31 parent-approved indoor activities to keep children occupied during lockdown

Marie Claire Dorking
·11-min read
Keep children occupied indoors while the weather isn't so good. (Getty Images)
Keep children occupied indoors while the weather isn't so good. (Getty Images)

As most parents will testify, trying to keep the kids entertained during the coronavirus lockdown has been difficult enough while the sun has been shining.

But, with weather apps predicting a prolonged period of rain, parents have been left scrambling to seek out activities to keep their children occupied indoors.

And as many are already taking on the role of rookie teacher while schools are closed thanks to the COVID-19 outbreak, finding inspiration for fun-yet-easy ideas to keep the boredom at bay is yet another task for the to-do list.

But, frazzled parents, fear not. Yahoo UK has crowdsourced the parenting world to come up with a comprehensive list of fun rainy-day activities for little ones. Minimum effort required.

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1. Dye your child’s hair with tissue paper

Kids begging you for a new lockdown look? Why not try dying their hair with tissue paper? Whether your little one fancies a dip-dye effect or full head of hair colour, all you have to do is cut up the paper into strips, add them to a bowl of warm salt water, then soak the hair in the mixture for 15 minutes before washing it out. Another kid-friendly technique for an ombré is simply wetting the paper and tying it to the ends of the hair using elastics. You might want to wash it all out before bed though as we can’t promise it won’t stain their sheets...

2. Build a DIY fort

From old cardboard boxes, Christmas tree lights and bedsheets. Need a little self-build guidance? Space Station have produced a guide on how to create the ultimate cardboard fort. Eat your heart out Kevin McCloud.

Build a den out of sheets and Christmas lights.(Getty Images)
Build a den out of sheets and Christmas lights.(Getty Images)

3. Host a scavenger hunt

From getting them to find 10 items all beginning with the same letter, to creating your own clue-laden treasure map, indoor scavenger hunts are a great way to keep the bad weather boredom at bay. If you’re short on time (and patience!) download a ready-made outline or make it personal with clues linked to their lives ‘where your favourite cuddly toy lives’. This self-directed activity empowers children to complete a task on their own (or co-operatively if they’re playing with siblings). It also helps little ones learn about sequencing, which is the importance of following steps in order.

4. Press some flowers

Learn to re-love an old school activity by pressing some flowers and creating a picture or card for a loved one. The Natural History Museum has a step-by-step guide to pressing flowers using books and other materials you’ll likely have at home.

5. Try your hand at marbling

Start with shaving cream in a large flat container, use kids medicine dispensers or eye droppers to add paint, and swirl. Lightly press the paper on top and scrape away the excess. Done! For the full tutorial see The Artful Parent.

Make your own playdough with store cupboard ingredients. (Getty Images)
Make your own playdough with store cupboard ingredients. (Getty Images)

6. Make your own playdough

Didn’t stock up on the playdough before lockdown? Did you realise you can make your own in next to no time from everyday ingredients found in your kitchen cupboards? BBC Good Food has a super-easy playdough recipe to while away a rainy afternoon inside using just plain flour, salt, vegetable oil, water and food colouring.

7. Freeze some of your child’s toys and let them ‘excavate’ them

We have a dad to thank for this simple yet clever trick to keep kids occupied during quarantine. Duncan Gillespie, 38, put his sons’ toys in the freezer overnight. In the morning, it was his sons’ job to try to unfreeze them, using their creative minds to try to think of ways to get the toys out of the ice quickly. The dad reported it kept his little ones occupied for an hour. If you want to try this at home, fill a Tupperware box with water, put toys in it and then freeze them overnight.

8. Take on a family TikTok challenge

Are you even in lockdown if you haven’t taken on a TikTok dance challenge? Why not join the kids by learning a family dance in 15 seconds or less. If it’s good enough for JLo, A-Rod and their kids?

9. Tie dye some baby wipes

Switch up some spare wipes by turning them into art. Similar to how you would dip dye a shirt, you can dip dye baby wipes or other scraps of white fabric by tying them up with rubber bands and colouring each section with a different hue. Take off the rubber bands for the tie dye art reveal. Obviously if you want to set them loose on an actual T-shirt be our guests. Get the baby wipe tutorial at I Can Teach My Child.

10. Set them a Lego challenge

Give your child 20 Lego/Duplo bricks and see how many structures they can build with them. LEGOLAND Windsor recently launched 30-day LEGO build challenge, each day kids have something new to build, which helps get their creative hats on.

Throw a kitchen disco. (Getty Images)
Throw a kitchen disco. (Getty Images)

11. Make Potato stamps

Small children and toddlers in particular will love using these simple stamps via the good folks at BBC Good Food to make pictures and cards. And the only adult input is making the potato stamps first, then prepping the paint. No potatoes? Try hand and finger painting instead.

12. Play the flour game

If you can find some of course! Make a flour ‘cake’ by packing a bowl tightly with flour then turning it out. Put a cherry (Grape, raison, anything will do) on top and take turns to cut ‘slices’. Whoever knocks the cherry off has to pick it up with their mouth! Cue much flour face hilarity!

13. Paint an ice rainbow

Show your support for the NHS by encouraging your kids to paint a rainbow with coloured ice. Simply fill ice cube trays with water, add a drop of food colouring and an ice lolly stick (or any stick will do) and freeze overnight. The next day, let kids loose with the ice ‘paint’. Disclaimer, make sure you protect your surfaces as food colouring can stain. See the full tutorial at Easy Peasy and Fun.

14. Play the tidy up game

From having a tidy up disco to giving them a list of things to tidy up within a time limit there are plenty of ways to inject a bit of fun into household chores. The beauty of this is that you tick off the tidying done while occupying them too! Winning!

