15 Free Stay at Home Activities for Kids

Winter can be long with rainy or snowy days and lots of home time, but it can seem even longer with a child who is bored with the same old toys and routine.  Finding new stay at home activities for kids to keep your children occupied and happy is key to enjoying your time together. 

No matter where you live – snow or rain, or sunshine, there will be days when you have to stay inside and try to keep everyone happy. 

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Stay at Home Activities for Kids

Here are some of the sanity savers that have been tried over and over again in our house and have proven to be keeper ideas.  None of these ideas include screen time and they are all free (except the last one)!

  • Make Homemade Play Dough

Make play clay or homemade play-dough.  Homemade playdough is so much nicer than store-bought and it’s super easy to make!  Little hands will have so much fun kneading the dough! 

Pull out the rolling pin and cookie cutters and whatever little plastic dishes you might have and let your kids whip up hours of imaginary food!  Create a menu with pretend food options to feed the dolls, stuffed animals, or Mom and Dad. 

For easy cleanup, put a plastic tablecloth on the kitchen table or give each child a plastic placemat to work on.  This helps save the table from all the salt in the playdough and any knives or cutting utensils the kids might use to create their masterpieces.  Playdough also keeps really well for several months sealed in a zipper bag or in a container.

  • Plan a Carpet Picnic

Plan and prepare a carpet picnic.  Picnic food isn’t only for the summer.  Why not buy some hotdogs and buns and make some potato salad and add some fruit and chips and you’ve got a picnic. 

Spread the picnic blanket or tablecloth on the living room floor and pull out the picnic dishes and enjoy your carpet picnic.  Talk about the fun vacations you have gone on or other family memories.  Talk about where you want to go on your next vacation or real picnic.

This may become your favorite stay at home kids activity for future indoor days with your kids. 

  • Spend Time Crafting

Rainy days are a great time to learn how to do something new.  You could start with a small craft kit for making sun catchers, birdhouses,  potholders, or something else and then branch out as you master those things. 

This is a great time to make gifts for grandparents for Valentine’s Day or Mother’s and Father’s day.  Crafting is a great way to teach children to follow instructions and work from start to finish. 

Think about crafts that your kids can learn to do on their own and are also portable.  This will also provide hours of fun and creativity when you travel as well.  Crocheting, knitting, or beading are easy to transport.  

  • Bake Cookies

Baking cookies doesn’t have to just be a holiday tradition.  Pull out your cookie cutters and sprinkles and you could have hours of sugary fun!  Once your cookies are all decorated, put some on a plate and share them with a lonely friend. 

If you’re looking for other family service ideas, you can find a list of 35 Family Service Ideas here. 

Kids love to show off their masterpieces and they also love to share when we encourage them.  This stay-at-home activity makes your house smell delicious as well!

  • Build a Fort

Another stay at home activity for kids is building a fort or tent.  This may become your kids’ favorite activity!   

Pull out all the sheets and blankets from the linen closet and start draping them over the couch, chairs, ironing board, and whatever other furniture you might have available. 

This will create a giant “mess” but sheets and blankets are easy to fold up at the end of the day.  Clothespins or books might help to hold the blankets and sheets together over the tops of the furniture. 

You could even eat your lunch in the fort, read a book, play a game, or take a nap there as well.

  • Play Train

Pull out all of the kitchen chairs and put them in a line to create a train.  Invite all the dolls or stuffed animals to ride on the train and then let the imagination take flight.  The train might need to make some stops and let some passengers on and others off. 

This is the perfect time to sweep and mop the kitchen floor while the chairs are all out of the way!  Once the floors are clean the train can go back into the station.

  • Set up a Photo Shoot

Your kiddos might have a lot of fun using your camera or phone to take photos of their animals or dolls.  Or perhaps, they might enjoy dressing up and posing while you take photos. 

Send the photos to grandparents or cousins so they can enjoy the fun as well.  Invite them to do a photoshoot as well and send you their pictures. 

  • Record an Episode in Your Family’s Life

Grab your phone and set the stage for an amazing new film.  Encourage your kids to set up a backdrop and create a story they will act out.  Then sit back and record the action.  Don’t forget the costumes, props, and sound effects. 

When you’re video is finished, send it to your grandparents and cousins so they can enjoy the fun. They just might reciprocate and create their own masterpiece and share it with you. 

  • Sock Party

Pull out all of the socks from your drawer and set up a laundry basket as a target.  Give each person their own pairs of socks and then take turns seeing who can get them in the basket. 

  • Create an Indoor Obstacle Course

Another stay at home kids activity is to create an obstacle course or maze.  Use any room or rooms in your house and set up a course.  Create signs at each stop with the activity that the participant needs to complete. 

  • Start Some Seeds

Gardening doesn’t have to just be a summer pastime.  Buy a package of lettuce or radish seeds and teach your child how to plant them.  Then watch for the seeds to germinate and grow.

