Indoor Activities with Young Children

We have been having an abundance of unpleasantly cold and wet weather, making it hard for very young children to get outside for long periods.  Regardless of the weather, children have oodles of energy to expend.  It can be easy to feel overwhelmed as a parent inside all day with energetic young children.  I thought I would share a few of our favorite indoor activities here.  Please add your own in the comments section!


When the weather is really too bad for being outside, it can be helpful to set up a play space that allows for some more energetic play than you may normally allow inside.  This might mean moving furniture to the side of the room and putting some pillows down for a snuggling/crawling space on the ground.  For older children, a small obstacle course can be fun that includes crawling and jumping.   With a very young child, it is probably enough just to get down on the floor with them and they will lead you into all kinds of movement activities.  Tunnels are also a lot of fun for kids to crawl through and they are relatively easy to find at toy stores (or you could make your own out of a large box).   You can also play games with cloths, where you wrap your child up like a burrito in a big blanket, give her a firm squeeze and then unroll her.  If there are two adults you can swing a child gently in a blanket, like a hammock (be careful with this one).  Soft balls can be fun for indoor play too, but they require careful supervision.


Children love to get silly with their parents and it is a great way to get some exercise indoors.  After a some wild play, it is important to have a quieting time that allows children to settle back down.  Doing this together is important.  Because they are such imitators, children will usually respond to the shift in our own energy.  Together with a quiet song, a hug, or a story, this is usually enough.


A cold winter’s day can feel very long and it is helpful to have some quieter activities planned to balance whatever else you are doing.  Beeswax modeling, or modeling with dough are a lot of fun and they engage children in important ways.  Both require children to bring attention to the work of their hands, developing fine motor skills and strengthening the muscles of the hands.  Playdough is easy to make.  Beeswax can be found at most Waldorf schools or online from Waldorf supply stores.  Locally, you can find many Waldorf toys and art supplies at Circa Home and Vintage in Portland.  Painting is also a lovely indoor activity.  With young children, one (or two) colors at a time is enough.  Children live into the experience of each color as they play with it on the paper.  It is nice to let them get acquainted with each one before mixing.  Watercolor paints offer a deep color experience and they are easy to set up and clean.


Baking is another favorite bad weather activity at our house.  You can try the famous Waldorf rolls (see the recipe below).   This is another opportunity for some modeling: make little dough people or animals.  You can also fill a shallow bowl with dry beans or rice for children to put their hands into.  You can hide special trinkets in there for them to find, or let them bring a few small trucks in, for some loading and unloading.  This is better for children who are beyond the mouthing phase.


I find that bad weather days require me to be on the ball.  They are good days to strengthen my patience muscles.  Often, on regular days, I don’t involve myself much in my children’s play.  If they want to involve me, I am happy to be there, but I want to encourage them to develop their play out of their own selves.  On days when we have been inside too long, or their play feels frustrated, it helps when I bring in some new suggestions.  Then I can step back again and let them run with it.


What do you do for indoor fun?


Bread Recipe:
2 cups warm water
2 Tbsp yeast
1/3 cup honey
1 Tsp salt
1/3 cup butter or oil (optional)
2 cups white flour
2 cups wheat flour (more or less)
Raisins (optional)

Put 2 cups warm water in a large bowl.
Dissolve 2 Tbsp yeast in the water.
Add 1/3 cup honey and let sit until bubbly.

Add 1 Tsp salt and optional 1/3 cup oil or butter; stir.
Add flour, alternating between the types.  When it is too thick to stir, add more flour and begin to knead by hand.  Knead 3-5 minutes until smooth, adding flour as needed.  Let rise approximately 45 minutes. Form into balls (or whatever shape you like) and put onto a baking sheet pan.  At this point you can add raisins, kneading them into the dough, or sinking a few into the center of each roll.  Bake at 425F for 10-12 minutes or until they are light brown on top.

Serve with plenty of butter!

Find some more ideas on the ‘children’s craft’ sections of this page.