If the weather’s bad and you’re spending the day indoors with your children, you don’t need to watch TV or play computer games all day. With minimal (or even no) financial outlay and only a little imagination from you, your children can still have an enjoyable, creative time with minimal mess, disruption and noise!
We’ve arranged our activity ideas by age but these are only guides – your children may enjoy doing things in any of the age groups we’ve suggested.
Our favourite thing to do – for any age!
Make a ‘family capsule’ – a memory box from things around the home that represent you as a family. You can include anything that doesn’t go off – photos, old favourite toys, tickets from trips out, painted pictures of each other, favourite things such as a crisps packet or completed score sheet from a board game, or maybe some stories. You could even add today’s newspaper.
You could stretch this activity into a longer project lasting the whole holiday, involving every family member – even grandparents and others who don’t live with you.
When you’ve finished, put the items in a box and write the date on the lid, and the date the box can next be opened (it could be one of your children’s birthdays, or a new year’s day in five or 10 years’ time). Put it away in the loft or in a cupboard until then (or if you’re confident that you’ll still live in the house on the designated date, you could even bury it in the garden).
Act out a story – you could use sock puppets with old buttons or stickers for eyes, or simply use a favourite teddy. It could be about what happened on a recent day out or family event, or a fantasy about landing on the moon – anything goes!
Take a pretend journey – arrange chairs in a line to represent a train or a bus and take it in turns to pretend to be the driver, using a plastic plate for a wheel. Discuss where you’re going, what you see on the way and what you’ll do when you get to your destination – and don’t forget to collect the fare! If there are only two of you, you could arrange the chairs alongside each other instead and pretend to be going on a taxi ride.
Make a sand-free sandbox – fill a large roasting tin or washing-up bowl with rice, oatmeal or pasta shapes and add spoons, funnels and scoops as well as other small toys your children like playing with.
Make playdough – playdoughrecipe.com offers over 20 recipes for homemade playdough, including edible chocolate ones and those that glow in the dark. All use ingredients that you’re likely to already have in. This is two activities in one, as after making the dough to the consistency and colour of their choosing, your children can turn it into exciting shapes!
Have an indoor picnic – firstly, make and decorate some flower shapes from paper or cardboard and bake some biscuits or a cake. Then clear away furniture, put a rug on the floor along with the flowers and enjoy sandwiches, lemonade and some home-made cakes or biscuits.
Dress up – get out some fancy dress outfits, or some old clothes, and props and help your children to put on a play, perhaps inspired by a scene-setter from you (which could be something like ‘Once upon a time in Rainy Days Kingdom, a prince woke up to find he had grown another head…’).
Put on a treasure hunt – you can use every room in your house and use clues ranging from easy picture cues to trickier puns to direct your children to a hidden prize. Depending on the degree of your input and preparation, you can make this a quick, easy activity or a more in-depth one.
Make bunting – cut out triangles (or, for something a bit more original and unique, the outline of all your feet or hands) onto some card and decorate with anything you have to hand. You could use old buttons or fabrics, feathers, or food such as raisins, cereal and sweets. Just thread the shapes together to turn them into strings of bunting.
Make a film – if you have a video camera, get your children to act out a play or dance routine and film it, then have fun watching it later on.
Play ‘soft golf’ – make a club by rolling up several sheets of newspaper tightly, and create some balls by scrunching up some paper (or use some of your own soft balls). Put masking tape or paper on the floor to represent ‘holes’ and use the club to try to hit/roll the ball into the hole.
Historical research – using the internet or any relevant reference books you might have, research what happened on the day (or the month or even year) your child was born. They could then create an illustrated display board of what happened.
Money-saving challenge – share your most recent utility bills with your children (electricity, gas, phone/Broadband/TV) and challenge them to use the internet to see if they can find a cheaper tariff. They’ll need to compare the various elements that make up each bill – both the standing charge and the cost per unit – and weigh these up to determine the cheapest option. You could even offer a prize based on a proportion of your estimated annual savings!
Research a day out – give your children a budget (real or imaginary) – say, £50 – and ask them to research and cost a local day out for all the family when the weather improves, including any entry fee as well as related costs such as travel, food and drink, souvenirs etc. As well as honing their maths and budgeting skills it could be an eye-opener for them to find out the true potential cost of a single family trip, which may make them appreciate it even more if you decide to take them on it! You could adapt this idea to include a ‘presentation’ on why they want to go on a particular day out.
You could even dress up in waterproofs and brave it outside anyway – it is summer, after all. Get out your bikes or, with younger children, jump in puddles, do impressions of fish and ducks, dance to ‘Singing in the Rain’ and then come back indoors for some freshly baked biscuits.