Update, March 2020: We have retooled this article to help families who may feel stuck at home more than usual out of caution over the coronavirus outbreak. Stay healthy!
Between naps, exhausting school schedules and traffic, sometimes you just want to find good times at home. Here are some entertaining and easy experiments, games and quiet activities when you need some fresh ideas for fun.
Easy Science Experiments
Cloudy Ways – Make a cloud in a jar with a few simple items from around the house. Playdough to Plato offers an in-depth tutorial on cloud making. Simply put, you’ll need a glass jar with a lid, matches, hot water and ice to make some clouds.
Catapult! – Make a marshmallow catapult using the tutorial from It’s Always Autumn. This experiment is easy enough for kids as young as four-years-old to do but entertaining enough to keep the older ones engaged. This is another project that shouldn’t require a trip to the store. You’ll need marshmallows (or another light, soft object), a thin rubber band, plastic spoon, bamboo skewers and masking tape. Once you’ve built the catapult using It’s Always Autumn’s instructions, teach your kids about gravity and how objects are projected through the air. Ask them to watch how the marshmallow always falls to the ground and explain how gravity is the force the keeps us grounded to the earth and not floating in space. When kids use the catapult, it shows them how a projectile responds to gravity.
Magic Plant Absorption – Learn how plants absorb water with food coloring and cabbage leaves. This simple experiment is super fun! Take four jars of water and add a few drops of food coloring. Next take four cabbage leaves or flowers and put them in the water stem first. The colored water will quickly travel up the leaves for an exciting color transformation. This experiment shows how plants absorb water throughout their entire system from the roots, stems and eventually leaves. As the food colored water creeps through the plant, as your child how they think water absorption works. Share with them how root systems pull water and nutrients from the soil and deliver them all the way through the plants to help them grow.
Inside Active Games
Hallway Maze – Use crepe paper, yarn or painter’s tape to create a maze in your hallway. Have the kids help string the crepe paper before encouraging a game of ninja spy or Mission Impossible! This is an easy activity that might well keep your kids entertained for hours.
Ring Toss – Use simple paper plates and a leftover paper towel roll to create a fun ring toss. Cut out the center from paper plates and have your kids paint them with bright colors, stickers and other fun decorations. Take another plate and glue or tape the inner paper towel roll to the center. Set up the ring toss and see who can get the most rings on the tube.
DIY Light Tunnel – Dig out those Christmas tree lights for this fun treat (if you’ve managed to put them away since the holidays!) Grab a large cardboard box and poke holes in one side or both sides of the box while opening the ends up to create a tunnel. You can choose to do a random pattern or be more deliberate in your work. Once you have all the holes poked, push the lights into each one. Your kids might have to fight off the adults in the house for time in this magical tunnel!
Epic Art Session – Roll out some butcher paper on the floor and have the kids go to town. Give them crayons, pencils and markers and watch their artistic sensibilities open up with a giant canvas.
Snowflakes – Coffee filters or tissue paper make great snowflakes. Fold the filter in half and in half again until you have a thin sliver of paper. Then start cutting the design.
Sensory Treasure Hunt – Sensory bins can be a great quiet activity. Fill a bin with small toys from around the house. Then cover them with dried beans, rice or oatmeal. Kids love hunting for items and this activity will provide hours of quiet play.