Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

Friday 13 March 2020

60+ Play Ideas for when you're stuck at home

Whether you're stuck at home due to a rainy day, feeling under the weather yourself or having to self-isolate due to a global pandemic (Corona Virus COVID-19 I'm looking at you!), you'll probably find that cabin fever sets in pretty quickly without some quick and easy play activities to keep your little ones entertained!

play ideas for when you're stuck at home

Most of these play at home, indoor activities are super simple to set up, and utilise resources that you will likely have at home anyway. Just in case you don't, I'll include some relevant links to order online for home delivery. (Some of these links may be affiliate links, which means I may earn a small amount of commission on qualifying purchases, but it wont cost you any more to buy them).

Play Ideas for when you're stuck at home

Below are over 60 ideas for stay at home play to keep you busy over a period of time! Many of the resources can be found at home, or ordered easily online. Links are included to other activity posts with more ideas to keep you going...

1. Colour hunt 

colour sorting tray with test tubes and tweezers

A  super simple, but effective activity to get little ones moving and observing their surroundings in more detail, noticing things they may not have seen before. You can play this game as a simple " eye spy with my little eye, something to colour of..." or put together a sorting tray for objects to be collected.

2. Tea party

(Video of our tea party cafe set up at home, with play demo)
For more ideas and inspiration on setting this up, pop over to our blog post "cafe tea rooms role play" here . You can either set this up using pretend food, or, for a bit of extra fun, why not use real food for lunchtime and dinner time? You and your child/children can take on the role of cafe owner and customer - ordering and serving food. You can extend this one as much as you like, adding in a bit of maths and calculating for the bill, and using real money to pay.

3. Indoor Obstacle course

The Ikea Gym Mat is brilliant for this as it can be laid out flat, or folder up into a step or a bench to jump over and climb up. If you don't have one of these already, use a few cushions on the floor as stepping stones, lay out a blanket as a 'river' to cross, hop over a book or two and weave in and out of a few beanbags. 'Balance' along a strip of washi tape on the floor and finish with some star jumps! The possibilities are endless and this is sure to help burn off a bit of excess energy.

4. Cutlery sorting, sock pairing

Now might be a great time to give your cutlery draw a good clean out, and who better to help you sort them into groups and sizes than your little ones? This is a job I give to my 2 year old when I empty the dishwasher - she loves to help put the cutlery away into the right spaces.

Whilst you're at it, why not use this time to tackle that box of odd socks you've been collecting? Points for whoever can find the most pairs!

5. Toy wash 

tuff tray with wash bowl and dinosaurs with children washing the toys

If you are a little germ ridden (or even if you're not!) it is a good idea to give the toys a clean every now and then. We set up a dinosaur washing station on our tuff tray at home. You can just use a tub or a bowl of soapy water, but we made this a bit more exciting by using the pump-action sink from our mud kitchen to rinse the bubbles off! Have a range of cloths and sponges, and if you're worried about a wet floor, put an oil cloth down or do it in the bath/shower!

6. Toy sort

Very similar to sorting cutlery, but a bit more exciting! Have a sort out and challenge your children to group their toys into certain categories such as vehicles, wooden materials, metal, plastic, soft/hard. It's a great way to notice properties and build language in little ones.

7. Number hunt

If you have a child safe camera such as the kiddi zoom camera then set them off on a number hunt around the house and challenge them to take a photo every time they find one. (If not, maybe let them use your ipad or phone?) ...when they return, you can look through the images together and name and recognise the number and ask them to complete a challenge relating to that number - such as 6 hops, or 4 pats on the head etc.

If you don't have a camera, give them a piece of paper and a pencil and let them write down every number they find instead.

8. Letter hunt

Similar to the number hunt, but this time, once they come back with the letters they find, challenge them to name an animal or an object starting with that letter sound! Perhaps think of some letter pairs for each sound - such as "silly sausage" or "pink, pointy pencil" etc

9. Shape hunt

shape bean bags with washi tape shape outlines on the floor

Your children  can go on a 'shape hunt' just like the number and letter hunt above. Help them to notice everyday items that may look like certain shapes - such as rectangle tables, triangle sandwiches etc. Small objects could be collected and grouped into shapes. 

