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13 Cheap (or Free!) Indoor Activities for Kids

Beat cabin fever! Shut off the TV and use these creative kid-friendly ideas to keep your children entertained all winter long.

Indoor activities for kids

When Mother Nature gives us her worst, create fun activities for your family using things you already have. See what you can do for FREE with your kids this winter without even leaving your home.

  1. Old sheets: Younger children will enjoy building a fort. Pull out old sheets and blankets and help kids cover tables or chairs. Let the kids decide what the fort is—a preschool, library, campsite, restaurant and so on. Help them add appropriate props, such as writing tablets and crayons for school or books for the library.
  2. Your computer: Download FREE BOOKS at or
  3. Castoff t-shirts: Teens and older children will love to help you transform their old t-shirts into cute wardrobe essentials. All you need is a needle and thread, ribbon and our 11 creative ideas.  
  4. Shaving cream: Hide small toys in blobs of shaving cream; let kids find the treasures.
  5. Your kitchen: Turn your next meal into a family affair by letting kids help out with the preparation and cooking. Choose easy recipes like Low-Fat Mac n’ Cheese with Peas or Sloppy Toms, so you can enjoy each other’s company without worrying about a complicated recipe.
  6. Their creativity: Hold an acting class. Call out the name of a character, animal or object, and have kids act it out.
  7. Your closet: Raid your closet for old dress clothes and giveaways so kids can play dress-up.
  8. Dried rice: Create your own sandbox indoors with rice, beans, oats and other dried goods. Find a large bin to fill with the dried goods, and use shovels and other plastic toys to help kids create their own castles.  
  9. Balloon: Blow up a balloon for a game of indoor volleyball.
  10. Old jewelry: Use old brooches, large buttons and clip-on earrings to make refrigerator magnets. Let the kids help you search the house to find items, then get together at the kitchen table to securely glue small round magnets to the back. Use them to proudly display artwork and good grade reports.  
  11. A pen and paper: Have your children write a letter about how much they love a family member, or get them to jot down a funny story from school. (Your little ones can just practice their ABCs or can dictate a story to an older sibling.) Encourage the kids to illustrate their note or story. If you want to go all out, make multicolor muffin-tin crayons. At dinner the kids can read aloud what they've written so the family can enjoy it.
  12. Play-doh: Prep our DIY play dough beforehand—maybe during the weekend. Or, if you've got time, do it with your kids after school—they're sure to enjoy stirring and pouring. While you're making dinner, have your kids sit at the kitchen table and play a design game. Say, "Make me something scary!" Your kids can then mold their best shark or dinosaur—whatever they deem frightening. Or, "Make me something you saw today!" The possibilities are endless.
  13. Indoor herb garden: Have a garden, or just some potted basil on your windowsill? Send your children to find produce or herbs for dinner. And get them to taste or smell what they pick, so they can try to understand what flavor it contributes to your meal. If nothing's ready this time of year, suggest they water the plants (kids enjoy watering, and it's a time-saver for you).