fun things to do with kids

19 fun things to do with kids (And how to not lose your mind when you’re trapped at home!)

Need some ideas for fun kids’ activities?

So many of you (myself included!) are trapped at home with little ones, and it’s overwhelming, stress-inducing, and often feels like you’re trapped in the eye of a storm.

“I have seen many storms in my life. Most storms have caught me by surprise, so I had to learn very quickly to look further and understand that I am not capable of controlling the weather, to exercise the art of patience and to respect the fury of nature.” ~Paulo Coelho

We are currently in one hell of a storm.  Many people are out of work, either temporarily or permanently.  We’re stuck at home, looking for ways to stay busy. We’re fighting to stay healthy while thousands around the globe are unable to do so.  Kids are missing school and beloved extracurricular activities.

So yeah.  We’re a little bit stressed.  And since we cannot control the weather (Thanks for the downer reminder, Paulo!), how can we stay patient? How can we “respect the fury of nature,” as he puts it?

This isolation would be a lot to deal with for anybody, but add in the anxiety of trying to stay healthy on top of it? It often feels impossible.

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Do you lack patience?

If you are one of those moms that’s barely hanging on by a thread, just know, you are not alone.  I’m sure you can relate: I love my kids.  Like full on think they’re the most amazing, talented, perfect things ever created.  But are they also evil minions sent to terrorize me, who never stop talking, and still wake up in the middle of the night?  Maybe.  

It’s hard to feel trapped.  To feel stuck. Like being with your kids all day long is not a gift but a heavy weight that you’re being forced to drag up a steep hill.  If you feel that way, just know that you’re not the only one. Kids are like little storms in and of themselves.  At times, all chaos and no calm.

So how do we reclaim a little joy?  How do we respect the fury of nature?

First of all, make sure you are taking care of YOU.

  • Are you getting enough sleep?
  • Are you getting 3 meals a day?
  • Do you find at least 15-20 minutes a day to do something restorative?

Second, remember: Your kiddos are struggling too. They’re all off kilter from missing school and the loved ones, and they don’t always know how to express these emotions. We have to try to parent with empathy even when it feels like we’re incapable.

In the meantime, there are definitely ways you can fill your time that won’t make you stressed, and will keep your kids engaged.

fun things to do for kids, stressed mom, trapped with kids

19 ideas for fun things to do with kids to pass time

Since I know the days seem never-ending for a lot of you right now, here are some fun things to do with kids that we’ve been trying in our house.  They help pass the time, and they are beneficial for little ones. Win win!  

Disclaimer: I like to keep things simple as hell.  I give all the credit in the world to moms that set up elaborate craft stations. Little handcrafted bowls for each color paper scrap with piles of gold lamé ribbon and bottles of horse-free glue.

Me? I’m more the make stuff up as I go along type.  The less steps and prep-work the better. Which is weird, because I am a bit of a planner otherwise.  When it comes to entertaining the kids though, I don’t think I’ll ever be a huge project sort of person.  I just don’t have the patience.

And that’s perfectly fine.  My kids are not going to grow up damaged because of that.  If you’re the same way, no worries. Your kids are fine. Just keep it simple, and change it up if they get bored.

Painting or drawing

This is a great way to engage kids’ brains without a lot of supplies or time to prep.  Here is all you need:

  • Crayons or paints (Make sure it’s a kind that can wash off surfaces/clothes/hands easily. Because spoiler: it’s going to end up everywhere.)
  • Paper

That’s really it.  You don’t even need to watch them like a hawk if you don’t want to.  Just set them up on a table with some kind of placemat, and that has hard floor underneath.  But you know, I watch them like a hawk because paints make me anxious. If that’s you, that’s okay! This is a trying time, and it is natural for people living with anxiety to find themselves feeling worse than normal.  

My kids have been working hard to redecorate our home as you can see in the pictures.

Fun things to do with kids,  kids activities

Tracing

This is pretty simple.  You can print out free tracing sheets, and just have them go to town.  Mine don’t really want to work on this for longer than 5 or 10 minutes, but that’s at least something educational they can do while you make lunch or do the dishes.  Set them up with it twice a day and that’s almost 20 minutes of their little brains being engaged!

Here are some ideas for what to have them trace:

  • Letters
  • Numbers
  • Their name
  • Their address
  • Family members’ names
  • Kids with some spelling skill can trace a writing prompt, like “Once Upon a Time,” and then fill in their own story (probably with your help.)

Age appropriate workbooks

My kids love these!  They aren’t that expensive, and you can have them shipped right to your door.  We have ones that work on pencil control, spelling, letters, numbers, coloring in the lines, math, and Spanish.  We usually work on them for like 15-20 minutes a day. Well, my older one does. My little one does about as much as she can sit still for. 