  • Play Board Games and Do Puzzles

Playing games with your child is a wonderful way to play together while teaching them to follow instructions, take turns, and play fairly.  This is one of the easiest stay at home activities for kids.  All you need is a game and/or a puzzle!

  • Make Home-made Bread

Yet another fantastic stay-at-home activity to do with kids.  If you haven’t made bread before, this Whole Wheat Bread recipe is fantastic! 

Indoor Activities for Families

The following ideas are indoors, but not at home.  You may just need to get out of the house for a bit but because of the weather outside, you still need an indoor activity. 

  • Visit a Pet Store or Animal Shelter

Most kids love animals so take a free field trip to a pet store or animal shelter to see the animals.  If you visit an animal shelter, you might want to check for their needs before you go, and perhaps you can make a donation of blankets, towels, or food along with you. 

Be prepared with your answer for “Mommy, can’t we take the kitty/puppy home?”

  • Go to the Library

The library can occupy hours of wintertime and encourage a love of reading in your children at the same time.  Get acquainted with the children’s librarian and ask for suggestions of books to read. 

Libraries often have a weekly storytime or craft time that can be a great place to meet and make new friends.  Help your child get a library card and let them check out their own books. 

This could also be a treat for you too.  Check out the latest magazines or your favorite author and spend time reading while your children are occupied with new books.

  • Swimming Lessons

Swimming lessons are not usually free, but winter is a great time to enroll your child in swimming lessons at the YMCA or other center.  Swimming lessons are a great way to add some exercise to your week but it also helps your child learn critical skills for safety in the summer when they might be around a pool or water. 

This may also provide some time for you to get some exercise as well while your child is taking lessons.

Being stuck inside can get really tiresome with young children, but by adding a few new stay-at-home activities for your kids, you can provide hours of fun for your child even if it’s cold or rainy outside! 

You may also enjoy these posts…

Capturing Teachable Moments Part 2

Road Trips with Kids – Unplugged – Part 1 Menu Planning

Road Trips with Kids – Unplugged – Part 2 Activities to Fill the Time

 

97 thoughts on “15 Free Stay at Home Activities for Kids”

  1. What a great list of ideas for keeping young kiddos engaged when they can’t head outside as often. My preschoolers love crafting, playing games, and acting out fairy tales while I narrate (3 billy goats is their current fave!). Fun post!

  2. Fantastic ideas to do with your kids in the winter. We did most of these things when my kids were little. I love the idea of starting seeds. I never did that. We did do the butterfly terrarium and the ants. They were really fun to do together.

    1. Radish seeds pop up pretty quickly and so do peas and beans if you soak them first before planting. You can also plant them in dirt in a zippered bag and tape the bag to the window. Then you can see what happens to the seed as well as the plant.

  3. I love all of these ideas EXCEPT making playdoh ?? I’m the mom who does not allow playdoh in her house bwahaha but we find other ways to play with playdoh-like materials.

  4. It can definitely be difficult to find fun activities when it is raining! We love going to the library, baking, and board games. I like the idea of an indoor picnic, and need to make more forts and crafting activities with my youngest!

  5. I’m definitely saving this list until my grandson, now 16 months, is old enough to do more of them. Love the photo shoot idea! And fortunately he loves books, so libraries are now are go-to when it’s chilly outside.

  6. Oh man, I swear we lived at the library when my kids were little! Story time, computer games, and comfy bean bag chairs with endless supplies of books was essentially nirvana for us.

  7. Oh you’re singing my song…..As a Recreation Therapist, I encourage parents to not let parenting consume the day…make it fun for parent & child. I can’t wait to spoil my grandson with some of your fun ideas.

  8. Great ideas! These bring back memories of my kids playing with play-doh. Actually, my ten-year-old will still play, given the opportunity. Heck, so would my twenty-two-year-old. I’m always into cookies, so that’s my activity of choice. The swimming lessons are a great idea, too!

  9. What a great reminder that I will need to start my seeds indoors very soon. This is great since I still have one child left at home. He’s 3 and the winters can get long especially living in northern Minnesota!

  10. Making homemade playdough with my mom is one of my favorite memories from early childhood! It’s so easy to make and has so many sensory benefits. Great idea!

  11. What a great list! I’ve been considering swimming lessons for my kids this winter. I bet they’d have fun swimming and burn off some energy, too!

  12. I love these ideas so much. Being cooped up inside with toddlers can seem really daunting, and I hadn’t thought of a lot of these activities. I think the carpet picnic might be favorite and the first we try.

  13. This is fantastic! And it is what I am needing right now! I am running out of ideas to keep my grandson from being bored. I have done about 1/2 of these so now I have a list of more to do. Thanks!

  14. Great list. I can remember building lots of forts outside in the snow AND under some blankets and pillows in the living room. Indoor forts were usually because we had a snow day and my grandmother didn’t want to watch us outside so we had to stay in. Wish we would have had this list back then. Thanks for sharing.

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