Helping Kids Stay Sane When Stuck Indoors

Learn the three most important things to focus on when you are stuck inside with your kids for whatever reason.

Child playing inside

Many parents wonder how to keep their kids sane when stuck indoors. Perhaps there has never been a time in history where this question has been more prevalent.

I do see this question often, especially in the wintertime. It isn’t just now.

The need for indoor activities can come up on cold, rainy, or super hot days. So these ideas apply to everyone at some point in the year.

I will likely refer to the time frame as “wintertime” because that is when we personally are stuck indoors. If you live somewhere like Arizona where the winter is your wonderful weather, just switch the concept for your summer.

Challenges With Being Stuck Inside

I see three major hurdles you need to jump when you are stuck inside. They are:

  1. Getting enough exercise (physical stimulation)
  2. Getting enough mental stimulation
  3. Getting out of the house to avoid ‘cabin fever’

You don’t need to necessarily overcome all three of these challenges every day.

I would say mental and physical stimulation should be a focus daily, and avoiding cabin fever will depend on the personality of you and your child. Some people like and need to get out more than others. 

What To Do When You are Stuck Indoors

Since the ideas for this can be rather long, I long ago ran a series on Children’s Learning Activities called “Surviving Winter.” You can click on the Surviving Winter link for specific ideas on what to do. You can also see Rainy Day for ideas.

Now, let’s discuss each of these three categories a bit.

Physical Exercise

Getting enough physical stimulation is very important. If your child doesn’t not get enough movement, there can be discipline problems and sleep can suffer. You can also see long-term physical problems over time.

>>>Read: Importance of Exercise and Stimulation for Sleep

There are several ways to do get enough physical stimulation and what you can do will vary due to your house and finances.

First, think of ideas you can do in or at your house. These include:

  • Dancing
  • Various gross motor activities
  • Anything else you can do to move in the house. My kids love to stack up the couch cushions and build towers. It is great exercise!
  • Indoor toys that encourage movement

One Christmas when my kids were young, we got a mini trampoline. My parents have one in their house, and the kids jumped on it all the time.

It was definitely worth the money. You can have your child jump if he needs to burn energy. You can do little games on it. Brayden couldn’t seem to walk past it without jumping on it. At my parents’ house, the kids would even jump on it when watching TV. It is a fabulous way to burn some energy.

I would also encourage you to go outside as much as possible. This can be hard in extreme weather. But if it is doable, make it happen.

In winter, you can bundle up and play in the snow, sled, build snowmen, and even just go for a short walk.

In summer, you can find some shade and cool off–or go out early morning or wait until evening to get some outside time in.

If you can, I think it is a great idea to find places you can exercise indoors. Perhaps you have a community center. An indoor pool. An ice skating rink. A bounce house.

Maybe there is a gym you can go to and just run, play basketball, catch, ride bikes, etc. I know we can use our church’s gym when not in use for activities like that. 

>>>Read: Things To Do With Your Kids When You Are Stuck Home

Mental Stimulation

Mental stimulation is another important category to address. So many parents fail to recognize that if their child isn’t challenged mentally each day, sleep will suffer.

Have some learning activities to keep your child’s mind active. Play imaginative games. Play dress up. Play board games. Do art projects. Bake together. Read books. 

Learning time at home does not need to be difficult nor overly involved. Here are some posts I have to help you out:

Be aware of your toys. If toys are not age appropriate, they will not properly stimulate your child. This is true if they are too old for your child and especially true if they are too young for your child.

You might also find it wise to rotate toys. This will keep your children interested in what they have rather than getting bored. Packing up just a tote size of toys at a time and rotating them every 2 weeks will keep your kids excited and interested.

The internet is a great place to be able to find ideas of things to do. There is no shortage of blogs out there with information full of ideas of things to do with children. There are also great books out there. Three of my favorites are the Toddler’s Busy Book, The Preschooler’s Busy Book, and The Sibling’s Busy Book.

Out of House

Get out of the house often enough to keep both you and your child sane.

In our current state of things, getting out is easier said than done. Many of these ideas will not be possible for you right now depending on where you live.

If you can, at least get out every once in a while for a walk or a drive. You can also find some ways to connect online through Zoom, Facetime, GoogleDuo, and other online forums.

Now for more traditional ideas. The availability for you right now will vary.

Getting out of the house doesn’t need to be glamorous. Even simple errands can do a lot for your psyche. 

You can also get out of your house and go visit people at their house. Have play dates and visit friends and family. 

You can get out of your house by going to indoor pools and other indoor places. You add the bonus of physical exercise with these.

The library is a great place to go. 

You can volunteer at various places. 

There might be fun things like the circus, Disney on Ice, music concerts, monster truck rallies, and children’s shows you can go see. 