This does take some supervision and patience.  That’s why we don’t do it for hours on end. Just keep their age and skill set in mind, and teach with love and empathy.

Here are some of the books we love:

Educational videos

Youtube gets pretty demonized in mom circles.  And yes, there are dangers present to be aware of.  But supervised Youtube consumption isn’t necessarily a bad thing!  My kids have honestly learned a lot of things from it.

I’m not one of those moms that’s naturally great at fun, imaginative stuff.  Not trying to be a downer, but it’s true. Not everyone is Miss Frizzle. That’s where ya boy Youtube comes in.  There are some great channels out there with cute songs that can teach your child about numbers, letters, spelling, outer space.  Those are my kids’ favorites currently! They are obsessed with outer space, and have learned a decent amount about the solar system in a short time.

Here is a list of channels we like:

  • The Singing Walrus
  • Planet Cosmo
  • Kids Learning Tube
  • Oh My Genius
  • Slick Slime Sam

Outdoor sports

Since a lot of sports are on pause right now, kids are missing out on that physical activity, and time with friends.  Sports also teach kids about discipline, hard work, and following directions. Well, since we can’t do anything about the “time with friends” currently, we can at least get some activity in.

Livvie plays t-ball, and since the season is on pause (it was set to resume in April), we have been getting some practice in our backyard. We ordered a t-ball set on Amazon a while back for pretty cheap, and it’s a fun way to burn off some energy. And practice for when the season starts again. If you have more than one kid, you can have one be the batter, and the other one can run the ball back to them, and then take turns!

Helping around the house

This one is, I’ll admit, a bit self-serving, but the kids enjoy it.  Our kids are currently working to “earn” a swing set for our yard around the end of April.  How are they earning? They’re big enough to enter the world of doing chores. Also known as: Being mommy’s servant.

Just kidding.  I’m still letting them have a childhood.  But each day there are certain things they need to do to work toward earning their awesome swing set.

Our little one, Amelia, is expected to:

  • Pick up toys when asked
  • Help me start the washer or dishwasher
  • Work hard at potty training
  • Sleep in her own room

Our big kid, Olivia:

  • Has to pick up toys, help me start the washer and dishwasher, and sleep in her own room, same as little sis.
  • She also has to feed the pets each morning and for dinner
  • I also ask that she clean up her own spills, and put her own cups and dishes in the sink when done

It’s not much, but these little tasks take some stress off of you, and eat up a little bit of time each day.  Plus, it teaches them responsibility and independence.

Click here to download your free PDF copy of this chore chart to print out and use today

Facetiming loved ones

No matter what kind of phone or computer you have, most brands offer a free form of video chat (Facetime, Skype, etc.)  My little social butterflies are missing their grandparents a lot! We are used to seeing each grandma at least once a week since they both live nearby.  Video chatting is a great alternative to that.

It’s free and I bet your loved ones will love a call from the kids.  I know mine can be pretty entertaining.  

Reading books

Early literacy is such a great skill for little ones.  Learning to read (and being read to by mom or dad!) has the obvious academic benefit.  Reading is a skill they will need as they progress in their schooling. But reading also flexes their imagination muscles, and can teach them confidence as they learn how to do it themselves.

We have more books than we can count but here are some of our faves:

Independent play

I’m gonna share a mind-blowing secret with you.  Do you think you can handle it? Ready?

Psst…  You don’t have to interact with your kids all day.  Yes, you do have to show up and feed them and play with them and get them dressed.  But your mental health is also important. It is difficult for children to thrive when Mama’s not doing so well emotionally.  The solution? Independent play!

Especially for kids with siblings, this is a great way to boost their imagination and teach them about taking initiative.  I spend some time each day reading a book I enjoy while my almost 5 year old and my 3 year old play together. It is life changing.  They get to bond and play, and I get to keep a little shred of sanity.

Dance parties

We’re a big fan of dance parties! No, I’m not the best at being carefree and fun-loving, but this is a great way to access that side of me. And it helps the kids burn off some energy at the same time. We use our Echo Dot and let the kids request favorites. Right now, that’s Taylor Swift, and anything from “The Greatest Showman.”

We all burn off some energy, get some positive movement in, and get to enjoy some silly time together.  Plus, I mean, seeing Daddy dance with his kids? Oof. Priceless!

Playing “monster”

I’ll admit, this one is more of a kids and Daddy game in our house.  Just being honest, it’s not really my speed. But they look forward to it all day long, and it’s another way to have them get a bunch of energy out before bed.