Above is an example of a shape activity we set up using these shape beanbags, if you would like to read more about this activity, with ideas and learning outcomes you can do so in this blog post of toddler activities roundups.

10. Cheerio spaghetti threading

banana with cheerios threaded on spaghetti fine motor activity

This is an old favourite using items you will likely have around the house! A banana, some spaghetti sticks and some cheerios or dried pasta hoops! Encourage your children to thread the hoops onto the spaghetti. Older children could be challenged to see how many they can complete within a set amount of time and then asked to count or find a total. The best thing about this activity, is having a munch on it when you've finished!

11. Board games and card games

Most of us will have a board game or two at home, but if not, you can easily make your own - snakes and ladders style!! This is a fab one for encouraging counting with 1:1 correspondence when 'jumping' fowards,  encouraging 'subitising' when recognising the number of spots on a dice and talking about jumping backwards and forwards etc.

Just grab a sheet of paper and split into grid squares, number them and add some snakes and a few ladders, with perhaps a few added instructions such as " miss a go" (sounding out and tricky word recognition there too!) or "go again".

You can also introduce your children to some classic card games that will get them thinking such as free online cribbage. This can also encourage some quality time with grandparents - who are surely cribbage fans!

12. Filling and pouring

water tray with test tubes and water

Perfect for keeping little hands busy for a spell, especially those who may be experiencing the 'trajctory schema' and have a real need to make things move. Filling and pouring is a life skill - We used plastic rainbow shot glasses and chemistry potion bottles from Amazon, but you can just use any cups and containers you have available at home - pup them in a tub or a tray with come water and let them explore!

13. Sink or float

Do make sure you discuss which items are ok to submerge in water and those that aren't before starting this activity (better still, collect some items together) and then place them in a tub of water, observing and talking about which ones float or sink - transparent plastic storage tubs work well for this! Plus, its a great way of getting a bit of extra handwashing in there!

14. Fine motor threading

Threading straws or pipe cleaners through your kitchen colander is fun and easy activity to give you 5 minutes peace. If you don't have straws or pipe cleaners, use spaghetti, or any pasta small enough to 'post' through the holes! If you have no colander, make a few holes in a cardboard box to post objects in and out of!

Here is another idea for making a fine motor pattern tracing board using 3 or 4 items. View the video below for more info...

15. Price labels / shop

Add a bit of learning through play to your toy set up at home by adding price labels to toys and resources - better still, let your child have a go at writing the labels and recognising the numbers! Set up shop and get buying/selling!

16. ‘Sounding out’ hour / robot talk

Help your 4/5 year olds with their phonics by having an hour at home where you only talk in 'robot talk' by sounding out your words phonetically. It is fun and surprisingly addictive! For example: " ar/th/ur     c/a/n    y/oo     p/a/ss   m/ee    the    s/p/oo/n    p/l/ee/s"

17. Treasure basket

Fill a basket with sensory or heuristic, real life items such as wooden spoons, egg cups, whisk, ribbons, sponge, pots, loose parts, bangles, pegs,  lolly sticks, etc ( age appropriate sizes) and let them explore independently

18. Sensory pouches

sensory pouches home made

A super easy DIY activity if you have laminate pouches and a pair of straighteners! Pop over to the blog post on how to make DIY sensory pouches here for more info and instructions. 

19.  Magnetic materials hunt

wooden tray table with magnetic chips and magnetic wand
If you have a magnetic wand such as this  and magnetic chips, or a range of magnetic shapes you can spend some time exploring magnets, and then going on a hunt around the house to find out which objects are and are not magnetic! Talk about items which are not safe to place near magnets such as watches and electronic items.

20. Playdough

playdough with natural resources and wooden tray

The youtube video below gives you a quick and easy example of how to make playdough at home using store cupboard resources...

NB: If you don’t feel like making your own, I do sell homemade gluten free Playdough, play sets and loose parts in my shop here.

You can read this blog post on home made playdough for a recipe and other ideas of how to use the playdough.

