What to Do With Your Kids When You Can't Leave the House

We are currently living in a time of uncertainty and fluidity. Guidance from the government and our jobs on what we need to do to stay safe is shifting by the day, sometimes by the hour. One thing that is certain in these everchanging times is the fact that we all need to plan on being inside of our own homes a lot more than in the past – at least for a little while.

Even though some of our kids are taking part in distance learning during this time, that only takes up part of the day, what about the other 18 hours that we’re all stuck inside? It can be hard to entertain your kids when going outside (even just to take a walk around the mall) isn’t an option, so below is a list of activities you can do with kids of all ages when you can’t get outside.

Newborn Babies (0 – 3 Months)

Tummy Time – We know how important tummy time is for Baby, and now we have the perfect reason to make time for it. Put some small toys or pictures on the floor in front of Baby so she has something to look at – and as she gets older, something to reach for.

Sing – Baby is not judging your singing abilities. Sing nursery rhymes, make up songs about what you’re doing, or turn on the radio and sing along to the music. Baby will enjoy watching and listening to you.

Touch and Feel – Grab some fabrics with different textures: A cable knit sweater, a soft scarf, a cotton t-shirt, and let baby touch and feel them. Throw in things like tissue paper to add sound to Baby’s experience.

Mirrors – As babies get more and more accustomed to being outside of the womb, they become more aware of their surroundings. Placing a mirror on the floor during tummy time or holding Baby in front of a mirror opens up a whole new world of excitement.

Dancing – Hold baby close (and safely), put your favorite station on Alexa, and have a dance party.

Leg In-and-Outs – This one is a great way to engage with Baby. Lay baby on his back then take his feet and hold them by the ankles, gently push his legs in and out. Move both legs together or do bicycles. Baby ASM always loved this one. Plus, if Baby has gas, this is a great way to help relieve the pressure!

4-6 Months

Peek-A-Boo – Hold a blanket or a towel up in front of your face then bring it down to reveal that you’re still there! Babies love this game and it helps develop their concept of object permanence. Hand baby the blanket and let them try too!

Hide and Seek – Hide a favorite toy (not well) under a blanket for baby and let them find it!

Shake, Rattle, and Roll – Give baby rattles, shakers, and balls to manipulate. Watch them get really excited as they hear the different sounds each object makes. Make your own rattle by placing rice, beans, or cereal in a plastic water bottle. Sensory balls and wrist / ankle rattles are perfect for this activity too!

Bubbles – Baby will love to watch as bubbles float past them and pop, disappearing before their eyes.

Books – Read with Baby. Read picture books, flip through magazines, pull out photo albums and point to people baby might know. It’s never too early to start reading to baby and reading is the perfect way to pass the time when you’re stuck inside.

Go Outside or Get Wet – If you are ever struggling with an upset toddler, kids who are arguing, or boredom, this advice is some of the best out there. Under normal circumstances, going outside can solve a lot of problems; not only is it a change of scenery, but the fresh air and sunlight can do wonders for anyone’s mood. If outside is not an option (i.e.: It’s March in the Mid-West and we’re still crossing our fingers our temperatures stay just warm enough that the rain we’re getting doesn’t turn to snow), then try the tub. Most kids, if given some toys and the OK to splash about, will enjoy killing some time in the bath.

7-9 Months

Puppet Show – The only way we could get Baby ASM to smile for our Christmas pictures was waving an Eeyore hand puppet at her behind the camera. It worked so well the photographer asked where we got the puppet from because she wanted to buy a few. A good puppet show can keep baby laughing and entertained for a good chunk of time!

Catch a Beat – Put out some pots and pans and a wooden spoon on the floor and let Baby have at it. Add in some cardboard boxes and some coffee canisters to change the sound up for baby.

Blocks or Boxes – Babies LOVE knocking down stacks of things. It’s really fun to pile blocks or boxes up high and watch baby knock ‘em down.

Cardboard Car – Put baby in a cardboard box and “drive” her around the house.

10-12 Months

Drop it In – Grab a bucket or a big box and give baby things to drop inside. Try small figures, balls, rolled-up socks, plastic spoons, or whatever else you have floating around.

Play Catch – OK, I know Baby is not headed off to spring training or anything but rolling a ball back and forth can be a fun activity. Try a big beach ball, a small ping-pong ball or something in-between.

Cruising Obstacle Course – If your baby is cruising already, create a cruising obstacle course. Move the ottoman away from the couch just enough for baby to have to reach for it before cruising over to the recliner.

Board books – This is the perfect age for board books. Read to Baby or let him read to you. Point to the pictures, describe what you see, tell him why you like the story.