The concept is simple.  Daddy is the monster and “chases” them around the kitchen/front room/entryway area of our house.  (Really, he mostly stands in one spot and catches them when they circle back around. They haven’t caught on to his trick yet.)  Sometimes, they take turns, and chase him. It always leads to them collapsing in giggles, which is so fun to watch.

things kids can do, ways to stay busy, kid playing with blocks

Building blocks

I love any kind of toy that teaches them about building and using their imagination.  Blocks, legos, magnetic tiles… These sorts of toys are favorites for us.  They don’t take much supervision, unless you have a small baby around and are worried about little pieces.  And they don’t make too much of a mess.  Just make the kids keep them on a table and voila!

They can “free” build and just use their imagination, or you could give them little objectives, like use the blocks to spell their name or just form random letters or numbers.  Really, the options with blocks are pretty endless.

Playing with pets

My kids have been enjoying all this time indoors by playing with our pets!  We have a 7 year old white German Shepherd mix named River (short for Professor River Song) and an almost 2 year old kitty named Maki (Machiavelli). There are lots of little things kids can do throughout the day to enjoy time with furry friends.

We particularly enjoy:

  • Chasing them around
  • Giving them pets
  • Helping feed them
  • Making the dog do a trick for a treat

Kinda basic, but again, it takes up some time if you’re feeling frazzled and bored.

Imaginative play

We’re so into this lately!  It’s great because literally anything can be anything.  You could take the most simple concept and turn it into a game they can play for 20 minutes.  You don’t really need any set-up or tools necessarily. All they need is an imagination, and probably some toys they already have lying around.

Here are some “genius” ideas from my two goons that you can share with your bored kiddos:

  • Playing school
  • Playing “grandma” (where one of them is the grandma and one is the baby)
  • Pretending to play house
  • Taking care of a baby doll
  • Running from “the thief” (I don’t know where they got that one to be honest, but whatever.  It keeps them busy.)

Snuggle

This is free and really really beneficial, both for the kiddos and for mom.  According to one article from A Mother Far From Home, cuddles have 5 benefits:

  • It releases oxytocin, which is a chemical that makes you feel happy!
  • Helps build trust between you (“By giving your child the physical affection they crave, they don’t need to seek it out elsewhere.”)
  • Reduces stress and releases serotonin (another feel good chemical)
  • Tells them you love them
  • Shows them they are safe

It doesn’t cost you anything, and is more valuable than you could ever express.  Put on “Frozen 2” and snuggle away.  Your kids will always remember those moments.  And while they watch “Frozen 2”, you can watch “Criminal Minds” quietly on your phone.  I won’t tell if you won’t.

staying busy with kids, snuggling with kids, parenting

Answer their damn questions

Normally, this is one of the more stressful parts of motherhood.  “Mom, why is the Earth round?” “How many miles are we from the sun?” “How old is Grandma?” “Why are colors colors?”

I totally get it.  Sometimes by the end of the day, I am tired of being talked at.  It’s draining, and sometimes you just don’t know the answer. But if you are looking for fun things to do with kids that take up some time in your long, long day, answer the questions!

My little ones like asking Siri questions like “How old is the Earth?” For those living under a rock, that then links to a web article you can look at and learn a little something.  Yes, often they repeatedly ask Siri the same questions over and over. But who cares? It helps nurture their curiosity and helps mom sit idle while her kids learn. Total win.

Have quality conversations

When you’re trying to stay distant from others, your kids are gonna ask questions.  It’s completely normal.  

It feels easier to make up bullshit answers.  Honestly, when this all started that’s what I did.  “Oh Grandma’s going to the store today. Yeah, sorry, the park’s on vacation.” 

But the more I did that, the more I realized that the kids deserve the truth.  Now, don’t purposely give them frightening information. After all, you want them to feel safe.  But you can tell them that right now, to stay healthy, we need to stay at home for a little while.  There are ways to tell them what is going on without freaking them out. And that will help foster trust, which I’m hoping pays off in the teenage years when I want them to be honest with me!

Pick a language to learn

This is way easier said than done, but here’s another way you can pass 15-20 minutes a day without leaving your house.  Whether you go old school and order a book online, or find an app to use, learning languages is so beneficial for kiddos!

For instance, in our house, Olivia told me she wanted to learn Spanish.  So, I ordered an age appropriate workbook and we work on it a few times a week for about 10 minutes.  In between those sessions, I randomly quiz her on things I’ve taught her so far. “How do you say ‘hello’ in Spanish?  Can you count to 10? How do you say ‘thank you’?”

She loves it so far, and is so proud of herself when we practice.  Those smiles melt even my super frosty, stressed out heart.

Potty train the little ones

Yep, I said it.  I don’t think anyone really enjoys potty training.  But if we’re all stuck inside for the time being, may as well give it a shot.  That way they can get the basics down before you’re busy hauling them from place to place again and worrying about finding a bathroom for them.

As I said, I’d be hard-pressed to find someone who actually enjoys this.  I find it freaking stressful and time consuming. But, I don’t really think the Universe could have gifted toddler moms a better time to just rip the band-aid off and do it.