21. Movie morning

One of my favourites! Make some homemade popcorn together (great for noticing changes!), or fill up a bowl with some pre-popped sea salt popcorn and get creative with a few added seasonings, perfect for a sofa and movie morning!

We had a variation of this today, with breakfast trays with snacks on the sofa whilst watching a movie - we pretended we were on a long haul flight watching a movie with the tray table down!!

22. Kiddie pong

So quick and easy - grab a handful of plastic/paper cups, bowls, containers and some balls (or scrunched up paper if you have no balls) and challenge your little ones to throw the balls into the cups. Increase the challenge by adding numbers, letters or written words inside the cups for them to read once they score!

23. Timed tower building

Most of us will have building blocks or bricks of some sort at home, weather this is wooden blocks, mega blocks, duplo or lego - grab yourself a sand timer, or set the timer on your phone and have a challenge of who can build the tallest tower before the time runs out!

24. Lego measuring

If you don't have lego, you can use any other smaller parts that you have at hie such as cubes, buttons, beads of even pasta. Lay down on the floor (zzz) and let your child 'measure' how many lego pieces long you are by laying them out next to you.

25. Salt tray writing

sensory salt tray ingredients and resources

You can find full instructions and more images of this sensory fairy salt writing tray here . I used the tub from our role play kitchen and some table salt. Really easy and keeps the kids entertained!

26. Wax resist or watercolour resist  sound/number hunt

child painting with water colour resistance

You can make a watercolour resist painting by adding pva glue to the edges of an image for your child to paint over once dry. 

For older children, use a white crayon on white paper (or another colour paper with the same colour crayon) and write some 'invisible' letters, numbers or words. Give them some water colour paint to wash over the paper and 'discover' the hidden words. Challenge them to recognise/read the words as they find them. 

27. Object sound hunt

Linking into phonics learning for little ones, give your child a 'sound' and challenge them to find as many objects starting with that sound as possible. As with the letter and number hunt, they could photograph these as they find them, or collect all of their items together. Great for consolidating initial sound learning for phonics. 

28. Pattern and letter tracing

wooden name board with pasta and beads filling the letters

We used this wooden name board  for this activity, challenging Charlotte to fill the letters with pasta and beads to work on her fine motor skills. If you don't have a board, simply draw large patterns and letters on to card or paper for your child to lay their loose parts on top.

More info on the desk and the alphabet board (pictured) in my blog post : ikea flisat desk hack

29. Make sensory balls

sensory stress ball made with balloon and cornflour

Although we made this one in the style of 'The Snowman' - this is a great activity just for making plain sensory balls or adding different 'faces' on. Have a look at the video below for instructions:

30. Weed/plant hunt

If you have an enclosed garden, let your little ones outside for some fresh air and to go on a hunt for certain plants/weeds that you know grow in your garden (child safe obviously!) You can either challenge them to photograph the plants or collect some to bring back inside to investigate and play with!

children on tuff tray with rose petals and bowls

31. Flower/plant cutting

Once they have finished exploring the plants they have collected, why not allow them to have a go at snipping the stems and leaves? These children's cutters  are a great way of encouraging pruning skills without having to use real shears!

32. Beanbag balancing

shape beanbags

Although you don't have to use shape beanbags like these, it does add an extra fun element of learning through play. Challenge your child to balance the beanbag on their head/hand/foot/shoulder etc and move in different ways down a given path.

33. Baking

tuff tray with baking resources and vintage weighing scales

tuff tray with baking resourceshome made love heart biscuits

Baking with children is a nice way to incorporate a bit of mathematical learning through counting and measures - with the added benefit of having something yummy to taste at the end of it! Whether you bake biscuits, a cake, homemade pasta or bread - it is the perfect stay at home activity! Have a look at the video below of Arthur and I baking a cake together to see how easy it can be ...

34. Making potions

plastic potion bottles and pipettes

You can find more info on these resources and activity in my post on toddler activities here.  Regardless of whether you have these particular pots, use whatever containers you have and mix up different coloured water. If you want some extra fun, have a go with vinegar and bicarbonate or soda for some fizz!!

