This might not be the family time we were all expecting, but that doesn't mean we can't make the most of it! If you're worried about how to keep the kids (and yourself) entertained during lockdown, we've got loads of inspiration for you that doesn't involve sticking them in front of a screen alone. From crafty activities and messy play, to STEM experiments and imagination games and everything in between, here are 42 of the best free indoor activities if you're stuck inside over the coming weeks.
1. Create A Lockdown Bucket List
You'll need: a large piece of card or paper and coloured pens
Work together to draw up bucket list of things you all want to do during lockdown and display it on your card. You could add tick boxes or a spot to write the date when you complete each item. Maybe you could aim to learn a new word every day, try out a new baking recipe or read 10 books - it's completely up to you what goes on there! Don't forget to keep it in full view so that everyone can see.
2. Escape Crepe Paper Lasers
You'll need: crepe paper and tape
Tape lines of crepe paper across a hallway from one wall to another, zigzagging them over each other from high to low. Pretend you're a secret agent and try to get from one end of the hallway to the other without touching or breaking any of the paper.
3. Make A Den
You'll need: cushions, blankets and chairs
What's an indoor activity list without a den or a fort? Drape blankets or sheets across the furniture in the living room and grab sofa cushions and pillows from your bedroom to make a cosy den to chill out in.
4. Play Mini Ice Hockey
You'll need: a baking tray, water, post-it notes, spoons and a button or bottle lid
Freeze a layer of water in a baking tray to create your ice rink and stick a post-it note at either end of the tray to mark the goals. Use spoons as your hockey sticks and try to hit your button/lid puck against the post-it note on the other side of the tray.
5. Play Shops
You'll need: plastic bags, old receipts and anything you can find from the food cupboards
Collect some things to 'sell' in your at-home supermarket and set up tins and packets in your shop. Let your family wander around and pick up the things they need and pack their items away for them into a plastic bag. Don't forget to give them a receipt!
6. Paper Plate Ring Toss
You'll need: kitchen roll tube, tape or Blu Tac, paper plates and scissors
Cut paper plates into rings of different sizes and then stick your kitchen roll tube to the floor. Throw your paper rings onto the tube like you're at the funfair! Make it a challenge by moving further back or racing to see how many you can get in 30 seconds.
7. Have A Picnic With Your Toys
You'll need: your favourite toys, a blanket or towel and some snacks
Invite your favourite teddies and dolls to join your family on an indoor picnic, where you'll set up a blanket or towel for everyone to sit on and enjoy some snacks together.
8. Decorate The Garden With Painted Rocks
You'll need: brightly coloured acrylic paint, plate, paintbrushes and rocks
Collect rocks from the garden (we recommend smooth ones that aren't too pale or dark as these will show the paint best). If you have time, clear the dirt, rinse them in water and let them completely air dry. They're fine to use as is but it works best when they're super clean. Select your paint colours, pour a little onto a plate and start painting! Use smaller brushes for details. When they're dry (this might be the next day) you can set them up all around your garden as decorations.
9. Draw On The Floor
You'll need: chalk and a clear surface to draw on
Before you start, check that chalk will come off your hard floor. If it's easily removed, let the kids draw all over it - encourage them to draw a hopscotch design or a track for their cars and trains! Give them an old sock or cloth to rub it out when they're done. If your floor isn't chalk-proof, bring the activity outside to the patio or paving stones and let the kids run wild with their drawing.
10. Play Ping Pong Indoors
You'll need: paper plates, cardboard tubes, tape, a table, divider and ping pong balls
Tape a paper plate to a handle-sized section of cardboard tube to make a ping pong paddle. Separate your dining table into 2 sections with either a wrapping paper tube or some other kind of divider and you're ready to go. Game, set, match!
