Being cooped up inside has always been something I struggle with. I need to get out of the house at least once a day, whether it’s to go browse my favorite stores, visit the library, or even just to get some fresh air on a nice walk through the neighborhood! That’s why it’s challenging when extreme weather hits, whether it’s the heat waves that hit during the middle of summer or, more recently, the below-freezing temperatures of winter!
On those extra frigid days where it's just too cold to go out, it can be a challenge to know what we can do to entertain our kids all day! But staying inside can be a GREAT opportunity to slow down, spend one-on-one time with our kids, and even to get some things done that we ALL put off doing.
So if you’re stuck inside this winter, here are some of my favorite things to do to help keep my kiddos entertained (and to keep myself from going crazy from being cooped up as well!).
Most kids enjoy time to be creative. And when it comes to my own kiddos, this couldn't be more true! Both my 5-year-old and 2-year-old LOVE anything that involves crayons, play dough, markers, glue, glitter… I could go on and on! That’s why my absolute favorite wintertime activities involve crafts!
Here are some every-day ideas, as well as some super fun winter-themed crafts our family is lovin’ this year!
Make a Giant Painting
When I was younger, one of my favorite movies was Ramona and Beezus. I especially loved the scene where Ramona is home sick from school, and she and her dad get out a roll of paper and draw a huge picture together.
I LOVE this idea for indoor entertainment! If you have a large roll of paper at home from a kids drawing easel, roll it out in your kitchen, gather the whole family around, and start drawing your family masterpiece.
But don't fret if you don't have anything like that lying around! You could have just as much fun using the back side of some old wrapping paper you don't love, taping some printer paper together, or using some poster board!
Then grab your paints, markers, glitter pens, and whatever other craft materials you have, and spend some time creating the most amazing mural with your kiddos! I can guarantee it'll be an activity you AND your kids will never forget!
DIY Snow Globes
Although these are a great activity for wintertime (because who doesn't love a snow globe this time of year?), they make a great activity anytime you just need something fun to do with your kids! And what makes these even better is that most of the supplies you need can be found around the house!
I love how personalized each child can make these as well. Place inside little old toys you may have around the house, or even laminate your favorite pictures to place inside!
You can find a ton of great tutorials of how to do this online, but here is one of my favorites from Little Bins for Little Hands!
Picture Credit: Little Bins for Little Hands
Whether you have boys or girls, making necklaces or bracelets can be an excellent way to spend the day! Grab whatever beads or string you have lying around, and have fun making jewelry together!
Not only is this a great way to encourage creativity, but it can help young kids develop fine motor skills, practice counting, sorting and even learn how to make patterns!
Picture Credit: Meraki Lane
Play Dough or Clay Creations
You can never go wrong with play dough time. Whether you make your own from scratch, or prefer to have pre-made dough ready to go ahead of time, there are so many fun things you can do together with play dough!
Have a contest on who can make the biggest snowman with their play dough or who can make the most beautiful 'cookies'.
You can also use play dough as a great teaching tool! For toddlers, write out a few letters, numbers, or shapes on a piece of paper. Then have them use the play dough to place over the outlines you've drawn. This helps reinforce the letters, numbers or shapes in their mind as they recreate them with the dough.
I love sewing, but I often don't have time to do it with two young kids running around. However, whenever I DO pull out my sewing machine, my daughter always wants to be involved.
Although my daughter is too young to actually use the sewing machine or to cut fabric, there are plenty of fun ways to "sew" with young kids!
One fun way is to make no-sew, tie blankets. These are PERFECT for wintertime, giving your kids something to snuggle up in when it's cold out that they made themselves!
For older kiddos, use scraps from around the house, let them pick a pattern (you can find great, printable patterns on Etsy), and teach them how to sew! Not only is this a great teaching/learning opportunity, but it gives you a great opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with your kids!
Photo Credit: A Beautiful Mess
Kids wouldn't be kids without their vast imaginations. As I've watched my kids, I've begun to miss how much fun comes from life when we use that imagination! That's why some of my favorite activities are those that allow me to get down on the floor with my kids and remember what it was like to be a kid!
Whether it's a structured activity, or just getting down and pretending to be a horse while your little one climbs on your back, some of the best ways to spend cold days inside are those things that require a bit of imagination!
Car Ramp or Marble Run
Both of my kids love cars, but merely driving them around on the carpet can cause them to get bored quickly. That's why we love building car ramps!
For some reason, kids love watching their cars go down them. Grab random supplies from around the house and let them use their imaginations to build their very own ramps. If you have more than one kid, let them each build their own ramp and then have them race.
This is a great learning activity as well, as it teaches kids about gravity AND about how speed works. For example, if you make a steep ramp, the car will take off at a faster rate than a ramp with a small slope.
A fun variation to this is building a marble run! But if you have toddlers and babies, make sure to be extra careful or just build it with your older kiddos during baby's naptime!
Photo Credit: Louisa Penfold Blog
Build a Fort
One of my favorite activities as a kid was building forts. My kids are the same way, resulting in various purchases such as a kid tent and a play couch that can easily be manipulated into a fort.
But even if you have none of these things, building a fort can be as simple as throwing a few large blankets over some chairs or your kitchen table!
Wanna make this even more fun? Pretend you're camping and make indoor s'mores to enjoy! (These are a family favorite recipe in our home!)
Living Room Picnic
My kids are always begging to go on picnics. When living in Las Vegas, it was our FAVORITE activity since it was so nice the majority of the year. The other day, my daughter asked if we could go on a picnic, and I had to remind her that we live in a cold climate now, which makes picnics impossible in the winter.
However, I quickly got the thought that an indoor picnic could be just the solution!
All you have to do is grab a blanket and your favorite snacks, and your living room can be a prime picnic location!
Indoor Snowball Fight
When visiting TJ Maxx today and browsing the clearance items, we came across indoor snowball fight kits. I thought that was such a fun idea and something you could easily recreate at home with crumpled up paper, leftover tissue paper from Christmas gifts, or rolled up socks.
This activity pairs great with fort building when you don't have snow, or when it's too cold to go out and have a real snowball fight! Build those indoor fortresses with pillows and blankets, then see who remains victorious at the end of your "snowball" battle!
If you love to crochet, check out this adorable pattern from Eye Love Knots to make your own indoor snowball fight set!
Photo Credit: Eye Love Knots
Cardboard Box Fun
Any time I get a package in the mail with a larger than average box, my kids are begging for me to hand it over so they can play in it. And honestly, I couldn't be happier to give them a big box to play with!
Cardboard boxes are such a simple item that can engage and entertain your kids all day long! So go ahead and transform those amazon boxes into whatever your kids can dream up!
And don't forget to save a little box for those babies too!
You don’t need a fancy puppet theater to have a puppet show! There are so many great ways to make your very own! Whether it's with an old sheet that you hang in the doorway and cut a window into, or you pull out your sewing machine and make a fancy set of curtains, your kids are sure to have a blast!
Make finger puppets with scraps of felt, hand puppets with old socks and googly eyes, 2D puppets with some paper and popsicle sticks, or even use their good old stuffed animals and some string!
I love any excuse to sit back and relax. After all, being a parent is hard. That's why some of my favorite activities are those that don't take a lot of effort and that allow me to just sit for a while. And especially in the winter when the temperatures are below freezing, there's literally nothing better than activities you can do wrapped up in a blanket!
Here are some of my faves!
Although it's great to avoid excessive amounts of screen time, I find that having the occasional movie day can be great for the whole family! It gives us all time to hang out, relax, and enjoy our family favorites that we haven't seen in a while!
So grab that popcorn, your favorite snacks, and snuggle up in your Saranonis for a family movie day!
In elementary school, I always looked forward to our reading marathon days! We'd get to come to school in our favorite pajamas, read books and have lots of delicious snacks!
So if you're not in the mood for a movie marathon, why not try a reading marathon instead? Set up a cozy reading corner and spend the day snuggled up enjoying books together!
For younger kiddos, read out loud to them as long as their attention span will allow, then pull out the Toniebox for them to listen to and enjoy while you enjoy a book of your own (even if it's only for a good 10 minutes or so!).
Hot Cocoa Bar
I think we all love a hot cocoa bar. And there's no better time to have one than when you're trapped inside on a cold day!
Grab your leftover chocolates and candy canes from Christmas, pull out the hot cocoa mix, whipped cream, and your favorite mugs, and enjoy some nice cups of hot cocoa together!
I've always been a big fan of taking yoga classes. But if your car is iced over and you can't make it to class, stay home and enjoy a class with your kiddos! There are dozens of excellent online classes you can take, or find a YouTube video of an easy class you and your kids can do together!
What better way is there to get some exercise in, relax AND entertain your kiddos all at the same time?
Not into yoga? That's okay too! There of plenty of other online exercise classes you can watch and enjoy together.
Make Photo Albums or Journal
One of my best friends growing up loved to scrapbook with her mom. Although I'm not a huge fan of scrapbooking in particular, I think this is an excellent way to entertain your kids on cold days!
I always want to put together photo albums, but it's often something I just don't have time for on an ordinary day! So these cold winter afternoons are a great time to catch up by pulling out the photo prints and putting together photo books!
These quiet days are also a great time to catch up on journaling. If you have older kiddos, snuggle up on the couch with your own notebooks or journals and write away!
Puzzles and Board Games
Although most people think of games/puzzles as common family activities, they're rarely my first thought when trying to come up with fun ideas to do when we're all bored!
But one of the best times to dust off those games in the cupboard and gather the family together is when we are stuck inside!
For toddlers and preschoolers that are too young to play the games or work on that thousand piece jigsaw, try your best to involve them or provide them with an age-appropriate puzzle they can enjoy as well.
I really love writing letters and notes to friends and loved ones. Not only is this a great way to stay in touch, but it provides a great service opportunity when it's too cold to go out and do anything more!
Grab the paper and pens (and crayons for the little ones) and write notes and pictures to neighbors, friends, and family. Then place them in envelopes and send them off! Not only will it make someone else's day, but it teaches your kids about service!
At-Home Spa Day
When I think of relaxing activities, my mind immediately goes to taking a hot bath. So on chill days at home when it's too chilly to wander outside, turn your home into a spa!
Have your kids put together their own "services" guide on a piece of paper and then pretend to be their customer. Then reverse roles and pamper your kiddos as well!
Spend the day getting manicures and pedicures, giving your kids baths with bath salts, bath bombs, or bubbles, or simply enjoy some nice cucumber water!
Photo Credit: Project Nursery
Cook Something Delicious
Cooking can be a great family activity when you're stuck inside in the winter! Plus, it's a great opportunity to teach your kids a new skill or to try a new recipe you've been wanting to enjoy!
Let your kids pick a recipe out of one of your recipe books then work together to make it together!
My kids love grabbing their kiddie-sized camp chairs, plopping down in front of the toasty oven, and watching their food bake! And there really is no better time to do this than winter!
Clean, Clean, Clean!
Although these activities are often more for us than our kids, I’ve found that kids LOVE to be involved in cleaning when we make these tasks fun. Ever since my kids were young, I always tried to include them when doing laundry, cleaning the kitchen, or organizing/decorating the house. As a result, they've always found these things to be enjoyable rather than dreaded tasks that have to be completed.
And when it comes to being trapped inside, these things can actually be an excellent way to entertain our kids when they’re bored and we can’t get outside!
Find activities your kids love doing, or make the chores they don't enjoy as much into a game.
Do your kids hate mopping? See who can make it across the kitchen the fastest!
Do your kids have tons of garbage in their rooms from old homework assignments or artwork that's just piling up? Sort through it together, crinkle it up, and see who can make it into the garbage can the most!
(Your kids hate chores? Check out these tips on how to encourage your kids to help!)
Organize Holiday Décor
I love organizing. It helps me feel peace and that I have a little control over my hectic life. And post-holiday time is one of the best times to organize. And although my kids don't typically love organizing, when it comes to anything holiday-related, they want to be involved!
So pull out all that holiday décor (Valentine’s, Easter, etc.) while you’re taking down Christmas, and start organizing and sorting. Get rid of décor that you no longer use, and organize the rest into their appropriate bins or boxes. Here are some great tips on organizing all your holiday décor!
Photo Credit: Extra Space
Brave the Cold!
Although the point of this post is to avoid the cold, if you have snow, get out ENJOY it! After all, that is why they make puffy coats and heavy boots!
Build snow forts and snowmen, make snow angels, have snowball fights, and catch snowflakes on your tongue!
Then go inside and enjoy some of the other ideas listed above!
If you live in a cold climate, you may think you hate winter--especially as a parent! It can be challenging to keep kids entertained on any given day, but add in freezing temperatures and the inability to leave the house, and it can feel impossible. But with a few fun ideas in the back of your mind, your kids are sure to have an enjoyable winter season, with plenty of memories built along the way!