Become Explorers – Find new things to explore in each room of your home. What’s in the bottom cabinet in the kitchen? (Tip: Put some Tupperware in there for baby to pull out and put back). Is that a book tucked under the bed in Mommy’s room? Are there keys hanging in the coat closet?

12-24 Months

Cardboard Tunnel – Take a big box and open it on both sides creating a tunnel for Baby to crawl through. Put Baby on one end and pop your face in the other so they get the idea.

Ramps – Put a cookie sheet on a shallow cardboard box creating a ramp. Then roll balls, toys, grapes, blueberries – anything down it. Change the size of the box to change the speed of the roll!

Catch the Bubble – Bubbles are definitely a childhood staple and I’ve already added them to this list, but babies (and kids) of all ages love bubbles. As they get older, babies can try to catch the bubbles before they pop. I love watching Baby ASM squeal with excitement when bubbles land on the floor intact and as she tries to grab them, they pop! Pure. Joy.

Fill and Dump – Fill a box, a cup, a small storage tub, or Tupperware with anything that can be dumped. Plastic spoons, dry pasta noodles, whatever – make noise, make a mess, have some fun.

Hide and Seek – Place some small figures inside a box full of scarves or tissue paper and have Baby seek for them.

Water Paint – Grab some construction paper, a paintbrush, and some water. That’s it. Water-paint.

2-4 Years

Become the Zoo – When you can’t go to the zoo, you can become the zoo. Act out your favorite animals; slither like a snake, leap like a toad, hang like a sloth.

Simon Says – Remember this one? Simon says touch your toes. Simon says wiggle your arm. Touch the floor.

Tape Balance Beam – Put some painter’s tape on the floor and create a balance beam. Walk it forwards, backward or sideways. Skip across it, or crabwalk over it. Be careful not to fall off! 😊

Dance Party – Tell Alexa to turn on Toddler Music and rock out to all your kids’ favorites. Or turn on the best of the ’80s and ’90s and rock out to all of your favorites!

Pillow Walk – Throw all of your pillows and couch cushions on the floor and create a challenging and fun obstacle course.

Shamrock / Easter Egg (or anything) Search – OK, this one takes some coordination with your neighbors. Our neighborhood has an awesome Facebook page and that’s where I grabbed this idea. Have each family design, decorate, or create a shamrock, an Easter egg, a flag, or anything else, then hang them in your window and have the kids go for a hunt of all the houses that have something hanging.

5-8 Years

Play Go-Fish – Grab a good old-fashioned deck of cards and play.

Make a Fort – Take some old sheets and a few cardboard boxes to create a fort. Add a lantern and some snacks for extra fun.

Paper Airplanes – When was the last time you made a paper airplane? It’s time to teach your kiddos just how skilled you are.

Play Dress up – Let the kids raid your closet and dress up as mom and dad or pull out the Halloween costume bin and see what they come up with!

Indoor Picnic – Lay a blanket out on the floor in your living room, make some sandwiches and enjoy!

Bake – You probably have something in your pantry that can be turned into cookies, cakes, brownies, etc. Even if you just have flour, butter, and sugar, you can make a shortbread cookie. Plus, measuring counts as math =)

Color – Paper and crayons, markers or colored pencils can go a long way.

9-12 Years

What am I eating? – Grab a blindfold and some condiments then test each other’s taste buds!

Twenty Questions – Think of a person, a place, or a thing and your playmate can ask 20 questions before they have to guess what you’re thinking of.

Create a Time Capsule – Put together a time capsule to remember the year 2020. Add in things that would be interesting to find 10, 20, or even 30 years from now (remember that time we practiced social distancing because of the Coronavirus?).

Test Kitchen – Let your kids create their own recipes with pantry items.

Learn Origami – All this one involves is some paper and YouTube. There are tons of great videos out there showing you step by step how to create some really amazing origami pieces.

Recycled Robots - Empty the recycling bin and create something – anything.

Teenagers 13+

Workout – Put on a workout video and get in some stress-relieving yoga or a good cardio session.

Puzzles – Do a challenging puzzle. We always loved puzzles when we were kids but when we got older, these 3-D puzzles kept us entertained. Alternatively, your teen can create a puzzle for younger kids. Have them draw and design a piece of cardboard, then cut it out in the shape of puzzle pieces.

Board Games – Pull out any board-game. While they might not be into it at first, after a few minutes of playing, most teens will give in and try to have some fun!

Read – Grab a great book and read.

If all else fails and your kids are still bored, go for a drive. Take a ride outside of your neighborhood and look at the houses, or the stores, or the countryside. Anyone else drive around town looking at Christmas lights when they were young? Think of it kind of like that.

Our routines are shaken and our normal is different right now. We can choose to make the most of it or make the worst of it. Try to laugh. Have fun. Be silly. Make messes. It will make getting through this a whole lot easier. And maybe even a little enjoyable.

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