11. Storm In A Jar Experiment
You'll need: a large glass jar, shaving foam, pipette or eye dropper, food colouring, 1 or more small cups
Mix up some food colouring with water in your small cup(s) - create as many cups of coloured water as you'd like. Fill the large jar about 3/4 full with water. Right before you're about to do the experiment, top the jar with shaving cream until it's just above the rim - this will be your cloud. From there, keep dropping coloured water on top of the shaving cream and keep an eye on what's happening below. When the shaving cream cloud gets too heavy, the colours will start to seep through like rain, just like what happens with real clouds!
12. Teddy Zipwire
You'll need: wire or string, a clothes hanger and your favourite soft toy
Tie a wire or string from a high point in the house to a low point (the higher the better), attach a soft toy to a hanger, send it down the zipwire and watch it zoom across the room!
13. Kitchen Cupboard Orchestra
You'll need: pots, pans and wooden spoons
There's no rainy day activity like testing out the acoustics on kitchenware, so take out all your pots and pans from the cupboard and see what musical masterpiece you can create. Find out how hitting a saucepan with a wooden spoon sounds different to hitting a colander and develop your own kitchen cupboard orchestra.
14. Learn A Magic Trick
You'll need: access to YouTube and a deck of cards
Got any magic lovers in the family? See if you can learn a card trick from a how-to video on YouTube. It might take some time, but once you've perfected it you can show the whole family in an epic magic show.
15. Write Letters To Loved Ones
You'll need: paper or card and some kind of writing tool
Flex your writing muscles and write a letter to older relatives or neighbours who might be feeling a little lonely right now. Let them know you're thinking of them, and if they live nearby you could even leave a sweet treat on their doorstep for them to enjoy while they read your letter. You could also write to any NHS staff and supermarket, pharmacy or post office workers that you know to say thank you for all the work they're doing to keep everything running during this time.
16. Toddler-Friendly Ring Toss
You'll need: kitchen roll tube, tape or Blu Tac, paper plates and scissors
Stick a kitchen roll tube to the floor and create rings out of paper plates. Instead of throwing the rings onto the kitchen roll tube like in a traditional ring toss, let your toddler improve their motor skills by placing the rings on the tube from up close. You could even use colourful plates and turn it into a colour recognition activity.
17. Create A Volcano
You'll need: small plastic bottle, modelling clay, bicarbonate of soda, white vinegar, plastic dish or container, washing up liquid and red food colouring
Make a cone shape around the plastic bottle with your modelling clay, making sure there's more clay at the bottom. Place your clay volcano into the plastic dish, add about 2 tbsp washing up liquid, 1 tbsp of food colouring and 2 tbsp bicarbonate of soda. When you're ready for the big finale, add some vinegar and watch the volcano erupt! You can rinse your volcano and do the experiment again.
18. Make Your Own Jigsaw
You'll need: a magazine or finished colouring page, cardboard and scissors
Take a finished colouring page or a cool page from a magazine and stick onto a sheet of cardboard (cereal boxes work well). From here, cut up the image to make your own jigsaw. Try cutting it into smaller pieces to make it more difficult!
19. The Straw-Ball Olympics
You'll need: straws, tape and ping pong balls
Tape straws onto the floor as guidelines for a race track, with different lanes for however many people are playing. Give each player a straw and a ping pong ball and race to blow the ball to the finish line. Make sure you don't cross over into someone else's lane! If you want to step it up, make the track more complicated with corners and twists.
20. Make A Joint Story
You'll need: a piece of paper and a writing tool
This one's super simple and totally free - the aim of the game is to create a story together as a family. All you need to do is write one word at a time on a piece of paper, pass it onto the next person and try to create a story using one sheet of paper. The results of this are usually hilarious! If you've got younger kids who don't know how to write yet, you could do it verbally instead.
21. Make A Robot Costume
You'll need: 1 large cardboard box, scissors and things to decorate with
Making sure the large box is open at the bottom (where your legs will go), cut out a head hole and 2 arm holes. Draw a cool design on the box - maybe a screen, a dial or some buttons. Stick foil on or colour with silver paint if you want to really give it the robot look. Add buttons made out of anything you've got lying around - milk bottle and juice carton lids work really well! If you've got another medium-sized box lying around, cut out a square from one side to turn it into a robot helmet.
22. Find Out What's Magnetic Around The House
You'll need: a fridge magnet
If you've got any mini scientists in the family they'll love this one. Grab a magnet from the fridge and explore the house to see if you can find magnetic surfaces that the magnet will stick to. You could use this time to learn the basic facts about magnets too.
23. Become A Singer-Songwriter
You'll need: your best music-making skills
Whether you want to be a solo artist or form a group with your family members, use this time to make up a song! Pick a theme (or ask someone else to) and see if you can make a song based on the theme. Remember, anything can be a musical instrument, so get creative and figure out how to make music in a totally unique way.
24. Indoor Hopscotch
You'll need: electrical tape
Use electrical tape to create a hopscotch game on the floor - you can do this on carpet as well as hard floors. Why not make it a longer track to help with counting?
25. Make Rainbow Rice
You'll need: 1 cup long grain white rice, 1/2 tsp vinegar, food colouring and food storage container(s) with a lid
Pour the rice into your container, add a couple of drops of your chosen food colouring and drizzle vinegar over the top. Put the lid on your tub (make sure it's definitely sealed!) and shake the contents around. When you take off the lid you'll see your rice has been dyed. Spread your colourful rice onto a baking sheet or plate to dry for at least 12 hours. Make as many colours as you want!
26. Make Sock Puppets
You'll need: old socks, googly eyes and other decorations
Get crafty on a rainy day and make sock puppets! Add googly eyes to an old sock and any other decoration to create your sock puppet character - why not draw on a mouth or glue some colourful fur to the top as hair. The possibilities are endless.
27. Create An Obstacle Course
You'll need: furniture and any fun activities you can think up
You can never go wrong with an obstacle course, and they're a great way to improve coordination and motor skills. Set up a course all around the house with a range of different activities and motions, from jumping between sofas and throwing ping pong balls into a bucket to collecting Lego bricks along the way. The best part? It can be set up entirely indoors if it's a rainy day.
28. Ping Pong Skittles
You'll need: cardboard tubes, tape or Blu Tac, foil, ping pong balls and a larger ball or Nerf gun
Collect at least 6 cardboard tubes of varying heights (foil, cling film, kitchen roll and toilet paper tubes work well and wrapping paper tubes can be cut into smaller pieces) and use your tape or Blu Tac to stick them to the floor in a triangle formation like you're going bowling. Cover the open ends with a square of foil and place a ping pong ball on each one. From there, stand back and use a larger ball (you could use a crumpled up ball of paper or foil) or Nerf gun to try to knock down the ping pong balls - bonus points for keeping the tubes upright!
29. Make A Junk Mobile
You'll need: a wire hanger, string or wire and small pieces of 'junk'
Stick or tie small pieces of junk onto 4 or 5 strings of different length. You could use anything from buttons and colourful sweet wrappers to toy cars, puzzle pieces and old Christmas tree decorations. Tie each string to the hanger and let your decorations dangle.
30. Sensory Play
You'll need: a tub of water and small colourful materials
Fill a container with water and various coloured materials. We love sticking to one colour at a time, so we'd put in orange peel, orange tulip petals and pompoms etc. Splash around and experience all the different textures.
31. Make Tape Roads For Your Toy Cars
You'll need: electrical tape and toy cars
Lay out electrical tape on the floor to create roads for toy cars to drive on. Why not add bowls for roundabouts and different coloured post-it notes for houses?
32. Create A Balloon Rocket
You'll need: 1 balloon, 1 long piece of string (about 5m), 1 plastic straw and tape
Tie one end of the string to a door handle or chair on one side of the room and thread the other end through the straw. Pull the string so that it's taut and attach it to another point in the room. Blow up the balloon (without tying it), pinch the end and tape the whole thing to the straw (while still holding the end tightly). Let go and watch it fly across the room!
