20 Indoor Games to Help Kids Burn Extra Energy When It's Too Cold to Go Out & Play

20 Indoor Games to Help Kids Burn Extra Energy When It's Too Cold to Go Out & Play
Image: mediaphotos/iStock

indoor active games

In theory, spring should be on its way. And while there are hopeful signs that short-sleeve season is coming, winter is like that party guest who can't seem to take the polite hints that we'd like for them to leave, like now, please! 

When the weather first turns chilly in fall, it's fun to spend a weekend or two cuddled up on the couch with the family, reading books, sorting puzzles, watching movies, and just generally chilling out. But by this point in the year, everyone's got a bad case of cabin fever, and being stuck inside because the weather's too cold or too muddy to go out and play feels like a punishment, not a treat.  

Every family has their go-to activities for keeping the kids active when the weather's too nasty to play outside. But after a few months of cold weather, walking around the mall starts to feel dull for even the most dedicated shopaholics. And shelling out cash for indoor playscapes or trampoline parks isn't always in the budget, plus those places can get super crowded -- not what we want during cold and flu season. 

But with a little planning and some standard items, there are lots of indoor games to play with kids. We're not talking about another round of Monopoly or plopping them in front of the iPad until bedtime. These unusual and fun hands-on activities will keep them active and prevent them from tearing the house (and each other) apart. 

When there's yet another snow day and the kids start an unsanctioned pillow fight next to that antique lamp, don't panic. Try one of these 20 indoor active games for kids to help them burn through extra energy. Suddenly, being inside all day doesn't feel like a punishment. 

  • Indoor Hopscotch

    indoor active games for kids

    Stop the kids from bouncing off the ways and let them bounce across the floors instead. Grab some painter's tape (it pulls off floors easily when they're done playing) and create an indoor hopscotch board they can use to get from one side of the hallway to the other. 

  • Cardboard City

    indoor active games

    Winter's the time when those Amazon delivery boxes start to pile up rather than being broken down and stacked in the garage for recycling. We get it! All this cold weather makes it hard to get motivated. Don't stress over the mess, Let the kids use them to create a vast cardboard city to explore.

  • Balloon Float

    indoor active games for kids

    Never underestimate a child's excitement for a simple balloon. Shake up a blah day indoors by blowing up a balloon for each child. The rules of the game are simple -- keep the balloon from touching the ground, and don't touch anyone else's balloon. Oh, and no standing on the couch!

  • Tape Trail

    indoor active games

    For game kids of various ages can play together, use painter's tape to create a twisty sensory trail across the floor for them to follow. Try adding sections with zigzag lines, broken lines for them to jump across, or even parallel lines they need to tiptoe across like it's a balance beam. Time them to see how fast they can complete the course. 

  • Carwash

    indoor active games for kids

    If the kids are dreaming of warm days in the pool, extra special bath time in the middle day might help give them a bit of a swim fix. Since jumping in the tub is sadly out of the question, up the fun factor by adding tons of toy cars or plastic dolls and turning the affair into a giant car wash or doll spa, complete with plenty of bubbles. 

  • Balloon Bauble

    indoor active games for kids

    Even wee ones can get fussy being cooped up inside for too long. Give them some bright sensory stimulation and encourage their gross motor skills by gently securing a helium balloon with ribbon to their wrist or hand. Watch as they discover they can make this fun new object move all on their own. 

  • Desert Island

    active indoor games for kids
    Xiao Jiang/iStock

    If the kids are running all over the house, desert island is the perfect game to get them to stay in one place. Tell them the couch is their island, and the ground is water, and anything they need, they'll have to get by finding ways to cross the room without touching the floor. It's great for building sibling relationships as they work as a team. 

  • Simon Says

    indoor active games for kids

    A classic round of Simon says is a clever way to fill an afternoon when mom or dad is fighting a cold and doesn't have the energy to get off the couch and join in the kids' games. Recline with a mug of broth and call out commands for them to follow. So this is what it's like to have kids who try to listen to what their parents say? Nice. 

  • Freeze Dance

    indoor active games for kids

    Freeze dance is sort of like musical chairs, without the competition. It's s blast to play with toddlers who are just learning how to shake their groove thing. Tell Alexa to play some favorite high-energy tunes and get dancing, then pause the music at random moments and tell the kids they have to freeze in the exact dance move they're in when the music stops. Watch older kids get more and more ridiculously adorable with their frozen poses. 

  • Laundryball

    indoor active games for kids

    Are older kids missing time out on the basketball court? Help them get their b-ball fix and finally get those floors cleaned by teaching them the rules of laundryball. The game is simple: Grab those dirty clothes and toss them in the hamper. Bonus points for sorting by color, but either way, mom wins!

  • Foam Darts

    indoor active games for kids

    For a taste of warm weather fun indoors, grab some foam dart guns and let the kids have fun with a little target practice. Try using empty water bottles, yogurt containers, or rinsed soda cans for targets. It's a good way to redirect physical energy when they start to wrestle, play fight, or run around the house. 

  • Scavenger Hunt

    indoor active games for kids

    If the kids are going to run around the house, may as well try to direct where they're headed. Form a scavenger hunt with easy clues that takes them room to room with a "treasure" like a special snack at the end. Stumped for clues? Hide puzzle pieces around the house and say the quest is complete once they've found them all. 

  • Animal Charades

    active indoor games for kids

    For a fun game that will get the whole family up and moving, try a round of charades. To make it kid-friendly, use teams and kid cartoon titles the kids know and can act out, or try using animals names only that early readers might be able to figure out solo. 

  • String Maze

    active indoor games for kids

    For anyone who's OK with a little cleanup and looking to win that Mom of the Year award, a string maze can take a day stuck indoors from boring to legendary. Grab a ball of thick yarn and tape it throughout the hallway, creating a web-like maze for kids to climb and crawl through, spy style. 

  • Obstacle Course

    indoor active games for kids

    Skip the pricey (and germy) indoor play spaces and create an at home indoor obstacle course the kids can play with all winter long. Use upside hampers or large tubs for them to climb over, or a big cardboard box to make a tunnel. Pillows can serve as leapfrog lilypads and for the big finish, a slide down a couch cushion. 

  • Paper Cup Bowling

    indoor active games for kids

    Wondering if the kids are ready to go knock some pins over? Before trying the real deal, spend a cozy afternoon indoors testing their aim with some paper cup bowling. Stack up some "pins" and grab a small ball to turn a hallway into an at-home bowling alley the kids can play with for hours. 

  • Fitted Sheet Parachute

    indoor active games for kids

    Everyone knows that the best gym days are the ones where the gym teacher pulls out that glorious rainbow colored parachute. Give bored kids a slice of heaven by grabbing a large fitted sheet and recreating the parachute games of our youth. Bounce balls on it, run underneath it, make a giant mushroom -- it's as fun as the real deal. 

  • Pillow Path

    indoor active games

    Those throw pillows that have been replaced but are still lingering in the upstairs closet? Bust them out and let the kids use them for a round of pillow path. Using only the pillows as stepping stones, kids move the pillows to leap around the room and try to get from one end to the other. 

  • Hide & Seek

    indoor active games for kids

    A few thrilling rounds of hide and seek is the perfect cure for those cold weekend afternoons when mom and dad are as sick of sitting on the couch as the kids are. Everyone can get in on the action, and mom and dad might even get a few precious moments alone together during a round while the kids are hiding. 

  • Cotton Ball Blow

    indoor active games for kids

    If all the outdoor voices happening indoors are starting to cause a migraine, redirect those lungs to a game of cotton ball blow. Give each child a wad of fluff and establish a starting and finish line. They can race to see who can blow their cotton ball to the end the fastest. Too easy for older kids? Give them a straw or add some obstacles, like a paper tube, for the cotton balls to travel through. 

fun & games

More Slideshows