It’s heartening to notice the days starting to get longer, but the afternoons are often too wet, cold, or muddy to be outdoors. We all know that too much time in front of the games console or TV can have a negative impact on our children (see our previous post on the impact of TV on child development), but it’s hard to keep thinking up new things for them to do when you’ve played all the board games and done all the puzzles in the house.
Occupational therapist Nikki van Rensburg has come up with ten great ideas for indoor play to keep kids busy, exercised and entertained indoors. Some are old favourites you might have forgotten, and there are some you might not have tried before.
1. Indoor Hopscotch
Bring the playground indoors and create your own Hopscotch game. Use chalk if you have a hard floor, masking tape on a carpet, or sheets of paper placed on the floor with the numbers drawn on them. Here’s what the grid should look like – Google the rules or make up your own!
Good for – co-ordination, taking turns, numeracy, motor planning, bilateral integration (using the two sides of the body together)
2. Hide and Seek
Such a basic one, but all children love this game, even the older ones, who can play in the dark for a bit of extra excitement as long as there aren’t any obstacles lying around on the floor. Little ones can stay surprisingly still and quiet if it means getting one up on the bigger ones, and they can fit into smaller spaces. Tip if you’re joining in - long curtains make a great hiding place.
Good for – independent thinking, patience
3. Treasure Hunt
Even if you don’t have much space you can write clues that send children backwards and forwards between the same rooms many times, and you can make the clues as easy or difficult as needed. Hide scraps of paper inside books, and write a riddle they have to work out to find the right title and page number to discover the next clue. Older children can make up their own clues if you give them a bit of help to get them going. For some great clue ideas visit www.mykidsadventures.com/treasure-hunt-kids-guide/ and scroll down to No.2 Plan Your Clues.
Good for - problem solving, teamwork
4. Make your own board game
All you need for this is paper, a ruler and pens. Draw out squares for a Snakes and Ladders board but replace the snakes and ladders with inventive methods of sending the counters up and down. Get creative with drawing alternative Ludo boards, or encourage older children to be really creative and make up their own game with instructions and playing pieces.
Good for – creativity, fine motor skills
5. Pretend Play with cardboard boxes
This is one of the simplest ways to keep young children occupied and entertained. Give them a big cardboard box or two and it’s guaranteed to fire up their imagination. The possibilities for pretend play are endless – a house, space ship, boat, tunnel, cave. You can take it a step further and decorate the box, adding on cardboard tube chimneys or exhaust pipe.
Good for – imaginative play, creativity
6. Freeze dance
When they really need to let off steam, put on some good dancing music and encourage them to dance their hearts out. You can also introduce aerobic exercises such as star jumps, and little ones especially love it when you shout ‘freeze!’ and they have to keep stock still until the music starts again.
Good for – physical exercise, self-expression, strengthening (holding a still positions can be challenging!)
7. Make a theatre in a box
Turn a shoe-box or other box on its side, and make slits in the side and top. Draw simple figures or cut them out from a magazine and stick onto card, and tape or glue them to ice-lolly sticks, plastic straws or strips of thick cardboard, which you can use to slide them across the ‘stage’ through the slits in the sides of the box. Older children can make backdrops to insert through the slits in the top, decorated with different scenes, or even fabric curtains attached to a piece of string along the top. And of course you can take it a step further and get them to write their own plays.
Good for – creativity, imagination, fine motor skills
Baking, or preparing a simple meal, is a great way to keep children busy and develop an important skill. You can look up recipes suitable for children online if you need inspiration, but chocolate chip cookies and cupcakes always go down well, and are fun to decorate afterwards. Little ones can help you prepare the teatime meal, weighing and counting ingredients, stirring, laying the table etc.
Good for – following instructions, creativity, fine motor coordination and strength
Hula-hoops are inexpensive and a great way to exercise indoors but you will need a bit more room. Time children to see how long they can keep going. Energetic music will encourage them to put more effort in and go faster. They can also use the hula-hoop as a target on the floor for throwing a soft ball into to score points, gradually moving it further away.
Good for – physical exercise, gross motor skills, motor planning, ball skills in general
10. Keepy Uppy with a twist
This is a great activity for little ones to play on their own, or with you. Use a balloon instead of a ball and either take turns to bat the balloon before it touches the ground, or make it more challenging by introducing different moves that have to be completed before the balloon comes back down, eg touch your toes, then touch your toes and turn around once, adding an extra move each time.
Good for - co-ordination, following instructions, motor planning, upper limb strengthening
If your child experiences any difficulty that affects their ability to achieve the typical things that children do on a day-to-day basis, like the activities above, call us on 0208 6737930 to find out if occupational therapy could help. Occupational therapy is used to assess and treat children who have difficulty with sensory processing, physical development, and learning and concentration.