15 Screen-Free Indoor Activities to Keep a Young Child Busy


Bad weather days can make it a challenge to keep little ones engaged and active without resorting to screens. When the days are cold or the rain won’t stop, it’s tempting to turn on the TV or the iPad instead of encouraging activities that will stimulate the brain and the body in the ways a young child needs. Exploring through movement and play is one of 5 Basics every child needs to get a great start in life!

Believe it or not, there are many things your child can do that are free or low-cost. Here are some of our favorites!

1. Build a fort: blankets, pillows, sheets, towels, and living room furniture can keep children engaged for hours. Once the fort is built, it’s a great place for looking at books, setting up a tea party, or playing with toys.

2. Hide and seek: You can hide, they can hide, or you can hide objects for them to find.

little boy

3. Blocks! Check out these fun activities involving blocks.

4. Art: With simple supplies you already already have on hand, your child can create to their heart’s content: crayons, washable markers, scrap paper, stickers, toilet paper rolls, paper plates, etc.

5. Water play in the sink, tub, or large plastic bin. Plastic containers and water provide lots of fun for toddlers! Plastic animals can join the fun too. *Remember to always provide supervision when your child is doing water play.

6. Pretend play. Children are naturally creative and imaginative. Whether they’re making a tea party for their stuffed animals, building a zoo, or cooking dinner, encouraging pretend play is an important and delightful part of a child’s development.

7. Play-Doh. Yes, it can be messy but it’s also a great way for your child to have lots of fun for a long time, all while strengthening the muscles in their fingers and hands that are so important for school.

play doh

8. Turn on music and have a dance party. This one’s for you too, moms and dads! It’s a great way to maximize love, manage stress, and let your child burn off some energy.

9. Puzzles. They’re another great activity for developing the muscles in fingers, and working on coordination and thinking skills. Children love working the same puzzles over and over again!

10. Books. Yes, we want you to read to your child but it’s also valuable for children to look at books on their own, to “pretend read,” to talk about the pictures, and to make up their own stories as they turn the pages.

11, Dump out plastic cups and utensils in the kitchen. Toddlers love to bang on containers with plastic spoons, to put containers inside one another, to build and stack and then knock it all down. This is a simple way for them to stay occupied while you work in the kitchen.

12. A cardboard box. For a child, a cardboard box isn’t just a cardboard box. It’s a car, a rocket ship, a house, a place to hide, and so much more!

13. Simple sensory bins. Take a few containers—bins, plastic bottles, or large resealable bags—and fill them with child-friendly objects that appeal to your child’s senses and interests: feathers, water beads, cotton balls, plastic toys. Here are some simple ideas to get you started. *Closely supervise your child if your bins or bags have items that can be choking hazards.

14. Masking tape. A simple roll of tape can create a lot of fun! Tape “roads” on the floor for matchbox cars, tape a hopscotch court, or tape a “balance beam.”

15. Have an indoor picnic. A blanket on the living room floor + finger foods turn snack time or meal time into a fun treat and a break from the ordinary.

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The Basics are 5 fun, simple and powerful ways that every parent can give every child a great start in life!

Here are some resources that can help you on your journey:

  • Watch this short video for encouraging ways that real parents are “Explore Through Movement and Play” in everyday life. Click on the tips at the bottom of the page for Infants 0-12 months and Toddlers 12-24 months.
  • Receive regular, FREE resources from The Palmetto Basics.
  • Follow The Palmetto Basics on Facebook and Twitter. We provide encouraging, real-life, shareable content to help parents and caregivers!
  • If you, your faith community, your organization, or your place of business would like to join us as a Champion for Children, contact us! palmettobasics@gmail.com.

Thanks for sharing this post and spreading the word about The Palmetto Basics to those within your circle of influence!

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