33. Plant Some Seeds
You'll need: seeds or bulbs, a small shovel, a watering can, lollipop sticks and a pen
Head out to the garden and dig a hole in the soil to plant your seeds in. Cover them up with more soil, give them some water and let it do its magic! Write what each seed will grow into on a lollipop stick and poke them into the soil so that you know what to expect. Now all you have to do is wait and see.
34. Go On A Word Hunt
You'll need: a magazine or newspaper and a highlighter
Choose a word and hunt for it in your magazine or newspaper, highlighting it whenever you spot it. To make things slightly trickier for older kids, you could go on a hunt for specific types of words like adjectives or adverbs, or highlight different things in different colours.
35. Create Your Own Recipe Book
You'll need: a few sheets of paper, coloured pens and a stapler
Think about your favourite meals and snacks and write down the recipes for them and if you're feeling imaginative, make up your own. When you've come up as many recipes as you can, ask for help to staple your sheets of paper together to make an official book. Don't forget to design the cover too!
36. Learn Classic Card Games
You'll need: a deck of cards
Parents can use this time to teach their kids classic card games like Solitaire or Rummy. Card games have been a rainy day staple for generations and now feels like the perfect time to pass the torch. Grab a deck, sit down at the table and start learning this classic boredom buster ASAP.
37. Act Out Your Own Version Of A Film
You'll need: an Oscar-ready performance
Pick your favourite film and see how much of it you can act out from memory. If you've got family members who want to join, assign everyone different characters, and if you're a solo performer, why not act it out with your dolls and teddies?
38. Make Puffy Paint
You'll need: heaping 1/2 cup shaving foam, 1/2 cup PVA glue, large mixing bowl, small containers, food colouring and/or glitter
Pour your PVA glue into a mixing bowl and carefully combine with shaving foam using a spatula or spoon - try not to over-mix your paint as you want to keep the fluffiness. Separate your mixture into smaller containers and add a couple of drops of food colouring to each one. You could even add glitter to make magical snow paint - it's up to you! Add more shaving cream if needed. From there, your puffy paint is ready to go!
39. Play Doughnut Jenga
You'll need: cardboard, scissors, pens and pencils
Cut out the cardboard into a ring and decorate it to look like a doughnut. Place a chunk of pens and pencils inside the 'doughnut' so that they can stand up (as if the pens are wearing a hula hoop). Each player has to carefully pull out one pen or pencil at a time without letting the ring fall and touch the ground, just like in traditional Jenga. When the doughnut falls, the game is over. The winner is the person with the most pens and pencils at the end!
40. Make Bird Feeders
You'll need: cardboard toilet paper roll, peanut butter and bird seed
Spread a thick layer of peanut butter over the cardboard tube and roll it around in the bird seed, trying to get as many seeds stuck on as possible. Go out into the garden and thread the tube onto a tree branch and wait for a bird to come and grab a snack!
41. Make A Glitter Jar
You'll need: a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid, glitter glue, hot water (not boiling) and a spoon
Squirt a good amount of glitter glue into the jar, then ask an adult to help add hot water to the jar. Stir up your concoction with a spoon to dissolve the glitter. Let the glitter water cool down before you tightly screw the lid back on. Shake it up and watch the glitter whoosh around inside!
42. Create A Time Capsule
You'll need: a shoe box, decorations and a collection of mementoes from around the house
The great thing about time capsules is that you can choose what you want to put in them. You could trace around your hand and date it, make a 'current info' card listing your height, age and hobbies, write a letter to your future self or include photos of you and your family. When you've filled your box, seal it, decorate it and hide it somewhere in the house to find later. Try to set a limit on when you are allowed to open it - the longer the better!
Remember, even if you don't have all the equipment we've suggested, part of the fun of these activities is trying to make do with what you've got - there's always an alternative out there if you use your imagination. Good luck and have fun!