This post is sponsored by Mattel. All opinions are my own.
We are officially hitting that point in winter where cabin fever is at its peak, and the little ones are really beginning to go stir crazy. My kids are both in preschool and activities which helps some, but when they’re home and cooped up indoors, boredom strikes quickly (and they have no problem making that known). At the end of January, we had a week here in Chicago where temperatures were so brutally low that school and most activities were canceled, and that forced us to get creative with indoor activities. It was a great lesson though (for all of us) in figuring out ways for the kids to stay occupied during the winter that we’ll be able to use all year round for rainy days or too hot days in the summertime. I hope our ideas help out those of you who are in the same boat as us!
1. Play dress up.
My kids have quite a collection of costumes, and I’ve found that bringing them out during days they’re stuck indoors is not only a great way to encourage their imaginations, it also helps keep them physically active. As soon as they put costumes on, they immediately begin acting out their characters and stage (often elaborate) scenarios. They’ll go through every costume too, which keeps them happily occupied for long periods of time. If they don’t have costumes or want to try something different, let them dress up in your clothes and shoes. (I loved wearing my mom’s clothes as a young child!)
2. Provide hands-on toys that can be used in different ways.
I notice my kids (understandably) get bored easily with toys that can only be played with one way or are repetitive. But if they are given hands-on toys that can be used in different ways, they stay engaged for long periods of time. This is why we love Mattel Disney-Pixar Cars toys so much, especially Cars 3 toys (their favorite of the three Cars movies, and my favorite too; yay for stories that encourage pursuing dreams regardless of gender, age, or appearance!). The Cars toys are so great because the kids love the physical aspects of being able to make the cars drive, move, jump, and race, but they can also use them to act out scenes from the movies and make up pretend stories with them, since they’re actual characters in addition to being toy vehicles. The fact that they encourage them to use their imaginations and fine motor skills is a big plus too.
3. Make an art show.
Bringing out the art supplies on a cold or rainy day is kind of a given, but taking things up a notch and creating a pretend art show keeps my kids happy and occupied for much longer than when I just hand them crayons and a coloring book. I usually provide them with several different types of supplies, and then when they’re done creating, they tape them up on the wall, make tickets, and invite me or each other to the their art show.
4. Hold a pretend dance or yoga class.
My kids loves pretending to play teacher for each other, their stuffed animals, or even us. On days when they’re stuck indoors, I always suggest playing teacher for a class that allows them to be physical too, like dance or yoga. (Sports work too if you have the open space!) This allows them to get some physical activity in while also participating in an activity that requires imagination and taking turns.
5. Put on a puppet show.
My kids both love performing for us, each other, and even their toys. You can get creative and make a simple puppet stage out of a cardboard box, or just have them hide behind a table or chair. They love using their Cars toys as “puppets” and acting out scene from the movie. It’s the cutest.
6. Have a dance party.
Building on #4 above, put on a playlist your kids will love and tell them it’s dance party time! My kids will seriously do this for a good hour straight. It’s a wonderful way for them to stay active, and they always have smiles on their faces their entire time.
7. Have pretend story time.
My daughter turned 5 last month and is only just beginning to read, but she loves to pretend to read (and act out) books to her 3 year old brother. He loves to switch the roles and pretend to read to her too! They also think it’s fun to set up their stuffed animals like an audience and pretend they’re the story readers at the library. I usually put a big pile of books in a basket and set up a blanket for them, and they take it from there.
8. Create an at home movie theatre.
I try to avoid screen time until we’re out of other options, but when it reaches that point, instead of mindlessly turning on the television or giving them a tablet, we choose a movie together and they create a pretend at home movie theatre. The kids make tickets and I pop them popcorn, then they pretend the sofa is their movie seats while they watch the film. (Obviously, Cars 3 is a favorite for this!)
If you have other ideas for ways to keep little ones happily busy when they’re stuck indoors, I’d love to hear them! And if you’re looking for an ideal toy to encourage lots of active hands-on play during inside days, head over to toys/collectibles aisle at Walmart and pick up some Cars toys. Today (February 11th) is also the official Cars Day, so now is the perfect time to do it!