Indoor activities for under-fives

Bored kid stares up

Coming up with new and appealing activities to keep your DC busy at home can be a real challenge, particularly over the holidays. We've collated Mumsnetters' best ideas for things to do indoors with under-fives.

Pure imagination
Willy Wonka stares on

  • Set up a tent indoors. Let them picnic in it, throw in some teddies – keeps them happy for ages. I also have a tall-sided paddling pool that I fill with warm water and put in the conservatory on rainy days. They play in it for hours and hours and absolutely knacker themselves out.
  • Make forts and castles with furniture and sheets.
  • Have a carpet picnic (cover the carpet well first!) or a non-birthday party.
  • An obstacle course out of sofa cushions to climb over, a blanket to scramble under, something to jump across, a tower of bricks to build. We used to have an old fashioned wooden clothes horse – with a blanket over it, it was a tunnel to wriggle through!

Sing and dance
Mother and child sing and dance at home

  • Put on music and make up a dance competition.
  • A bath is sometimes good – we put loud music on (to make it different from a bedtime bath), add in different bath toys and my DS is happy in there for a good half hour at least. Obviously you have to supervise so I alternate between playing with him and cleaning the bathroom.

Get your craft on
Boy stares at balloon

  • Get a bag of cheap rice, put a quarter of it in a tub with a secure lid, add a few drops of food colouring then put the lid on and shake really hard. Repeat with three different colours so you end up with four different colours in total, then mix them all together, put in a deep tray (we use a potting tray from the garden centre) and add some spoons, pots and funnels etc. It's a bit like paying with sand but safer and easier to clean up – it dries really fast so can be ready to play with in a few minutes.
  • Pipe cleaners! I get a colander and DS pokes them in the holes then wears it as a hat. Also, three blobs of red, yellow and blue poster paint inside a taped-up freezer bag. Manipulate with fingers to make interesting swirls and patterns without mess!
  • Empty a bag of rice or lentils into a plastic/cardboard box to make an indoor sandbox for trucks.
  • If you have any old wallpaper, drawing round children on the reverse of the paper and letting them colour themselves in seems to occupy for ages. Or you can draw roads for them to run their toy cars along.
  • I cut pictures out of magazines and DD (aged two) can be happy with a Pritt Stick for a good hour.

Screen time

  • YouTube is great for whiling away an hour or so on a wet afternoon (under close supervision of course). My two boys have recently enjoyed The Muppets, the old Charley Says public information films, a load of silly symphonies and Pokémon characters dancing to the Crazy Frog Song.
  • Go on the Internet and just research something. For younger kids, you can find colouring-in sheets. My son likes fast cars and there are plenty of sites with pictures and short videos.