15. Hold a kitchen disco

Easiest rainy day activity ever! Stick on the music, dig out a disco ball and bust some Beyonce-inspired moves. Need some playlist inspo? Sophie Ellis Bexter has been putting on kitchen disco gigs with her family since the UK was put into lockdown. The singer has been turning her kitchen into a stage and putting on a live performance every week and it’s the most brilliant yet chaotic thing ever.

16. Open a home salon

Can’t visit your usual beauty salon, get your kids to give you a makeover instead. Let them loose on the make-up, nail varnish and hair bobbles for a unique lockdown look. Up side - it keeps kids occupied. Downside - you may well come out of the salon looking worse than you went in. Think lipstick all over your cheeks and blusher on your eyelids. Nice!

Let them loose on a T-shirt to unleash their inner fashion designer. (Getty Images)
Let them loose on a T-shirt to unleash their inner fashion designer. (Getty Images)

17. Unleash their inner fashion designer

All you need is a plain T-shirt and some Sharpies then let them loose on their designer Tees of choice!

18. Set a letter writing challenge

First create a post box. A shoe, teabag or cereal box painted or coloured red will work. Cut out a ‘letter’ sized slot then bargain with your kids to write collection of letters. To their school friends, the relatives they are missing, to the tooth fairy or even to you! ‘Post’ them into the DIY post box until you can get to the actual post box.

19. Make chores fun

Struggling to match up the socks during lockdown, or always? Play the game of who can match the most socks the fastest. Problem solved!

20. Do some balloon play

Child psychologist Doctor Amanda Gummer recommends balloons as a way of entertaining and educating children during this time. “With the Coronavirus pandemic resulting in limited outdoor play opportunities, inexpensive and accessible balloon play provides a low impact, safe and simple way of bringing joy to children and boosting both wellbeing and physical health, by creating engagement, supporting physical and cognitive development and increasing activity levels,” she says.

Doctor Gummer has worked with Party Safe to put together some suggestions of activities with balloons to try out during rainy day lockdown. Meanwhile Guinness World Record holder Ryan Tracey shows how to make fun balloon sculptures for kids.

21. Create an Escape Room

Escape rooms aren’t just for adults. “Find a cupboard or wardrobe in your house and hide some objects inside,” suggests Hester Grainger, blogger at Mumala Club. “They can be large or small. Then write out clues, associated with each item and set a timer. The winner is the person that solves the clues and finds the items first, within the set time limit!”

22. Set up a glow in the dark bowling alley

According to AO Life all you need to do is fill some water bottles (2L bottles work best) with water and then drop in some glow sticks. Easy! They have some other great suggestions for indoor activities including making rainbow soap bubbles with washing up liquid, food colouring, water and an electric mixer.

23. Attend a virtual gig

Last Friday evening CBeebies fave presenter, Andy Day, and his band, Andy and the Odd Socks, held a virtual gig on their Facebook page for kids and their parents. The online gig was a huge success as the band welcomed over 40,000 fans to rock out with the band! But even if you missed it children can still view the online gig via Facebook and Youtube.

24. Anyone for tennis?

It may be raining but kids can still learn how to swing a racket. The LTA has released a series of 12 easy-to-follow 'Tennis at home' training videos to help children uncover their hidden Andy Murray.

25. Get crafty with rubbish

Rediscover your inner Blue Peter presenter by turning rubbish into make-shift craft kits for kids. Not au fait with a glue gun? Hobbycraft has tonnes of ideas to help little ones turn throwaway trash into craft treasure, such as turning empty bottles into a rocket pack, old toilet roll holders into a telescope, or simply painting stones into ladybirds.

26. Make an indoor garden with coffee pots

Just because it is raining outside doesn’t mean you can’t get green fingered inside. Why not encourage your children to start their own indoor garden with used coffee pods from Halo Coffee. The capsules are totally sustainable and the pods breakdown in 28 days and they make great little starters for seeds!

Host a tea party with 'grown up' tea. (Getty Images)
Host a tea party with 'grown up' tea. (Getty Images)

27. Host a tea party

What small child doesn’t love having a tea party? But now, instead of pretending to pour their tea from a toy teapot kids can actually have their own cuppa. Small & Wild is a herbal tea company for children, so they can now host themselves a tea party with real ‘grown up’ tea.

28. Throw a mocktail party

Virgin mojito anyone? Launch a competition for little ones to create their own special mocktail or order in a specialist ‘mocktail’ party pack. Double Dutch has an alcohol-free fun party pack (£43.20) perfect for kids which includes games such as Dobble, a Grow Your Own Cucamelon, that tastes like a combination of cucumber, lime and watermelon, alongside recipes for all the best mocktails.

29. Host a Pyjama Day

BookTrust is holding its annual Pyjamarama day of fun on Friday May 1. It usually takes place in schools, but for the first time ever will be online this year - for obvious reasons. Families should stay in their PJs while enjoying a whole host of reading and story-based activities together with a selection of famous faces.

20. Make your own Piñata

Wahaca At Home has a great template for making your own pinata from Wahaca co-founder Thomasina Miers. Not only is making one (and reaping the rewards of what’s inside) fun but educational too, what with the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo coming up next week.

31. Try to break a world record

According to kids bed specialist, Cuckooland, the trend for the search term 'easy world records to break' has peaked over the past few months and has increased by 50% between February and March, as people look to become a lockdown record holder. Some of the stranger records you can attempt at home, include: becoming the fastest at solving 3 Rubix cubes simultaneously using hands and feet and bounding the most ping pong balls against a wall with your mouth in 30 seconds.