If you’ve got young kids there’s no doubt (at some point) you have found yourself looking for fun and simple things to do with kids at home. As unschoolers, our two young girls are with us most of the time. We also slow-travel full time so we’re used to getting creative with easy, cheap, and mostly free activities to keep the little ones happy.
Whether you’re homeschooling your kids, have found yourself stuck at home due to coronavirus, or you’re simply looking for things to do at home with a young child, you’re in the right place!
We’ve put together a list of fun things to do at home with the kids. The activities we’ve written about below are all things that we do together regularly, or on occasion. Older children may also enjoy some of the activities. Overall we’re offering suggestions on what we’ve done and what has worked well so far, for our girls who are 6 and 1 year old (at the time of publishing).
By the way, if you’re looking to gain confidence in your abilities to facilitate a nurturing home learning environment, check out the awesome program via the button below. It’s not only for homeschoolers or unschoolers, and it can help you tap into your child’s unique needs and preferences.
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One of our top recommendations for fun things to do at home with the kids
- One of our top recommendations for fun things to do at home with the kids
- A few quick thoughts about these things to do with kids at home
- Things to do with kids at home: Indoor activities for kids at home
- Indoor activities for kids at home that don’t involve screens
- Indoor activities for kids at home that involve screen time
- Things to do with kids at home: Outdoor and nature-based activities for kids at home
Honestly, most of the time our girls just ‘play’. As unschoolers they are used to making their own choices and choosing the activities that they do. So yep, we just leave them to their own devices and they come up with endless things to do.
Some of the things they have been choosing to do recently include drawing on cans or packets of food, and just doing all sorts of imaginative play. Sometimes we play along too. This makes it even more fun for them, and it’s even kinda fun for us too!
The latest current game invented by our older daughter is “lava monsters” where there are people and they’re allowed to stand on certain things. The lava monster is only allowed on the wooden floor and has to try and catch the people to turn them into lava monsters. Games like this are completely her creation, so we won’t take credit for them!
Young children need plenty of time to simply be able to play. A huge amount of learning and development goes on during everyday play. And it’s an absolute gift for the parents when they find things to happily play on their own for a while.
We appreciate that many children aren’t used to self-directed play and learning. And no matter how self-directed they do become, it’s always useful to have a few suggestions up your sleeve for when you need them.
A few quick thoughts about these things to do with kids at home
Maybe you’re wondering “How do you find things to do with kids on weekends”? Or “What are the best home activities for toddlers”. The ideas we’ve put together should help you to get started and allow more great ideas to unfold.
Of course every child is different in their preferences. These will evolve over time and also often change on a daily basis. Suggest something to them, and give it a go if they sound keen. If it doesn’t work, move on to something else.
You’ll soon find your flow and you may need less ideas than you first thought. They’ll no doubt find certain things that they love doing and will spend lots of time on.
There are so many fun activities for kids at home. The ones we have chosen should classify as cheap things to do with kids. Many of them don’t require any special equipment, or a lot of them can be done with whatever you’ve already got at home. As I mentioned, we slow-travel full time with very minimal ‘stuff’ so we just work with what we’ve got.
Many of the activities are things you can simply help them set up and then they may get on with all by themselves. You may also have fun doing a lot of them together.
Right, time to get into these fun things to do at home kids will love!
Things to do with kids at home: Indoor activities for kids at home
Sometimes you might be wondering “what are good rainy day activities to do with kids at home on weekends?” So we’ll start with indoor activities for kids at home. They’re great for rainy days or any other day!
Even though we identify as unschoolers, we’ve placed pretty clear boundaries around screen time while our kids have been young. Overall, we believe that our young kids learn and develop better when they spend the majority of their time doing non-screen based activities. We sometimes notice a correlation with less desirable behaviors and an increase in screen time too, so we keep it as a kind of “use it when we really need to” option. There will be plenty of time for them to go through all the digital learning they need to in the future.
We do use screens on occasion, and for specific activities, so you’ll see a shorter list of screen time activities a little further down this section.
Indoor activities for kids at home that don’t involve screens
What are some things to do with your kids at home that don’t involve screens? Here are some of our favorites go-to’s.