Maybe a little vacation would be a good pick-me-up. 

Contentment At Home

This isn’t one of the three things to work in, but I do think it is an important skill to work on.

Contentment is a skill that is definitely lacking in general in our society. I don’t think I would go so far as to say it is lacking “in our day” because I think it is something that has been hard for humanity since the beginning.

It is hard to be content–at peace–with where you are in life.

Weather impacts what you can do, and it is good to use that time to find joy in what is available to you.

Learn to enjoy sitting and looking at books. Become more innovative and imaginative with toys. Take some time to play games and relax with each other. Bad weather can be “nature’s” or God’s way of helping us to slow down and enjoy each other. 

Also, if you are okay with having television or video time in your home, do so! Do what you think is best for your family.

Maybe for you that will mean a family movie night once a week. Maybe that will mean 30 minutes each day.

Whatever you do, I would caution you to not let it take over your time. My personal belief is TV is okay in small doses, but it can be very addictive and can easily be abused if you allow it to come to that. I find the more TV you watch, the more you want to watch and the less creative you will be in thinking of things to do. So have a plan and set limits. 


I hope you are able to stay sane in your difficult months wherever you are. Get your exercise in, engage the mind, get out of the house, and learn to be content.

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This post originally appeared on this blog January 2011

Helping stay sane indoors

17 thoughts on “Helping Kids Stay Sane When Stuck Indoors”

  1. Very helpful post, especially in these cold months ahead! You may enjoy reading "Room" — great fiction novel that relates well to your comments about making do and being content with what you have!

  2. Thanks for the ideas! I am really struggling w/ keeping the activity going in the winter. And, thanks for the mini trampoline review. I've seen them and wondered….might have to invest in one 🙂

  3. Great post. We live in Michigan, so are largely homebound for a large portion of the year. I make a point of breaking up our day to avoid monotony and we do try to get out at least once per day. That may mean something as simple as going to the gym (where the kids play in the babysitting room), to going to the library or a playgroup, or even outside in snowsuits, but I find that if we get out once per day, even if it's just a car ride, that alleviates a lot of issues.The kids are also granted more free-playtime. I try to have toys in each of the major areas of our home, so they can move from room to room to avoid boredom.I DO allow TV, but limit its duration and the total amount per day. It's all educational programming, like the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Sesame Street, or Word World (and my son LOVES Chuggington.) I use TV for reward or for times when I want them to calm down a bit.We also have sing along time (with songs that encourage activity, like "I'm a Little Teapot", the "Hokey Pokey", etc…as well as dance parties to random music. That helps us ALL get the wiggles out. 🙂 Every little bit helps!!!

  4. Tonight my kids (ages 3.5 and 2) spent their excess energy going through an obstacle course I created in the living room. Basically they ran down a hallway, crawled under a coffee table, jumped from one throw pillow to another, then crawled under another table, and jumped onto the couch. Nothing glamorous, but all the jumping and running had them grinning from ear to ear. And now they're SOUND asleep!

  5. For exercise, one thing that Isabella loves doing with me is exercising. In the mornings if I am doing an exercise dvd she is there alongside of me trying to do it.

  6. I filled the kitchen sink with water and some plastic toys and my little guy 18 months played in the water for over an hour while I cleaned the kitchen and cooked. I also have a little sandbox inside that I put on a piece of plastic on the floor and let him play in..

  7. I have been thinking about getting one of those indoor mini tramps for a while now. But I was thinking of getting one with a handle on it (do you know what I mean?) so that little kids can use it too. Have you had experience with this kind? Which do you think is better to get? The only one I've actually seen in person is the one my grandma used to use when I was a little kid!Or course, if anyone besides valerie has an answer to this question feel free to give it!

  8. That is funny Celestevy. My kids will do that too. They want to exercise like Mommy. Just another testament to the power of example!

  9. Rachel, I haven't ever used one with a handle. I think it could be fun, and I know that is the kind Raegan and Maureen have. McKenna jumps on the one we have without a handle, so it is still little kid friendly.You know how frugal I am. I went with this one because it is at least half the cost of the one with a handle. Plus it has more jumping space, so two kids can jump at once. Finally, I can exercise on it, too. That wasn't a factor when deciding, but since getting it here, I have enjoyed that. It works muscles that don't normally get worked otherwise.

  10. Anyway, all that to say that I think you would probably be happy with either one.Oh, another factor was that I want to be able to store it as easily as possible. I don't want to have it out all the time, but that probably isn't a factor for you.

  11. Hmmm, now I want both kinds. One for me and older kids to use and one with a handle for little kids to use 🙂 But that isn't going to happen. Now I'm even more indecisive! On a side note, I did find one where the legs and handle come off for easy storage, but I wonder if it would be as sturdy as other ones.Thanks for your thoughts!


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