35. Dance fun

This can be as easy or as complicated as you want! We have a 'dancing spot' ( a little star rug) which the children stand on to dance. We talk about whether the music is fast or slow and try to 'keep the beat'and move their bodies in time to the music. Add in extra challenges such as musical statues or musical bumps  for when the music stops.

36. Indoor ball pool

baby crawling out of indoor ball pool at home
If you're stuck at home then soft play wont be a viable option!  Using a ball pool at home is a great way of keeping things fun and physical without having to leave the house. For older children, hide things in the pool for the ti find, such as letters, numbers or objects.

37. Paper Dolls

paper dolls book with paper dolls chain
Having the Paper Dolls book isn't mandatory, but it does add a nice bit of context and ideas for their own paper dolls. Help younger children to snip these out and then allow them to decorate and name the dolls - perhaps using the same type of ideas as the dolls in the paper dolls book.

If you would like to learn more about this book, its meaning and some activities to go alongside it, then you can read my guest post on my friend and fellow blogger, Kate's blog on books to help children understand loss.

38. Coffee Beans play

tuff tray with coffee beans, coffee grinder, egg cups and containers
A wonderful sensory experience and great for fine and gross motor skills. Have a look at my instagram post here for more information on this activity and more images. 

We extended this activity once the beans were all crushed up by adding water and then freezing the coffee liquid into ice cube trays - have a look at my instagram page for photos!

39. Help with painting/DIY

boy painting play kitchen
Do you have a little DIY project you've been wanting to crack on with at home? Is it suitable for children to join in? This is what I did when giving our play kitchen a makeover - Arthur donned a brush and some paint and helped me to bring this back to life again! (I haven't got round to writing a post on this one yet but i'll link it here when i do!)

40. Crafts

child gluing and sticking at craft table

Simple but effective - if you have a  it of desk or table space and some glue, snip up some bits of paper, foil and any other craft items you can find and them set the free to be creative! Just make sure you have somewhere to hang them to dry afterwards.

41. Rainbow Spaghetti

rainbow spaghetti and tweezers on a tuff tray

For my fail safe method of making rainbow spaghetti pop over to my blog post here: Rainbow spaghetti sensory play

This is great for exploring and playing. Add in some tweezers, pots and snippers / scissors to add to the activity. 

42. Observational Drawings - draw your toys!

children drawing pictures of their toys on a tuff tray

As long a you have paper and pencils you can do this activity easily. Choose any toys or resources you have at home which look interesting to draw, give an example by having a go yourself and then let them have a go! We used different mediums such as pens, paints, crayons etc.

You can read more about this activity, and see more images over on my instagram post here

43. mini mud kitchen

mini mud kitchen bowls with mud and wooden spoon

If you don't already have a mud kitchen, then collecting a few pots and pans and setting them free outside (in an enclosed garden) is a great way to encourage creativity and let off some steam! Have a look at my blog post here for more info and ideas on how to do this activity: Mud kitchen play ideas

44. make glitter sensory bottles

DIY glitter sensory bottles

Have a read of my blog post here for instructions on how to make these: DIY Glitter sensory bottles

45. Stick painting

boy painting a stick on the tuff trau

This activity is from a previous post about a story book we read together and some activities we did to enhance imaginative learning around books.

We used a shop bought stick, but you can collect sticks and twigs from outside and strip/whittle the before painting.

46. Scooping and pouring

scooping and pouring beand and lentils

This was a very simple set up using dried beans, lentils and rice and some mini slinky springs! I had previously ordered these scoops and tools from Amazon which worked really well for scooping and pouring and kept Arthur entertained for a long time!

47. Food building 

child building with cream and hoola hoops

More info on this activity and it's learning outcomes can be found in my toddler activity roundup post here. This activity uses squirty cream, biscuits and hoola-hoops to stick and build!   (and then eat).

48. Make up a story using story cubes

story cubes

Story cubes are a great way to aid story telling and imagination - why not set up a little story telling corner with electric candles, blankets and of course, story cubes - challenge each other to tell the most exciting and adventurous story!