Art is one of the wonderfully creative and fun things to do at home for kids. The best thing is that it doesn’t need to be expensive or complex. To get started, use whatever you’ve got in terms of paper or cardboard and pencils, pens, felts or paints. Here are a few really simple ways you can set the kids up to have some fun with art:
- Suggest they try copying pictures from their favorite books or copying their favorite toys
- Show them how to trace something (you should be able to trace with normal printer type paper)
- Think outside the normal coloring type books and let them color in boxes and cans from your pantry!
Our daughter really likes sand art. It’s something I hadn’t heard of until a few years ago, but apparently it has been around for a while. Check out the ad below for the latest prices on a kit like this. The one pictured is similar to what our daughter has used in the past. But this kit comes with bottles, which I suspect would be a lot easier to work with than the little plastic bags that our sand came in.
Click below for latest prices on Amazon.
2. Baking and Cooking
What are some fun and productive things to do at home with kids? Baking is an amazing one! If you can relax a little and allow things to get pretty messy and take a really long time, many kids will love getting hands-on with baking and cooking. And if it all goes reasonably well you should have a delicious end-result to enjoy.
Baking offers endless opportunities to learn math-based skills, which is a pretty sweet bonus. You can keep things simple to begin with and just let them get involved as your little helper. For example, when you’re making pizzas, let them arrange the toppings.
Another option could be to let them make their own little ‘potion’ alongside your ‘real’ cooking or baking. I’m not talking about letting them go crazy with all your quality ingredients. Just let them have a little of this and that, or let them get creative with non-food items.Sometimes it’s easier to try this if you’re not in the head space to really let them help with your cooking or baking. They will probably feel very accomplished when they’re allowed to make up their own creations!
When your kid is ready to do a bit more in the kitchen, just google something like “easy baking recipes for kids”.
Click on the Amazon ads below for latest prices on kids cookbooks.
3. Feel and Guess Game
Here’s another simple idea for fun things to do for kids at home. Get a bag or a box and place a variety of objects in it from around the house. Ask your kid to close their eyes and pick one up. With eyes still closed they can try and guess what the object is.
If eyes closed doesn’t work, place it in their hands behind their back, or get them to feel the object while it’s still in the box or bag and just get them to look the other way.
4. Play Dough
This is one activity that has stood the test of time. I remember playing with it a lot when I was a kid. You can let the kids go for it, or make things with them. If you’ve got cookie cutters they’re useful for making play dough shapes.
Playdough is pretty easy to make, with only 4 main ingredients – flours, oil, salt and food coloring. There are lots of recipes available online. If you’re going to make your own, just use the cheapest oil, flour and bulk salt you can find (save the good stuff for food).
Play dough is a good idea for things to do with toddlers at home, as long as you can stop them eating it! Lol, that’s what the salt is meant to be for, but it still doesn’t stop some of them!
If you don’t have the inclination to make your own, you can purchase some. Check out the amazon ad below for the latest prices and details on a fabulous pack that will give you a wide range of colors.
If you’re after things to do with kids at home that could keep them amused for quite some time, an awesome den could be the answer. Left to their own devices, your kids might create their own out of things like cushions, chairs, sheets and blankets.
Help little kids get theirs set up and help them choose some fun things to put inside it to play with. You might even get time to enjoy a hot cup of tea while they have fun playing!
Check out the pictures below for a couple of examples of recent dens made by our 6 year old. The indoor one doesn’t even have a cover or anything. She has just kind of cordoned off an area for herself and placed some things she wanted to play with on the top of the couch.
6. Oil and Water Experiment
One of the fun things to do with kids at home is to show them how oil and water don’t mix. Use an aluminium pie tray or similar and add a little water and oil to it. Let your kid try to mix it around and see what happens.
You can also add food coloring and see whether that mixes in. After that, see if they want to dip a piece of paper into the mixture and make their own art creation.
Ask your kids if they’ll organize an after-dinner show for you. If they agree, they can spend time creating it without your input and then you can enjoy some wonderful post-meal entertainment!