Here are some ways we make a shitty (see what I did there?) parent thing a little more fun in our house:

  • Sticker charts!  This never worked with my oldest.  She refused to even touch it the potty until she was ready, even though I tried all the tricks in the book.  Youngest likes her chart, and getting a few M&Ms for a successful potty trip.
  • She likes to bring her Potty book in there and look at it while she goes.
  • I just go over-the-freaking-top with praise.  Make it like a little party whenever she goes, and dance and act silly.  It often feels forced when you’re super stressed, but it makes them feel good about themselves.

Don’t let staying busy with kids burn you out.

fun things to do with kids

I don’t know when we’ll get to stop isolating.  I’m not a scientist. But I do know that our ancestors have experienced seasons like this in the past, and we’re all here to tell the tale. In the mean time, there are plenty of things kids can do to keep themselves occupied.

I know it’s a bit- or even a lot– scary.  We fear the unknown.  And yes, sometimes our kids make us want to scream into the void. But follow these tips, and I promise the day can be at least less stressful.  Finding joy, and not losing your damn mind, even for five minutes at a time, can feel like a massive victory.

What are some of your favorite ways to stay busy?

Share your ideas in the comments, and make sure to share the article!


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Related articles about parenting and anxiety:

Tips for Anxiety

What to do when you’re struggling

5 simple ways to avoid burnout

42 thoughts on “19 fun things to do with kids (And how to not lose your mind when you’re trapped at home!)”

  1. These are such fun ideas! I have had very little patience lately and these ideas are just what I needed. Thanks!

  2. These are some wonderful ideas! I have a baby who still likes to eat every 2 hours through the night, so I do find myself getting overwhelmed more quickly on the days I don’t have enough”planned” for my older kids. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks! I appreciate it. That’s gotta be tough. Hope the baby let’s you get more sleep soon 🙂 Thanks for reading.

  3. Awe these are all such fun ideas! I don’t have any kids right now, I just have a cat and thankfully he doesn’t require too much to be entertained!

  4. We don’t have kids, but we have nieces and nephews that we love dearly. Facebook messenger actually has an app specifically for children that allows you to better control who they are talking to while allowing for that communication right now!

    1. I’ve seen that, but I haven’t checked it out. It’s such a great idea. I’ll have to look at that today. Thanks for reading!

  5. I love the chore chart! Great ideas- Giving kids quality time and a variety of exercises truly is necessary especially in these uncertain times.

    1. Thanks! It’s hard being with them all day, not gonna lie. being TOUCHED AND TALKED TO ALL DAY LONG. lol. But it’s doable 🙂

  6. I’m actually wishing my kids were younger after reading your list. Mine are currently 14, 20 and 25. I’ve tried to get them engaged in some fun activities, but they “aren’t feeling it.” The 14-year-old is at least honest enough to tell me, “Mom, I’m a teenager trapped at home with you all day. I’m going to my room now.”

    1. Haha, thanks! It’s really easier to entertain them sometimes than we think. We have a tendency to over-complicate things.

  7. We chose this time to potty train my older son (2.5 years) and yes it was stressful but now its done and hes doing awesome!! We had nowhere else to go so this was the perfect time!

    1. It sucks, but why not? My 3 year old is doing great and I’m almost ready to pull the trigger on trying undies during the day. But still a little scared. LOL.

  8. Yes all the ideas are great in this time when we all are spending our days inside our houses. My one of the favorite fun activity with kids is building a house with a deck of cards. Its so much fun and also require a lot of concentration. Kids also enjoy it very much.

    1. Oh fun! I haven’t tried that since I was a kid! That might be neat to try with my oldest. Thanks for the idea.

    1. It seems daunting but it helps to just start slow and stick to it. She likes “the clean up song” on youtube for motivation!

  9. Great list…we love dance parties at my house too! We’ve been blasting the music in the evening…even my husband is grooving on the couch 😆
    I love the new language idea…I haven’t thought of that. 💡

    1. I know it’s a very “Gwyneth Paltrow” suggestion and she’s a little polarizing, but it’s not too hard to manage just a few min a day. Especially in our case, where I already know enough spanish to easily teach it to our kiddos.

  10. wow, this is such a great list! you have literally thought of everything haha there are a few on here that my son is doing (some of which he didn’t do before) and others that I will need to try!

  11. Great ideas! I don’t have kids but I’m still doing some painting and drawing! I’ve even convinced myself that I’d be amazing with modeling clay & that I need to buy loads (I’m not, I know I’m not, but that won’t stop me)!

    I hope you’re all keeping well!

    1. Ooh, modeling clay sounds fun!! Thanks, we’re hanging in there. Trying to not let anxiety get the best of us.

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