49. Chickpea Sensory Foam        

A fab way to use a byproduct which is otherwise thrown away. If you have a tin of chickpeas at home, definitely give this one a try. The YouTube above has step by step instructions for you to follow.

50. Bread Painting

child painting bread with dairy free edible paintchild painting bread with edible yoghurt paint

I first did this activity when Arthur was small and I've since repeated it with Charlotte (dairy free version!).

For Arthur we mixed up greek yoghurt with food colour as it was nice and thick - he then painted this onto his bread and we toasted it under the grill for him to eat.

With Charlotte I used Oat milk/Almond Yoghurt mixed with food colour and again she painted her bread and then we toasted it for her to eat.

Edible art at its finest!!

51. Making pitta pizzas


ingredients for pitta pizzas in a tray

Pitta Pizzas are a great way for children to get involved in making their own food. Here we used mini pittas, pesto, tomato puree and cheese in a self-service tray for the children to spread and sprinkle by themselves! Once they were finished, I put them in the oven ready for dinner! Yummy. 

52. Peg pull fine motor and baby challenge baskets

child pulling a peg from a basket

Great for our smaller children, attaching pegs to the rim of the basket and challenging them to pull them off and then put them back on is a fab fine motor work out for tiny fingers!

Similarly, you can also set up a baby challenge basket, where the resources are tricky to obtain, thus encouraging perseverance and a 'can do' attitude! Have a look at my baby challenge basket blog post here for more info. 

child pulling toys from a baby challenge basket

53. Flicker book

flicker book corner

So old-school its easy to forget this fun activity!! We used stickers but you can easily just draw a stick man or two in the corner pages. All you need is an old exercise book , note pad or mini notebook and a bit of imagination! Your children will love trying to flick these at the right speed!

54.  Powder Painting

powder paints in salt pots on ikea flisat table with skadis pegboard

I shall direct you to this Facebook post with all of the information you need for this activity and where to buy the resources. A fantastic way to make painting more mess free and child led. 

Click here to buy: Salt pots , Powder paint 

55. Sensory water play

water tray with rose petals and lime

The perfect playime to keep little hands clean and fresh too! Simply fill a tub or a tray with water and add in natural resources such as sliced lemon, rosemary, rose petals or lime! Include some scoops and pots for filling and pouring and leave them to it for a while.

water tray with rosemary and lemon

56. Colour sorting

pompoms and coloured pots on a lightboard

A slight variation on the activity mentioned above - this activity uses pompom and pots for colour sorting, with the added challenge of collecting the pompoms with a bulldog clip / food bag clip or a tea strainer scoop! The lightboard adds and extra sensory element. 

57. Build a train track

wooden train track on playroom floor

Clear as much space as you can find and see how big or fancy you can make your train track - this is an activity that will keep your child entertained during and also afterwards! We have a mix of brio and ikea wooden train tracks here and as you can see - it spanned the playroom!!

58. Memory Matching

memory matching game and toddler

 Another activity from my toddler activity round up post  - using memory matching cards with young children is still possible, you just need to turn them the right way so that they can see the items they are attempting match up! These lovely memory cards were from Flying Tiger. 

59. food colour flowers

white roses in coloured test tubes

We used these rainbow test tubes  for our white roses and added gel food colour  to colour the water. The roses changed colour and then we hung them upside down to dry and keep!

If you would like to see how these roses turned out after drinking the water click here

60. Open ended loose parts play

loose parts natural resources on tuff tray

Loose parts and natural resources are a great way for children to explore and play in an open ended way for long and sustained periods of time! Have a look at the blog post mentioned below for lots of ideas for open ended play to maximise playtime at home indoors!

( Don't forget to follow me on Instagram for more daily play ideas! )
Would you like some more open ended tray play activity ideas? 

Have a look at my post: 57 open ended tuff tray activities here

Do you need some tips on managing play with different age groups?

Perhaps you'd like more info on tuff trays? Here is my complete guide to tuff trays


play ideas for when you're stuck at home indoors

How can you support my blog?

If you have enjoyed reading my blog and would like to support me further, any of the following would be hugely appreciated: