of various sizes.

  9. Make Oobleck. This is messy, but oh-so-fun! Get the recipe here.  

The last 3 ideas involve leaving the house, but only to get to another indoor destination.  Still good options if you’re limiting your outdoor time:

  1. Ride the escalators at Target or your local shopping mall.  I imagine the novelty of this wears off eventually, but my 3-year old has been enamoured with escalators for the majority of his life, and I don’t see signs of this stopping.  The escalators at Target are especially entertaining as your shopping cart rides up one side while you ride up next to it.

  2. Go to the bank.  Yes, the bank.  Most kids, even toddlers, have a piggy bank but how many have walked into a bank to open his/her own bank account?  

  3. Go to the main library.  San Francisco’s main library is huge, beautiful and truly awe-inspiring, especially for someone who is 3’ tall.  Walk through the atrium and into the children’s wing to find not only books but interactive displays, toys, an open playspace for kids of all ages.  It is also a “Clean Air Respite Center”, a safe place anyone can go to breathe clean, filtered air during the fire crisis.


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