8. Sugar Experiment
There are lots of things to do with kids at home that are also what the mainstream would consider to be very educational. The sugar experiment teaches them about the scientific concept of vibration, in a fun and easy way.
You can make a pretend eardrum that creates vibration. Cut a large piece from a plastic bag. Stretch it over the top of a large container such as a cake tin or ice cream container and fasten it with a rubber band. Sprinkle some sugar onto the plastic.
Then hold a metal tray such as a small over tray or muffin tin near it and hit the tray with a wooden spoon. The grains of sugar will jump about, which shows them how things vibrate with sound.
[We got the above idea from an encyclopedia that our daughter has been reading a lot of at our current house sit. It has a bunch of cool little experiments and things to do throughout it].
Get your kids Encyclopedia by clicking on the Amazon ad below.
9. Let them play dress up in your clothes
If you’re feeling game, let your kids into your wardrobe to play dress ups. Chances are they will amuse themselves for a long time. And if you’re feeling extra generous, let them use your makeup too.
Maybe you’re wondering “what are some creative things to do at home with kids?” As an extension of the art theme, crafts are super fun and creative.
If you want one of the simplest and easiest options around, just give them a big cardboard box. Yep, leave them to their own devices and see what they come up with. Maybe it’s a cool robot outfit or maybe they’ll just have loads of fun pushing their little sibling around in the box. Ok, so that’s not exactly a ‘craft’, but the main thing is that they’re having fun!
Some of the other crafts we’ve enjoyed making at home include creations from milk bottles, and pasta necklaces like the one in the photo below.
11. Water Pearls
Another idea for things to do with kids at home that can be both a bit science-like and a bit crafty is to play around with water pearls. Add water to show how they expand and make table center pieces with them. The ones we used were clear so we added food coloring to them as well.
We also tried freezing them and drying them out in the sun to observe how they changed in size and color and to find out how well they held up to these processes.
Click on the image below for latest prices of water pearls on Amazon.
12. Cards and Board Games
Classic games that you may have forgotten about can provide loads of learning opportunities, and most of all FUN for kids. Cards and games are examples of fun things to do as a family.
Our daughter learned to play a couple of different types of solitaire when she was 5, so that’s useful as an activity she can do on her own.
Most of the time though, we’ll play board games and card games together. It’s a little tricky with Romy only being 1 so we take the opportunity for games if Romy is having a nap or she has gone to bed early.
If you’re interested in games, you might want to follow the gameschooling facebook page.
Check out our entertainment kit below to see some of the games we play as a family with young children.
13. Play Kids Games With Them!
If you want to have fun at home with kids they will absolutely love it if you play games with them, even if it’s for a short while. Get involved with their imaginary play, or try one of the classics like hide and seek (both of our kids love this game).
14. Read Books
When you’re looking for things to do with kids at home don’t go past the simple things, such as reading books. Take a regular trip to your local library for a new supply.
15. Treasure Hunts
Our older daughter loves it when I create a treasure hunt for her. With younger kids, you can just show them five objects and explain that you’ll hide them in a certain room. You can then let them find the objects, and give them clues if needed (e.g. hot, cold, etc.)
Now that my older daughter is 6, she likes treasure hunts with lists and clues. It can take me a little while to organize this on my own so I get her involved. First I ask her to choose the items she wants me to hide. Then I ask her to decide on the boundaries. We normally use the whole inside of the house.
Then I ask her to make 10 (or however many objects we have) small bits of paper. On those pieces of paper I ask her to write a number (1-10) and the name of the object, so then I know the order I need to hide them in. It’s great writing practice for her.
Then all I need to do is write out each clue and hide each item. We also used this idea for an Easter treasure hunt this year.
Indoor activities for kids at home that involve screen time
Sometimes a bit of screen time can be absolute gold when everyone (especially mama) needs a rest. There aren’t many things that our daughter has done using screens so far, so this part of the list is shorter. Again, this post is focused on pre school and the early primary years.
The following suggestions are tried and tested, and I believe offer her a lot more value than blobbing out and watching episodes of ‘this or that’.
16. Cosmic Kids Yoga
Cosmic kids yoga is where Ayla has spent the majority of her screen time. I absolutely love this YouTube channel, and Ayla has been enjoying it since she was 3. It’s full of fun yoga adventures for kids, so they get to move their bodies in a fun way that’s also full of imagination. Kids can also try the guided relaxations, or have a boogie with the yoga disco tracks.
17. Duo Lingo
Duo lingo is a great option for things to do with kids at home if you and the kids are also interested in learning languages. There’s a free version of the app, which allows you to learn quite a lot, and there’s also a kids-specific app as well (although we have found that both versions work for our daughter). Once she got the hang of it, it was something she could mostly do on her own as well.
We’ve added Duo Lingo to our home education kit, which you can view below. Check out some of our other recommended home education resources while you’re there.
18. Daniella Ballerina
There are lots of great YouTube channels out there, and lots of not-so-great ones as well. I prefer to supervise Ayla’s YouTube time somewhat, mainly because some channels have loads of ads that pop up, which take away from the flow of the activity itself, and some of the ads aren’t really child-friendly.
Ayla really loves ballet so I looked around a bit until we found a fun YouTube channel offering ballet lessons for kids. We both really like Daniella Ballerina who adds song, dance, and plenty of imagination into her lessons.
19. Google an Animal
If you’re after things to do with kids at home, at a pinch you can try googling an animal. It won’t keep them entertained for too long, but I’ve pulled it out once or twice recently just so that I could get dinner served up!
If you don’t mind your kid using a device for a short while, go to Google, and search the name of their favorite animal. Scroll down the page and there should be an option to “view in 3D”, although I don’t believe it’s an option for all animals. It then very cleverly opens up a 3D view of that animal in the room with you.
The animal moves around, makes noises, and is life-sized. It is very ‘real’ looking considering it’s only a 3D image. You can also take photos of the animal. Some of the ones we have tried are “cat” (see photo I snapped of it below), “deer” and “bear” (you’ve got to try that one!).
20. Take a Virtual Tour
There are lots of websites that offer virtual tours. These have been especially popular since the lockdown period that much of the world found itself in. You can take virtual tours of places like theme parks, zoos and museums. Not all of them are likely to be interesting for really young kids.
We enjoyed looking around the San Diego Zoo website, which offers virtual tours and a lot more. They have arts and crafts activities you can download for offline fun, lots of videos about animals, games, and information about saving animals.
Things to do with kids at home: Outdoor and nature-based activities for kids at home
There are loads more fun, cheap things to do with kids outside at home. And so many benefits to spending plenty of time in the great outdoors. If you have a yard and/or a garden you’ve got endless possibilities of things to do. If you’re in an apartment, you can still take advantage of these ideas. They can be turned into mini fun field trips to your local park or nature area.
21. Water Play
Water play is at the top of our list for fun things for kids to do with kids outside. Grab any buckets and plastic vessels you have, fill them with water and let them have fun. Or simply turn on the hose or sprinkler for a short time on a hot day and away they go!
All you need for this one is some chalk and concrete. I vividly remember playing hopscotch as a kid and I loved it. Hopefully you did too, and you know how to draw it up. Single squares for numbers 1-3, then two squares across for 4 and 5, one square for number 6, and then two squares across for 7 and 8. Throw a stone into the first square, jump over it, and through the course. Then repeat for the other numbers.
We haven’t been able to get any chalk here in France just yet, but I’ll add a photo once we do, since Ayla keeps asking to play it. These instructions show you how to play in case my little description above doesn’t quite cut it.
23. Obstacle Course
An obstacle course is another idea for things to do with kids at home. You could also do it inside if you have a bit of space and can set it up safely. As you’ll see in the photo below, we just grabbed things like chairs, ladders and bricks from the garage and set them up in a circle.
Ayla found it pretty easy after a couple of tries so we moved everything further apart and then I encouraged her to come up with different ‘rules’, such as doing the circuit without using hands, and then using hands and feet on every obstacle.
This is another game that featured strongly in my childhood. We call it elastics in New Zealand, but it also goes by many other names. Apparently the game began back in 7th Century China. One of the names it’s most commonly known as is Chinese jump rope.
You could make your own elastics if you can get your hands on an appropriate length and thickness of elastic band. Just google how to DIY it, or purchase one of the commercially made ones. These ones are a lot more colorful than the white band I remember playing with, which was probably just from the local sewing shop.
Check out the video below if you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say elastics. It’s not really a game for really little kids. The motor skills required are going to be more suited to slightly older children. I’m sure my daughter would get into elastics now at age 6. I remember playing a lot when I was 11 or 12.
Check out latest prices for Chinese Jump Rope on Amazon via the ad below.
25. Bark Rubbings
Outdoor things to do with kids at home can be as simple as drawing a bark rubbing. Simply take some paper and crayons outside. Place the paper on the trunk of a tree and draw back and forth all over the paper until you have a nice picture that shows the patterns from the tree trunk. Try a few different ones to see how the patterns differ.
26. Leaf Rubbings
While you’re outside, pick some different leaves from trees, or find them on the ground. Take them to a table and place them under a piece of paper. Draw back and forth over the paper with your crayon until the pattern of the leaf shows up on the paper. Some leaves will work better than others, so try a few different ones.
27. Flower Picking and Arranging
Children may enjoy arranging flowers in vases or on plates. It’s a lovely way for them to enjoy the beauty of nature whilst doing a quiet and creative activity. See the picture below of Ayla with her flower arrangement.
28. Pressing Flowers
Flower pressing is also on our list of fun activities for kids at home. We’re quite into the nature theme when it comes to the outdoors, as you can probably tell! Choose a nice flower and lay it carefully in the middle of a book. Ayla puts hers in a journal. Then put a stack of heavy books on top of it and leave it to dry out for a week or so.
Some flowers are easier to lay flat and press than others. A little bit of trial and error will show you which ones are easiest. Your child can use their pressed flowers to make cards or artwork, or they might want to keep it in a journal and draw pictures around it or write something.
29. Looking for Bugs
Looking for bugs is another fun activity we like doing. Try looking under rocks and logs, and amongst plants and bushes for a good chance to find some! You don’t need any special equipment to enjoy looking at bugs. A magnifying glass is probably the thing we find most useful.
Ayla was lucky enough to be given a bug kit to use while we’re here in France. Romy and her have both enjoyed checking out a wide range of critters and then gently releasing them back into nature (although most of them have actually been found in the house to begin with!).
The bug kit does enable her to pick a bug up carefully without touching it, and then easily study it up close. The kit below is similar to what she has got. Amazon has a wide range of bug kits available. Some of them are very comprehensive with dress-up clothes and more included.
Click on the ad below to see the latest prices.
30. Climbing Trees
In terms of outdoor things to do with kids at home, this is such a simple idea. And at the same time it offers numerous opportunities for growth and development. Head to a nearby park or nature area if you don’t have any suitable trees at home for your kids to climb.
31. Take a Picnic Outside
By now, I really hope you’ve got a load of simple ideas. And yes, fun things for kids to do at home can be as simple as setting up a picnic blanket with snacks and a few toys. At the place we’re currently house sitting, we often take a little picnic to this area which is full of stones. And then the girls spend ages literally just playing with stones or using their imaginations.
32. Exercise with your Kids
Fitness with your kids might not instantly spring to mind as a fun activity to do together. But it absolutely can be. Get yourself warmed up properly and play a game of tag or stuck in the mud. We have been enjoying acro yoga together recently, as you’ll see in my Instagram post below!
33. Kick a Ball Around
We may add to these ideas later, but for now, we think you’ve got quite a lot to work with! The last one I’m going to leave you with is another simple idea that you just might not have thought of.
Grab a football and enjoy kicking it back and forth with your kid, or do some throw and catch together.
With toddlers, sit on the ground opposite each other, both with your legs in straddle. Get a ball (a tennis ball will do) and roll it back and forth between each other. If your toddler doesn’t “catch” the ball, his or her legs should “catch” it and stop it from rolling away.
What do you think about these ideas for the best things to do with kids at home? We’d love to hear your thoughts so please join in the conversation and leave a comment below!
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